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01 March 2015 @ 07:28 am
Defending the indefensible  
Paul Peterson's defense of testing as part of No Child Left Behind (No Child Left Untested, No Teacher Left Standing) demonstrates so many misconceptions of the role of testing in education that it is tough to know where to begin. You can read the op-ed piece here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-peterson-nclb-defense-of-testing--20150224-story.html.

Let's begin with this paragragraph: "Now, the new Republican Congress is making another effort to revise NCLB,and tests are in the crosshairs. Unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, oppose them for fear the data will be used to evaluate teachers. Conservatives fear tests will be used to impose "progressive" Common Core standards, which are backed by the White House and designed to set the same broad expectations for all U.S. students."

Unions (and in states without unions, I guess we just substitute mobs of teachers) do not fear that the data will be used to evaluate teachers. They KNOW that is the case. It has been laid out by Duncan and others for some time now. It is not a case of fear here, it is a case of what the research proves: using student test data to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher DOES. NOT. WORK. There are too many variables here for the test to measure one aspect of an education. And wonderful teachers and teaching does not equate performance on ONE test. Let's get this clear right now. ONE test is a measure of students performance on that test on that day only. There is no guarantee that on another day and on another test that the student's scores might be different, very different. I had a grad student take a pre-test with a migraine. Not surprisingly, she did not do well on the test. When we arranged for her to take the test on a day when she felt well, she did quite well on the test. There are so many factors that can play a role here, that it boggles the mind that ANYONE who knows testing and measurement would ever suggest this as a means of evaluating students let alone teachers.

Moving on. We have this little gem: "And when former Washington, D.C., school superintendent Michelle Rhee put into place a performance-based pay plan that dismissed the weakest teachers and paid the best ones six-digit salaries, test scores soared." Um, has this person failed to read about the widespread cheating that took place when Rhee was at the helm? No matter. Again, one snapshot test does not an upward trend make. The same holds true for the observations about NCLB testing showing models improvements in test scores. Given the price tag, I would hope we would expect more than modest (and even modest is not insignificant enough to use when talking about gains in scores over the NCLB era).

Finally, there is this: "Annual, statewide testing should be saved, and it can be if moderates in both parties fight off special interests. But perhaps the most likely outcome is a decision to kick the can down the road two more years, leaving No Child Left Behind and testing to be tackled by the next president." I guess teachers are special interests (or teacher unions in states where they are legal; Texas ;aw forbids teacher unions). Are kids and their welfare special interests? Are parents special interests? And where is there any talk of the powerful corporations raking in millions of dollars at the expense of these "special interests"?

If we truly wish to find some common ground, then let's invite the special interests to the table. Let teachers and students and parents have a voice that is greater than the corporations and politicians. Let's begin with an overhaul (or better yet a scrapping) of CCSS. Let's instead perhaps develop some guidelines for states to develop their standards (or perhaps even develop actual objectives and curriculum that is appropriate for its kids). Let's put some funding into schools. Let's take away finding going to charters and vouchers and all those things that pull resources from schools especially those that serve kids in high poverty areas. Let's be brave and stand up to the corporations and politicians who would sacrifice generations of kids. Let's actually do something to improve the lives of schoolchildren everywhere.
 
 
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