I read these two articles and thought, "What are we doing?" and "How did we get here?"
The first is a blog entry from the Washington Post blog, The Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss who, in turn, had a guest blogger, Marion Brady. It's called, Revealed: The School Board Member Who Took a Standardized Test. The board member failed the test. But that's not really the story. Here's what he had to say:
I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.
“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”
“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.
“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”
“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”
You do have to wonder how many kids get discouraged over a score and say well, that's it for college for me.
You do have to wonder how many teachers get blamed for students not passing the test when it may be the test itself. And, as he asks, who is accountable for the test itself?
I know, I know. We have to have some way to assess students but do you remember this level of hysteria over a state test when you were growing up? I remember being worried about the SAT and ACT (but my town had zero tutoring and I had no idea it was even an issue) but never the state test.
Ms. Strauss then links to this NY Times article about an uprising of principals against testing in NY state.
But President Obama and his signature education program, Race to the Top, along with John B. King Jr., the New York State commissioner of education, deserve credit for spurring what is believed to be the first principals’ revolt in history.
As of last night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.
Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight.
A principal at one of the highest-achieving schools in NY state has to take 10 training sessions as did another principal named 2010 Educator of the Year by school administrators.
“It’s education by humiliation,” Mr. Kaplan said. “I’ve never seen teachers and principals so degraded.”
The trainers at these sessions, which are paid for by state and federal grants, have explained that they’re figuring out the new evaluation system as they go. To make the point, they’ve been showing a YouTube video with a fictional crew of mechanics who are having the time of their lives building an airplane in midair.
“It was supposed to be funny, but the room went silent,” Ms. Burris said. “These are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about.”
Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook in Dutchess County. said the training session she attended was “two days of total nonsense.”
“I have a Ph.D., I’m in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed to be teaching me to do evaluations,” she said. “It takes your breath away it’s so awful.”
She said one good thing about the new evaluation system was that it had united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the state education department.
In more depressing news, the state of Michigan has a statewide Education Achievement Authority that is creating a new public school district of low-performing schools via the Michigan Educaiton Excellence Foundation. Trouble is, most of it will be privately funded. So it's kind of a public/private district. So far they have received nearly $2M in private donations but from whom? From the Detroit Free Press:
The California-based Broad Foundation donated $400,000 and expects to give $500,000 more before 2012. State and local officials declined to name other donors or give budget details, a lack of transparency some experts call problematic.
In future years, the EAA will get state money -- the state per-pupil funding for students from each of the low-performing schools that it takes control over starting in the fall. But current costs need to be covered, including Covington's $175,000 signing bonus and $225,000 pay, as well as salaries for cabinet-level staff that will soon be hired.
Won't name the donors? Where have we heard that?
Western Michigan professor of education Gary Miron says the appearance of private funding of public education is common, but a district funded with such large amounts as Broad has donated to the formation of the EAS is problematic.
What they do is, they buy and leverage influence in the beginning,Miron told the Michigan Citizen. They can leverage that influence by paying salaries and later determine who will be selected to administrative positions.
Broad Foundation graduates have played a prominent role in the formation of school policy in DPS since the appointment of Robert Bobb as DPS emergency financial manager in 2009.