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It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.
I read that first paragraph of this column by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson and found myself wanting to stand up and cheer.  For years those of us in the trenches in education have tried to make people aware that the Emperor of Educational "Reform" in the form of test-driven accountability was naked:  it had little to do with real reform, and was destructive of meaningful learning and teaching.  Given that the editorial board of his paper has been among the champions of test-driven reform, this is of special significance.

Robinson's column is not perfect.  He considers standardized achievement tests "a vital tool."  But to misuse use a tool can be worse than not having it -  using a sledge hammer to set a broken bone is more destructive than helpful, and that has been how we have used standardized tests in the so-called reform movement.  

I am glad for Robinson's column, even as I am going to criticize some additional parts of it.

The occasion of this piece is, not surprisingly, the indictment of former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 teachers and principals in the most thoroughly investigated cheating scandal.  Robinson goes through the details of the scandal, including noting Hall's selection as Superintendent of the Year by the relevant professional association, the American Association of School Administrators.  Here I note this it not the first time that organization has honored someone who supposed achievements were false:  Rod Paige was honored for his work in Houston, even though scholars were seriously challenging the results being reported for his school district, results later proven to be manipulated by holding children out of test, and claiming a false low drop-out rate by only looking at the percentage of those starting senior year who graduated on time, thereby masking the fact that more than 50% of those who began 7th grade dropped out.

Robinson properly references the work of his Post colleague Valerie Strauss, whose blog The Answer Sheet has been one of the few places that has featured the voices of those of us (including me) who have been critical of the reform movement.  I note that one of the people on the Editorial Board of the Post who writes about education told me at a conference that the members of that Board disagreed with what Strauss writes.  Robinson offers this quote from Strauss:  

“We don’t really know” how extensive the problem is, Strauss wrote, but “what we do know is that these cheating scandals have been a result of test-obsessed school reform.”
  Out of dozens of reported scandals, only that in Atlanta has been thoroughly investigated.

Robinson notes how Michelle Rhee was lionized, even though

there are unanswered questions about an anomalous pattern of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets
during her tenure -  I could write dozens of posts on the problems of Rhee's tenure, starting with problems with reported test scores.  Even when there is not provable outright cheating, people claim great improvement on their watch that turns out to be false:  that was true of the tenure of Joel Klein in NYC, and after the State Department of Education readjusted the scores the "miraculous" improvements turned out as illusory as those under Rhee  (which just about when he resigned as School Chancellor and went to work for Rupert Murdoch's for-profit educational venture).

Robinson writes

Our schools desperately need to be fixed. But creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.
 That is unfortunately inaccurate on both counts.  Our approach to education the past three decades has been on a false and destructive path.  That does need to be changed.  If one understands the data, one of the real problems has been that we have not addressed the underlying societal problems that affect how children do in school.  When adjusted for poverty, the scores of American school children compared to their peers in other nations are actually more than decent.  But our focus on test scores in a few subjects and how we use those test scores has led to a real narrowing of education, often for those most in need of a richer educational environment.  

I must take issue with the second sentence in that most recent block quote.  I'm sorry, but the vast majority of teachers do NOT cheat.  The statement has the effect of smearing the profession.  It is more than unfortunate that Robinson offered those words.  For all the cheating scandals he can identify, even where teachers were involved, in some cases they were directed by their superiors to do things that are illegal and unethical.  Should those people have refused?  Certainly I would have, but then I was not the sole support of my family.  In places where teachers lacked the due-process protections of "tenure" a refusal to follow even illegal directions of a superior could lead to dismissal and being black-balled from future employment in schools.  I know of people to whom that happened.

Having criticized Robinson, let me now praise him.

His final three paragraphs absolutely nail it.

Let me explore each, one at a time.

Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets. I totally reject the idea that students from underprivileged neighborhoods cannot learn. Of course they can. But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security? The clear incentive is for the teacher to focus on test scores rather than actual teaching.
Donald Campbell wrote in 1976 about the danger of putting weight on social indicators.  in Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change, we find the famous statement that
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
 This destructive nature of this is regularly seen in fields outside of education:  reward policemen by how many arrests they make, and a community will not only see a low percentage of convictions, but may well wind up paying to settle suits for false arrest.  Change to the percentage of arrests that result in convictions and some police will not make an arrest unless it is a slam-dunk conviction.  Rate a hospital or a doctor on fatalities and there will be a reluctance to treat the most seriously ill.  Reward people on Wall Street for quarterly stock prices and decisions will be made that get the brokers bonuses but jeopardize the long-term financial health of the organization.  

Campbell applied his rule directly to testing:  

From my own point of view, achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.
Let's go to Robinson's penultimate paragraph:
Not every school system will become so mired in an alleged pattern of wrongdoing that officials can be charged under a racketeering statute of the kind usually used to prosecute mobsters. But even absent cheating, the blind obsession with test scores implies that teachers are interchangeable implements of information transfer, rather than caring professionals who know their students as individuals. It reduces students to the leavings of a No. 2 pencil.
This paragraph gets to the heart of the critique many of us have made about the direction of educational policy in this nation.  When I was asked what I taught my answer always began with one word:  students.  Regardless of the subject at hand, I had to start with where my students were, which meant I had to know them.  No two classes were the same, which is why scripted lessons are garbage.  Students learn in different ways.  And much of what students learn and can do cannot be accurately measured by multiple choice questions.

Robinson's final paragraph challenges the entire way we as a nation have been going about the "reform" of our schools:  

School reform cannot be something that ostensibly smart, ostentatiously tough “superstar” superintendents do to a school system and the people who depend on it. Reform has to be something that is done with a community of teachers, students and parents — with honesty and, yes, a bit of old-fashioned humility.
First, let's drop the entire idea of miracle success and superstars.  It makes for exciting copy and turns into nice movies, but is not reality.  I am an award-winning teacher. I know others similarly honored.  But for all of us the real reward is not the ceremonies, although the recognition is nice and any financial bonus is always welcomed. Rather it is when we can see the students connect, improve.  It is when the students reach out to us later to thank us, especially those students we were not sure we were reaching.

It is not just "reform" that cannot be done "to" -  it is teaching, because it is done "with."

Look again at the first part of that last sentence:  Reform has to be something that is done with a community of teachers, students and parents.  It is why the solution is NOT to close down schools and ship students across town, as is being done in too many cases - in NYC, in Philadelphia, most of all in Chicago.  Education occurs in the context of community, a community that includes families as well as the educators.

I have my quarrels with some of what Robinson wrote.

But I praise the thrust of this column, hope it will, despite my reservations on part, be widely distributed.

I can only hope the editorial board will pay attention to what he wrote.

And not only the Post editorial board.  Those policy makers who are responsible for creating the situation which is the context for the scandals we have been seeing.

Unfortunately, I do not have that much expectation that either hope will be fulfilled.

And given my low expectations, I weep for our children.

Originally posted to teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 03:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (162+ / 0-)
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    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 03:52:44 AM PDT

  •  I really hope this gets some traffic (40+ / 0-)

    first, I want Robinson's column read

    second, I want people aware of the weaknesses in his presentation

    third, I do try to place his column in context

    of course, this community will decide the merits of this post.  

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:08:27 AM PDT

    •  Serious pundits (12+ / 0-)

      seem to have an innate need to bow to conventional wisdom even while they argue against it.

      Our schools desperately need to be fixed.
      Every school I taught in (and while I subbed, that number added up) had students that were in the top 5% of the nation. Might not have been many of them at any particular school, but they are ubiquitous. Every school I taught in also had students who could not read at (or even near) grade level or do more than simple arithmetic. They, too, were ubiquitous. Teachers worked with the students they were assigned. What fixed the schools that produced engineers that sent men to the moon? The WWII GI Bill, which sent their parents to college and placed them firmly in the middle class. It's not schools that need desperate fixing.
      Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool
      Standardized achievement tests have managed to tell us one true thing over the years: achievement is correlated with socio-economic status. When we refuse to recognize this and keep giving the tests hoping they willl tell us something different so we don't have to do the hard work of reversing economic exploitation of the poor, then we might as well be sacrificing chickens and examining their entrails. We no longer consider this ancient method of testing vital, why should our modern haruspices get a pass?

