Yes, rickrickrick, if you make the stakes high enough, the penalties for teachers, students and principals high enough and throw enough of your limited resources at it you can get students to learn how to jump through the hoops and pass a test.
But have you ever tried to teach a math class in this environment? What a joyless occupation! The kids do what they have to do, but they couldn't care less.
Thinking? That's not on the test. Curiosity? It's been beaten out of them. Those are for after school, where real life happens, as in electronic game playing and hanging out.
Goals? Whatever it takes to prep for a job. Later.
Sports? For the jocks, but not for most of them. And the jocks dream of wealth and fame, like Megabucks junkies. They'll spend their lives resenting and envying the Pros and their salaries, nursing regrets over not making it. ("If only ...")
One school I taught at had a winning football team, but the real number-one sport that all the students followed was hallway fights. I hear their MCAS scores are up though.
Music? You call what those kids are into music?? But the stars are rich and famous so it must be good. "It's all good."
The hard-working teachers, none of whom went into it for the money, all of whom are branded as "the problem", struggle to make a difference in this bleak environment. In the spaces between test-prep sessions, they nurture little bright spots where a few students for a small part of their day can find some joy, some satisfaction, some real learning. But so many burnt-out teachers now dream only of the day they can retire from the profession they once dreamed of joining!
But their students' MCAS scores are up! And more teachers have Masters Degrees. (Want a real snoozer, try taking some of those after-school Masters-program classes!)
And those cynical kids with their depleted educations, stifled imaginations, stunted thinking skills and stunted dreams are our future.