Posts Tagged ‘value added’

Tests Add Fuel to the Fire

April 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Late yesterday Diane Ravitch provided an update on the opt out movement in her post titled “Thousands of Students in Long Island Opt Out of State Tests”. The post describes the reality of these State assessments used for accountability purposes: the results are not shared until months later when the students are assigned to a different teacher; an item response is not provided to the school or the teacher; the parents cannot see the results of their child’s test; yet the results must be used as the basis for teacher evaluation and are often used as the basis for student placement and/or promotion. In the penultimate paragraph of the post she wrote:

Fact: the tests are an expensive waste of time. They won’t make students smarter. The only beneficiaries are the testing corporations, the vendors of software and hardware, whose equipment is required for the federally-funded tests. Why must all testing be online? Does it implications data mining ?

I begged to differ in a comment I posted. The testing companies are NOT the only beneficiaries… The advocates for privatization will use the precise but inaccurate data as evidence that “schools are failing“: teachers are failing to teach; administrators are failing to lead; and school boards are failing to govern. None of this is true, but it will add fuel to the “failing school” fire and give the politicians who support privatization cover.

The test results don’t help teachers adjust their instruction to meet the needs of individual students. They don’t provide a means for administrators to improve teacher performance. They don’t give school boards meaningful data on school performance. Yet the myth of their use to make “data-driven decisions” persists…. as does the myth of “failing schools”… If the only way to stop the testing is to opt out and this year’s round of opting out doesn’t send a message that legislators receive loud and clear, then the opt out movement needs to expand… EVERYWHERE…


Opt Out Movement Getting Traction

March 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Friday’s NYTimes featured an article that acknowledged that parents were starting to send up to the standardized test regimen… and not just parents in “...the world of affluent white parents and celebrated schools, where children are largely destined to succeed.” As the article accurately notes, we have a two class system in public education: one that prepares students for test and one that embodies the principles of progressive education, and

… progressive education — with its excited learners immersed for months in astronomy or medievalism or Picasso — (is only in) the province of those able to send their children to some of the best private schools, or with the means to live in places with leading public schools.

Progressive minded educators who value equitable opportunities for all learners find it appalling that children raised in poverty are herded into schools where test-preparation is the sole emphasis. Children raised in poverty attend underfunded schools have often eliminated programs like art, music, and PE and de-emphasized untested areas like social studies and science. Moreover, the parents of children raised in poverty are often not as engaged as parents “with the means to live in places with leading public schools”, NOT because they care less about their children’s education, but because they are working hard to eke out a living. or, in some cases, coping with stressful health problems like addiction and mental health issues. The profiteers look at the “marketplace” of public education and see that imposing change is easiest in an environment where pushback will be limited… and so they have aggressively introduced for-profit schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods where they know parents are relatively disengaged in the life of the school. MAYBE the over testing imposed by NYS and RTTT will make it clear to these parents that their children are being denied the same opportunities as children in affluent “leading public schools”.

The article concluded with a paragraph describing State Commissioner John King’s thoughts about the testing issue:

Even the tests’ vocal advocates cannot entirely embrace the kind of instructional sentiment the exams have unleashed. In a recent letter to school superintendents, John B. King Jr., the state’s education commissioner, discouraged administrators from making placement and promotion decisions based solely on the tests. Speaking by telephone last week, Dr. King told me, “I worry that there’s a pedagogical mistake made in believing that if there’s more test prep, students will do better on the test.” In those fears, he hardly stands alone.

This paragraph prompted me to enter the following comment:

Sorry… but Dr. King’s letter discouraging “…administrators from making placement and promotion decisions based solely on tests” flies in the face of his assertion (and Duncan and Obama’s assertions) that teacher’s performance evaluations MUST be based on standardized tests. if Dr. King wanted NYS teachers to avoid teaching to the test he should firmly oppose the federal mandate that standardized test results be used to measure teacher performance… and if he believes teachers are making a “pedagogical mistake” by teaching test prep he should compare notes with Common Core author and ETS Chair David Coleman who is changing the SAT because of concerns he had that the test prep industry was improving student performance by prepping students for the test. “Reformers” like Dr. King and David Coleman advocate standardized tests to lend credence to the bogus charge that US schools are failing which, in turn, provides cover for the privatization of public schools.

Put another way: what teacher WOULDN’T try to teach-to-the-test if their public evaluation was based on how their students did on the test? You can’t administer “high stakes” tests and then complain that teachers are making a “pedagogical mistake” by teaching to that test. The best way to handle this is to give formative and summative testing back to the teachers and give more support to the children raised in poverty whose performance-as-measured-by-whatever-test will persistently be lower than children whose parents “have the means to live in places with leading public schools.”

Real Science and Junk Science

March 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch has had several blog posts offering frightening examples of the misapplication of VAM and the misuse of the term “standards” as it appears in the Common Core State Standards. (you can get to many of these posts by going here). In reading these in succession after being away from email for a couple of days I came to the following conclusion, which I posted as a comment:

The public generally perceives standards as unyielding and inflexible, and the “reformers” who marketed the common core state standards know that… they also know that the public generally perceives “standardized test scores” as a valid measure of student and school performance… this whole CCSS is a marketing tool, selling “privately operated” schools as the solution to “government run” schools

But there is a need for national standards if we hope to avoid the embarrassment of having STATE standards that incorporate creationism, which would be a good workaround in those states where there is pushback to NATIONAL standards as you noted in an earlier post ( If those “reformers” promoting the CCSS are truly interested in academic advancement for our country they should be leading the charge to have states promote real science like evolution instead of jun science like VAM…. but I don’t expect the “reform” crowd to be speaking up for science any time soon.

Some bloggers, most notably Bill Duncan here in NH, seem to believe the motives behind the CCSS are innocuous in terms of their intent… and I thought as much until a couple of months ago when the Tea Party and fundamentalists pushback began. Since then I have read no editorials from, say, Bill Gates or David Coleman on the need for rigorous standards in science, literature, or social studies. I have read no editorials from anyone associated with the development of the standards suggesting they were subject to revision or editing. Absent the advocacy for teaching proven science and/or written assurances that the standards are, in fact, flexible and capable of being edited, I can only conclude that their primary purpose is to facilitate the development of standardized tests that can be used to measure teacher performance via the unproven science of value added measure. If anyone knows of any article pushing states to abandon “creation science” or underscoring the ability to revise and improve the standards, please disabuse me of my beliefs.

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