      It's not just Gene Robinson. Every pundit seems to need to cite conventional wisdom before they break out into whatever point they want to make.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 12:05:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fixed == funded (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orinoco, teacherken

        Our schools need to be fully funded. The government does everything it can to avoid this necessity but it is the only way that we can have functional schools, for the very earliest grades through higher education.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:21:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  True, that (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, teacherken

          Our schools do desperately need to be fully funded.

          An unspoken assumption in all the professional development I took on the latest reform du jour was that there would be no additional resources allocated to implement said reforms. And none of last week's reform du jour was ever cancelled, so any effort put into implementing that would have to be continued.

          The only reform I ever heard of that proposed freeing up time was the essential standards or key standards reform, basically a list of those things we absolutely must teach, by implication, the remainder of the curriculum was optional. Unfortunately, administration never bought into that one, and, while it lasted the official line was, "Yes, it is essential that you teach key standards, but don't think you are off the hook for teaching your class the entire curriculum."

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:06:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I also look forward to your comments (12+ / 0-)

    and am prepared to engage in dialog with anyone who wants

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:08:56 AM PDT

    •  I weep for our children too (6+ / 0-)

      that not a single young person I know who could be a Ken Bernstein of the future is planning on becoming a teacher. The last one I knew changed her major in her junior year and opted for a career that isn't perpetually demonized.

      Something desperately needs to be fixed but it's not the schools. It's the education narrative.

      I should add that I know a bunch of really outstanding people who are teachers already. I can't imagine that any of them views their job as a punch-the-clock cushy gig because they aren't those type of people. I just worry about where teachers of the future will come from, now that we have so thoroughly demeaned their profession that virtually every education conversation includes multiple voices pushing the idea that teaching contains a singularly high population of "bad" practitioners.

      Jon Husted is a dick.

      by anastasia p on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 01:16:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My daughter has wanted to be a teacher her (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        semioticjim, AoT

        whole life, like many others in our family.  She still wants to be one, but after three years of having her chosen profession trashed, her pay frozen at starting level, and her time for teaching lessened by ever increasing class sizes and "reform" demands, it's hard to stay the course.

        Paying teachers based on standardized test scores is a bit like paying meteorologists based on the weather.

        “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

        by ahumbleopinion on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 03:33:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  here is where I have to disagree somewhat (0+ / 0-)

        because of the number of my former students who are, in spite of what they know they are facing, already teachers or in the process of becoming teachers.  One student is in her final year at University of Maryland College Park, completing her student teaching, this semester.  I can name more than two dozen of those I have taught who are either now in the classroom or preparing to go there.  

        It is not that I encourage them.  But in the school in which I taught for 13 years, they had models of many outstanding teachers.  To name a couple, Linda Squier, now like me retired, was a Disney American Teacher award winner, and brought Latin alive for many, many students.  Coit Hendley, still there, has won a national award for his teaching of science.  Barbara Baker, now retired, created a monster of choruses that range from beginners to near professional, from Gospel to doing songs in many languages, including Slavonic.  I can name outstanding teachers in just about every department.  Some of us chose to take buyouts the last few years, but there are still many truly outstanding teachers in the building.  It is often when students are inspired by the impact either on them or on friends by a teacher that they decide to explore teaching, and not always in the same field.  I have former students teaching science, English, Social Studies, Phys Ed, family and consumer science, math, and foreign languages.

        "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

        by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:28:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  and also, left out of the last comment (0+ / 0-)

          elementary grades

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:28:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The surprising thing (16+ / 0-)

    The most surprising thing about this article is that it actually showed up in the Post - they seem (correct me if I'm wrong) to have been cheerleaders for the test prep industry and the 'reform' movement for decades.  Wonder if some top honcho is on Easter break so that Robinson could slip this through?

  •  Clearly a third party needs to administer (0+ / 0-)

    the tests.

  •  On one of the MSNBC shows I heard a (29+ / 0-)

    commentator say that the goal is NOT to get rid of achievement tests because they provide valuable information and no one picked up on that point. My goal certainly is to get rid of MCAs.

    I do believe back in my day the tests providing good information, but that is no longer the case. We took achievement tests at the beginning of the year and we were placed in reading and math groups according to our abilities and then adjustments were made whenever the true talents or needs became more apparent. It was a starting point, nothing more. We took the same tests at the end of the year to see how much progress we made. We never studied for the test, the teachers never taught to the test, and the teachers were never judged solely on the results.

    Neither of my kids do well on the MCAs -- both have all kinds of learning disabilities and they struggle. There are rumors that MA will opt out of the testing and I pray it's true. I'm not sure my kids will get a high school diploma if passing that test is still a requirement. It's not even about how hard it is, it's test anxiety. They waste weeks of school prepping kids and it totally freaks out my girls. They know how much is at stake. It's all so unnecessary...

    First the thing is impossible, then improbable, then unsatisfactorily achieved, then quietly improved, until one day it is actual and uncontroversial. ... It starts off impossible and it ends up done. - Adam Gopnik

    by theKgirls on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:24:14 AM PDT

  •  Nothing I've Read Is More Accurate Then This (11+ / 0-)
    This paragraph gets to the heart of the critique many of us have made about the direction of educational policy in this nation.  When I was asked what I taught my answer always began with one word:  students.  Regardless of the subject at hand, I had to start with where my students were, which meant I had to know them.  No two classes were the same, which is why scripted lessons are garbage.  Students learn in different ways.  And much of what students learn and can do cannot be accurately measured by multiple choice questions.
    For most of my life in a classroom I hated it. Just hated it.

    Then there were a few teachers, and I recall them 25+ years later like it was yesterday, showed an interest in what I cared about and taught to that.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:29:02 AM PDT

  •  Education for capitalist discipline (18+ / 0-)

    Here you've touched upon the public face of "reform" as follows:

    First, let's drop the entire idea of miracle success and superstars.  It makes for exciting copy and turns into nice movies, but is not reality.
    I outlined the ideological dimension of the "reform" racket in this diary:
    Rather than actually doing something serious about educational inequality by ameliorating economic inequality, the new crop of public school "reformers" plan to use TfA, charter schools, and testing discipline to create new elites, both in terms of students and teachers, under the guise of "meritocracy."
    Indeed we buy into the facade of miracle success and superstars, and more such facades are being manufactured daily in our public schools through Teach for America and charter school programs, because testing discipline is so destructive of any other aims which a public school system might deign to offer.  So it's no wonder students and parents can be sold upon "miracle success and superstar" visions of hope, in light of the generalized despair which has already been imposed upon them.  

    Capitalist discipline in lower-class schooling, by which I mean schooling to produce obedient lower-tier workers, was already the framework for oppressive "education" when Michelle Rhee and her gang came along -- and Rhee herself builds upon a background of testing regimes in Texas and California that formed the basis for the No Child Left Behind Act.  Education for the Obama regime is just another brick in the wall.

    If we wish to contest superstar-building as such, then, we'll also have to go after the despair that is also manufactured by the regime as it has operated so far.

    "There are some bad people on the rise/ They're saving their own skins by/ Ruining people's lives" -- Morrissey

    by Cassiodorus on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:30:36 AM PDT

  •  Our schools won't fully succeed... (25+ / 0-)

    until we as a people and as a nation understand that we must be committed to helping families succeed.

    This, of course, is a monumental undertaking. But we must start. (It's kind of like infrastructure. Yes, to properly address it will cost billions and billions. But it needs to be done, and it will pay off eventually).

