Teaching by Numbers by
Main points of the book:
Auditing and accountability practices, words used in the corporate sector, are now used to simplify “complicated phenomena and experiences” into quantifiable data and thus structures what happens in classrooms across the nation. Taubman believes that if we continue to teach by these numbers we will fail as educators.
Taubman stresses the influence of standards and accountability on the morale of teachers. As teachers are criticized, held to even higher standards, and made to feel worthless, they are left vulnerable to accept the hegemonic ideologies in education today without a fight.
Corporate leaders are influencing the educational transformation more intensely sense the passage of No Child Left Behind. Their vision for the purpose of education and how to achieve it come from the corporate world and sometimes involve a financial gain for the corporations. Taubman explains that these ideas are detrimental to the public school system.
"The title of this book obviously cites that craze that swept the nation. I hope it also suggests how reducing painting to tyrannical numbers can soothe a neophyte's existential anxiety but at the same time can trivialize the complicated mystery of art. The problem with painting by numbers was not necessarily that it produced bad art or debased the public's aesthetic sense. In some ways it made the U.S., a nation not known for its appreciation of intellectual or artistic life (Hofstadter, 1962), a bit more involved in the process of making art. On the other hand, it suggested not only that anyone could paint, as long as they mechanically followed directions, but also that satisfying the predetermined outcomes constituted art. The parallels to teaching seem obvious." ( p.1)
"Certainly testing has come to define our approach to education, and test results have come to define educational reality." (p.17)
"NCATE expects teacher preparation programs to prove that their candidates have a measurable effect on their students. The harsh realities of urban schools, the limited time, the numbers of students, the challenges facing any teacher, the lack of resources, all mean there will be only one way to measure that effect on students - tests. And tests produce numerical data that is easy to aggregate and disaggregate." (p.48)
“Tests constitute one way the educational reforms shock the educational system. Extracting data from students, teachers and schools, they force our noses into the bottom line. Keeping us under constant surveillance, they make us vulnerable to centers of control beyond our reach, and, providing the illusion of objective accountability and meritocracy, they reduce education to right answers and information.” (p. 53)
"How did we allow the language of education, study, teaching, and intellectual and creative endeavor to transform itself into the language and practices of standards and accountability? How did it happen that we approved the use of pervasive testing that would shock us into compliance? How did we become complicit in the erosion of our own power, and why did we embrace the advice of salesmen, financiers, corporate lawyers, accountants, and millionaires? What led us to think that if we applied practices imported from the world of business we could solve our educational problems, and how did we surrender our right to define those problems? How did we lose our way?" (p. 128)
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