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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization


Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas

A century of education and education reform, along with more than three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability, reveals a disturbing paradox: education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading. This commitment persists despite ample research, theory, and philosophy revealing the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading in an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles. This revised edited volume brings together a collection of updated and new essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of tests and grades on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role that they play in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children. The chapters fall under two broad sections. Part I, Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education, includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading. Part II, De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform, presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.
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Chapter Thirteen: Leadership Denied: Principal as Compliance Officer


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Leadership Denied

Principal as Compliance Officer



The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), probably the largest educator/practitioner professional association, convened its third symposium on the “whole child” in 2015, deepening its commitment to its 2007 initiative intended to move the education narrative away from narrowly defined academic achievement ( The whole child platform presents arguments for promoting healthy lifestyles, learning environments that are physically and emotionally safe, connections between schools and the broader community, access to personalized learning, and provision of experiences for college and employment/participation in the global environment. In short, the premise of the whole child initiative is to promote the social/emotional well-being of students through an approach that is both life-affirming for the individual child and relevant in larger contexts. The current gateway to educational leadership including a new set of State certification tests and the School Building Leader (SBL) assessment requires a new thinking which we argue is not helpful toward the promotion of “whole child” learning.

Schools that view children as more than the sum of their parts, seeing learners as developing entities (and not easily measurable at any given stage of development) are not encouraged under the leadership being shaped by new fragmented conceptions of education.

In fact, understanding that children are multifaceted and multitalented—i.e., a “gestalt” view of education—is...

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