John Leo
Is a major revolt against school testing and standards under way? Yes, but only in the media.

"An anti-test backlash is escalating," a breathless report in the San Jose Mercury News said last week. In California, some fearful teachers and administrators are urging parents to keep their children home when tests are given under the state's 3-year-old accountability program. The dean of the education school at the University of California, Berkeley, is among the rebels. No surprise there. The ed schools are the cathedrals of the church of self-esteem and unconditional validation of all students, including those about to earn diplomas that they can't read. As a rule of thumb, no education reform is truly worth supporting unless the ed schools resist it.

"Parents are listening up" when the anti-testing administrators and teachers preach resistance, according to the Mercury News. But this is contradicted by discouraging news buried in the middle of the article. It turns out that when you add all the rebel parents to all the rebel educators, it comes to only "several hundred" people in a state with some 8,600 schools and a population of 34 million. Despite instructions from rebel leaders, only 1 percent to 2 percent of parents refused to have their children tested last spring. This bad news for the revolution is given a nice spin in the article's next line: "But critics say that the statistic doesn't reflect the magnitude of opposition from teachers, administrators and education professors." The backlash is so big we can't even describe it. Some scattered good news for discouraged rebels follows, including word that "huge numbers of parents" refused to have their children tested in one elementary school in Saratoga, Calif. This massive upheaval at one school is pointed out twice, so it must be significant.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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