Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

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 Leave a comment

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.

Hawken School’s Mastery Learning Model Shows How Post-COVID Schools Could Be Transformative

July 20, 2021 Leave a comment

The article below describes one of the most exciting and far-reaching changes anyone has put forth in response to the disastrous impact of COVID on public schools. Instead of going back to the “normal” model for schooling, Hawken Academy’s Head recommends a mastery model… and it is well conceived and fully elaborated on in the article. Here’s a synopsis of the approach:

Looney, one of the strongest backers of the approach nationally, said the upheaval of the pandemic calls out for schools to use mastery, instead of what he calls the industrialized approach of expecting students to all learn on a fixed and standardized timetable.

“The pandemic didn’t do anything but expose… the flaws of teaching the same kids the same thing at the same time with the same deadlines,” Looney said. “It’s not a good idea to begin with, but during a pandemic when some kids are home in Zoom and some kids aren’t, and some teachers are teaching with kids, it really got exposed for what it is, which is a machine.”

Teachers at the Mastery School of Hawken say the approach, which expects students to be at many different stages of learning any given skill, is perfect for a post-COVID world where students have missed varying amounts of classes and learning,

I will definitely be following this and will keep you posted as this unrolls. It fulfills the vision of replacing the outmoded factory schools with highly personalized schools that are rooted in the community.

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

July 17, 2021 Leave a comment

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.