If we looked at an 8mm home movie to view a common tradition of core values from the previous century, we might find a dinner table scene as a family shares the evening meal. In the movie, we see parents asking the stock question: “So, what did you learn in school today?” The child’s answer would be equally uncreative: “Nothing”. In my script, I learned that “nothing” was an invitation for more scrutiny. Follow-up inquiries such as “So, you’re telling me you already know all there is to know?” and “Then, why do we send you to school?” or “Do I need to call your teachers?” were avoided by aptly describing the best learning of the day. Often composed on the homebound school bus, being prepared for the round-robin that occurred after the milk was poured was critical to survival at dinner.
At that time, schools trusted that parents would be involved in their children’s education. Everyone belonged to the PTA, supported the band, showed-up for the annual spaghetti dinner, and called the school if the marks on the report card showed a significant drop in grades – the measure of student learning. Legislatures trusted schools to choose developmentally appropriate curriculum and conduct programs of study which would prepare children for what they should know and be able to do to be successful in college or a career. Tests were confined to the end of chapters, the end of units, and the end of the marking period. Results of standardized achievement tests given in 3rd and 8th grade and the SAT results were available upon request.
“In the morning, I had a benchmark assessment in reading.”
“Is that all?”
“No, right before lunch we had a practice test for writing and then in the afternoon we took the pilot test for math.”
“So, what did you learn in school today?”