Posts Tagged ‘Measurement’

Texas Legislature’s Laundry List Approach to History Lends Itself to Fact Accumulation Measured by Standardized Tests

July 21, 2021 Comments off

The link below describes the Texas Democrats’ latest means of pushing back against the laws forbidding instruction about race: a laundry list of historic documents that students need to read and understand. The documents include ones that are unarguably fundamental and include specific illustrations of the FACT that our foundation documents did NOT recognize the full citizenship of people of color as well as ones like MLK’s Letter from the. Birmingham Jail that the GOP would likely find divisive.

I don’t like laundry lists as the basis for a curriculum for two reasons. First, they are inevitably incomplete because history is in a continuous state of interpretation and re- interpretation. Secondly, laundry lists inevitably lead to standardized tests instead of assessments that require deep learning.

As suggested in earlier posts there IS a workaround that should be accepted by both parties: a graduation requirement that all students pass the citizenship test. A debate on what knowledge is needed to become a citizen would be far more productive than a debate over a laundry list of seminal documents.

Boston Replaces Meretricious Merit-Based Entry to “Elite” Schools with Metric Based on More Than Test Scores, Grades and Parent Engagement

July 17, 2021 Comments off

The NYTimes described the new process Boston plans to implement in order to identify students who gain entry to their “elite” high schools designed for “gifted and talented” students. The system is described in this synopsis: 

The new admissions system will still weigh test results and grades, but, following a model pioneered in Chicago, it will also introduce ways to select applicants who come from poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Under the new system, the applicant pool will be divided into eight groups based on the socioeconomic conditions of their neighborhoods. The admissions team will consider applicants within each group, admitting the top students in each tier in roughly equal numbers.

This new process is in contrast to the former system, which is described here: 

The traditional admissions system, which its supporters defend as merit-based, ranked applicants according to grades and test scores. But it also gave rise to a culture of tutoring and test preparation, and resulted in incoming classes that were overwhelmingly white and Asian.

As the title of this post and several earlier posts indicate (see here, here, and here), any definition of “merit” based on grades and test scores is meretricious. It is superficially objective and precise but has no basis in reality and no integrity. The effect of using test scores not only exacerbates the economic divide, it effectively penalizes students whose parents do not have the time or ability to complete the paperwork needed to apply for schools their children might otherwise be qualified to enter. 

The article does not describe the who will serve on the admissions teams or how these teams will function. It IS clear, however, that test scores and grades will play a significant though not exclusive role in determining students who qualify. But the other factors that come into play will make it harder to defend test scores and GPAs as “merit” The new system that requires a diversity of addresses will undoubtedly lead to a more diverse student body, but the retention of an emphasis on GPAs and test results will ensure that the rigorous curriculum that makes the school “elite” can be sustained. Over time, I am certain that the children from the “un-elite” schools, the ones who lacked “merit”, will do as well as their counterparts. And over even more time, it is possible that might persuade politicians, parents, and the public that the whole notion of “elite schools” for students with “merit” is meretricious. 


We Can’t Learn From Failures We Don’t Know About: Report Showing The Test-and-Punish Regimen Beloved by Reformers Cost Billions, Accomplished Nothing.

July 15, 2021 Comments off

I entered the phrase “Move fast and break things” into Goggle and got this explanation:

Move fast and break things” is a saying common in science and engineering industries. In that context, it means that making mistakes is a natural consequence of innovation in a highly competitive and complex environment.

“Move fast and break things” was one of several mantras thrown in the face of educators in the early 2000s as a wave of disruptive change swept through public education. Charter schools and No Child Left Behind were rooted in the notion that if public schools were subjected to market forces, freed from regulations, and measured with precision using standardized tests they would improve over time. Like corporations in the private sector, they could systematically examine the results of their counterparts, identify the practices and elements of instruction that were “successful” in boosting test scores, and replicate them in their own schools. To help them in this mission, the federal government would offer competitive grants. 

As one who immediately and urgently argued against this idea when it was presented in the form of Race to the Top, I was not surprised to learn of it’s abject failure as a strategy. But as one who believes that it is possible AND necessary to learn from mistakes, I was disappointed to learn of its documented failure from a recent Common Dreams article by Diane Ravitch. Ms. Ravitch’s devastating critique of Race to the Top ends with these paragraphs: 

What NCLB, Race to the Top, and SIG demonstrated was that their theory of action was wrong. They did not address the needs of students, teachers, or schools. They imposed the lessons of the non-existent Texas “miracle” and relied on carrots and sticks to get results. They failed, but they did not prove that money doesn’t matter.

Money matters very much. Equitable and adequate funding matters. Class size matters, especially for children with the highest needs. A refusal to look at evidence and history blinds us to seeing what must change in federal and state policy. It will be an uphill battle but we must persuade our representatives in state legislatures and Congress to open their eyes, acknowledge the failure of the test-and-punish regime, and think anew about the best ways to help students, teachers, families, and communities.

The findings of the report were devastating, not only to the SIG program, but to the punitive strategies imposed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which together cost many more billions. 

Worse, as future blog posts will indicate, we just came away from a once in a generation opportunity to rethink the way we provde schooling, the way we measure “success” in schools, and the way we pay for schools and, in part because this refusal to look at evidence and history is blinding us to the changes we need to make if we ever hope to improve the ultimate goal of public education: to provide every child with an equitable opportunity to thrive in our democracy. 

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