Sunday, November 25, 2012

NYT Article Condemns Testing, Accountability

A truly stupid op ed in yesterday’s NYT, in which the writer condemns all testing, accountability, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top based on – get this – anecdotes from one year in one school. (Is Michael Brick a nom de plume of Michael Winerip? ;-) This is exhibit A in what Dave Levin calls “the tyranny of the anecdote.” These are all serious issues worthy of debate, but a few stories about the opinions of a handful of teachers from a single school shed no light:

In his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem.

For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.

So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic internationalrankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.

It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.

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