The contemporary school-reform movement was based on the theory that, as long as educators were held accountable for school improvement that raised test scores, the answer to poverty could be found within the four walls of classrooms. This supposedly required teachers to cede their professional autonomy to administrators, as the school boards, education schools and teachers’ unions were “blown up” by “disruptive innovation” so that “transformative” change would be unleashed.
Meanwhile, there was a large body of social and cognitive science that explained why this test-driven, competition-driven experiment couldn’t work, but Silicon Valley venture philanthropists insisted that the creation of incentives and disincentives would attract non-educators who would reinvent schools. Big Data would supposedly drive a technocratic process to “build a better teacher.” Teachers’ compliance would be mandated. Mass school closures would undermine union power and allow the “exiting” of thousands of teachers who weren’t fully on board or “on the same page” with data-driven, teach-to-the-test instruction.
This social engineering degenerated to the point where young teachers were taught to avoid the word “please.” They had to shut down class discussions to keep up with the mandated pacing schedule for covering testable standards.