To recap, at a recent Town Hall in Washington, DC. the president said the following (this via the AP):
- students should take fewer standardized tests
- school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results
- too much testing makes education boring for kids
- "Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,"
- schools should be judged on criteria other than student test performance, including attendance rate.
- The president endorsed the occasional administering of standardized tests to determine a "baseline" of student ability. He said his daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, recently took a standardized test that didn't require advance preparation. Instead, he said, it was just used as a tool to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses, and show areas where they could use more emphasis from teachers.
From the NY Times article:
Anthony Cody, a teacher in Oakland, Calif., who writes a blog for Education Week, suggested that the president was disavowing the policies of his education secretary, Arne Duncan, which include expanding student testing to evaluate teachers and developing new tests to be given several times a year to measure student progress.
“All these changes RAISE the stakes on the tests, for teachers and for schools,” Mr. Cody wrote in a blog post, following an earlier post titled “If only the Department of Education could hear this guy Obama, boy, they would have to rethink their approach!”
Other bloggers ( Valerie Strauss, Deborah Meier, Doug Noon and Ira Socol) chimed in and it came to the attention of folks at DOE. The press officer at DOE, Justin Hamilton, asked Mr. Cody for a correction and instead, good blogger that Mr. Cody is, Cody asked more questions.
On Wednesday, Mr. Hamilton said in an interview that there was no daylight between Mr. Duncan and the president. The expansion of testing that the Education Department favors would actually reduce pressure on teachers, he said.
Instead of year-end tests that the federal government now uses to hold schools accountable, many students will soon be tested two or more times a year to measure their progress.
Mr. Cody has created a petition to ask people to sign a petition to support the Guiding Principles of the Save Our School March and National Call to Action, which are aligned with his. There is also a Save our Schools rally in Washington D.C. on July 30th.
Mr. Cody does make an interesting point which I throw out to you:
“The most powerful assessment is closely, organically linked to the classroom,” he said. “It’s not something the teacher should have to purchase.”
This made me wonder - if your child's teacher says your student is doing well but their MAP scores say differently, what would you do? As we saw from the standardized testing forum last week, one parent didn't believe the teacher, looked into it and found his daughter not doing well in math. So yes, verify if there is a difference. But what if the teacher is right? Would you discount the MAP scores (even as they are used to gatekeep some programs)?
Mr. Cody also says this:
One last point to emphasize. The Department of Education is preparing the biggest expansion of testing ever attempted in the history of the world. For every problem that was raised with No Child Left Behind, the answer is another test.