"Measure the wrong things and you'll get the wrong behaviors." This simple statement succinctly characterizes why the American education system continues beating its head against the wall.
Throughout education, an increasingly rigid, closed loop of assessment is systematically making schools worse: Define things children should know or be able to do at a certain age; design a curriculum to instruct them in what you've decided they should know; set benchmarks; develop tests to see if they have learned what you initially defined; rinse and repeat.
This narrow, mechanistic approach to education does not correspond to the reality of child development and brain science, but the metrics and assessment train charges down the track nevertheless.
So what's wrong with that, you might ask? Isn't school about teaching kids stuff and then testing them to see what they've learned? In a word, "No." It simply doesn't work, especially with young children.
As Boston College Professor Peter Gray wrote in a recent Psychology Today article:
Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.
"Direct instruction" does increase scores on the tests the instruction is aimed toward, even with very young children. This self-fulfilling prophecy is not surprising. But multiple studies also show that the gains in performance are fleeting -- they completely wash out after 1-3 years when compared to children who had no such early direct instruction.
Via Mark E. Deschaine, PhD, Gust MEES