Monday, April 22, 2013

Gotham Schools Defends High-Stakes Testing

Today, Gotham Schools saw fit to run a "principled" defense of standardized testing. As corporations continue to massively profit off of our children, as Pearson makes preposterous, indefensible and humiliating errors, someone at Gotham decided this was a good time to run this piece.

First of all, it's interesting to read the writer's claims:

I have no stake in testing itself, beyond that of a taxpayer and an educator privileged to work with teachers and schools. 
And then there's this:

One of the amazing things I get to do for a living is help schools design performance-based assessments that ask students to do something with what they have learned, not just recall what they’ve learned.  

While that's a qualifier, it's pretty clear to me that this is someone who designs assessments for a living. And last time I looked, tests were assessments. Furthermore, one of the things I keep hearing about Common Core is that it promotes thinking skills beyond mere recall. And it better, since kids taking it this year are largely unprepared for it, and likely to fail in huge numbers. (And let's not even mention how much money there will be in local assessments with the new junk science VAM law in NY State. How could that possibly motivate an assessment-designer to support assessments?)

There is a lot of talk about policy makers and test designers. Yet it certainly appears to be billionaire Bill Gates who set up this system, and Arne Duncan who forced states to accept it by tying Race to the Top to it. And you'll pardon me if I fail to be impressed by all the people with doctorates working for Pearson--they don't know my kids like I do and I've seen no evidence they can teach better than I can, let alone that they know better than I what my kids need to know.

The history of assessment design has some parallels in the evolution of the medical field. 

And yet, medicine is tested before it's used on the public. Common Core was not. It's remarkable someone so fond of scientific terminology can neglect such an obvious fact.

A hundred years ago, doctors were boring into patients’ brains to relieve migraines.

And this year, all over the country, teachers are being rated by student test scores. That's been proven valid absolutely nowhere, and it's brought to you by precisely the same great minds that are now forcing Common Core on our children.
Security does not mean secrecy. 

And yet, if teachers reveal the test questions to the public, they will be fired and lose their state certification. It's pretty clear to any objective observer that they do not want a repeat of the pineapple question fiasco. And again, if these professionals, psychometricians, and doctors are so much more qualified than lowly teachers, why do they have such crap questions, and how did Pearson screw up so badly with the G and T test? Sorry, but the fact that they got caught does not restore my faith in them.

How many things did they fail to catch?

Public accountability is part of the social contract.

Here, the writer chooses to quote GW Bush, who tanked the economy and got us into a disastrous Iraq war. Unfortunately, the writer does not quote precisely, "Is our children learning?" And here, the writer makes a very unscientific argument, apparently in defense of VAM (though the rambling nature of this piece makes it kind of tough to follow). Apparently, science is what the writer argues sometimes, but when science does not support her case, she makes a moral argument. And that is precisely the argument GW made when he wanted to know whether or not our children "is" learning. GW, you may recall, was much celebrated for the educational "Texas Miracle," which turned out to be a complete fraud. I've seen no evidence Common Core will work any better, but of course we've never tested it, so how would anyone know?

It appears the writer failed to consider potential school closings, degraded neighborhoods and teachers losing jobs for no good reason. Too bad for them, I guess.

Our state takes pride in having one of the longest standing departments of education. 

Bloomberg certainly took pride in it when he bought that third term. Of course, it turned out the test scores he'd trumpeted in his "Keep it Going, NY" campaign were utter nonsense. Diane Ravitch was ridiculed for pointing that out months before it was revealed to the public. Ravitch, who actually seems to believe in science, looked at the NAEP scores and saw something was not right. She was proven right then, and I fully believe her opposition to Common Core will be proven correct as well. It's truly unbelievable that we're foisting anything thoroughly untested on an entire nation of schoolchildren and hoping for the best. NY State's record is nothing I'd boast about, particularly given their decision to follow billionaires rather than science or logic.

Test designers don’t control what happens in the classroom.

That's true, but the fact is people like Bill Gates, who enabled and pushed this untested mandate on us, absolutely wishes to do so. And when teachers are rated on test scores, it's pretty much like putting guns to our heads. Let me tell you something--if teachers are going to lose their jobs based on these test scores, they are pretty damn important. There will be an awful lot less teaching love of literature to kids when jobs depends on how well they can read train schedules and menus.

Doctors have come beyond using leeches to bleed bad humors from their patients. Science is not perfect, but it's a whole lot better than the nonsense and voodoo we're inflicting on our kids. When I say our kids, I'm referring to those in public schools, as opposed to the kids of John King, Mike Bloomberg, Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, and Joel Klein.

Because the crap they're giving our kids, the crap being pushed in this article, is not good enough for their kids.

That's why they just sell the stuff. They don't use it.
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