Home > Essays > NYTimes David Leonhardt Continues to Disappoint by Reinforcing the Bipartisan Support for Test and Punish

NYTimes David Leonhardt Continues to Disappoint by Reinforcing the Bipartisan Support for Test and Punish

I subscribe to “The Morning”, David Leonhardt’s daily newsletter from the NYTimes that offers an overview of the news of the day. As readers of this blog may recall, I often found myself in disagreement with Mr. Leonhardt’s perspectives on public education, particularly his sustained and continued support for the “reform” movement that swept the country following No Child Left Behind. Here’s an excerpt from today’s newsletter that was especially disappointing given all that has transpired over the past two decades:

One example: Democrats are not the only ones with constructive ideas about education. Republicans sometimes put more emphasis on school accountability, while Democrats assume — incorrectly — that adequate funding ensures high quality. If the two parties were negotiating over a bill, it might include a mix of both sides’ best ideas.

I invite readers to click on the link… and read an article from 2004 that offers the conclusion:

The accountability mechanism implemented by the No Child Left Behind Act highlights the use of standardized test scores to measure education quality. Although such scores may be imperfect measures of education quality, their use is meant to shift attention to outcomes and to avoid reliance on input measures, such as student-teacher ratios or spending per pupil. Some economists believe this is important because an accountability system opens the door for additional reforms that would help provide parents and school officials with the right incentives to make socially optimal choices on education investment.Incentives based on students’ outcomes are more likely to be effective and to have a long-term impact on academic achievement than the incentives provided by merely increasing spending in education.

This implies that these scores, which the author acknowledges are “…imperfect measures of education quality” are nevertheless important tools for parents to make socially optimal choices on education investment. 

Here’s my question for David Leonhardt: How on earth does one make an optimal choice based on a set of imperfect quality metrics? He’s definitely had too many sips of the kool-aid of spreadsheet driven venture capitalists who, in an effort to find a cold objective metric settled on standardized testing. I would hope that the failure of this concept would have dawned on Mr. Leonhardt and the “reformers” after 16 years… but it appears that we will continue doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

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