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Gene Glass, Explains His Decision to Stop Being a “Measurement Specialist”

August 28, 2015

In his own blog post, that was picked up by Diane Ravtich and Naked Capitalism, Arizona State professor Gene V. Glass explains why he no longer wants to be referred to as a “measurement specialist”… an in doing so gives a history of education measurement over the past 50 years. The post  is full of revelations from a statistician who witnessed the corruption of testing. After getting his doctorate from University of Illinois, Glass worked for several years trying successfully to devise tests that would help teachers assess students based on the student’s learning style. This paragraph describes what happened next:

Around 1980, I served for a time on the committee that made most of the important decisions about the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The project was under increasing pressure to “grade” the NAEP results: Pass/Fail; A/B/C/D/F; Advanced/Proficient/Basic. Our committee held firm: such grading was purely arbitrary, and worse, would only be used politically.The contract was eventually taken from our organization and given to another that promised it could give the nation a grade, free of politics. It couldn’t.

It was around 1980 that politics and testing began to intertwine… and their relationship to the “decline” in American schools was clear to Glass:

The degrading of public education has involved impugning its effectiveness, cutting its budget, and busting its unions. Educational measurement has been the perfect tool for accomplishing all three: cheap and scientific looking.

International tests have purported to prove that America’s schools are inefficient or run by lazy incompetents. Paper-and-pencil tests seemingly show that kids in private schools – funded by parents – are smarter than kids in public schools. We’ll get to the top, so the story goes, if we test a teacher’s students in September and June and fire that teacher if the gains aren’t great enough.

Eventually, the “…cronyism between corporations and politicians” disgusted Glass so much he’s decided to change his teaching assignments:

When measurement became the instrument of accountability, testing companies prospered and schools suffered. I have watched this happen for several years now. I have slowly withdrawn my intellectual commitment to the field of measurement. Recently I asked my dean to switch my affiliation from the measurement program to the policy program. I am no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.

Many veteran educators I know share Glass’ disdain for the direction schools have headed and feel that the mission of education has changed for the worse…. and in some cases they have not only withdrawn their intellectual commitment to public schools but also withdrawn their political commitment to their improvement. In the coming months those of us who believe education is the best means for eliminating the vicious cycle of poverty need to work to get officials who support the mission of public education elected to offices in all levels of the government.

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