Here’s a report from the EParisExtra.com, an on line newsletter from Teas, reporting the latest results from Texas: the public schools outperformed charter schools academically AND financially. I am not expecting a press release on these findings from Governor Perry or Arne Duncan any time soon.
Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday on the real cost of the common core tests… which included the computers, the additional bandwidth, and the new texts.
But her cost analysis, like that of many education writers, overlooked a cost that cannot be compensated for… the cost of lost time. This led me to offer the following comment:
One cost that many analysts overlook is time: the “staff development” time teachers are spending learning how to use the computerized tests results; the time students are spending learning how to take computerized tests; the time teachers and/or administrators are taking to explain the tests to parents; and the time teachers and/or curriculum coordinators are taking to revamp their curricula so that students can attain ever-increasing test scores. Tabulate those lost hours and imagine what that time COULD have been used for if it wasn’t diverted to preparing for standardized tests.
The time could have been used to help train teachers on how to construct and interpret their own classroom tests and quizzes, as this is often NOT included as part of the teacher preparation curriculum. Imagine if every teacher in every subject spent all of those lost hours learning how to prepare and analyze student assessments in the content area(s) they teach? President Obama and Arne Duncan missed a golden opportunity to transform schooling.
One of Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday incorporated a lengthy commentary from Laura Chapman titled “Laura Chapman on Churning the Workforce, VAM, and Magical Thinking“. The post describes the latest work of a team of economists from the Brookings Institute on a means of stack-ranking teachers based on an algorithm that includes test scores, evaluations, and other factors that can be assigned a mathematical value. After reading the post and the comments, I offered the following reaction:
The premise for all of this quantification and standardization is that “bad teachers” are the problem and the causes and conditions that students bring to school are immaterial. Economists are notorious for creating mathematical models are precise and exacting but do not measure what is important.
All of this mathematical manipulation of data brought to mind Dr. Gomberg, a professor I had at Penn who worked as a labor mediator before becoming a teacher. Whenever someone in class would offer a lengthy theoretical discourse he would cut them short by characterizing their comments as “mental masturbation”. I’m sure if he were alive to witness “school reform” he would be offering the same feedback to the economists who dream up these VAM models!