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Posts Tagged ‘NCLB’

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

April 28, 2021 Leave a comment

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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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 Comments off

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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Tennessee’s Law Mandating Retention Based on Standardized Test Scores: Cheap, Easy-to-Explain, Appealing to Voters…. and VERY Stupid!

February 6, 2021 Comments off

Peter Greene tweeted a link to Andy Spears’ blog post about a preposterous bill passed by the Tennessee House and Senate that has the effect of mandating retention for 62% of current 3rd graders unless the cut scores change. Spears’ blog post is fittingly titled “I Don’t Even Have a Headline”. The one I offered above seems fitting after reading his post. The Tennessee legislature wants to make sure very child gets a wonderful education but doesn’t want to pay for it… so it implements a law that defies the realities of child development, ignores the realities of the impact of poverty and race on public school students, and relies on cheap, easy-to-administer-off-the-shelf standardized tests to determine if 8 year olds are “ready” to go into 4th grade. If they “fail” based on this test, they DO have a fall back: they can go to summer school.

Like Andy Spears, I have difficulty finding the words to describe the absurdity. But here’s what I’m willing to wager: the Tennessee Education Department (or whatever it’s called in that State) will tinker with the cut scores to make certain that 62% of the kids DON’T fail which will beg the question of why they are using a test that can be easily manipulated…. but that question has been around for two decades. I keep hoping the pandemic will be an opportunity to change the dominant paradigm of public education… but GOP legislatures keep beating a path to the good old days of NCLB-style accountability. Ugh!

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