    The world's greatest teacher won't be able to reach a class full of students who don't have home lives that foster educational success.

    But it's easy, lazy, and cheaper to blame the teacher, isn't it, instead of addressing the underlying issue.

    And I fear what my son's school is neglecting by focusing on these ridiculous standardized tests.

    How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

    by BenderRodriguez on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:35:26 AM PDT

    •  So True. I Come From A Family With Some Means (10+ / 0-)

      and if as a kid in the 70s or 80s I showed an interesting in this or that, my parents threw resources at me. If I said hey "I like stars I had a telescope the next day."

      I was raised in a culture of folks with PhDs. Knowledge was key. But it doesn't come at a cost. My parents could afford to buy me, say a microscope, if that was my interest at the time.

      I don't think most families can do that.

      IMHO we have to figure out a way to help all children. Not those that just have what I had. Embrace them. Wrap our arms around them. Help them.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:53:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something about lenses (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I too had a telescope and a microscope while growing up, and don't recall having to do much more than ask once before it showed up as a christmas or birthday present. For a chemistry set and an erector set, on the other hand, I had to wage major whining campaigns, and, in the case of the erector set, had to front some of the money myself. Fortunately that was back in the day where an enterprising youngster could make a few bucks returning bottles for the deposit.

        Maybe it's about the fact that telescopes and microscopes don't smell, make messes or leave bits and pieces around underfoot, like my lincoln logs and tinker toys (predecessor to the erector set) did.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 12:22:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The other big one is books (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Orinoco, teacherken

          You don't even have to read to kids, just have the books around and they'll be a reader. You don't even have to read much and you don't have to read to them. I wish I could find the study, but it was surprising to me how strong the correlation was.

          If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

          by AoT on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:33:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Having a lot of books in the home is good (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Especially a wide variety. Frequent visits to a library is also good. Jim Trelease makes a pretty good case for reading to children, but I think there are also studies showing that kids just seeing parents or older siblings reading is also effective.

            I have vague recollections of a survey of household items in high achieving households, that found several items in common: books, typewriters (old survey, obviously), adding machines, paper and pencils, rulers, magnifying glasses and string. String? Well, it's a very vague recollection.

            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:21:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  that was very much true of me (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I taught myself to read -  books and music - when I was three.  By the time I was in my pre-teens I had a card for the adult library.

            We had lots of books in the house and I was allowed to pull out and read anything I wanted.  That challenged me.

            But I also note that we received multiple newspapers and magazines.

            I remember when nightly network news was only 15 minutes.

            And while I watched a fair amount of tv as a child, I did more reading than I did watching.

            I can look at myself today and have to acknowledge that while I still read a lot, much of it is online, whether at websites like this or through email.  I also write a lot, which has improved both my writing and my thinking.

            "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

            by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:32:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  we're robbing the next generation (13+ / 0-)

      By not providing quality, affordable educational opportunities

      This is what I want to scream whenever pundits natter on about the debt

      Kids are only young once which is when you learn most easily

      There are huge systemic problems, at the grade school level through the universities.  You know why college is so expensive now?  There's been an explosion in administration, and administrators with fat salaries

      by chloris creator on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 05:44:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely, my daughter teaches 1st grade (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BenderRodriguez, Black Max, elwior, AoT

      and has students from poor families, who have serious health problems and learning disabilities. Yet she is evaluated and paid based on their test scores. Not to mention that all the joy of learning is destroyed by the pressure to teach to the test.

  •  My kids' experience with FCAT test (10+ / 0-)

    My 11th grade daughter and 7th grade son immigrated to America from China 2 years ago, both with very limited English skills.

    Both have failed the standardized tests given in Florida, yet both are on the A/B honor roll.  My daughter was recommended for honors level physics and digital design classes for her senior year. My son has been in advanced math since he started the 5th grade.

    My daughter is scheduled to take her ACT tests this month. I hope she does better on this test.

    We all stand submissively before the global ATM machine network like trained chickens pecking the correct colored buttons to release our grains of corn. Joe Bageant

    by Zwoof on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:35:59 AM PDT

    •  My wife (7+ / 0-)

      formerly worked in a school here in Florida for mentally-handicapped, elementary-age kids.  To her amazement, the children were required to take the FCAT.  That was the beginning of her estrangement from the prevailing orthodoxy.  I was already there.  Our son is going to start in a Montessori school in the fall.

      A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

      by eightlivesleft on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:46:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  SIL teaches Learning Disabled elementary kids. (6+ / 0-)

        They have to take and pass the same grade level tests as any other Indiana Student, (ISTEP) but to qualify for Special Education LD, they must be two or more years behind in school skills.  Go figure that one!

      •  I taught science (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sandblaster, teacherken

        to seventh graders with mild to moderate learning disabilities. I was summoned to the assistant principal's office, along with the school's seventh grade GATE science teacher, to be chewed out for failing to be on the same page as the general ed seventh grade science teachers, me, behind and the GATES teacher, ahead.

        It was one of the most bizarre conferences I'd ever attended. I was told to skip stuff and jump ahead whether my students understood the material or not, and the GATES teacher was told to occupy her students with busy work while the regular ed students caught up.

        When the assistant principal retired that year, she said, in her farewell remarks, something about having to do things she didn't agree with. I like to think she was partly referring to that particular meeting.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 12:33:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  everyone on same page at the same time (0+ / 0-)

          the argument is supposed to be fairness - that is a student transfers the classes will be in the same place.

          In its most ridiculous form, the French schools used to have a uniform pacing guide which meant students in Tahiti would be reading about snow in January!

          Education should be reshaped to meet the students where they are.

          I could have 6 classes in the same content area doing 6 different things if that was what made sense for the students.

          It is one reason that asking teachers to teach 5-6 classes with upwards of 150 students at the secondary level is nuts, and no matter how talented the teacher and how hard s/he works winds up somewhat cheating the students.

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:35:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great analysis (13+ / 0-)

    We're in the thick of it now, and one of my kids is complaining of constant stomach aches and loss of sleep.

    The other has just given up and keeps asking if he can drop out of school.

    I'm ready to wring the neck of whoever came up with this effed up system.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:36:08 AM PDT

    •  consider this - (13+ / 0-)

      for some tests, there are instructions of what to do should a student vomit on a test

      just consider that

      think of the level of stress

      and think of how often that might happen if the instructions actually cover that situation

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 05:14:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Parents hate the testing. parents are talking to (8+ / 0-)

      their kids & losing ground. The kids hate the testing so much, they disengage. Many admit to.just random guessing.

    •  One year I wanted to drop out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coquiero, dicentra

      over PE class. We had to climb a rope, and I couldn't do it. My mother made me a deal: it would be OK with her that I failed PE, as long as I figured out a way to get some exercise outside of school. I wound up swimming for an hour after school every day.

      Maybe you could give your potential drop out, or both of them, some family based goal to substitute for the almighty test. Maybe a weekly book report at dinner or something.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 12:42:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  same here (0+ / 0-)

        My daughter would get sick and stressed before having to "run the mile" in PE.  We told her from the start she didn't have to do it.   All she had to do was say the word and we would give her a note, or talk to the teacher, and she didn't have to.  We didn't care what her grade was, and we encouraged her not to care what her grade was.  It just wasn't worth it.  For several years she didn't run it, then recently she decided to give it a try, but it was up to her.

        Same for the MCAS tests.  We've been honest with her about the testing.  We tell her it's meaningless to us, and to her.  What matters is what she's learning.  We've told her she can opt out if she wants; we'll support her.   Real education is important; test scores are not.   We can tell how well she's doing by her classwork and grades, and by her general well-being.  The testing is nothing more than a waste of time and resources.

