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March 1, 2003
Vol. 60
No. 6

Review

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In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization

In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization, Deborah Meier, 2003
A long-time educator, writer, and public education advocate, Deborah Meier maintains that the current accountability movement's highly prescriptive “one-size-fits-all” factory model of schooling is incompatible with the trust, democracy, and community that a good school embodies. She is amazed at how quickly the testing movement has affected schools and students, and stunned by how aconservative federal administration, committed to local control, would mandate annual high stakes tests for every local schoolhouse in the nation.
This has happened, contends Meier, because of a “new level of distrust” toward schooling:We don't trust teachers' judgments, so we constrain their choices. Nor do we trust principals, parents, or local school boards. So we allow those furthest from the schoolhouse to dictate policy that fundamentally changes the daily interactions that take place within the school.
In Schools We Trust provides a blueprint and a strategic tool to be employed as an alternative to the standards movement. Building trust, Meier maintains, must be an integral element of high standards. Drawing from her experiences in running successful public schools in New York and a public pilot school in Boston, Meier's model for quality schools includes trusting teachers to use their own judgment, making schools smaller, inviting parents to form close relationships with the school, and surrounding students with teachers who know them well. The trust at the core of these relationships, contends Meier, is often sacrificed when standardization turns schools into academic grindstones and when test scores become the sole measure of achievement.
Meier's book is a wake-up call, and raises some important policy issues related to the standards movement. Do standards lead to standardization? Is it possible to have equal output (tests) without equal inputs (resources and equity)? Can one-size compliance models meet the needs of different-size students, communities, and school districts? Is trust incompatible with No Child Left Behind? Is the dominance of high-stakes testing in sync with recognized models of child development?
Meier challenges the reader with answers to these questions and reminds us yet again that No Child Left Behind constitutes first and foremost a political answer to major education issues. As educators, we have the responsibility to ensure that standardization is aligned with quality schools.
Published by Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108. (617) 742-1220. 208 pages. $16 paperback.
Reviewed by Arnold F. Fege, Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy, Public Education Network

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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