We live in an age of growing centralized control over K12 curricula and instruction, wielded by a combination of national and state departments of education, the education division of the NSF, powerful textbook companies like Pearson Publishing (the current publisher of Investigations math) and McGraw Hill (the publisher of Everyday Math), and deep-pocketed funders like the Gates Foundation, along with the prominent ed-school affiliated "education experts" who advise them, and the Constructivist philosophy that binds them all together.
One of their top priorities are national K12 curriculum guidelines ("Common Core"), to be aligned with with state-devised, state-wide tests--guidelines whose "written-by-committee" vagueness, as I've argued, further entrenches current Constructivist practices. Another priority: national pedagogical standards, to be enforced by Pearson Publishing, on who gets certified to teach. If the Powers that Be get what they want, it'll be all Constructivism all the time. And a generation of poor readers and poor writers, uninformed in history and science and unprepared for college-prep math.
At least, I've always thought to myself, we've got the College Board. At least there still exists an independent entity measuring the aptitude and achievement of a significant portion of K12 students. At least, in the SATs and the Advanced Placement tests, we have an independent measure of how the current generation is faring compared to its predecessors. If test scores really plummet, surely pressure will emerge to release the Constructivist stranglehold.
Of course there'll be confounding factors: in particular, wealthy parents who wise up and hire tutors, and "experts" who claim that SATs and the APs don't measure what's important. But surely the drop-off in College Board scores that will occur once a nationwide cohort of students educated exclusively via Reform Math, Balanced Literacy, etc., starts taking these tests (and competing for college admission with students educated in non-Constructivist classrooms abroad) will be steep enough that most of us can't simply ignore it.
The College Board tests, however, have changed over time. They've been "recentered"; essays have replaced analogies; testers can now use calculators. What's to stop them from continuing to "adjust" to current circumstances? And what if the dominant Constructivist paradigm grows irresistible? Alas, that may already be happening. In May of this year the College Board appointed a new president, David Coleman, who happens to be one of the architects of the Common Core. His mission? To reshape the SATs so that they reflect the Common Core standards. As reported in Education Week:
Mr. Coleman’s hope of reworking the SAT could play a role in moving the standards from a set of guidelines used in college course placement to one considered in college admissions. That, to Mr. Coleman, goes to the heart of the standards’ intention.Mr. Coleman doesn't take office until October, and he notes that the changes he wants will have to be gradual. His true agenda is also unclear. But it'll also take time before we have a whole generation of students that have experienced only Constructivist classrooms. By the time they're taking the SATs and the Advanced Placements, the tests as we currently know them may no longer exist.
And all of us will be none the wiser.