Friday, December 9, 2011

Can a school board member and some principals stop the insanity?

The answer to that Question:  They can try.  The TU has been vocal about our stance on testing, value added, and the like.  As influential as we are, we realize it will take a powerful shift to change course to a more sensible path.  It will also take large numbers of people.  Where do you stand?  Do you buy into all the testing talk?  We certainly don't.  Some recent news has lent a lot of support to our position and if nothing else makes us feel better.

Ask yourself this:  Have you ever seen any of the tests that measure student performance?   I have taught for years with such a test and have yet to see more than a handful of questions and the outdated released version.  Now, such tests will most likely directly affect how I am evaluated.  More questions arise like how specifically does this make me a better teacher and how does it help kids learn?  Is this approach working after decades of effort? 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently spoke at the NCSS conference in DC and called for continued accountability.  From his speech(and for the record we rarely shout):

"Testing advocates are often outshouted, however, by those who view testing as the problem. They say that testing—especially fill-in-the-bubble, high-stakes standardized testing—is a flawed tool for evaluating students—let alone teachers.
Now it is absolutely true that many of today's tests are flawed. They don't measure critical thinking across a range of content areas. They are not always aligned to college and career-ready standards. They don't always accurately measure individual student growth.
And they certainly don't measure qualities of great teaching that we know make a difference—things like classroom management, teamwork, collaboration, individualized instruction and the essential and remarkable ability to inspire a love of learning."

I preferred Ravitch myself.  

Francis Gary Powers probably failed a test
Ever ask why these tests are so secret?   I do all the time.  I wish they'd guard our unmanned spy aircraft this closely.  Then we wouldn't be looking at photos of one sitting in Iran right now. Who is holding these tests and all this testing accountable.  Answer: Not enough people. 

This week has seen some people above the TUs pay grade and level of influence become much more vocal in opposition to such measures.  Maybe the TU should do as Iran did this week and call the Swiss ambassador to protest.  It would likely have the same result.   But Iran is a problem.  We're not.

The links below will take you one the TU's favorites, The Answer Sheet and two posts that share the story of a school board member who arranged to take the FCAT in Florida.  His story is very telling.  

Part I

This story out of New York where public school principals are publicly opposing their state's newly developed teacher evaluation system. The whole issue of accountability, value added and the merits of testing is starting to be called into question at an increasing rate.  Thank goodness.   Hope it is not too late.  The only rule from psychometricians I know about is do not use tests for purposes other than that for which they were intended.

All this is a step in the right direction but it will take more teachers(like the TU), more principals and most importantly parents to stop the insanity.

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