  •  measure of X = X (10+ / 0-)

    the insanity of educational testing is part of a larger project

    take a piece of the world, say the economy, and then use the stock market as a measure of the economy

    measure (economy) = stock market

    then forget about the dimensional compression involved in reducing the actual economy to a measure, and then believe that the stock market is the economy

    measure (economy) = GDP

    same thing, but in this case it is even more insidious. We used to use the GNP which subtracted the interest paid to foreigners from the measure of economic activity. At some times this could be as much as a 1% difference. So when the measure does not fit the politics, change the measure. (from the excellent book "Worse Than You Think: The Real Economy Hidden Beneath Washington's rigged statistics and where to go from here" by Keith Quincy

    thus we have

    measure (education) = test scores

    invent a measure and do a dimensional compression of the complexity of education and then believe and set up policy as improving test scores and invention of new measures, for example, teacher measurement.

    The actual practice of learning and teaching is lost in the measurement.

  •  Robinson's final paragraph tells a lot (8+ / 0-)
    School reform cannot be something that ostensibly smart, ostentatiously tough “superstar” superintendents do to a school system and the people who depend on it. Reform has to be something that is done with a community of teachers, students and parents — with honesty and, yes, a bit of old-fashioned humility.
    I have been researching the 'logic' behind the rationale that sees top down control as the solution of all problems and I think I found it: The Aristotelian Deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning itself is not the problem of course, it has its essential place, but the illusion of seeing deductive-analytic reasoning as the whole direction in the finding of truths is. For human mind to see the whole picture in the solution of issues, it is necessary for us to begin balancing our analytic-deductive logic with its opposite, the synthetic-inductive logic. As the saying goes, "it takes two to tango," and we have been dancing with a single partner for too long.

    Half is not the whole. Part cannot be identified without the understanding of its relations to its opposite, revealing not only the part itself but its context to its environment.

    Deductive reasoning gives us the illusion of isolated parts that can be defined by themselves.

    Deductive reasoning makes us see the part as the whole.

    Superstar superintendents (and "superman") saving the little people by their "all-knowing and powerful" tough charges with no input from the helpless 'know-nothing' bottom dwellers is the world of comic books and Tom Clancy novels. They are entertaining but they fail short of translating real experience.

    The "standardized testing" run against the laws of the human nature, since there is nothing "standardized" in nature or about the human beings, in general.

    "Standardized testing" teach trust in authority and top down tyranny, not democracy. It will fail.

    "Standardized testing" evaluating teachers by the student test scores is analogous to the recent attempt to make laws punishing parents who are on welfare if their kids don't perform well in school.

    Makes no sense.

    Top down deductive reasoning without putting it in context, the necessity of the whole community working together to increase student achievement, does not work.

    It must be fortified with the inductive logic.

    Time to see the whole picture.

    The sum of a triangle's angles are 180 degrees. That's deductive logic. Correct, but incomplete.

    The sum of the triangle's angles as a part of a curving sphere however is bigger than 180 degrees. That's the whole picture.

    Therefore, to see the truth, more complete solutions to our problems, we must begin to see that 'bigger than 180 degrees' part.

    It is in "grass roots."

    It is in "Democracy"

    It is in our system of government.

    It is in our Constitution.

    Thank you for reading.

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 05:22:35 AM PDT

  •  Excuses to spend less (13+ / 0-)

    No Child Left Behind, with its emphasis on testing, was an excuse to spend less on education. Race to the Top, with its emphasis on rewarding only those with plans for high achievement, is also an excuse to spend less.

    The only solution is to spend more. Private schools spend more. Charter schools with effective fund raising spend more. Public schools in wealthy districts, which tax their people rigorously, spend more.

    The solution is quite simple. Spend more. Or get less. All else is a distraction.

    by Dana Blankenhorn on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 05:27:26 AM PDT

  •  Tying CEO pay to stock performance (10+ / 0-)

    The difference in the corporate world instead of the education world, they don't fire you when you fail miserably and the stock tumbles. See Nardelli, Bob and the $300 million golden parachute. Yet they want to fire teachers for something they have no control of, particularly so at urban schools.

    The fact is teachers are often being held accountable despite having transient students. I live on the North Shore of Massachusetts and some of the beach communities like Salisbury have a temporary homeless problem. Because housing is limited, especially in the summer when landlords can jack up the price for tourists, some families in Salisbury are homeless during the summer months. This cuts into the both the beginning and end of the school year for many of these families because tourist season starts around Memorial Day (and in some cases as early as May 1 or May 15) and continues into September. Between October and April, lots of the rental homes and hotels would normally be vacant so the rent is much cheaper off-season. Is it fair to hold teachers in communities like this responsible because students test poorly (on poorly designed tests that don't realistically assess actual student skills) because they are affected by their homelessness?

    •  The town might consider outlawing (0+ / 0-)

      short-term rentals during the school year.

      •  And this solves the problem exactly how? (4+ / 0-)

        That doesn't deal with the issues caused by homelessness.  Homeless families don't automatically move in during October and out during April when the rents are cheap--they're in flux on a regular basis. The landlords in the area will find a way around such a law, to the detriment of those who are homeless.  I've seen such things, in a different area.

        I teach in a high poverty school in a ski resort town.  We get people moving in to work at the resorts.  Families couch surf, live in RVs, live in tents in the woods until the weather drives them out. There's a lot of churn.

        Homelessness and poverty themselves need to be addressed, period.

  •  For me, as you probably know, (23+ / 0-)

    this is speaking to the choir.  

    My forty plus years in public education ended in 2004, although I continue to substitute occasionally.  NCLB was just picking up steam as I was leaving the classroom (I went from being a classroom teacher ...mostly 6th grade to the media center educator (library and technology)).  I had been involved in many of the things that led up to the testing...rubric for test scoring.  Testing the tests with students.   Meetings, meetings, meetings...all about testing, but very little about real teaching.  Honestly, NCLB, was one of the factors that led me to take early retirement in 2004 at age 57, having taught at that time for thirty six years.  

    As a young, somewhat naive teacher way back in 1967, when asked what I taught, I always answered "children".  It was not a political statement, but an instinctive belief.  From the moment I stepped into a classroom, young and scared, I recognized instantly, albeit unconsciously, that teaching is an art, not a science.   Good teachers know that that every student is different, every classroom is different and therefore, the best teachers instinctively must be able to change so many things, even when teaching the same content, same lesson.  Timing, pacing, intensity, voice......are all in flux depending on the class.  It's that factor that cannot be defined.   Good teachers know it; know when to be the "sage on the stage" or the "guide on the side".   We know that "scripts" do not work but are probably a decent tool for subs, and an aid to inexperienced teachers.  But as Mr. Robinson pointed out, as all good teachers know, students are not "widgets".  And I would add, teachers are not robotic drill masters, working on assembly lines.  

    I will share this diary because it is important.  But I fear too many, even here on a liberal/progressive site believe there is some magic formula to teaching......and the right "formula" will fix things.   They do not understand that the process of teaching, the process of learning are complex endeavors and all testing does/should do is guide.   I know now, as I hear occasionally from forty somethings and fifty somethings who were in my classes, that sometimes lessons learned do not fully blossom for years, for decades.  Skills can be tested.  Learning is ongoing, is a life long process.  Teachers are simply helping students with setting their  particular building blocks of their life long learning journey.   No two learners build at the same speed, in the same way.  And thus standardized testing can never be a true measure.  Tying them to pay, to merit, is simply setting the groundwork of cheating for monetary gain while ignoring the valuable process of learning.

    “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

    by Jjc2006 on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:02:09 AM PDT

    •  thanks for a very thoughtful comment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Black Max, elwior

      derived from your very personal experience.

      Every additional voice helps.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:04:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The only thing a standardized test tells you (5+ / 0-)

    -- that includes IQ tests and anything from the Princeton Testing Mafia -- is how well you perform on standardized tests.

