For the past 47 years Phi Delta Kappa, a non-political professional organization for educators, issues the findings from a poll of members of the public regarding their thoughts about education. Some results are the same year-after-year, the primary example being that respondents invariably rate their own public schools higher than public schools in general. Occasionally, though, trends emerge and the fact that they are captured in a non-partisan poll often gets widespread attention among school administrators, school board members, and this year, among the general public.
The trend that emerged in this year’s poll is captured in the title: “Testing Doesn’t Measure Up for Americans”. For politicians and the “reformers” who value standardization and the accountability based on standardized test results the response to these questions cannot be good news:
In your opinion, is there too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools in your community, not enough emphasis on testing, or about the right amount?
All respondents: 64% say “too much”; 19% say “just the right amount”
Parents: 67% say “too much”; 20% say “just the right amount”
Do you think that all parents with children in the public schools should be allowed to excuse their child from taking one or more standardized tests?
All respondents: 41% say “yes”; 44% say “no”
Parents: 47% say “yes”; 40% say “no”
In your opinion, which of the following approaches would provide the most accurate picture of a public school student’s academic progress? Select all that apply:
Examples of student’s work: 37%
Written observations by teacher: 26%
Grades awarded by the teacher: 21%
Standardized tests: 19%
And the news doesn’t improve for those who believe tests are the best metric for measuring schools, teachers, or students.
- 55% of the public opposes using standardized tests to evaluate teachers, an increase in that percentage despite the relentless publicity advocating this method.
- Only 19% see standardized get results as “very important” in measuring student learning while 7% see them as “not important at all” and 25% rate them as “not very important”.
- Only 14% see standardized get results as “very important” in measuring the effectiveness of public schools while 13% see them as “not important at all” and 28% rate them as “not very important”.
But here’s the real kicker in the poll:
- 45% see “How Much Money Schools Have to Spend” standardized get results as “very important” while 3% see them as “not important at all” and 12% rate them as “not very important”.
Not only are the standardized tests being overemphasized in the minds of the public, they are being overvalued! This finding should be informing legislators who are (presumably) putting the finishing touches on a bill that will extend the testing regimen imposed by NCLB for at least another five years and should be informing the philanthropists who advocate for school reform that uses standardized testing as the primary metric for school performance. But maybe the money being spent by those who seek to privatize education and the publicity machinery that trumpets test results will drown out the voice of the public.
Amazon’s “Profits” = Lost Revenue for States = More Struggles for Schools, Children Raised in Poverty
This past week I was on vacation at the end of one of Maine’s many peninsulas and one of our party discovered he was out of a food provision that was not typically found in a local convenience store…. but it was not a problem. A quick text on the cell phone and within 48 hours a UPS truck was at our doorstep delivering the product thanks to his Amazon preferred membership. The convenience was wonderful… but as I read this morning, it DOES have a hidden price.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) published a critique of a recent column by Joe Nocera who wrote that Amazon had “plowed potential profits back into the company“. After noting that “potential profits” are no basis for reinvestment unless there are gullible investors, CEPR notes:
It is also important to note the big handout that Amazon has relied upon from taxpayers. Amazon has not had to collect sales tax in most states for most of its existence, giving the company an enormous subsidy in its competition with brick and mortar competitors. The cumulative size of this subsidy almost certainly exceeds its cumulative profits in the years that it has been in existence. Any discussion of Bezos success should mention this huge subsidy from the government.
And the ultimate costs of Amazon are paid by publicly funded institutions like schools… and those who rely on public funds for their well-being– like school children raised in poverty and the employees laid off from Amazon’s brick and mortar competitors.
Noam Schiber’s NYTimes article “The Perils of Ever-Changing Work Schedules Extend to Children’s Well-Being” indicates that unpredictable work schedules have adverse effects on family lives that, in turn, cause academic and behavior problems for children throughout their school years. But despite the negative effects of this practice, more and more fast food and retail chains are implementing “on call” scheduling that demands that parent/employees be available on short notice for shift work or face dismissal. When a low wage worker is required to drop everything quickly to show up for work, scheduling appointments, attending teacher meetings, and arranging child care can be a daunting challenge. But as the Times article notes, children might be the biggest beneficiaries of more corporations ended this practice:
“Young children and adolescents of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside standard daytime working hours are more likely to have inferior cognitive and behavioral outcomes,” the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal advocacy group, said last week in a report.
Decades ago I worked for Penn Fruit, a food chain the Philadelphia area. To work there, I was required to join a union and pay union dues– which seemed unfair to me at the time since I worked only ten hours some weeks. But I quickly saw the benefits of the union: there were algorithms in place to adjust my schedule a week in advance if I had a family commitment on a particular weekend; there were mandated breaks even if the lines were very long; we worked our full shift even if the store was virtually empty; and we received double time for work on Holidays or Sundays after the Blue Laws were repealed. In the late 1960s, unions were a “given” for prospective employees in food store chains and many retail chains. Today, they are not… and we can see who ultimately suffers.