Family income is the single most reliable predictor of test scores...
The reformers like to say that the test scores are the only measure of success or failure...
High stakes tests incentivizes schools to narrow the curriculum; to drop the arts, to eliminate recess, to drop history, to drop civics, to narrow the time available for anything other than what's tested because the life of the school depends on getting those scores up...
It incentivizes teaching to the test. It used to be, years ago, that teachers would say to one another as a matter of professional ethics, "You never teach to the test. You just don't do it. Good teachers don't teach to the test." And now, you must teach to the test. Districts and states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on testing and on test-prep materials to help teachers teach to the test which is professionally unethical. It incentivizes cheating. We saw a major, major cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia...a major cheating scandal in Washington D. C...and now, just the other day, a major cheating scandal in El Paso, Texas where the superintendent literally pushed kids out of school in order to keep the scores of the district up. We've seen gaming the system. We've seen states lowering the passing mark so that more kids could be declared proficient...I started teaching in the era when it was unprofessional to teach to the test. Now, The Indiana DOE has even gone on record publically saying that teachers in our state should teach to the test...just one more way we misuse standardized tests...
The misuse of testing falls particularly hard on the poorest kids...tests do not close the achievement gap. Tests reflect the gaps...so the more you test, the more you prove what you already know...you have to remember, tests are not the purpose of education. Developing young people's character is the purpose of education.
Reformers have a silver bullet...charter schools.* Now there are good charter schools, there are great charter schools, there are terrible charter schools. And study after study shows that when the children are the same the results are no different. There are some charter schools that succeed by skimming. They take the best kids in the poor communities. They push out the English language learners. They push out the kids with disabilities...many of the charters that have high scores have a high attrition rate. And overall, the charters are more segregated than public schools...
...the goal is privatization...Public education is an essential democratic institution. We cannot allow it to be handed over to entrepreneurs. If we want to improve academic achievement we cannot afford to ignore the effects of poverty on children."Reformers" frequently put down their critics for not giving any concrete solutions. Dr. Ravitch mentioned that her new book will be full of solutions.
What should we be doing?
Dr. Ravitch also mentioned the teacher evaluation system in use in Montgomery County, Maryland -- the Peer Assistance and Review program. The New York Times called it
- We should really as a country invest in prenatal care for all the women who need it...
- We also know from research about the importance of early childhood education...the achievement gap begins before the first day of kindergarten.
- We should...[reduce] class size, particularly in the early elementary grades.
- We should have, wherever it is needed, a nurse, a social worker, in every school. This is just common sense.
- We should have arts and physical education in every school.
- There should be after school activities for children.
- In schools for the rich, the children get taught. In schools for the poor, the children get tested...we should reduce our reliance on high stakes testing. It does not help education. It harms education.
- We should address the problem of racial segregation. Our society has turned its back on this issue.
a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve....worth looking into.
*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.
Stop the Testing Insanity!