    That's really it.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:11:28 AM PDT

    •  Not even that. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, elwior, sandblaster

      The test score tells you how you fared on that particular test during that particular session. Take the test tomorrow and you'll get a different score. Change some of the surroundings -- different time of day, different personal considerations (did you get enough sleep? did you eat before the test? did you get into a tiff with your mom before the test? do you have a sinus headache? etc), different surroundings (yesterday your environment was quiet, today they're doing construction work outside), and the scores will be even more mutable.

      The only thing standardized tests do is remove all reliance on the teacher to render an assessment. Doesn't matter if Mr. Smith has had little Janie in class for 180 days and has a pretty clear idea of what she can and can't do in the subject. He's a teacher and can't be trusted. But this standardized testing instrument that Janie fills out in one stress-filled three-hour marathon testing session will tell us everything we need to know, boiled down into a single datum that can be taken in and digested at a glance. "Janie made a 1, she learned squat. She made a 2, she needs some more help. She scored a 3, she learned enough. She scored a 4, she's advanced." You can form a snap judgment on a kid's entire learning gestalt in the time it takes you to swallow a sip of coffee. Of course, you're dead fucking wrong, but that doesn't matter....

      •  ^^ excellent comment; (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elwior, Black Max

        I wish I could rec it several times.

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 01:10:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  High Stakes Testing (14+ / 0-)

    High stakes testing ( school funding, and threat of closure, teacher salary determination, etc) in my opinion was created as a means to destroy public education.  The way these tests are developed and used is counterproductive and actually destructive.  Each year the tests are written to get more difficult.  Ask my 9 year old nephew who is an avid reader who did poorly on the reading test.  One of the questions asked the third graders to distinguish between a metaphor and hyperbole.  THIRD GRADE.  Then, the State raises the "passing" standards.  When a school doesn't make the grade (often the lower socioeconomic schools), instead of providing resources to help that school, they close them down as a punitive measure.  It's totally backwards.  

    My friend who taught kindergarten said that if she were judged on test scores of her morning group, (kids from lower socioeconomic area), she would look like an underperforming teacher.   If judged by  her afternoon group ( more wealthy) she would look like a model teacher.  

    There are legislators in this state (Texas) who actually believe schools are representative of socialism.  They want to destroy public education, and this is a great way to do it.

    Protect children-- not guns.

    by rlharry on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:31:16 AM PDT

  •  there are three rules for school reform (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black Max, Orinoco, elwior

    Well, really, three "truths" that if adopted, guarantee any reform, no matter how well-intentioned, will fail:
    1. teachers have unlimited rationality

    2. teachers will drop everything else in their life to implement the reform

    3. the teacher/student relationship is non-specific (i.e., it is a pure Adam-Smith transaction, in which who the teacher is and who the student is don't matter).

    Assume any one of those, and your reform is sunk.

  •  Professor Deming (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Black Max, Orinoco, elwior
    William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 – December 20, 1993) was an American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant. He is perhaps best known for the "Plan-Do-Check-Act" cycle popularly named after him. In Japan, from 1950 onwards, he taught top management how to improve design (and thus service), product quality, testing, and sales (the last through global markets)[1] through various methods, including the application of statistical methods.

    Deming made a significant contribution to Japan's later reputation for innovative high-quality products and its economic power. He is regarded as having had more impact upon Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage.

    In 1927, Deming was introduced to Walter A. Shewhart of the Bell Telephone Laboratories by C.H. Kunsman of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Deming found great inspiration in the work of Shewhart, the originator of the concepts of statistical control of processes and the related technical tool of the control chart, as Deming began to move toward the application of statistical methods to industrial production and management. Shewhart's idea of common and special causes of variation led directly to Deming's theory of management. Deming saw that these ideas could be applied not only to manufacturing processes, but also to the processes by which enterprises are led and managed. This key insight made possible his enormous influence on the economics of the industrialized world after 1950.[9]
    In 1947, Deming was involved in early planning for the 1951 Japanese Census. The Allied powers were occupying Japan, and he was asked by the United States Department of the Army to assist with the census. While in Japan, Deming's expertise in quality control techniques, combined with his involvement in Japanese society, led to his receiving an invitation from the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE).[6]

    JUSE members had studied Shewhart's techniques, and as part of Japan's reconstruction efforts, they sought an expert to teach statistical control. From June–August 1950, Deming trained hundreds of engineers, managers, and scholars in statistical process control (SPC) and concepts of quality. He also conducted at least one session for top management.(The list includes top Japanese industrialists the likes of Akio Morita, the cofounder of Sony Corp)[13] Deming's message to Japan's chief executives: improving quality will reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.[1] Perhaps the best known of these management lectures was delivered at the Mt. Hakone Conference Center in August 1950.

    A number of Japanese manufacturers applied his techniques widely and experienced heretofore unheard-of levels of quality and productivity. The improved quality combined with the lowered cost created new international demand for Japanese products.

    Ford Motor Company was one of the first American corporations to seek help from Deming. In 1981, Ford's sales were falling. Between 1979 and 1982, Ford had incurred $3 billion in losses. Ford's newly appointed Division Quality Manager, John A. Manoogian, was charged with recruiting Deming to help jump-start a quality movement at Ford.[19] Deming questioned the company's culture and the way its managers operated. To Ford's surprise, Deming talked not about quality but about management. He told Ford that management actions were responsible for 85% of all problems in developing better cars. In 1986, Ford came out with a profitable line of cars, the Taurus-Sable line. In a letter to Autoweek Magazine, Donald Petersen, then Ford Chairman, said, "We are moving toward building a quality culture at Ford and the many changes that have been taking place here have their roots directly in Deming's teachings."[20] By 1986, Ford had become the most profitable American auto company. For the first time since the 1920s, its earnings had exceeded those of arch rival General Motors (GM). Ford had come to lead the American automobile industry in improvements.
    "A manager of people needs to understand that all people are different. This is not ranking people. He needs to understand that the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system that he works in, the responsibility of management. A psychologist that possesses even a crude understanding of variation as will be learned in the experiment with the Red Beads (Ch. 7) could no longer participate in refinement of a plan for ranking people."[23]

    The Appreciation of a system involves understanding how interactions (i.e., feedback) between the elements of a system can result in internal restrictions that force the system to behave as a single organism that automatically seeks a steady state. It is this steady state that determines the output of the system rather than the individual elements. Thus it is the structure of the organization rather than the employees, alone, which holds the key to improving the quality of output.
    Deming offered fourteen key principles to managers for transforming business effectiveness. The points were first presented in his book Out of the Crisis. (p. 23-24)[24] Although Deming does not use the term in his book, it is credited with launching the Total Quality Management movement.[25]
    1.Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive, stay in business and to provide jobs.
    2.Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
    3.Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place.
    4.End the practice of awarding business on the basis of a price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
    5.Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
    6.Institute training on the job.
    7.Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8 of "Out of the Crisis"). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
    8.Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. (See Ch. 3 of "Out of the Crisis")
    9.Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, in order to foresee problems of production and usage that may be encountered with the product or service.
    10.Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
    11.a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute with leadership.
     b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers and numerical goals. Instead substitute with leadership.
    12.a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
     b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objectives (See Ch. 3 of "Out of the Crisis").
    13.Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
    14.Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.
    The "Seven Deadly Diseases" include:
    1.Lack of constancy of purpose
    2.Emphasis on short-term profits
    3.Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance
    4.Mobility of management
    5.Running a company on visible figures alone
    6.Excessive medical costs
    7.Excessive costs of warranty, fueled by lawyers who work for contingency fees

    "A Lesser Category of Obstacles" includes
    1.Neglecting long-range planning
    2.Relying on technology to solve problems
    3.Seeking examples to follow rather than developing solutions
    4.Excuses, such as "our problems are different"
    5.Obsolescence in school that management skill can be taught in classes[27]
    6.Reliance on quality control departments rather than management, supervisors, managers of purchasing, and production workers
    7.Placing blame on workforces who are only responsible for 15% of mistakes where the system designed by management is responsible for 85% of the unintended consequences
    8.Relying on quality inspection rather than improving product quality

  •  asdf (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, drmah, Orinoco, elwior, Mostel26

    I've become much more of a lurker here, but your diaries of late have inspired me to comment.  It's sad when so many thoughtful people have such low expectations of our institutions, but little I've seen during the past decade justifies optimism.

