Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Letter To The Indiana State Board of Education

Control and perpetuation of punitive high stakes standardized testing policies and chair of the ISBOE at stake. 

Dear Indiana State Board of Education,

The roots of cognitive science, the science of mind, brain and learning, have been in existence since Socrates, Plato and Aristotle spoke and wrote on such matters over 2500 years ago. 

Research in cognitive science and cognitive neuro-science conducted over the past 60 years, reveal Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had it wrong when they described the mind as a blank slate and disconnected from the body. 

We know today, mind, body and spirit are all connected. 

It is ironic, 2500 years later, the ISBOE continues to adopt positions and mandate policies that perpetuate a conception of the mind that is as antiquated as those of the ancient Greek philosophers.

The human mind, particularly children's minds are complex organic entities, uniquely constructed with innate capacities and competencies. 

Policies that force educators to center curriculum around high stakes standardized assessments, whereby tying teachers hands to provide curriculum centered around children, is what the ISBOE has done. 

The only learning theory from this governance body that I do see supported through your policies, are the work of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. I am talking about radical behaviorism. 

Over the past 8 years, Indiana citizens have observed the intensification of high stakes standardized tests put upon unsuspecting elementary aged children throughout Indiana public schools: http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/tag/iread-3/

Data driven, selected response assessments are based on behavioral analysis. How many selected response questions can a child correctly answer? The outcome of this number has immense consequences. Thus, the ISBOE has ensured that schools, administrators and teachers will structure curriculum and learning experience around tests. Children are operantly conditioned to answer selected response tests utilizing rewards and punishments. If children do not answer enough questions correctly, schools, principals and teachers will be punished. These are behaviorist learning principals. This is operant conditioning.

High stakes standardized tests come at a steep cost. 

I quote Jane Healy, Ph.D: "Driving the cold spikes of inappropriate pressure into the malleable heart of a child's learning may seriously distort the unfolding of both intellect and motivation. This self-serving intellectual assault, increasingly condemned by teachers who see it's warped product,...In a society that reveres the speed with which a product can be extruded from the system, that has become impatient with the essential process of childhood, that measures children's mental growth like steak on a butchers scales, and that deifies test scores instead of taking the time to respect developmental needs, EVERY CHILD IS POTENTIALLY IN JEOPARDY." 

The beneficiaries of high stakes standardized testing? 26 million for McGraw Hill, millions to corporate supported charter schools, Pearson and other ancillary ed tech companies selling high stakes standardized scripted curricula and test prep materials.

Children are outside the decision making process central to the learning experiences they are forced to participate in. 

Looking at the big picture, mandated high stakes standardized testing has been a disaster for Indiana children and society. 

There are two kinds of learning in this world. The first is to educate children so their intellectual gifts, innate capacities and instinctual learning curiosities endowed to them by the Forces of the Universe will unfold naturally.

The second form of learning experience can be seen in authoritarian nations where the state imprints upon the minds of children, via operant conditioning, what the state values.

What kind of state are we?

I can tell you with all honesty, a significant number of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted for Glenda Ritz, voted for her so the policy morass she inherited from Tony Bennett would be corrected. We witnessed during the Bennett-Daniels era, the narrowing of children's learning experiences, defunding of public schools, humiliation of children and communities, and degradation of educators based on their policies.

What Indiana citizens have observed during Supt. Ritz's time as Chair of the ISBOE is a pattern of unwillingness by it's members to work with her and unnecessary initiatives and shadow agencies created by Governor Pence at tax payer expense that I can only describe as suspect. 

Indiana Citizens will be watching to see what maneuverings take place at tomorrow's July 9th ISBOE meeting. 

My hope is that Superintendent Ritz will be allowed to do the job of restoring stability in our schools that voters elected her to do.

Clyde Gaw
Network for Public Education

Write or contact your ISBOE members, Governor and legislators here:

Contact Governor Pence:  http://in.gov/gov/2333.htm

Contact the SBOE members: http://www.in.gov/sboe/2527.htm and http://www.in.gov/sboe/2423.htm 

Contact your state legislators: https://capwiz.com/nea/in/home/