The LA Test Score Debacle

– This post is actually a comment I left on the “Taking Note” blog. The author, John Merrow wrote about his support of the LA Times plan to publish student test scores as a way to “out” teachers:

Face it. They did this story because it was mostly easy to do … the data was already there, there are always people available to interpret the data and draw conclusions, and the conclusions drawn had shock value, made great headlines, and drew national and probably international attention. Most people don’t understand test results, issues schools deal with, the difficulties with evaluating “good teaching,” and more. Our journalists and press have abandoned us – they do what is easy and shocking because it is cost effective and won’t ruffle too many feathers. Let’s do some deep stories on the other issues that hold back students, teachers, administrators, schools and education in general. What are the other big issues? How about all these large textbook companies that continually promise huge test score gains if their series is purchased for millions of dollars. Are they part of the problem? Is societies reluctance to change a model of school that is over a century old because change is hard part of the problem?

We have decided that education issues are easy when they are not. So instead of investing in finding the best answers we can, we rely on assessments that everyone agrees are poor at best (but they’re what we have), and because dealing with issues like poverty, indifference, language, teacher effectiveness and more are hard, very hard, we develop an education plan that attempts to step around them. President Kennedy, when he spoke about going to the Moon, talked about doing so because it was hard. Look what breakthroughs came from the work and research that went into that endeavor – in computer science, science in general, nutrition, health, materials and so much more. We have the money … those billions of dollars that are earmarked for a very flawed and narrow RTTT.

Let’s re-purpose some of that money to do the R&D necessary to REALLY make a difference. Let’s fund many approaches instead of mainly KIPP clones when no one associated with KIPP will send their own kids to the schools they advocate. What breakthroughs in pedagogy, health, psychology, family/parent involvement, art, math, reading, science and so much more will we discover? They would be exciting times that just might rival the space race. What implications might that have for the rest of the world too?

Do we need to find and deal with the poor teachers in our ranks? Yes! Do we need to make our schools the best they can be for now and our future instead of just making another tweak of a 100 year old + model for schools that we hang onto because it is what we know and change is hard? Hell yes! So let’s do that instead of wasting time on bandaid, easy approaches.

Learning is messy!

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2 thoughts on “The LA Test Score Debacle

  1. Hello! I’m from Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I very much agree that there needs to be something about the teachers that do very poor in the classrooms. Even if that means exposing them. We criticize the students that don’t well in there academics but we never criticize the teachers that are being paid to educate the students. I do not believe that every student that does poorly in school is not all the student’s fault. They’re teachers in classrooms that work only to receive a paycheck. If a teacher is not giving his or her all in the classroom, he or she should not expect the students to give their all.

  2. Hi Leviticus – I know of no teacher that would not agree that there needs to be something done about, “teachers that do very poor in the classrooms.” I’m not sure who the “we” is that criticize students for poor academics (maybe we criticize for being lazy, or not trying, or not doing their best – but if a student is really trying, and there are other issues holding them back, I don’t see that from teachers very often – and any teacher that does is wrong to do so). I’ve taught for 30 years now, and when you say, “but we NEVER criticize the teachers,” I think you might want to think that through some and maybe read some current and past news reports about education. Maybe talk to some classroom teachers, some of your fellow students, friends and other community members, and ask them if they feel that is true. I’d love to hear what you find out from them – do they think teachers are not criticized?

    What are some of the other issues that hold students back from being successful in school? If we could wave a magic wand and make all the “bad teachers” go away, would education be fixed? (or all the bad bankers, or bad ministers, or doctors, or anyone else that is “bad” – wouldn’t that be great!?).

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks for your comment,