In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Anderson told the story of a pair of weavers who convinced a vain and arrogant monarch – and all of his subjects – that the duo had created the most beautiful set of garments to ever exist, and when in fact they created nothing. To do so, they simply claimed the clothes they were going to create were so spectacular that they were invisible to anybody that was incompetent or “hopelessly stupid.” All they needed to pull off the con was the knowledge that humans are reluctant to demonstrate ignorance, and that nobody would acknowledge the monarchs nudity for fear that they would appear more foolish than the person standing next to them. Unfortunately for the swindlers, a small child who didn’t know any better foiled the plot when he loudly proclaimed that the emperor wasn’t “wearing anything at all.”

We fear that the future of children may be in jeopardy if somebody who influences decisions regarding education doesn’t embrace his or her inner child long enough to make the same sort of declaration about the slew of theories, formulas and concepts that are being embraced by leaders who have been led to believe that they are somehow improving the quality of learning in our schools.

Over the past decade articles have been written about education accountability and who have read those accounts have become familiar with buzzwords like adequate yearly progress, smarter balanced assessment, common core, equity, modalities and performance standards.

Anyone who has attended meetings on education accountability were even more blessed, having been exposed to such terminology from well paid consultants as thought leader meeting, teacher and leader evaluation system, student growth percentiles, performances level descriptors, assessment management model and common decision matrix. Of course, everybody who heard those terms adopted their most thoughtful expressions and nodded wisely at the presenters careful to ensure that whoever was sitting next to them didn’t catch on to thefact that most of what was said was going right over their head and they didn’t understand how any of it was going to help students achieve at higher levels.

Education isn’t rocket science. Teachers teach and students learn. When either works harder at it, the results improve. It’s actually that simple, but assessment and accountability have become booming growth industries and the weavers (education consults, testing companies, etc) can’t afford to have any of us become aware of the fact that they’re actually producing nothing but thin air.

After wearing out our dictionaries and thesauruses trying to convince our interview subjects and readers alike that we’re admiring the emperors new duds, one should admit and loudly proclaim that we see nothing of substance at all.

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