According to a Feb. 16, 2006, story in ”’The Honolulu Advertiser”’, Hawaii is among 15 states vying to be chosen as one that will be allowed
some leeway in how student progress is measured under the Fiscal Year 2002
bipartisan, congressionally authorized Elementary and Secondary Education
Act funding program also known as “No Child Left Behind.” (Hawaii
seeking No Child leniency; Thursday, February 16, 2006)
This report quotes the director of the Hawaii Department of Education’s
Planning and Evaluation Office as saying that the state already tracks the
progress of individual students, and gives that information to each
That is not a lie.
That is a damned lie.
When I asked DOE officials in various workshops to provide the
specific questions most missed by my students on the annual humbug norm-
and criteria-referenced “assessment” tests, I have consistently been
First I was told that the contractor who devised, delivered and scored
these assessment tests “refused” to divulge that information.
That, too, is a flat out lie.
Before taking up teaching as a third career, I was for most of a decade a
government technical services contractor and I can say without fear of
contradiction that if a paying customer asks a contractor to deliver, the
deliverable is either made or the contract is put at risk of being
canceled. For-profit contractors who want to stay in business do not
“refuse” a customer demand.
When that lie did not fly, I was told by the nimble DOE tap dancer
conducting the workshop that the “contractor” feared that divulging
questions from past tests would compromise future tests.
Another brazen lie.
Test banks with thousands of test questions can — and routinely are —
readily devised in a way that identical concepts can be tested with test
instruments that look entirely different from year to year to those taking
the test. Indeed if the contractor IS recycling the same tests over and
over again, this is another egregious waste of money on the part of the
monumentally profligate and abysmally dysfunctional DOE.
Given this willingness on the part of DOE to lie through the teeth to
teachers in particular and the public at large on a nonstop basis, it
should surprise no one that DOE now finds itself in the absurd position of
having to ask the federal government to grant a waiver from the assessment
targets that the DOE itself established in the first place.
Until the DOE bestirs is mammoth, bureaucratically hide bound self to
establish a common core academic curriculum for all subjects taught at all
grade levels, the annual “assessment” test will remain pure, one hundred
proof snake oil.
There is zero correlation between what is being taught in thousands of
classrooms across the state each day and what the students are being asked
about during the annual “assessment” test fest — conducted like some
primitive Rite of Spring to determine how many and which virgins will be
chucked into the volcano to preserve the status quo.
Absent a common core curriculum, DOE does not have the first clue what is
in fact being taught. And, other than for purposes of conning the feds
into believing Hawaii is complying with the FY 02 ESEA to keep the
inbound torrent of federal dollars uninterrupted, DOE does not give the snap of a finger what, if anything, is being taught.
Until the fundamental disconnect between teaching and testing is cured,
test results can be expected to remain in the tank — DOE can be expected
to continue to point a diverting public finger of blame at an expanding
population of schools DOE describes as “failing” by way of tap-dancing on
the rim of the abyss.
At current count, DOE is forced to acknowledge that two-thirds of the
schools it “manages” statewide are failing.
Sports fans, here’s Red Rocket: It ain’t the SCHOOLS that are failing. It
ain’t the kids that are failing. It ain’t their parents that are failing.
It ain’t their communities that are failing. It ain’t their teachers that
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what ails public education in this
state is the DOE.
DOE is a disease, not a cure.
The only cure is deep and massive surgical excision of the entire
malignant, obscenely bloated DOE bureaucratic tumor before it metastasizes
further at a cost of the billions in new tax dollars it will surely demand
and get … and in the process snuffing out the future of the bright
capable children who populate our classrooms along with the future of this
On November 7th, every voting lever in this state can be turned into a
scalpel if there is sufficient will on the part of an aroused electorate
to help our kids and our state. If that happens, woe betide the keepers of
the flame of the comfy status quo in our one-party-saturated state
”’Thomas E. Stuart is a public school teacher on the island of Hawaii.”’
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