Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rick Hess Chides Corporate Reformers for Too Much Reforminess

Today's Daily News features reformy Rick writing of regrettable ramifications of uber-reforminess. Unfortunately, and perhaps even deliberately, he misses the point altogether.

There’s good reason to regularly test students in reading and math, and to use those results to inform judgments about how well schools and teachers are doing.

What reason is that? In fact, there is good reason to test students in English and math, but not to see how schools and teachers are doing. There's no scientific basis for that, and Hess doesn't bother to provide one, primarily because there isn't one.

As an English teacher, I regularly test my students to find out how they are doing, and I use these tests to inform my teaching. If a large number of students fail, I need to teach the topic again, differently perhaps, and write another test. Of course, if they're taking some multiple choice extravaganza from Pearson, while I will grant this enriches the all-important Pearson coffers, I fail to see how this will help my kids.

Hess fails to acknowledge the massive time devoted to tests that students will never see again, will never learn from, and which will be used to determine the quality of schools and teachers. Oddly, we already know there is a direct correlation to high-needs, high-poverty, and so-called failing schools. If the goal is to fire teachers, well of course the grades may prove useful.

A few years back, the entire staff of a Rhode Island school was fired, and corporate reformers everywhere rejoiced. This would help the children, they argued. Arne Duncan and Barack Obama were thrilled. But what if we had taken that staff, the one largely serving kids who didn't know English, and swapped them out with the staff of a more middle-class suburban school with higher-achieving students? Would the staff magically become excellent? Would the suburban staff magically turn incompetent?

We'll never know, since the aim of reforminess is to close as many public schools as possible, and replace them with schools that get more money into the pockets of more people who don't really need it. Thus you have districts in which kids are being "educated" via cyber-charters, which not only perform miserably if you judge by test scores, but also deprive students of the sort of role models that could potentially change their lives.

Were these things not true, Hess might have some sort of argument. Considering reality, inconvenient though that may be, he's just spouting the same nonsense we hear from every corporate reformer from Gates on down.

Related: Perdido Street School
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