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A Missed Opportunity to Change Direction

February 7, 2013

Diane Ravitch used her blog to cross post Gary Rubenstein’s example of the kind of assessments he would like to see used to measure student understanding in mathematics, a course he teaches in NYC. If you want to see an imaginative approach to teaching and measuring the Pythagorean Theorem take a look at it… but if you think for a minute that Arne Duncan and his business “reformers” would want to use this kind of approach, think again. Alas, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, wants to use ONE cheap, fast, and narrow set of metrics to measure three things: student progress; school effectiveness; and teacher effectiveness. Like the multi-purpose rooms that serve as cafeterias, auditoriums, and large meeting spaces, the multi-purpose tests do three tasks poorly. Here is my comment to this article:

I had hoped in 2008 that a new administration would take a fresh look at accountability and get the right kinds of metrics in place. I hoped that instead of the one-size-fits-all mentality of NCLB the Obama administration would institute something more akin to the comprehensive quality measures like those used to earn Baldridge Awards. They might benchmark individual student progress against something like the CCSS. Instead of using one-size-fits-all standardized test results as the primary means of “school quality” the Obama administration would develop questionnaires to ensure that schools were engaging parents, coordinating with social service agencies that support to students, and articulating with both pre-school programs and post-secondary institutions. Instead of using one-size-fits-all standardized tests to somehow render judgements about teachers they might work collaboratively with the NEA and AFT to develop the kinds of performance metrics used in the corporations deemed to be the “best places to work” by employees. In short, I hoped the Obama administration would seize the opportunity to get the metrics right. Instead, we have NCLB on steroids and a testing regimen that reinforces the sort-and-select factory schools instituted in the 1920s. Some reform, eh.

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