Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why I fear the American Diploma Project

I've been reading Wendell Berry again. He's a teacher, a farmer, a writer, and a prophet. He gets me thinking, and thinking gets me trouble.

I teach high school science. I also prepare students for the New Jersey End of Course Biology Test. While these are not mutually exclusive activities, there's no sense pretending that preparing for the test does not diminish real science in my classroom.

I may be misguided anyway.

The state is pushing for children to take Algebra II, and our commissioner announced in April, 2007, that our children will be taking a joint Algebra II test shared with 8 other states, part of the "American Diploma Project Secondary Math Partnership."

“This new exam will help to ensure that our children are learning the math skills that are becoming more and more essential in an increasingly competitive job and secondary education marketplace."

The "American Diploma Project" is a joint effort of Achieve (a partnership between government and business executives), the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (whose mission is promoting school choice), and The Education Trust, which believes "all children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels."

I suspect the first group's primary aim is to create workers for the corporate world, the second's to dismantle traditional public education funding, and the third, well, I'll put them in the Lake Wobegon School of Ridiculous Optimism, where all children are above average.

And naive me, I thought public education was about creating a functional citizenry.

Again, our stated goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Still, take a few moments to look at the boards of these organizations. Look at their goals. Analyze what they mean.

And tell me I'm not being paranoid.


Doug Noon said...

That "functional citizenry" will function toward reaching an ill-defined social end, and THAT is what's being contested in education reform. The discussion is largely focused on the means of getting there - without any mention of where we're going.

Thanks for bringing Wendell Berry into the mix.

I've been enjoying your blog. Thanks.

doyle said...


We're trying to get to places we have not defined.

The ground shifted when I wasn't paying attention. I suspect that the folks on the board of the Fordham Institute have a pretty good idea of where they want education to go.

Your blog is a source of tremendous inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised to see your name here. Thanks.

Louise Maine said...

You are not being paranoid. I was given hard looks for stating out loud that all children are not destined for college. It is about time we start discussing why students lag behind. Unfortunately, the red flags are there before they start school and many cannot make up the difference.

You're right - I don't think anyone knows where we are going and we keep shooting in the dark.

Anonymous said...

I think that the people need to think about the special needs children that are involved in this mix. I have a functional special needs son that will never be able to graduate due to the changes that are being introduced. It angers me that he will never get the chance to graduate.He is smart and definitely not a test taker since he has post-meningitis syndrome. Did he ask to get this dreaded disease? Now he will be punished for getting it and will not be able to get a job for lack of getting any type of diploma. Government is causing the increase of disability for these partially functional individuals and it agers me that I have had to research this topic which was not presented by our school system.

Anonymous said...

June 17, 2009

When Do We Get a Look at the Proposed Standards?

Education reform is on its way. As of early June, 49 state governors have signed onto the Common Core Standards agreement , which agrees in principle on adopting national education standards and agrees to an aggressive time table. In fact, the first level of standards - end of high school expectations and standards - are due by July; grade level standards, by December.

Yet - the general public has yet to see anything about the content of these standards. For about five years,, state governors, state education officials have worked on standards. While we don’t have anything to look at yet, we do have the American Diploma Project (ADP) standards, the results of the education elite’s work. (See

In the absence of standards for the public to discuss, we can only look at the ADP standards and that’s exactly what a new website is doing. is analyzing the end of high school standards and expectations put forth in the ADP. The final standards will likely draw upon the ADP work - or why spend five years doing it - so a careful look at these documents should give us a preview of what will eventually be revealed. plans to critique two of the ADP standards weekly until they are all critiqued, or until the real proposed standards are made public.