In the introduction to her book, The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test, Linda Nathan describes leading a tour of Boston Arts Academy for leaders from another school. One of the members of the tour talks about resistance to developing small learning communities at their school:
"'They just aren't convinced that small makes a difference in high school. And to be honest, neither are some of us. I went to a big high school and it was just fine.'
To me, this teacher had hit on the essence of what makes changing schools so difficult. Most teachers become teachers because they did well in school. The system worked for them: it worked 'just fine.' How can teachers truly grapple with different approaches than those they experienced as a student?"This thinking could easily be expanded to include current and aspiring policymakers dealing with education today. It's difficult to get in a position of authority without at some point having success with standardized tests. It's fair to assume that those of us at Harvard, in state and local education departments, and leading organizations like TNTP and TFA have generally done quite well on these tests.
To what extent does this contribute to a blind faith in testing-based accountability? It's often very easy to project your own experiences as common and it's difficult to see the flaws in a system that served you just fine. Finding a way to set aside these experiences and assumptions is vital then to figuring out a system that serves everyone well.