    I absolutely agree with the point that particular numerical indicators, when used as an outsized basis for decision-making, are subject to corruption pressure.  That concept explains our economy for the past twenty-five years.

    A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

    by eightlivesleft on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:00:09 AM PDT

    •  thanks for kind words about my writing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eightlivesleft, Black Max, elwior

      the emphasis on numbers is a major contributor to what has happened to our economic system, but simple greed and massive corruption are also indicators, as is the lack of oversight and regulation of derivates, and especially of criminal penalties on those in financial organizations that cooked the books.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:02:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Trying to quantify quality (5+ / 0-)

    Treating students like they are all one size widgets is a huge problem caused by using testing, which is mainly a diagnostic tool, as a way to reward / punish teachers and schools based upon the results.  

    I worked over 30 years in local government and we went down a similar path with our annual reviews and performance reports.  Prior to tying the numerical results of each employee's annual review to pay, the annual review was a great diagnostic tool for both the supervisor and the employee.  When I was a supervisor, I used it as an inventory and tied the employee's skills to the projects I would assign. I had one employee who had very strong skills in one area, but not necessarily in all areas.  So even though he could never score high overall, he contributed much to the positive function of my area. When the annual review became tied to pay, it became a tool used by many supervisors to reward favorites and punish those whom they did not like.  It created a lot of resentment among employees and no longer worked in a positive way to improve employees' skills and performances.

    Quality cannot be measured by a test score alone. The quality of a teacher can have a great effect upon a student's life.  It may mean that the student has developed an enthusiasm for learning or has tapped into an inner creativity. Creativity and inspiration cannot be measured numerically by testing, but we can see the results in students' lives.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:10:11 AM PDT

  •  No Child Failed for Profit! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Black Max, elwior

    Public education and teachers will not survive until we take the profit out of testing.

    My idea was to fight these test companies using their own rhetoric against them while pivoting against the notion that teachers do not want to be held accountable.

    How do we do this?

    Step 1: Get a bunch of famous, progressive, and highly skilled teachers/educators together to create a digital standardized test for FREE.

    Step 2: Then go after the mayors, boards of education around the country by saying " Why is x wasting our tax payer dollars on Y test that costs billions of your tax payer dollars when they can get the same results for FREE!"

    Step 3: Create an ad campaign of famous people/ successful people who did bad in school but are successful now and how tests are meaningless. another ad campaign of the same actors who still connect with a teacher of theirs.

    Step 4: Create a campaign called NO Child Failed for Profit linking media companies to their test companies and how they need a certain amount of students to fail so they can charge more money on their test prep.

    Repeat after me: NO CHILD FAILED FOR PROFIT!

    •  It's a good thought and I rec'd it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but it's flawed. Learning cannot be measured by standardized tests. Period. You cannot replace their bad for-profit test with our bad freebie test and expect anything good, no matter how many celebrities you line up for your marketing campaign. It is no more effective than spraying Febreze on pigshit and selling the result as chocolate mousse.

      •  I agree with you (0+ / 0-)

        I agree with you fully, tests are bad and should go back to what they were before all this hoopla, a bench mark to help teachers know what content they need to review and cover again.

        However you have to look at the long term. Because educators, parents and the American public have not fought against this test taking tide most people think it is important beyond anything else. By taking the profit out of test giving/ making/ prep, you take away a huge incentive for others from interfering in public education. From there the tests do not need to be handled the same way because they would not be in the public lime light any more.

        Also we would have the added bonus of getting at least one set of profiteers out of the public education market.

      •  You can measure learning by tests (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical

        Your doctor had to pass quite a number of them.

        Tests should only serve to confirm sound educational practices.

        They are no substitute for good hiring practices, good lesson planning, educational content of real world value, good classroom management and a soundly managed political and economic system that enables hard-working young people to succeed in life.

        No student should ever have to suffer from unprepared teachers or badly structured lessons.

        •  You show me an instance of a teacher (0+ / 0-)

          being poorly prepared or using poorly structured lessons (and those things do happen), and I will show you a hundred thousand instances of kids whose education has been fundamentally and fatally damaged by these tests and the teaching methodologies implemented to teach to them.

        •  bullshit! (0+ / 0-)

          most standardized tests are not intended to measure learning.  They are intended to spread out students and sort them.

          Further, there is a difference between setting a minimum competency that can be assessed by tests and assessing what someone can really do.

          No doctor gets licensed merely because s/he can pass the boards.  If medical students fail the clinical rotations, they do not become fully licensed physicians.  If an airline pilot cannot successfully complete work on a simulator or in supervised flight, they will not be allowed to fly other people.

          These are ASSESSMENTS - performance tasks demonstrating the ability to apply the skill to the situation.

          These are considered more important than tests.

          We may call it a driving test to get a driver's license, but it is a performance assessment, graded by a rubric.

          That is NOT what we are doing with the massive use of tests in education.

          "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

          by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:39:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Finland. (5+ / 0-)

    They didn't set out to improve test scores 40 years ago -- they set out to make sure that every single kid learned, and stuck hard to that goal. And today they have the smallest gap between worst and best in the world AND their best are the best in the world.

    It's one thing to say the words No Child Left Behind, and another thing to build a whole system around the value of equal opportunity in education. All you have to do in the USA is spend a week in a few different schools and you'll see that we've decided as a culture that some kids don't matter. It's astonishing. What would it look like to decide that each and every child in each and every grade in each and every school gets the same quality of teaching and the same access to resources?

    Test scores are only as good as the test, and as every teacher knows, writing a good test -- one that is a learning opportunity for both teacher and student -- is the hardest part of the job. What matters most in your lesson plans? How can you give your students a chance to show that they've mastered it? How can you design questions that open up the material in such a way that answering them is just another way of processing it?

    I taught in a private high school and never administered a state test. At certain times I'd show my students how to game the SAT -- and once I signed up to take the thing myself, along with rows of high school juniors, just to see if what I was saying was actually helpful.

    It was like being hit over the head.

    I'd forgotten how much contempt there is for teenagers until I was suddenly sitting among them, being told which chair to take, whether I could have water, when to look up, the rules on bathroom breaks, and so on. I happen to be very good at standardized tests, so I'm qualified, I guess, to say that they mean nothing.

    It's madness to think they have a role in making schools better, helping students learn, holding teachers accountable, or anything else.

    Remember The Wire? If there are stats, they'll be juked.  Every time.

  •  Clones...might as well hire the Borg (6+ / 0-)

    to teach.  And let me be very clear that I am a very proud graduate of a good Michigan public high school and an honors grad from Michigan. I appreciate, respect and admire our public school teachers.  

    I tried substituting in a pubic school when I was in graduate school.  I was thankful I lived through the day.

    And in the bigger picture, those who are not taught critical thinking skills, taught to be drones, taught to toe the line are much easier to manipulate and use.  


  •  The only time I can see standardized tests being (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Be Skeptical

    useful over what I suppose would just be each school's accredited eval of a student's proficiency in the subjects, is for college entry. Without some sort of uniformity across the country, how can they evaluate potential students without having to test them themselves?

    I see what you did there.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:57:58 AM PDT

  •  Thanks Ken nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Paying teachers based on test scores... (5+ / 0-)

    ...makes as much sense as paying firefighters based on the number of fires they put out.  Eventually, the whole mother's gonna burn...

