Home > Uncategorized > This Just In: Public Schools are Good… Tests Are Bad

This Just In: Public Schools are Good… Tests Are Bad

August 29, 2013

After years of reading that our education system is falling, it should be headline news that recent polls are showing increased support for public schools. Alas, as noted in a post last week the AP chose to bury this finding from its headline story and by the time you read this post you will probably NOT read about the annual Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) poll results, which show increasing support for schools.

A year ago I wrote a post on this topic titled “PDK results: my school is good, public schools are bad”… and to a degree that finding still holds as described in the lead sentence of the article: “Americans remain largely critical of the US education system as a whole, but parents, especially, are increasingly pleased with their neighborhood schools…” As one who has railed against testing mania, the second half of that sentence was especially heartening: “…(Americans are) more displeased with the rising use of standardized, multiple choice tests to evaluate, and potentially punish, teachers,” 

The PDK poll is not an ad hoc poll like the AP poll. It is done annually by Gallup for Phi Delta Kappa, a professional organization for educators, and is carefully crafted to inform decision makers in education about the public’s sentiments toward schools. The AP poll released in late August was funded by the Joyce Foundation, a group interested in “school reform”, and it reported that the public supported “high stakes testing” though it never used that term in any of its questions. The PDK poll, on the other hand, asks the same questions year after year and, consequently, can identify trends in emerging public school policy issues… and here’s what they found regarding the use of standardized tests (emphasis added):

In the most dramatic shift in the annual poll, a majority of Americans – 58 percent – oppose using student standardized test results to explicitly score teacher performance. Last year, 52 percent in the same poll said they support using those kinds of tests to evaluate teachers.

Teacher unions have long said that focusing on standardized tests to judge schools and teachers is a political gambit aimed at vilifying poorer, struggling schools to corral support – and resources – for schools in middle-class communities, a scheme known in the education world as “educate the best, forget about the rest.”

I don’t agree with the “teacher unions” on this point, because I don’t believe the testing regimen is an effort to “corral support” of ANY kind. Rather, the testing regimen is designed to convey the message that ALL schools and teachers are failing and schools need to be “reformed”— which means stripped of “highly paid” teachers and focussed exclusively on passing tests administered to age-based cohorts of students. The general public– and parents in particular— are waking up to the fruitlessness of this pursuit and looking for other changes in their school. I would like to see PDK as parents if they want more individualization in their schools… or more personal attention for their child… or more sensitivity to their child’s unique needs. It would be interesting to compare the parents’ response to THOSE questions to a question that suggests that schools spend more on standardized tests to be used to judge teachers.

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