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Tests in the news

January 12, 2012

Nick Kristof’s NY Times editorial extols the findings of the recent Value Added research. Here’s the comment I submitted: One HUGE practical problem with value-added testing: it can only be used for a limited number of teachers. Standardized achievement tests are administered to students in grades 3-8… and only teachers in grades 4-8 can have the value added analysis applied. How, then, do you measure the value added of a music teacher? an art teacher? a middle school science teacher? a social studies teacher? ANY high school teacher? Is it possible that one of the students who did so well later in life had an exceptional HS English teacher? Or was influenced by a coach or music teacher?The more we rely on standardized tests to measure performance, the more we narrow the scope of schooling. See also my white paper on waivers for a more detailed review of value added testing’s limitations.

An Education Week report on the development of common core assessments is heartening.  It appears that the tests under consideration will be administered on computers and will be far more comprehensive than the current “bubble” tests. From my perspective this is assuredly good news on two fronts: it will reinforce the need to integrate technology into the classroom and will provide timely information to teachers on student performance. What remains to be seen is how effectively the assessments measure higher order thinking skills as touted in this report.

What gets tested gets funded. EdWeek reports that the Feds are eliminating funding for history and foreign language and ramping up money for literacy. Education is underfunded to begin with… and now with zero sum budgeting in place I expect to see all funds for “non-tested” curriculum areas to shrivel.

What gets promised politically doesn’t get COMPLETELY funded. A big “oops” in Idaho is understated in the Idaho Statesman. As is often the case, a “bold new innovation” announced one year gets grossly underfunded in year two and then folks wonder why teachers (and the public) gets cynical. While I strongly disagree with the way Idaho went about its technology/merit pay initiative (it perversely redirected $$$ for salaries to buy computers and was supposedly going to provide new funds for “merit pay”) , it is still sad to see the State Superintendent receiving half the funds he needed to implement the technology portion of the initiative. The whole debate on technology is completely muddled by the union-busting legislation that happened simultaneously.

The NY Times headline reads: “NYC Charter School to Close Charter School for Mediocrity“… If I were starting a charter school I wouldn’t call it the “School for Mediocrity” ;-)…. To NYC’s credit, they are living the aphorism: “Good enough is the enemy of excellence”…


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