A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future. Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals. When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities. Regarding academic standards, more than six out of 10 said the expectations for what students should learn is important to school improvement. But a majority — 54 percent — is opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 academic benchmarks adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia that have been under fire by critics on the left and right.
And, in another blow to the billionaires and corporate education reformers, the news can now report that we are five years from Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg's big foray into education philanthropy, and New Jersey schools have virtually nothing impressive to show for the $100 million that Marky Mark pledged to "fix Jersey schools" and turn Jersey schools into a "national model for public education." In a fascinating bit of investigative reporting, journalist Dale Rusakoff has released a new book, The Prize, which recounts the story of the naive efforts of Zucky, Newark mayor Cory Booker, and populist tough guy Governor Chris Christie. The story is just one more example of how corporate education reformers are too removed from the realities of education and the struggles faced by our lowest achieving students. Granted, these kids and their schools need more funding, no doubt. But the reality is that this money needs to provide food and social services and intervention programs and community support, and even then it will do little to alleviate the damaging effects that poverty have on these kids. Rusakoff has recounted much of the story in a great piece for the New Yorker.