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Posts Tagged ‘Measurement’

NYC Chancellor Carranza’s Resignation Underscores the Insidious Link Between Standardized Tests and Segregation… and the Political Peril When That Link is Broken

February 28, 2021 Leave a comment

I was dismayed to read that NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza submitted his resignation to Mayor De Blasio today. Despite the pushback he received from tabloids like the NYPost and many politicians and most affluent parents, he continued advocating for the end of the tyranny of standardized testing, tests that are used to ostensibly to dispassionately and objectively sort and select students based on their “merit”. Moreover, after some initial hesitancy he seemed endorse the community schools movement whose success and failure defied could not be readily identified by the conventional measures used in public education. In a system based on the premise that “choice” was the only way White parents would remain in the schools and “choice” was limited for those who scored poorly on standardized tests, Mr. Carranza stood firm in his opposition to the use of test scores as a gatekeeping mechanism because the effect of that system was the re-segregation of schools.

Unlike most businessmen, politicians, and parents, Mr. Carranza understood that standardized tests are not the ultimate metric. He understood that using a single standardized test to identify “gifted and talented” 4 year olds has no basis in psychometrics and led to highly stressed childhoods for any children who aspired to enter those programs, especially if the parents of those children saw the scores on those tests as evidence that their child might not get accepted to a “brand name” college or university. Mr. Carranza also understood that use of standardized tests to sort-and-select rising middle and high school students re-segregated schools in the city and rejected the notion that standardized test scores are a valid proxy for “successful schools”. This stance made him a pariah to those who wanted to maintain the status quo and an especially fearsome opponent to the parents who believed that high test scores were evidence of merit on the part of their children.

We’ve use standardized test scores to “measure” students from the time I entered elementary school in the 50s, to “measure” schools since the passage of No Child Left Behind, and— had the “value added mentality of Race to the Top prevailed, would be using them now to “measure” teachers. Standardized tests are not useful for any of the above. They are a crude measure of student performance in any content area, of no use in determining “school quality”, and are absolutely wrong for the purpose of measuring teachers. Yet they persist. Why? Because they are a cheap, fast, and seemingly exact means of setting normative standards for cohorts of students based on age.

Formative tests, the ones developed by independent publicly funded research-based organizations or classroom teachers, provide a means of determining if an individual student has mastered a skill. They are valuable for teachers to use to identify where an individual student is encountering difficulty and to explain to parents how their child is progressing in a particular content area. How an individual student compares to his ager cohorts is immaterial in the learning process. What is important that the student is mastering skills he or she will need to progress.

Using standardized tests for anything else is absurd. Maybe Richard Carranza’s departure will lead to a dialogue on this issue.

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Sorry… We Don’t Need to Administer Standardized Tests to Figure Out Who Needs Support!

February 25, 2021 Leave a comment

In a post I wrote yesterday evening I lamented Biden’s decision to break his promise to teachers about standardized testing, a decision I attributed to his unwillingness to break a bipartisan covenant that such tests are the best means of “measuring learning”. Today, in catching up on my reading, I came across a Hechinger Report post titled “Educators Weigh the Value of Standardized Testing During the Pandemic” by Kelly Field. Published on February 13, the article describes the rationale for administering the tests… and it is preposterous:

Those who favor a return to standardized testing say policymakers need comparable, state-level data to focus their spending on districts where the “Covid-slide” has been the steepest.

“We know the impact of Covid has not been distributed equally across communities, so it’s not going to make sense to spread our resources broadly, like peanut butter,” said Jennifer O’Neal Schiess, a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit focused on the needs of underserved children. “We need to be strategic.”

Of course we know the impact of Covid has not been distributed evenly across communities… just as we’ve always known the schools that are “failing”: they are the schools that serve children raised in poverty! And yet, despite this knowledge which we’ve possessed for nearly 50 years we continue to spread our resources “like peanut butter” because failing to provide ANY funding to districts who DON’T need it is politically unfeasible. And the Hechinger Report says as much:

Opponents counter that testing during a pandemic will add to the stress students and teachers are under and cut into this year’s already constrained instructional time. They say schools already have plenty of evidence on which students have suffered the most under remote learning: low-income students and students of color.

It’s only going to tell us what we already know,” said Joshua Starr, chief executive officer of PDK International, a professional organization for educators.

According to the report, though, both sides agree that the pandemic IS providing an opportunity to revisit the testing policies that have driven schooling in “low performing” schools for at least two decades. Will it happen? I keep hoping against hope…

What Students REALLY Need is More Free Face Time and Less Class Time

February 24, 2021 Leave a comment

As noted in previous posts, many pundits, parents, and politicians are deeply concerned with the “fact” that “children are falling behind”. The remedies they’ve offered are to provide more seat time every day, more seat time over the summer, and standardized tests that will presumably prove how far behind they’ve fallen. Forbes education writer Nick Morrison is not buying into this. He believes that children need more time to play together, to be with each other independent of adults. After recounting all of the funds the UK and USA are planning to spend on summer schools and noting that such programs have no demonstrable proof of success in the past, Mr. Morrison offers a radical idea: give children unstructured play time with each other! Here’s his reasoning: 

But (expanded hours of schooling) masks the real effect of lockdown on children and young people, which is that the biggest loss hasn’t been to their learning, it’s been to their well-being…

Children need to catch up with their friends, not their lessons.

The incidence of probable mental health problems among children aged five to 16 shot up dramatically during the early stages of the pandemic, according to a study published in The Lancet earlier this year, from around one in 10 (10.8%) in 2017 to almost one in six (16%) last year.

More than a quarter reported disrupted sleep and one in 10 children and young people said they were often or always lonely.

Earlier this week, the British Psychological Society warned that talk of lost learning represented an “unhelpful narrative” that could put unhelpful additional pressure on children and young people…

Adding to the backlash against summer schools, earlier this month a group of academics in England, calling themselves PlayFirstUK, argued for a “summer of play” to help children recover from the stress of the last year.

Children learn so many skills through play that will serve them well in later life, whether it’s negotiating with other children, regulating their emotions or using their imagination to invent new games.

Children also need to spend time outdoors. Many children have been confined to their homes for much of the last year, and sitting in a classroom over the summer is the last thing they need…

…instead of trying to squeeze children into reaching targets set by adults – many of which are arbitrary in any case– we should recognize that there are some things more important.

After all they have been through over the past 12 months, children don’t deserve to spend their summers in a classroom, they deserve a break.

The key paragraph is this synopsis of Mr. Morrison’s argument is this:

Children learn so many skills through play that will serve them well in later life, whether it’s negotiating with other children, regulating their emotions or using their imagination to invent new games.

This implicitly calls for children to play games without adults overseeing them: free play, not organized leagues or group games: just kids being with each other and having fun. The fun deficit can be fixed easier and faster than the academic deficit… and it is AT LEAST as important! 

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