  •  Both my kids are getting ready for those tests (7+ / 0-)

    It is the most boring part of the year for them as they simply go over the same things they have gone over ten thousand times.

    The teachers are stressed because of some false standard thrust upon them.

    Students like my kids are bored to death. Others feel the same stress the teachers do.

    It's stupid.

  •  Great Diary TK. It's truly a racket and worse... (6+ / 0-)

    ... it was the key mechanism of the great grift by Republicans to undermine public education.

    Pit the core elements of education against one another, teachers against administrators, students against teachers, etc. All the while looking so "reasonable" about it.

    One of the core efforts in Republican plans to make us all serfs, they need to undermine education to assure future generations of poorly educated citizens ill equipped to deal with the thieving scams of the wealthy.

    Smart, confident, well educated citizens don't fall for the idiotic fear mongering and lies designed to manipulate people into being ripped off and cheated.

    Republicans have been after public education since the 60's, when all those well educated student troublemakers called them on the BS over Vietnam. It was clear they had to "dumb down" the populace if they hoped to succeed in their plan to turn us all into peasants whose sole purpose for existence is to make the rich richer.

    I look at the current state of public education and am so thankful I had the chance to enjoy an actual education, before the efforts got underway.

    The problem with getting people motivated to stop this is, so many have been affected and their ability to even comprehend what is happening to them is undermined.

    Pernicious Incomprehension, the disease of the mind that prevents you from understanding just how much of what is happening to you, you do not understand. ;P

  •  Our school systems still use the factory model. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle, elwior

    Students input in the Fall, graduates output in the Spring.  Unfortunately, the factory model they use is from the Yugo!

    As a nation, we continue to disrespect our children with this system.  But we don't have the will to spend the money to really have a system that will instill a love of learning in our kids.

    Our society lavishes riches on people playing games & gaming the system, and ridicules "nerds" doing research & caring for our planet.

    In an insane society, the sane man would appear insane

    by TampaCPA on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 09:20:28 AM PDT

  •  Standarized tests (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black Max, elwior, Cassandra Waites

    Standardized tests as we've seen in the last few years are nothing more than money in the pockets of test developers and vouchers.

    Here's how corrupt the FCAT is in Florida:  We've seen years when test scores were published than retracted, than published again with different numbers.  Given the fact that a test score is what it is, what possible reason could there be to change it?  Other than it didn't show the proper result.  

    For example:

    OTOH, we've been blessed in our community in that our school board is deeply connected to the community and hires from within when it comes to superintendents.  The community demanded it.  

  •  Actually Ken, your analysis of his column (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, saluda, elwior

    is far better than the column itself. I like gene robinson, but like most journalists, his job is to sound like he has expertise when he has none. And as you point out, he sill throws some red meat to the reformers, by assuming that our schools need desperate reform. We have had a cheating scandal in my town recently; it has made news all over. Hall used to be superintendent in Newark, a state operated district. i'm tired of these highly paid reformers who are brought in with huge fanfare and praised as turnaround artists. Fix the fucking poverty issues and build some new fucking schools; give the teachers some real autonomy, a say in curriculum, and give them job protections so they can point out the corruption. We are eliminating tenure just when it is most needed.

  •  It's not OK -- Please support TAMSATX (5+ / 0-)

    My daughter, thirteeen years old, is having one of her four STAAR tests today.   She has them today, tomorrow, and two more a couple weeks from now.

    Dropoff is at 9 a.m

    Pickup is at 2:30 p.m

    It is downtown, and reasonable to expect 45 minutes to get there (30 min drive, 15 to park and get in the building)

    They were instructed to eat a good breakfast and bring a "snack".  They did not say, "bring a sack lunch".  They said, "bring a snack".

    They are keeping the child 5 1/2 hours.  When you factor in the 45 minute drive, that's 6 hours and 15 minutes, scheduled smack dab over lunch time, with only one  "snack" to tide them over.

    It's a four hour math test.

    The instructions said that children would not be released early, if it would be disruptive to test takers.

    It did not clarify that "if".   When I raised the issue, the test administrator said, "under no circumstances".    

    I also heard, "there's nothing we can do about it.  It is 'school policy'."    

    And, "Other schools do it."

    I'd swear I was listening to a five year old make excuses.   "Well, my friends did it, so I thought it would be OK."

    Well, it's not OK.

    It's not OK to make a thirteen year old kid take a four hour math test.

    ...and then, a four hour science test
    ...and then, a four hour English test
    ...and then a four hour social studies test

    That's not OK.   It's abusive.

    It's not OK to plan for kids to just skip their lunch, because that's most convenient for the school.

    It's not OK to make a kid sit there for three hours with only a book to read, just because they are good at taking tests and finished early, for the purpose of psychologically manipulating the kids who take longer on the test, because "they might rush if other kids start to leave".

    Imposing on my kid and my family, for your own convenience or selfish purposes, is not OK.

    I believe all these test should be eliminated.  If we have a test, it should be statistical purposes ONLY.   It should not be mandatory.  It should not determine promotion.  It should not determine salaries.   It should not cause school closings.

    It should be for research purposes.

    Meanwhile, my work day has been disrupted for four days catering to the test madness, and I am fed up and ready to give a piece of my mind to the school, and the legislature.    They deserve to hear how parents feel about these tests.

    There's a group of mothers, who have earned the nickname, "Mothers Against Drunk Testing", who are fighting the Texas Legislature to get the high school tests pared down from ridiculous numbers, to just five, as a graduation requirement.   I'm supporting them.

    It's not OK.  

    It needs to go to zero.

    Bring back the ACT and the SAT.  Set requirements for graduation, if you need to.  But, this testing madness has to stop.

    If you are sick of testing, please support TAMSATX.  

    Bush brought this testing madness out of Texas.   Texas, simply because it is such a big state, drives some school policy in other states, such as developing curricula and leading this testing madness.  Therefore, if we can stomp this out in Texas, it could spread.

  •  When we do testing (4+ / 0-)

    we have to remember it's for the benefit of the STUDENTS.

    And testing, each test, needs to be considered with that in mind.

    When we're testing to ensure that kids are progressing and that schools aren't wasting their time, that's a good use.

    When we're developing dumb-ass standardized tests for kindergarten and primary grade art classes because we want to know if we should fire their teachers without having to inconvenience ourselves by meeting said teachers or trusting the administrators we hire, that's a stupid use and a detrimental one to boot.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 10:29:24 AM PDT

  •  I have watched the Atlanta cheating scandal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    with trepidation. Here in Georgia the news is a really big deal. There is a lot of attention in the local news being paid to when the defendants will turn themselves in to police. The bonds required have been enormous--they seem much larger than those for violent crimes.

    As far as I can tell, all the defendants are black. It appears that the grand jury was largely white. While this does not alter the facts, it may mitigate the actions being taken on those facts.

    It the Atlanta cheating scandal truly the largest school cheating scandal in the US as a headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaimed? Were there other scandals that were swept under the rug for political reasons? Are the people under indictment deserving of such harsh treatment? I don't know. I'd appreciate some perspective from the Daily Kos community.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 10:37:53 AM PDT

  •  Even SAT and ACT Tests are Weak Indicators (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Cassandra Waites

    Colleges have long known that there is at best a weak correlation between what students get on these tests and how they fair at college. Study after study has shown that in general students grades in college generally match the grades they received in high school, while students test results only in a loose statistical fashion reflect their abilities. Multiple Choice tests in general are a poor way to measure much of anything. And yet our entire system of college admittance is built around the idea that it is somehow more fair and accurate to base decisions on what a student does on one multiple choice test on one day than on several years worth of grades from dozens of teachers because not all schools have the same grading standards.

  •  Ken, my liberal arts, college prep, public high (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    school educators remain the focus of my commitment to public education.

    You and Current will enjoy a democratic Renaissance in Virginia.  The odds are far better in Hawaii.  I bet on probabilities.  

