Posts Tagged ‘Measurement’

NYTimes Article on Remote Workers Being “Left Behind” ASSUMES That “Getting Ahead” is in Every Employees Best Interest. Is It?

August 5, 2021 Comments off

Early in my career I was hired to lead a school district in the NH Seacoast region. Upon arriving in the district, I learned that our schools had received an anonymous $10,000 grant to institute a gifted and talented program with the proviso that we hire Joseph Renzulli to help us design and implement the program. At the time I was unfamiliar with Dr. Renzulli’s work, but after working with him and his team of consultants from University of Connecticut for three years I was sold on his approach to offering gifted and talented programs.

At our initial meeting, Dr. Renzulli asked me what I hoped to accomplish during my tenure as Superintendent and how I thought a gifted and talented program would help attain that goal. As an incoming Superintendent with a mathematical bent, I had spent some time examining the test scores of the schools I would be leading. I told him that I wanted to boost our Iowa test scores which were statistically “lower than expected” at some grade levels and in some schools, lower than some of the nearby districts with comparable demographics, and hovering at roughly the 85th percentile. I hoped to boost the scores to the 92nd percentile and hoped a gifted and talented program would help pull them higher by increasing the number of high scoring students.

Dr. Renzulli asked why I wanted to get higher test scores. I was astonished at the question. Surely he understood that a higher score was better than a lower score. Surely he knew that in order to move the percentiles to a higher level I’d need to have more children scoring in high percentile levels. In the conversation that followed, I came to understand that Dr. Renzulli saw giftedness through a broader lens than test scores. In fact, given the chance to do so, I sensed that Dr. Renzulli would abandon test scores as a metric and rely on teachers to identify the giftedness that each child possessed and adjust the content and rate of instruction to match the interests and abilities of each student. Test scores were a convenient and inexpensive way to measure learning, but they were a deeply flawed construct for identifying gifted students or “school success” because they failed to capture some of the most important qualities of students or schools.

This exchange in the early 1980s came to mind when I read Sara Kessler’s NYTimes Dealbook article titled “Will Remote Workers Get Left Behind in the Hybrid Office?” The article described how the recent phenomenon of businesses offering its employees the option of working remotely was affecting promotions. Early data collection indicates that on-site workers get more attention from managers than remote workers and, since college educated women are more likely to work from home they are less likely to return to the office, they were being “left behind” in terms of opportunities for promotion.

But… what if “getting ahead” is a flawed construct for measuring success? What if seeking a higher salary or higher position on the organization chart is as meaningless as boosting test scores from the 85th percentile to the 92nd? What if our culture valued caregiving to children, family members, and each other the same way it values the accumulation of wealth or a high-level position in an organization? What if well-being was our culture’s North Star instead of consumption, competition, and comparison?

And here are two related questions that are applicable to this blog:

  1. How does the structure of schooling contribute to our current cultural norms and suppress the North Star of well-being?
  2. How would schools be re-structured if they focussed on well-being instead of competition and comparison?

I may be wrong, but I have a sense that more and more workers are wrestling with work-life balance after the pandemic. Spending time alone or with just one’s family, being away from schools and their emphasis on competition and comparison, being away from offices where extra-hours are valued over spending time on self-care and family nurturance, and away from the commuting and the intense personal schedules that accompany the busy-ness that goes with being outside of one’s home environment, workers have time to consider what is REALLY important and, in some cases, it isn’t getting more money or getting ahead.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,

Steven Singer Undercuts Arguments For Standardized Testing… but Misses One Sad Key Point: High Scoring Parents of High Scoring Children Cling to the Results as Validation of “Merit”

July 26, 2021 Comments off

Blogger Steven Singer does a fully comprehensive take-down of the rationale for standardized testing offered by two Walton Foundation funded economists Paul Bruno and Dan Goldhamer. These economists decried the decision to grant ANY waivers for the administration of tests over the past two years despite the disparate experiences of students as a result of the disparate schooling available to them. Mr. Singer undercuts each and every argument advanced by the Walton economists— who of course LOVE standardized tests because they provide seemingly precise data that can be used to “prove” various assertions they make about the effectiveness of choice and charters over “government schools”.

