They all went to private schools, embraced public school reform, and cling to testing as the metric by which to measure teacher performance and reform schools.
Of course, it can be argued that their private school background gives them a fresh perspective from which to critique the public school system and transform it. But I don’t believe that to be the case.
If these private school alumni are supposed to bring in creative perspectives, why, then, do their perspectives all look the same?
There is nothing wrong with attending private schools – some of our greatest minds have come from them. But there is clearly a disconnect when it comes to their methods of reforming public schools.
Yes, test scores can provide a very broad view of school achievement. But instead of using testing data as a baseline measurement, these policymakers have extrapolated that data to extremes to determine solutions to issues as divergent as teacher tenure and school funding.
Policymakers have become content with sitting at their desks and looking over spreadsheets of data instead of experiencing the classroom first-hand. They have become the armchair anthropologists of our day—seeking to use theoretical knowledge in place of actual experience. In other words, the important analytical step they have forgotten is fieldwork, or "participant observation" – the bedrock of any effective internal audit or ethnographic study.
You cannot measure a teacher by the test scores their students achieve. You cannot measure a school by the test scores its students achieve. The only way to effectively measure student, teacher and school performance is to experience the public school. And no, photo ops don’t count.
Michelle Obama, a vocal critic of her husband’s education policies and one of the few people in Washington's upper echelon to have attended public schools, has repeatedly said that “If my future was determined by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here, I guarantee that.”
And I guarantee that, until we find the Bronislaw Malinowski of education policymakers to wake us from our test-based trance, the next generation will be stifled by testing, and the Michelle Obamas of the future will never achieve their potential.