Which [Testing] Side Are You On?

Which [Testing] Side Are You On?

A week later and the hubbub surrounding Arne Duncan’s comments about Common Core and standardized testing opponents are still blowing up the internet. Who cares about Iranian nuclear bombs or the Thanksgiving superstorm that’s coming down the pike when parents, testing, and education are being debated? Most importantly, what do you think?

To recap:

Last week, Duncan cracked wise about white suburban moms freaking out about Common Core test results (which tell them their kids and schools aren’t as good as they thought), and spent the following few days apologizing (and also defending).

I wrote a piece for the Atlantic.com about how we don’t really know how much overtesting is going on at the district and state levels where it varies tremendously.

Over the weekend, the New York Times’ Frank Bruni wrote a much-discussed opinion piece about how high-SES parents are ruining school reform (and their kids) by “coddling” them.

New York Magazine posted a story about parents opting out in New York state.

Diane Ravitch wrote on CNN.com why “so many” parents “hate” the Common Core.



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  • With all due respect to Dr. Ravitch I think her essay sort of jumps around. She argues that the NY version of the new common core type test had a high failure rate not "because the students are dumb, but because the state chose to set an unrealistic passing mark. The state commissioner knew before any student had taken the test that only 30% or so would pass; that is where the state commissioner set the passing mark."

    Then she argues apparently in other states (or maybe in NY too its not clear): "Experts in early childhood education say the standards for young children are developmentally inappropriate. Teachers say that they have not had the training or resources to teach the new standards. Field-testing would have ironed out many of the bugs, but promoters of the standards insisted on fast implementation."

    So basically there are numerous issues - an unrealistic cut score, standards that are too difficult at the primary level, teachers that are not adequately prepared to implement the standards, and a failure of field testing due to implementation speed.

    I see it in a more simple manner.
    More difficult common core standards should be implemented incrementally and relatively slowly. So you move up grade levels from grade 3 to 12 over a nine year period of time. While you are implementing you are also adjusting the standards and cut scores based on the outcomes. Yes you might have to dumb down the tests if the failure rate is simply too high, I know that is unthinkable. But so what.

    The problem with this approach is profit, by that I mean the companies that are making a buck off of this curricular change do not want to really practice continuous improvement, but rather want to package and sell stuff to school districts.

    Continuous improvement costs money because research and development never stops being a big cost factor. But it creates a better product and in this situation will create more functional standards.

    Anyway that is how I see it, the problem is not with higher standards unless they are proven to be beyond the developmental abilities of students at various points along the continuum. The problem is with profit motive embedded in the common core where testing, text book companies, and various common core experts are out to make a once in a life time killing.

    Rod Estvan

  • Ah, where is Deming when we need him?!

  • I guess I'm OK with the profit motive. You might have a house to build. You could do it yourself, or you could have a contractor do it. It depends on your budgetary, quality, and time constraints. Contractors should get paid their market value in their ability to meet these constraints or specifications.

    Maybe I take issue with how the specifications are written. All the vendors seem to have instantly developed CC-ready products, even though it seems schools, teachers, and administrators are still a bit hazy on it. I suppose if you were a bit hazy on CC, you'd hire a consultant or ask a vendor to come up with something for you to wrap your hands around. Maybe CC is a little too hard to teach well consistently, hence Rod's comments above on failure rates.

    I tried the practice problems. I freaked out. I would freak out more if I was timed on it. They were like brain teaser puzzles. Mind you, I don't mind a puzzle now or then, and do do some critical thinking professionally, but not with some high-stakes-test-time-pressures involved. If we want students to be really good with these puzzle problems, let's design some video games that do this in a fun way, and be done with teachers and teaching.

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