People throw around the word “Orwellian”.
What does “Orwellian” mean, and how does it relate to education –and to our current president’s latest softening commentary about high stakes testing?
George Orwell showed, in his books 1984 and Animal Farm, how tyranny looks, works, stomps on the individual and suffocates freedom. He could have been describing Obama’s CEDS/SLDS/EdFacts data exchange in its final form.
(If you haven’t, read 1984. Just read the first half and skip the nightmarish ending (my advice) –that way, you’ll see why privacy matters so very, very much, why the freedom to choose the path of your own conscience matters, and why big government control of data is deadly.)
News articles now describing Obama’s supposed, new-found softness about standardized testing, remind me of the news stories put out by the central managers in the novel 1984. The reactions of the masses remind me of 1984, too.
Some see Obama’s new testing attitude as sincere enlightenment; others think it’s a move to regain popularity among teacher’s unions and angry parents; but the reason I am sure that Obama’s softening his stance on high-stakes testing is that he does not need it in his Orwellian-style, centrally managed, Constitution-be-damned kingdom.
He does not need the tests to control the people nor to get data about them, now that he has:
- All 50 states collecting daily digital test data on students in SLDS systems that the feds “gave” to states, systems which are built to federal specs and which are federally interoperable.
- Student data collected in daily, continual SIS updates that is no longer protected by what used to be, pre-2009, FERPA’s consent-only privacy protections.
- School systems functioning as data donors to Obama’s SLDS systems via the SLDS and the EdFacts Data Exchange
- All data centrally-managed, using Common Education Data Standards tags.
- Compulsory education, so that unless parents somehow can provide private school tuitions or devote their lives to home schooling, every child is collected in the big net.
Peg With Pen said it this way:
“I keep getting texts, phone messages and emails telling me how happy folks are that Obama is now listening to us – and that Opt Out has been heard. This is heartbreaking for me – because this tells me that mainstream media has done a stellar job of co-opting Opt Out…
The next wave involves the U.S. Dept. of Ed’s recommendations for testing reduction which also comes with funds to support states in getting there. And the scariest part is this – the GROUNDWORK IS COMPLETE. The feds/corporations did exactly what they came to do – they dangled carrots. They got high stakes testing systems in place with longitudinal data bases to carry the seamless productivity of the data. They loosened privacy regulations. They got common standards out there which are essential for easy data tagging. They pushed and pushed and pushed to support charters and alternative teacher certification. They set the groundwork for the STATES to now lead the way – and they (feds/corporations) have their people in place on school boards, schools of education, depts. of ed…
And now, they simply have commiserated with the masses and said we need to reduce testing and make sure the testing that occurs is meaningful and does not take away from classroom instruction. This is accomplished so easily. It’s called online daily computer based testing. Followed by online daily computer based instruction. Call it mastery testing. Competency based testing. Proficiency testing. Whatever you like. It will begin to fall in place very quickly as states move away from the hated interim testing and massive amounts of end of year testing. There will be less need for these large tests with quick, tidy, END OF DAY testing TIED TO STUDENT GRADES and STUDENT PROMOTION to the next grade/digital badge – whatever it may be – and of course testing which tells the teacher what the next day’s online instruction must be. It’s already happening. And now the federal gov’t. is simply nudging it into the states’ hands with a resounding message of support, an apology for overstepping their boundaries and a few bucks along the way…”
The worst part about seeing federal (Obama) or local (Senator Stephenson, Representative Poulsen) officials suddenly seeing the Opt Out light, and suddenly pooh-pooh-ing high stakes testing– is the replacement, the “new” and bigger river of data to fulfill their stated goal of “data-driven” central decision making: it’s stealth assessment, also known as embedded assessment.
Stealth assessment is nonconsensual assessment, unannounced assessment and data gathering. (Hello, consent of the governed.)
It’s testing that happens while students are simply using their technological devices for any school assignment. And it’s being discussed right now in our Utah legislature as the solution for the ills of high-stakes testing.
What are they discussing? Which is worse, SAGE or stealth?
Let’s make a little pros and cons list together. (Also, see my top ten reasons to opt out if you want more detail on why SAGE opt-outs are so vital.)
CONS: For High Stakes Standardized Testing (SAGE/PARCC/SBAC/AIR tests)
The tests rob students of real learning by pressuring teachers to teach to the test.
They rob teachers of professional judgment by punishing and rewarding them based on test scores.
Utah’s SAGE is secretive, closed to teachers and parents.
The tests are un-valid (never having been tested).
The standards, upon which the tests are based, are un-valid (never having been tested).
The untested tests are using our children as guinea pigs without our consent.
The tests do not meet basic values for codes of ethics.
PROS: For High Stakes Standardized Testing (SAGE/PARCC/SBAC/AIR tests)
We can opt out of the tests.
We can opt out of the tests; we can’t opt out of stealth testing, aka curriculum-embedded assessment.
Do you see? The move away from standardized tests is also a move away from the parental or individual ability to opt out of the data mining assault on privacy.
Taking Utah as an example: if Representative Marie Poulson’s committee— that was formed after her stealth assessment (anti-high stakes testing) resolution passed— decides to kick SAGE testing to the curb, the Utah legislature will follow the federal trend of pushing all the data mining further underground by using embedded assessment (stealth testing) as its replacement.
Don’t let this happen. Talk to your representatives. Say no to stealth/embedded testing.