"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Testing Insanity Grows

Field Elementary School in Dallas, Texas took the "teach to the test" concept a step further than most schools. The third graders were taught only reading and math...nothing else...for most of the year. According to the Dallas Morning News
The students learned only math and reading for most of the school year, while teachers were pressured to fabricate grades for science, social studies and enrichment courses like music. Some of the grades were given by teachers who had never taught the subjects.
This is just one more example of the unintended consequences of the "testing culture" created by NCLB, Goals 2000 before that, and now, Race to the Top. Cheating scandals (Atlanta, Washington D.C.), gaming the system, teaching to the test...it's all because of our obsessive reliance on achievement tests. Does anyone who has any common sense think this is going to get better now that test scores are being used to evaluate teachers?

The news about Field Elementary School's particular method of getting students to "pass the test" brought indignation and derision from editorial pages around the nation, including the Dallas Morning News.
In third grade, the world opens to children. They learn about magnets and volcanoes, frogs and ladybugs, the marvels of the solar system. They are introduced to biographies and to the lofty concept that people can, through their deeds, change communities. These essential lessons in science and social studies build on themselves, year after year.

It is only when you look at this rich curriculum that you can appreciate the injustice inflicted on the children at Tom W. Field Elementary School in northwest Dallas. For an entire year, third-graders were essentially denied science and social studies instruction in favor of math and reading, all so they could improve their scores on standardized tests and earn the school a high ranking.
The newspaper clucks it's editorial tongue at the cheaters of Field Elementary. They continue...
Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place.
Should teachers have blown the whistle. Of course...but the nation's education policies caused this situation.

The most meaningful response came from a reader -- KAHDallas. In the comments following the above editorial he wrote:
"Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place."

So the [Dallas Morning News] is aghast that teachers didn't sound the alarm at Field Elementary? Really? Really?

Go back through ALL your editorials advocating school change and reflect on your bias against teachers. Revisit your promotion of "business" models that promote more power to principals over those pesky teachers. Applaud your stance on increasing teacher accountability (DISD is spending $1.2 million to develop a new evaluation model) with no mention of increased pay.

This paper, the State of Texas, the DISD trustees, the business community, and the public have subjugated teachers to the status of factory labor (with no right to strike!) and are then incensed when they don't rise to report abuse of policy! You want top-down management of education but are bewildered when events unfold as they have at Field Elementary. You want teachers to shut up and do as they're told and then fulminate when they protect their income rather than speak up. You asked for this mess and now you've got it!

And here's another news flash: The practices at Field Elementary are MUCH more the rule than the exception in DISD schools than anyone outside the system dares to imagine.

Since another ingrained DISD policy is to intimidate whistle-blowers and protect management at all costs, guess we'll just have to rely on the integrity of those in administration and the trustees to set the standard for a high level of integrity in the schools. ...how's that been workin' for ya so far?
I have a series of quotes elsewhere on this page. One of them, Campbell's Law reads:
"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."
We use achievement tests incorrectly -- to label, judge and evaluate teachers and schools. The importance given to those tests far outweighs the value to be gained from them. Teachers know that public schools in the US have been damaged by the obsession with testing. Our students have been hurt and their learning stunted. Yet the insanity surrounding public education in America continues to expand with Race to the Top and even more testing.

As long as I'm dropping quotes perhaps a couple of them from (or attributed to) Albert Einstein are appropriate at this point.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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