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Video Excerpts

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Defending the Status Quo? (1:38)

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In this excerpt, testing critic Ted Sizer and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige offer opposing views about the direction in which policymakers are steering America's public education system. While Sizer questions the increasing reliance on standardized testing, Paige insists that the resistance amounts to an endorsement of the status quo.

Does This Test Pass Muster? (1:46)

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Here, a high-school student in Massachusetts explains how he found a flaw in that state's highly regarded graduation exam, the MCAS. "Who would you rather hire?" asks Bill Kendall, the student's math adviser. "Do you want someone who can whip through a multiple-choice test fast and bubble in the correct answers? Or do you want someone who's tenacious with problems and who can come up with unusual, creative solutions?"

Virginia - Defining History (5:52)

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This excerpt offers a rare look inside the process of drafting curriculum standards. As educators in Virginia convene to hash out that state's history standards, the debate centers around which historic figures all students should be required to study. Is Robert E. Lee "essential" to Civil War history? What about Frederick Douglass? Jefferson Davis? Should there even be a list of such figures at all?

As the educators debate which names to include, various groups of citizens are lobbying the standards committee behind the scenes. A retired professor wants the standards to include information about the Armenian genocide, while a high-school history teacher says that students should have to study the ancient African kingdom of Mali.

"It's hard work to grapple with the fundamental issue of what's really important for all children to learn," says William Schmidt of Michigan State University. "We get hung up in the politics and then we leave our kids out of the equation, and it's for them we should be having this kind of serious dialogue."

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