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Monday, April 11, 2011

Education Bloggers Get Attention from the White House

Following up on the reports of President Obama's remarks about standardized test comes an article in the NY Times about what some bloggers wrote and the White House reaction.

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.
Of course, this all sounds good and, to some bloggers, sounded like he differed from what Arne Duncan and the DOE having been saying.

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.

3 comments:

MAPsucks said...

If parents really want to learn about how their child is doing, they should push for "common formative assessments". These are less about measuring student growth to evaluate teachers, and more about informing parents and teachers on their student's progress and understanding of lessons.

http://www.rcs.k12.tn.us/rc/RCS_NEW/Instruction/plc/common_formative_assessments.html

Almost by definition, common formative assessments are not sold in canned programs for $$$ and administered nationwhide. They are home-grown in a collaborative process with teachers in professional learning communities (PLCs). This kind of work will, in fact, improve academic outcomes. NOT bonuses, NOT brow-beating, NOT Teach for America!

Anonymous said...

In a world where PR "experts" rule the day...

You really have to appreciate the ineptitude of the DOE spokesman when all of the press that bother to pay attention are on the same page with Obama, opposite Arne and the DOE.

Almost like the oxymoron that was "compassionate conservatism."

Just makes me wonder who is going under the bus on this one? Duncan, or some downstream, yes-man stooge?

Maybe "Smudge-gate/Erasure-gate" will take down a bunch of them and pry their un-Midas-like privatizing fingers off public education. Then what? Let's see, they already have fuel, they tried electricity, now schools, I guess water is next, followed by the air we breathe, because, you know, running it all like a business makes it better!

wseadawg

Anonymous said...

I'm sure SPS will hire the PR stooge...

grumpy