In his take down he notes that standardized testing was designed by eugenicists in this paragraph:

Standardized tests literally were invented to justify bias. They were designed to prove that higher income, higher class, white people were entitled to more than poorer, lower class, brown people. Any defense of the assessments today must explain how the contemporary variety escapes the essential racist assumptions the entire project is based on.

He then shifts gears, effectively blaming the standardized testing industry for lobbying to sustain standardized testing. ETS, Pearson, and other major players in the testing industry ARE lobbying to keep their businesses afloat, but their lobbying is sustained and supported by the “meritocratic” parents who scored well on tests themselves and whose children also scored well. As we are witnessing in places like NYC where test scores determine admittance to “elite” public high schools, parents of children who have attained the status of admission to the Kingdom of the Elite want to ensure that their child’s entry was based wholly on “merit” and that “merit” can only be measured by a standardized test. As policy makers across the country can attest, the retention of tests to sort and select children has grassroots support of the parents, ESPECIALLY those parents whose children are sorted into so-called gifted and talented programs and “honors” sections. As long as students are taught in large groups and those groups are batched into homogeneous cohorts based in part or in whole on test scores, the parents of “winning” children will want to retain the status quo. My belief is that until parents are confident that a new paradigm of schooling will meet the unique individual needs of THEIR child they will support the status quo. And,  alas, the status quo at this point is still grounded in standardized tests based on age cohorts.

Standardized Tests, Used Properly, COULD Help Identify Potential Einsteins. Too Bad That is Not Happening

July 24, 2021 Comments off

Thomas Edsall’s column in Wednesday’s NYTimes, We Are Leaving “Lost Einsteins” Behind, suggests that public schools are failing to identify potential Einsteins because they are failing to administer a universal standardized test measuring each student’s “spatial ability”. Citing a paper by David Lubinski of Vanderbilt and Harrison J. Kell, a senior researcher at the Educational Testing Service, titled “Spatial Ability: A Neglected Talent in Educational and Occupational Settings,” Edsall suggests that administering one more standardized test to children in third grade might help uncover some children who are falling through the proverbial cracks. The bulk of the article is devoted to making the case for homogeneously grouping students based on IQ test results, spatial aptitude testing, and scores on standardized achievement tests. This approach, which Mr. Lubinski and Kell advocate, would presumably uncover thousands of students who are currently falling by the wayside.

At the very end of the article, though, Mr. Edsall devotes some space to Harvard professor David Deming who reveals the elephant in the research room:

Deming argues that the focus of public concern should be on inequities in postsecondary education:

Most importantly, resource inequality is an order of magnitude larger in higher education compared to K-12. Rich school districts spend maybe 20 percent more than poor school districts. Elite private colleges are spending upwards of $100k per student per year, compared to about $10k in community colleges. In higher education, we devote the most resources to the students who need the least help.

After acknowledging the “the relentless escalation in the demand for skills of all kinds“, Deming suggests that the failure for preparing the workforce lies mostly with the for profit sector and those public colleges who have abandoned admission standards altogether:

…almost all of the expansion in college degrees over the last 20 years has happened in for-profit and less-selective schools. So I think it is all part of the same problem. There are lots of colleges out there, but the best ones are not expanding. In fact, they are getting harder to access. Just look at any data on median GPA and SAT/ACT scores among entering classes at flagship universities. They have all become way more selective. There are more and more talented young people out there, but only so many slots at selective schools.

At the very end of his article, Mr. Edsall acknowledges that standardized tests have become increasingly controversial:

Testing has become a flashpoint in the larger debate over policies based on merit: Do they prevent discrimination or are they barriers to admission and advancement? One of the original purposes of testing was to identify those who were illegitimately pushed to the side. Whatever their overall impact, these tests can and do often serve as a gateway rather than a barrier to admission — that was part of what they were intended to do in the first place.

That MAY have been what they were intended to do in the first place. Indeed, I can recall two of my classmates in 8th grade being singled out for scoring high on standardized tests which forced teachers to reconsider their placement in the mid-level sections and “advancing” them to the higher tier grouping for 9th grade. Finding diamonds in the rough, the original intent, has itself been pushed to the side in favorr of using test scores to identify schools and teachers who need to be punished for their “failures”. THAT is why testing is a flashpoint and, unfortunately, eliminated from any consideration of identifying hidden Einsteins.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,