    My relatives are fighting it out as we speak.

  •  I was hounded out of teaching by (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Cassandra Waites, sandblaster

    a score-obsessed principal who abused her power to "evaluate" me out of the system, but truth be told, I was just about ready to leave anyway. Teaching to the test is awful, and every single meeting we had was full of warnings about what was coming down the pike -- more tests, more bogus "accountability," more nightmares.

    The fundamental assumptions underlying the entire schema of standardized testing are wrong, wrong, hurtfully and calamitously wrong.

  •  twisting his words? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Be Skeptical, Panurge

    Robinson says,

    teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.
     How does "more likely" equate to "majority", as you interpreted?
    I'm sorry, but the vast majority of teachers do NOT cheat.
     Seems the only way he was implying a "vast majority" of teachers cheat is if a majority of students cheat.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 11:12:17 AM PDT

    •  simply - the majority of students cheat (0+ / 0-)

      at least at some point.  We have a huge amount of peer reviewed literature on this

      So to say that teachers are more likely than students to cheat is to imply that a majority of teachers cheat.

      Further, even on standardized tests, he has no evidentiary basis to make even the statement he makes.  Remember, even a chunk of what he is calling teacher cheating - thumbs up, thumbs down, for example - is the teacher cheating with students cheating.  For that one teacher it might be a dozen students.

      His assertion is simply wrong.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:42:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How to explode this myth (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Panurge, Mostel26

    If performance-based testing is so great for teachers, let's implement it for cops. Every policeman should be required to reduce crime in his precinct every year, or have his pay and benefits cut.

    No excuses. No whining that it's a high-crime neighborhood due to poverty and it's impossible for the police alone to change that. No carping that there are fewer police due to cutbacks so of course there's going to be more crime.

    You would be laughed out of the room if you suggested that this would be a good program to implement for cops or firefighters. So why is it a good idea when it comes to teachers?

    Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

    by vulcangrrl on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 11:29:42 AM PDT

    •  be careful, we already do some of this (0+ / 0-)

      which is part of the problem.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:42:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The great thing about metrics... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Cassandra Waites, teacherken

    Any metrics in any line of work anywhere..

    You get what you measure.


    You get what you measure.

  •  Standardized Tests Not What They Appear (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lily O Lady

    In Texas, in the 1980s, the legislature was evenly split between well-to-do school districts that did not want to have to share their money with poor communities.  A state legislator from Dallas I talked to briefly back then said that he would much rather build prisons for those parts of the state than share even the money used to build swimming pools.  

    Standardized tests arose as a way of putting the decisions about funding into an inscrutable black box with a lot of mumbo jumbo about science around it.  That way the discussion could be pre-empted with a lot of monosyllables.  

    That has proved pretty popular as a solution.  

    My opinion, dating to that period was confirmed more recently when I did a season as a standard test scorer.  Long story short:  the group of us were supervised by an attorney whose job appeared to be to wrestle with the scoring so that it would conform to expected results, with the primary aim of making sure the contract would be renewed.  It was not science.  The test questions were terrible.  The answers were reasonable, given the questions, but they were a mess.  In order to make sense of that, a great amount of shaping was needed.  From a scientific viewpoint, lawyering the scoring the way they did was nowhere near the ballpark of accuracy.

    There are billions of dollars at stake.  On the state level, everyone associated with testing makes a lot of money and does not want to discontinue receiving it.  

    The legislators in every state need to face the issues of funding schools in poor districts adequately and really improving education.  Legislators in more well off areas have to come to grips with the selfishness of constituents who would rather build prisons than schools.  

    Until that happens, we are in a situation where a black box that wastes a lot of money on graft that ought to be going to better schools, will be more attractive.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 12:06:02 PM PDT

  •  My son attended K-12 public schools in Houston (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Cassandra Waites, sandblaster

    Every year, usually in the spring, there would be a state standardized test, i.e. TAAS and then TAKS.  The testing did not seem excessive and yet at the same time, several weeks prior to the test,  teachers would feel compelled to stop teaching and instead "teach to the test" as we parents called it.   Active parents like me believed if the teachers continued to teach the normal curricula most students would do just fine on the test.  

    But the pressure mounted on schools, teachers and students once Bush pushed through No Child Left Behind.  

    I believe the sole purpose of this effort was to create a cash cow for W.'s family members and friends in the standardized testing industry. That and weaken public schools.  The Republicans would love nothing better than to replace K-12 schools here with for-profit charter ones.  That said, there are some very good charter schools in Houston.  

     I hate to sound so cynical but I live in Rick Perry's Texas where even the state funded Cancer Institute can be turned into a cash cow for the Governor's donor cronies.  

    It is beyond disgusting.

  •  In our affluent NYC public school (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Lily O Lady, teacherken

    budget cuts over the last 3 years amount to about $1M. For our one school. Teacher evaluations tied to test performance took hold two years ago. Suddenly teachers who had been teaching 4th grade for ages (4th is the year in NYC when the test results "count") were switching grades, to avoid being nailed at evaluation time. Furthermore test scores are not evaluated by DOE according to high versus low, the main metric has to do with IMPROVED performance. So if your kid is in an already high performing school, there's little room to show tremendous improvement, they're already doing great. Therefore draconian cuts to supplemental programs are enacted because the improvements were less impressive than at low-performing schools which showed raised standardized scores. After 3 or 4 years learning about how the system works, I'm convinced the plan is to privatize schools among the affluent, who will have their will broken when budget cuts are too huge to offset with parent contributions. Once the affluent remove their kids from the system, the entire public school system will be transformed into a poverty program resembling a dull Gradgrindian dystopia where the kids are being handled by non-union employees with no job security and no benefits to speak of. That this entire farce is being foisted on the electorate by a man who is literally a billionaire is the final insult upon insults.

  •  I read the article you mentioned... (0+ / 0-)

    I also took a look in the comment section, and of course there were some folks out there who went and made race an issue by saying Hall was black, as if that throws the whole thing into question....oh, and of course the typical 'liberal bias' comments.

    It amazes me that people still talk down on minorities these days, but given our current political climate, I can't say I'm surprised.

    I'm sure this sort of thing happens all over the country, but I suspect that given how divided our nation is right now, we won't be able to tackle this issue anytime soon.

    Sad, really. The only ones who will suffer in all this is the children.

    I write a series called 'My Life as an Aspie', documenting my experiences before and after my A.S. diagnosis as a way to help fellow Aspies and parents of Aspies and spread awareness. If I help just one person by doing this, then I've served a purpose.

    by Homer177 on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 04:33:29 PM PDT

    •  The scandal in Atlanta is complex. My (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      suspicion is that the ultimate goal is to privatize education by the "divide and conquer" model favored by the Right, although I could be wrong. The people under indictment are still not convicted of any crime. Some were cleared of wrongdoing by a previous investigation.

      The Hope Scholarship Fund is funded by the Georgia Lottery. Some of these funds will be used for a Pre-K program--an admirable goal. However, this education will be provided by the private sector.

      I, too, am concerned for the children. I do worry that breaking down the public schools in favor of private options will take Georgia back before the time of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas where separate but equal was found to be "inherently unequal." Part of America's strength has been her public school system. I'd hate to see it go.

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:18:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I see by the posts that no one offers a (0+ / 0-)

    different measurement just more of the same drool no testing, I can see there will be no progress in this issue for decades to come.

    Third party testing is at least a form of measurement to how a school stands, sorting out what is poor and what is not.

    •  actually it measures no such thing (0+ / 0-)

      the tests measure what the students can do on that test at that moment.  Given measurement error, they may not even be accurate measurements of a student's underlying knowledge or skill. They in no way indicate what a a student has learned, where the student learned it or what effect the teachers/school had on that student.

      Just because you measure something IN school does not make it a measurement of the school.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 01:52:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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