Meadors: Federal dollars come with too many testing strings attached

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says there's too much testing going on; instructional days in the state now stand at 165.

In Georgia, instructional days are fewer. I counted 34 days devoted to some form of testing on local fiscal year 2014 approved calendars in systems where furlough days increased.

Testing is big bucks. And with Common Core architects taking corner offices at College Board, the game will change for private and home-schooled students too; lawyers are lining up to attack a "nationalized" curriculum, smacking more of anti-colonialism than rigor.

David Coleman, formerly with Common Core and now ninth president of College Board, has announced plans to align the SAT with Common Core despite outcry from many states that this train is moving too fast.

Thirty new tests have been added to grades 4 to 12 in North Carolina, called Measures of Student Learning, all intended to rate teachers as part of North Carolina's Race to the Top federal grant requirements.

This is why I opposed RT3 since its inception. Federal dollars come with strings attached, but in this case it's a wrecking ball. As teachers flee the field in droves, retire early, and leave on average after four years, now come wizards in federal costumes with all the answers.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's chief academic officer Rebecca Garland replied to a skeptical state board scrutinizing the state's testing calendar: "If we're talking 20 days out of the instructional calendar, we don't want that to happen ... I want to know what it is, too."

Herein lies the problem; government schools have become so top heavy on a national average that a chief academic officer is surprised at the number of days devoted to testing.

But there is no trademark on government gone wild in the Tar Heel state. I know members of school governance teams in Georgia who are more likely to define FTE as an online florist rather than a critical way to identify, count, and schedule to maximize utilization of taxpayer dollars.

Brian Lewis, lobbyist for the N.C. Association of Educators, reacts: "Teachers just want to be left alone to teach."

I have railed for years against increased federal intrusion into schools and the corequisite misery index associated with accepting chunks of change tied to a race to the trough of bureaucratic carnage. If Human Resources departments are worth their salt, then we don't need to be testing as fast as we can.

Federal impositions on classroom teachers hurt schools, damage classrooms, and decimate student achievement in states like Georgia where revised tools to measure graduation rates and annual progress currently fog the ability of anyone to form comparative analyses of past and present data.

And maybe that's the plan: Obfuscate results by revising measurement tools to the extent that anyone can spin anything from data full of overnight positive gains possibly signifying nothing.

Jeff Meadors has served in elected and appointed positions in public education and may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.