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Eli's Bold New Plan
The International Star Registry of Achievement, with hefty funding from Broad, will award qualifying states grants to motivate poor student achievers to score proficiently on The Tests. Details are emerging but it is clear students who perform adequately on The Tests will have a star named after them. In addition, the Registry's Ultimate Package includes a beautiful 24" X 20" full color parchment certificate beautifully embossed with the child's name, their star's name, the child's test date, test score, and their star's coordinates. The elegant certificates are double-matted in gold metallic frames.
Children who do not meet proficiency on The Tests but who are deemed to be nearing proficiency will not have a star named after them until they reach proficiency. However, they will receive the Star Registry's Deluxe Package, which includes a beautiful, double-matted certificate in a silver metallic frame, a refrigerator magnet, and a bumper sticker for the family car (My Child is Nearing Proficiency!).
The Broad Prize Extraordinaire is reserved for entire schools. A school that by 2014 manages to achieve the ultimate NCLB goal of every single student in the school scoring proficient, regardless of ability or circumstance, will be awarded a nationally televised space launch to be attended by Sally Ride and congressional dignitaries. A message commemorating the event, containing the names of each student and their test scores, will be gloriously launched into the night sky on board a real spacecraft that orbits the Earth.
Asked about public schools which fail to meet the much prized 2014 standard, Broad said they should probably lower their flags to half-mast and be taken over by private companies.
Educators are not exactly jumping on board. Many are questioning the plan as an ultimately useless scheme which throws badly needed funds into a black hole and promotes extrinsic rewards over a deep and lasting love of real learning. Many also question the assumption that paper and pencil standardized tests provide children with a fair opportunity to apply and demonstrate what they really know and are able to do. Teachers noted that many bored and disengaged students don't even bother to try on the tests, much less read them. They would prefer teaching which encompasses real world projects and application rather than the narrow kinds of teaching and learning that high-stakes testing inevitably leads to.
Others have noted that corporate-driven policies are putting the cart before the horse. Claiming that the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more fortunate peers is a symptom of other neglected societal gaps in our nation, rather than the cause, a number of activists have asked Broad if children wouldn't be much better served if he took on eradicating some of the known factors that contribute to low achievement, like lead-infested housing. Questioned about educators' misgivings, Broad dismissed the claims as the soft bigotry of low expectations. "It's about time teachers toughened up instead of whining. Low-performing corporate workers hardly utter a sniffle when their good-paying jobs are outsourced to China or rendered obsolete by technology."
Asked whether each student would receive a telescope where they could actually view their "own" star, Broad replied that there are limitations to what philanthropists can and should do. "The whole point," he noted, "is that once schools have provided students with the necessary skills to get and retain good jobs, they will be able to buy their own telescopes. That's the beauty of my plan."
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