Friday, November 02, 2007

Conservatives love national testing

Very interesting data on national testing -- conservatives love it!  As should all sensible people -- see below.

Consider the results of a recent national survey by Education Next, a journal published by Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Among other things, it asked a  representative sample of 2,000 Americans, "Under No Child Left Behind, should  there be a single national standard and a single national test for all students in the United States? Or do you think that there should be different standards and tests in different states?"
It wasn't even close; national testing won by a landslide. A  whopping 73 percent of respondents wanted a single test. What's even more surprising, though, is that Republicans were likelier to support this idea than Democrats -- 77 percent to 69 percent. As for ideology, those self-identifying as "extremely conservative" were by far the most enthusiastic  about national testing: An incredible 88 percent of these adults voiced their support, versus 64 percent of liberals.
National testing has become a conservative position. Yet the conventional wisdom in Washington is that national testing is a "third  rail" -- too hot for any politician to touch, especially because of conservative and Republican resistance. A staffer for liberal icon Sen. Edward Kennedy,  Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate education committee, told me the idea was "like vouchers," i.e., radioactive. How come their perceptions  and these poll numbers are so far apart?

Who in their right minds thinks we're better off as a nation if, say, 4th graders in one state are declared to be proficient at one level of math and 4th graders in another state, at the same level, aren't?!

This has real-world  implications in classrooms. In Wisconsin, for instance, fourth-graders have to demonstrate no more than a minimal reading ability in order to be considered  "proficient," while their peers in Massachusetts have to decipher texts as tough as Tolstoy. Which "standard" do you think will result in a stronger education? And why should Milwaukee youngsters suffer because Badger State bureaucrats hold such low expectations for them?

This recommendation is exactly right:

As Congress updates the No Child Left Behind act this fall,  lawmakers from both parties should embrace a common-sense approach to national testing. They should stop allowing each state to set its standards willy-nilly, and shelve the Fantasyland provision that 100 percent of schoolchildren will reach "proficiency" by 2014.
Just as importantly, Washington should resist the urge to set  the national standards and tests itself. Instead, Congress (or presidential  candidates) should call on the nation's governors to come together, form a commission to set rigorous expectations for all students, and agree on a "single standard" for the nation as a whole. Republicans, especially, ought to get cracking; their "extremely conservative" base is waiting.  


Conservatives love national testing
This commentary originally appeared in slightly different form in the October 21st Washington Times.

by Michael J. Petrilli <;uid=50189>

A decade ago, when President Bill Clinton's "voluntary national test" proposal was crashing on the rocky shores of a Republican-controlled Congress, Fordham's Checker Finn quipped that national testing was doomed because "conservatives hate national and liberals hate testing."

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