WORKING LIST! Why Testing and Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education
by Dov Rosenberg on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 1:12pm
High stakes tests and charter schools make public schools less effective:
A) High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.
B) Less than 20% of privately-managed public schools (charter schools) are successful; they also segregate children and minimize the decision-making power of parents and the community, ultimately making public schools less effective.
High-stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability:
High-stakes tests are harmful to children:
- Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
- Many tests contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (look up Pineapplegate).
- With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic and regional differences aren't considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
- Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
- Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
- National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: "Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
- Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
- Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
- Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
- Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
- Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
- Test results are not able to predict future success.
- Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, and schools.
High-stakes tests make public schools less effective:
- Minimal time for socializing and physical activity b/c recess and PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
- Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, and even incontinence in the classroom.
- Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
- Year-end tests require sitting still and staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
- Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) and punishments for low scores (threats).
- Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.
Less than 20% of charter schools are successful:
- The lowest and highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
- Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
- Arts and other electives are cut in favor of test prep and testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
- Children don't receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
- Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson and ETS (Educational Testing Services).
- Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), and administration.
- More established parents move to private schools to avoid the abundance of testing in public schools.
- When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
- On norm-referenced tests, nationally, 50% of students are below average, by definition. Thus, requiring all students to be at or above "grade level" is statistically impossible.
- Give testing firms control of the curriculum
- Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
- Reduces teacher creativity and autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
- Minimize teachers' ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
- Create unreasonable pressure on students and teachers to cheat as well as on administrators and school districts to "game the system"
Charter schools segregate children:
- Even the pro-charter documentary "Waiting for Superman" notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
- Charter schools can artificially inflate their published success rate by deflecting low-scoring kids back to public schools, usually
Charter schools minimize the decision-making power of parents and the community:
- Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
- Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
- Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don't know each other, and don't play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.
Charter schools make public schools less effective:
- Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
- Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
- One more thing for parents and kids to worry about as they wait for acceptance letters.
- Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (and therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.
- Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they're utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
- Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected and ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
- Charter schools aren't obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected and ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
- Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to "work the system" (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
- Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models and seen disastrous results.
What's best for kids?
Special thanks to Marion Brady, from whom I borrowed heavily!
Stop the Testing Insanity!
I know that this is a little trivial, but it irks me when people say "charter schools do this/that" as if they were all one homogeneous entity.
I get that privately-managed charter schools are detrimental. I know. I read this blog and Diane Ravitch's blog and many more.
But I work at a charter school that is a genuine non-profit; it is managed by a Board that consists entirely of elected parent representatives, an elected teacher representative, and founding community members. It is more racially diverse than the local schools, which are 100% black. The application process is very simple; most of the families come from very disadvantaged homes and have never had a problem. And here in MD, charter school applications must be decided by lottery, and it is illegal to either deny special ed services or deflect certain children back to neighborhood schools; they can only be expelled if do something that would be worthy of expulsion at any public school.
So can we start saying "privately managed charter schools" or "corporate charter schools" or even "most charter schools"?
Have there been any studies on the effect that progressive local charter schools (that start because they advocate for a progressive educational philosophy) have on communities, attitudes about learning, etc.?
Thank you for your comments, Bella. I have tried to answer them in today's post.
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