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standardized testing, illustration
There are systemic issues with education in our country. Personally, I fall against "core" teaching and standardized test administering and I lean towards supporting teachers, alternative criteria for evaluation, and funding education.

This diary is not about that. Meredith Broussard has written a first-person piece about her experiences with and analysis of the logistical nightmare of the inner-city public school system. It's not a new concept to many of us that inner-city schools, the majority of public school children, have absolutely NO WAY to compete in the opaque world of testing. What is made transparent in Broussard's article is the incomplete math equation between expectations and the means of reaching those expectations.

When a problem exists in Philadelphia schools, it generally exists in other large urban schools across the nation. One of those problems—shared by districts in New York, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and other major cities—is that many schools don’t have enough money to buy books. The School District of Philadelphia recently tweeted a photo of Mayor Michael Nutter handing out 200,000 donated books to K-3 students. Unfortunately, introducing children to classic works of literature won’t raise their abysmal test scores.

This is because standardized tests are not based on general knowledge. As I learned in the course of my investigation, they are based on specific knowledge contained in specific sets of books: the textbooks created by the test makers.

While that is philosophically problematic for myriad reasons it isn't even the most heinous.
One problem is that no one is keeping track of what these students need and what they actually have. Another problem is that there’s simply too little money in the education budget. The Elements of Literature textbook costs $114.75. However, in 2012–2013, Tilden (like every other middle school in Philadelphia) was only allocated $30.30 per student to buy books—and that amount, which was barely a quarter the price of one textbook, was supposed to cover every subject, not just one. My own calculations show that the average Philadelphia school had only 27 percent of the books required to teach its curriculum in 2012-2013, and it would have cost $68 million to pay for all the books schools need. Because the school district doesn’t collect comprehensive data on its textbook use, this calculation could be an overestimate—but more likely, it’s a significant underestimate.
The proponents of these types of standardized testing models of education and teaching don't even have the integrity to give teachers and students what they need to perform. It begs the question: Are you interested in education for the children of America or are you interested in something else?

There's some more below.

The proponents of the testing industry are the same people who have given up on the public school system and want to privatize the whole industry. They use terms like accountability and streamlining. They villainize teachers unions and talk about merit pay.

Unlike college professors, who simply assign books and leave it to the students to buy them, K–12 teachers have to provide students with books. But it’s not a simple matter of ordering one book per student per subject. Based on the schools I visited and the teachers I interviewed, each student needs at least one textbook and one workbook per class, plus a bunch of worksheets and projects the teacher pulls from assorted websites (not to mention binder clips and construction paper and scissors and other project-based materials). Books can be reused year to year, but only if the state standards haven’t changed—which they have every year for at least the past decade.
The people that truly believe big business has the answers to making things work efficiently and effectively are the same people for whom big business makes wealth.  Sadly, as with trickle down economics, trickle down education works terribly for the majority of us. For all of the platitudes thrown about to discuss what needs to be done about education in our country the real issue is money.

Meredith Broussard's article.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That artlicle is amazing. (6+ / 0-)

    A real eye-opener.

    Especially in regards to the butchery that's being done to the Philly public schools. I knew the budget-cutting had created problems, but wow, it's really bad:

    I asked him how he verified that schools had enough books at the beginning of each year. He explained that every principal was supposed to submit a school opening checklist and a school-closing checklist. ...
    “Inventory is not micromanaged at a central- office level,” said Spence. “A principal that has very good skills with technology might develop an inventory system that they keep online. Another principal who is not so good with technology might have just a person who counts the books, carries them from one location to another, puts them in the closet, and visually checks that they’re there.”
    I wondered about this, since a district-wide electronic system had been created several years back. ...
    “You’re saying that the online system is no longer in use?” I asked Spence.
    ... Last year, Philadelphia schools were allotted $0 per student for textbooks.
    As Spence receives the principals’ checklists, he enters the information into an Excel spreadsheet on his computer.

    “Does this Excel document get shared with anyone?” I asked.

    “It gets shared with assistant superintendents,” said Spence. “We have meetings. We put the Excel spreadsheet on a projector on a large screen during our school-opening meetings.”

    As a data-science professional, it was clear to me that Spence was in over his head. Millions of books, hundreds of thousands of desks—it is impossible to keep track of all of these objects without technology and sufficient people to track them. It’s just as difficult to figure out how to use the data correctly.
    What a mess -- and all created by the privateers in the state government.
  •  It's all one big ripoff (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm

    It kills me to read and hear comments by naive people who support one or the other aspect of education "reform". They might argue that we need "standards", and implicitly assume that Common Core are the only and best standards. Some repeat talking points about "the need for accountability" and refuse to understand why tenure is needed. Many believe that our education system is in "crisis" and is "broken" - because some politician or Beltway pundit they trust said so.

    What they don't seem to get is that it's all really just part of one big scam.

    Convince the public that public education is failing, using false statistics cooked up by reformer think tanks. Check

    Underfund schools, especially poor schools with the most challenging problems, and demand more and more with less and less. Check

    Make people believe it's all the teachers' fault, and demonize the unions for protecting "bad teachers". Push "reforms" that weaken or eliminate unions and turn the teaching profession into a low pay low skill temp job. Check

    Create and implement untested ideology driven standards that have no sound basis in modern pedagogy. The standards and tests are not matched to the current curriculum so majorities of kids "fail" (especially poor kids in communities with no power), thus proving that schools are failing, teachers are bad, and reform is necessary. Check

    Corporate interests with anti-public education ideologies and profit motives spend hundreds of millions to bribe and pressure states to pass these sketchy standards. Check

    A Wall Street affiliated neoliberal education Secretary and President dangle billions of funding to coerce states to fund charter schools, implement more testing and punish teachers. Check

    You cannot separate one part from all the others. You cannot support the Common Core standards without also supporting the agenda of privatization and union busting. And please,  don't delude yourself into thinking that any of this is actually intended to improve education outcomes. It's all about making money.

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 10:45:17 AM PDT

  •  This diary should be at the top of the (0+ / 0-)

    recommended list.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 03:03:47 PM PDT

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