McGill Writes Scathing Analysis of Education "Reform"

The retiring Scarsdale School Superintendent tells us what he really thinks about standardized testing in an op-ed piece in "Education Week."

Michael McGill, Scarsdale schools superintendent. Patch file photo
Michael McGill, Scarsdale schools superintendent. Patch file photo
Scarsdale Superintendent Mike McGill has objected for years to the push by so-called reformers to reduce education to its lowest common denominator, test scores, in the interest of measuring success. 

In fact, he and his district suffered the wrath of Richard Mills, then New York State Education Commissioner, when a group of Scarsdale parents in 2001 showed early success in their campaign to keep kids home on state testing days. 

Scarsdale parents are still seething.

So, apparently, is McGill.

"I've come to think that a school superintendent's main mission today is to protect teachers and kids from the ideological madness around us," is how he opens a commentary he penned for Education Week, the national newsweekly on all things education-related.

The corporate model of schooling, the twisted result of an initially benign call for improvements in "A Nation at Risk," relies on questionable logic and narrow definitions of and paths to success—and produces absurd results, he said. 

The attempts of Scarsdale parents and educators to explain that to state education officials have been dismissed, over and over, and often with distain, he said.

After 41 years as a top school administrator, the last 16 in Scarsdale, he's seen a lot. "As long as state and federal policies assume that one approach is right for everyone, they'll undermine real quality everywhere."

And how is he measuring his own success these days? If he can keep education reform from hurting the teaching and learning that's actually going on, "I'll have achieved something," he wrote.

Jake Jacobs March 09, 2014 at 12:14 PM
If all parents and taxpayers aren't up in arms about this theft of class time and school budgets, it's only because they don't yet know the details. For high performing Scarsdale, these mandates have been an imposition for over a decade, slowing down a district that races ahead all on it's own. But it's even worse in the inner city, where learning time is replaced by testing regimes that kill any joy of attending school for kids. The very idea that every school in every state should be doing the exact same thing is antithetical to all that's known about delivering a good education. Students develop at different paces, and may not all reach the same level, no matter what the federal government says or does. The biggest irony is the hypocrisy - Common Core standards that preach evidence citation are ignored by all the consultants and think tanks and politicians who have no evidence that any of these measures are valid or worthwhile. Meanwhile, we can flip over to CNBC to hear all the Wall Street investment advisors salivating over the 'new frontier' in providing privatized education services, essentially selling out your kid to corporatized, commercialized vendors. As a teacher, I can tell you kids do not connect well with these one-size-fits all packages, they reject them and act out either with anxiety or resentment. If you have kids of your own, you know they are different from all other kids - so why would we buy into this idea that they are all common, and that they should be taught only a "core" of skills or subject matter in school? Got a pitchfork?


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