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Tag: standardized testing Page 1 of 13

Fixing Four Years of Damage is Just a Start

Breakdown

In a recent post for the Class Struggle blog, the state superintendent of public instruction for Washington State has ten suggestions for a potential Biden/Harris1 administration “to undo the damage Betsy DeVos did to public education”.

He gets off to a great start with “Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law.”.

Time To Set New Priorities

screenshot of online classroom

Almost from the start of the chaotic, but necessary, shift to online schooling last spring, articles started appearing about the amount of learning that students were going to miss. Including several studies claiming to “estimate the size of the learning loss students have experienced under such conditions”, although they didn’t make clear where researchers obtained meaningful data to arrive at their conclusions.

As students head back to school, still mostly online, we have even more stories about students falling behind, including one British study predicting that “lost school time will hurt economy for 65 years”. Again with few details about how they obtained their “huge base of evidence”.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind while reading these reports.

Yes, Joe, Please Do Give Up On Standardized Testing. And Charters.

Electric Fence

One more bit of education-related bad commentary from The Washington Post, and then I’ll give up on this topic for a while.1

This particular column comes from executives at a “nonprofit working with education organizations”, which is another way of saying consulting firm in these parts. They’ve been given this space to explain “why Joe Biden shouldn’t give up on public charter schools or standardized testing”.

Wasted Space

Exam

There are many things I don’t understand about the writing of Jay Mathews, former chief education writer for the Washington Post and current weekly columnist. Mostly why the paper continues to waste valuable newsprint on his work.

His column from last Monday is a good example.

Mathews begins by condemning the decline in the number of states that require students to pass one or more standardized tests in order to graduate. He says this a “national movement led by educators, parents and legislators”, calling it a “breathtaking turnabout, but without much celebrating”. Because polls related to public perception of school quality have not changed in five years?

He continues by complaining about “creative programs to boost achievement” being used by some states. Mathews says, those efforts are “failing miserably”, according to a report by “45 experts (including many teachers) who peered deeply into the state plans required by the new law”.

After spending the first half of the piece trying to make the case that the lack of standardized testing is hurting schools and students (with his usual lack of evidence), Mathews actually writes a statement that makes sense.

The rash of standardized testing after the No Child Left Behind Act became law in the early 2000s did not raise achievement averages very much, but the Collaborative for Student Success study indicates that reducing exit tests is not likely to bring much improvement, either.

So, maybe the focus of Mathews column should have been on alternatives to standardized testing, which he admits don’t seem to make any difference.

Anyway, this mess ends with some additional odd and unsupported statements, including his usual plug for the Advance Placement program. Which, of course, is another standardized testing program, one run by colleges rather than states.

We love making schools more accountable. Then, we hate the idea. This new decline of exit tests will almost certainly be followed by another burst of outrage and a renewed campaign to raise achievement.

Fortunately, our schools are still attracting many energetic and creative teachers who want to make a difference. As always, that will be what saves us.

Does he understand that the excess of standardized testing has been driving “energetic and creative teachers” out of the classroom for a decade or more?

And why is this crap allowed to appear in a major national newspaper?


Image: Exam by Alberto G. on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

21st Century Kindergarten

I’ve never taught elementary school but this NPR report about changes in the learning expectations for young children is damn depressing.

Researchers analyzed the federal Department of Education’s 2010 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which surveyed roughly 2500 kindergarten and first grade teachers, and then compared their responses to a similar group from 1998.

Why 1998? “Because the federal No Child Left Behind law hadn’t yet changed the school landscape with its annual tests and emphasis on the achievement gap.”

Some of the changes they found in just twelve years: more standardized tests, less music and art, fewer engaging activities, and don’t bother asking the kids about their interests.

More testing. In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn’t even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But even the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010.

Less music and art. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent.

Bye, bye, brontosaurus. “We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging,” says Bassok, the study’s lead author.

Less choice. And teachers who offered at least an hour a day of student-driven activities dropped from 54 to 40 percent. At the same time, whole-class, teacher-led instruction rose along with the use of textbooks and worksheets.

As I said, damn depressing.

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