Alfie Kohn, What Does it Mean to Be Well-Educated?
With a focus on detail that has become incumbent on so many facets of public education, it is shocking how many terms get thrown around at the macro-level that cannot be defined without using the terms themselves. If a student defined the word metaphor, as "a collection of words that is metaphorical," an educator would raise the fallacy of such a definition. It is precisely this kind of logic that has pervaded public education over the past few years. "Student Achievement" has become a label that can be bandied, sold and put on the "spin" cycle to news outlets. Try to define "Student Achievement" as a movement without using the word "achievement" in the explanation and you'll realize how the word "achievement" has very little concrete value except for those who are gatekeepers of the standard.
Achievement is political fodder. It refers to variables that shift to meet political climates and news cycle expediency. Education, at its truest, is immeasurable. It is internalized and encompasses all aspects of a learner's life. Achievement is about high standardized test scores. Education is about being able to integrate knowledge into life. Achievement is about being labelled at-risk when considered below average. Education is personal, and not subject to the abilities or collective grade point scores of people who happen to be the same age. Achievement is about preparing voters for elections. Education is about preparing students for life.
Politicians have filtered down core beliefs like "all students can succeed" and "no child left behind", not as a starting point to investigate the real issues behind threats to education, but instead to insist that the solutions to all education problems rest in classrooms. The last thing a politician wants to admit, because of the enormous costs and undertakings involved, is that socio-economic status is traditionally the greatest determinant of student success. If a government would ever admit that the core cause of education risk is not in schools, but in homes, they could truly begin to tackle some of the issues that plague our system.
By sliding the achievement scale to whatever suits current political needs, the governments have side-stepped inadequate funding issues that plague public education. Further, they have deflected the attention from improving social programs to improving test scores. Student Achievement as a collective statistic should never take the place of an individual student's education. When the second is sacrificed for the first, the political will induces tragedy. Any government can say students are smarter than five or ten years ago when standardized test scores can be manipulated by altering the test content or evaluation procedures. Graduation rates can be manipulated at school or district level. As long as achievement remains the goal over education…