One of the nation's most vocal opponents of the No Child Left Behind Act is set to take the stage at Kansas University on Thursday.
Alfie Kohn, an outspoken author who writes about the negative effects of standardized testing, said he hopes parents attending that speech, at 7 p.m. at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union, will begin asking why so much stock is put into standardized tests.
"If parents hear that the test scores have gone up in their kids' school, their first response ought to be, 'Oh no! What did they have to sacrifice from my child's education in order to raise those scores?'"
Kohn, who has appeared on "Oprah" and in TIME magazine, is highly critical of the focus given to standardized testing since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001.
The law, he said, "has federalized and annualized the worst sort of top-down corporate-style, test-driven approach to education, with punishment for the schools that need the most help, and the test-related objectives that no unmedicated observer knows is possible."
Rick Ginsberg, dean of KU's School of Education, said Kohn brings an alternative viewpoint to that of some educators. A dissenting voice is a good way to drive discussion, he said.
"He takes a very different stance than many educators do, and I think that's important," Ginsberg said. "We all agree that it's important for our students and our faculty and policy-makers in our state to hear the alternative perspectives, so we can make the best decisions."
Kohn's mission Thursday will be to get people thinking about different types of learning.
"I'm going to help parents and teachers think about the difference between thinking deeply about questions that matter, on the one hand, and memorizing fact or practicing skills that will be on the test, on the other hand," he said.
"Our hope is that we have to get politically involved in this," said Lleana McReynolds, director of Raintree Montessori School, which is helping organize Kohn's speech. "We have to talk to legislators; we have to talk to school board members to make the change."
The event is jointly sponsored by the KU School of Education, Raintree Montessori School, Baker University's School of Education and Lawrence public schools.