Monday, July 15, 2013

New studies prove failings of education reform industry…Jonathan Pelto

Fellow public school advocate and education columnist, Wendy Lecker, had a piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate that should be on the “must read” list for this week.

In “Education fails on an assembly lineWendy Lecker writes,

As any parent knows, every child is different, with different strengths and challenges. The goal of education is to develop each child’s strengths and help her overcome her challenges. Because every child is unique, a one-size-fits-all education will never work. To paraphrase Einstein, standardization is good for cars, but not for people.

Sadly, our leaders are taking public education down a different, damaging and more costly path. Current education policy removes the focus from the needs of children toward methods that have nothing to do with improving learning or well-being. The prime example of this misdirection is the obsession with high-stakes standardized testing.

Americans spend billions of tax dollars and thousands of hours on test prep, administration, scoring and reporting. With the advent of the Common Core, we will spend billions more to develop, administer and score new tests. The Common Core tests, taken and scored entirely on computers, will also require massive investments to upgrade technology.

Policy makers demand that the fate of students, teachers and schools rest on standardized test scores. How do standardized tests help improve learning or life outcomes?

The National Research Council determined that 10 years of No Child Left Behind test-based accountability has had zero to little effect on student achievement. In fact, experts have found that student learning grew at a faster rate prior to NCLB. Evidence also shows that the skills necessary to succeed in life are not captured in standardized tests. Faced with these facts, the logical path would be to reduce the over-emphasis on standardized testing.

Instead, our government, egged on by the education reform industry, claims that the new Common Core tests will assess those “higher order” skills that universities and employers demand. This false assertion flies in the face of the research proving that computer-scoring can only measure rudimentary text-production skills; essentially basic grammar. Computer-scoring cannot assess any higher order skills such as critical thinking, audience awareness, argumentation or creativity.

Thus, we already know that Common Core high-stakes testing will be an expensive failure, as was NCLB.

The cost of high-stakes testing extends beyond the tests themselves. We must count the weeks of lost learning time diverted to tests and test prep each year. Anecdotal evidence from physicians, psychologists and school nurses also reveals a spike in headaches, phobias, and other anxiety-related ailments, along with an increase in the use of anxiety medication during state testing periods.

Now two studies support the claim that standardized tests do more damage than good.


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