Way too much is made of standardized test scores. At their best, such tests indirectly measure trivial things. They tell us nothing at all about whether schooling is having a positive impact on the way children will live their lives.
Many admit the weaknesses of such tests, but still argue for their administration. “We need some measure of school effectiveness,” they say. This argument is utter humbug. There already are widely available gauges that offer a much better way of measuring educational progress. All we need do is pay attention to them.
Departing from my customary humility, I propose we call this compilation of indices Clabaugh's Index of Leading Educational Indicators. Here is a preliminary list.
• THE NIELSON RATINGS
What folks watch on TV is an uncannily accurate indicator of the success or failure of their schooling.Count the number of adults regularly viewing professional wrestling, for example, and we are counting people that schooling somehow failed. The same thing applies to "Jerry Springe." The higher his Nielsons, the gloomier we should be about the nation's schooling. If, on the other hand, viewership is high for, say, National Geographic Specials, History Channel or Discovery Channel offerings, there is reason for optimism.
• CD AND MUSIC VIDEO SALES
Here we need to keep tabs on the sales figures of various musical artists and genres. Like the popularity of paintings of Elvis on black velvet, it reveals a great deal about schooling’s success or failure. We could, for example, compare gangsta rap music sales with classical music sales. Schooling has surely failed if most consumers prefer Snoop Doggy Dog to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Biggy Small to Frederick Chopin.
• CULT MEMBERSHIP
Every Jonestown resident who eagerly swigged cyanide laced Cool Aid represented a schooling failure. So did the men in David Koresh's cult who allowed Dave to sexually service their wives and daughters because, as Koresh patiently explained to them, he was the only man pure enough for the job. And what about the schooling of that Heaven's Gate crowd who in conformity with "Bo" and "Peep's" teachings, "left their containers" to rendezvous with a space ship concealed behind the Hale-Bopp comet. They seem a bit deficient in critical thinking skills.
• SUPERMARKET TABLOID SALES
The sales figures of these grotesque gazettes provide a far more valid measure of educational progress than anything ETS could dream up. I'm talking about those tabloids that headline things like "WOMEN COMMITS SUICIDE IN DISHWASHER!", or "HALF BOY, HALF DOLPHIN WASHES UP ON BEACH!" Tabloid sales figures are an inverse measure of educational progress.
• THE POPULARITY OF CON-ARTIST TELEVANGELIST'S
Their income figures, available from the IRS Tax Exempt Branch, are a sure measure of schooling's effectiveness. The more money these characters make, the less well our schools have done. Consider, for example, the Reverend Benny Hinn's television ministry. Hinn, the subject of a most unflattering CNN expose, is the chap who claims to lapse into "trances" while conducting worship services. Then, according to the Reverend, the Holy Spirit uses his vocal apparatus to speak to the congregation. Hinn, by the way, alleges he has no idea what the Spirit says while he is unconscious. He has to ask the congregation after he regains consciousness. The amount of money sent to guys like Hinn should be monitored carefully. Like tablid sales, it to is an inverse measure of school effectiveness.
• THE POPULARITY OF FORTUNE TELLERS
Imagine stopping in at Madam Margarita, Seer and Advisor, for advice on whom and when to marry, find out if the one you love loves you, or learn how to make a person at a distance think of you. That many people seriously do this is a telling measure of schooling's ineffectiveness.
•THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER LIST
It’s encouraging if people read books at all. But the quality of the books on this list testifies eloquently about school success or failure. A few years back lots of people purchased The Bible Code because they found it plausible to think that God had secretly constructed his own seek and find word game in the Holy Bible. Then there are the folks, God forgive them, who sent Howard Stern's Private Parts rocketing to the top of this best seller list. These folk's English teachers should prefer self-immolation over living with such failure.
•THE CREDIBILITY OF CREATION "SCIENCE"
The popularity of this humbug constitute irrefutable, if unintentional, proof that schools very often aren’t getting it done science wise.
Yes friends, this is the way we should measure school effectiveness. Of course this index isn't complete. You probably have your own ideas of what should be added and you can submit them here. But the point is that this sort of index is much more powerful than anything Educational Testing Service or Psychological Corporation could possibly contrive.
Perhaps some of you are thinking that schools are not exclusively, or even mainly, responsible for dismal state of affairs revealed by these measures. You might be thinking you can't fix dumb, for example. So what? Educators aren’t chiefly responsible for standardized test scores either. The point isn't to be fair, but to blame some one; and it might as well be educators, since they generally don't fight back.
To examine these issues further, see articles at www.newfoundations.com