Standardized Testing Causing Schools to Fall Apart?

Posted: May 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

Big news broke yesterday when Baltimore City Public Schools revealed that someone (or possibly several people) at George Washington Elementary (a Blue Ribbon school in SW Baltimore) had erased and corrected thousands of  incorrect answers on the students’ 2008 Maryland State Assessment. To read more details about this story, check out the following Baltimore Sun article:

Parents feel cheated by test tampering

Then, The Baltimore Sun’s Inside Ed featured a blog titled, “Investigation like a who-done-it.”

I’d prefer not to turn this incident into a “who-done-it-mystery.” Instead, I’d like to focus on an article from the New York Times that was featured in a previous Inside Ed blog: The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand. If you check out the article, you’ll see that it’s very long: 9 pages. It’s long, but a worthwhile read. After reading the article, here are some quotes that stick out to me:

“In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen pushed the Legislature to pass laws  making student test scores 50 percent of annual teacher evaluations.”

“In Delaware, no teacher now will be rated ‘effective’ who does not meet targets connected to student test-score improvement.”

“In 2009 the Gates foundation provided a $90 million grant to the Memphis school system — the state’s largest — on the condition that teachers there allow 35 percent of their performance ratings to be based on student test scores.”

Rather than asking who altered the tests in the Baltimore elementary school, we should be asking, why is cheating going on and what does that tell us about these tests and the accountability that is linked to these tests? Yes, finding the individuals who have cheated by tampering with children’s work is very important because that is not at all fair to the students, but the public should not get lost in the “who-done-it” game, but should be given the opportunity to look at the bigger picture.

Now I’m going to quote a few points that Diane Ravitch mentions in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System (the book is awesome by the way; a must read).

“When tests are the primary means of evaluation and accountability, everyone feels pressure to raise the scores, by hook or by crook. Some will cheat to get a reward or to avoid humiliation”

“Any test score gains that result solely from incentives are meaningless because gains that are purchased with cash are short-lived and have nothing to do with real education.”

Rather than obsessing over reading and math test scores, Diane Ravitch says this:

“We want them to be able to think for themselves when they are out in the world on their own. We want them to have good character and to make sound decisions about their life, their work, and their health…”

Multiple choice tests are not going to create lifelong learners, so we need to shake our obsession with these tests. When the stakes for these tests are so high, cheating will go on. Teachers don’t want to lose their jobs and they don’t want to lose funding for their students. Dr. Alonso may want to act like cheating is not taking place throughout the city and county because he needs to protect his business model that is funded by the wealthiest people in the world (the Gates Foundation and the Waltons aka Walmart people), but most people actually involved in the testing process know that cheating is indeed going on in many different forms.

Attacking Dr. Alonso may seem the easy route to take, but in reality he is just a puppet in the game and is doing what he feels he has to (or at least this is what I’m guessing). As I stated, the wealthiest people in the world are in control of education reform, and unfortunately, they are not educators. If Dr. Alonso doesn’t follow the master plan, Baltimore will be cut off from a massive amount of much-needed funds. Even if he didn’t believe in the plan, we would never know, because he would probably be jeopardizing his position.

So where do we go from here? Do we just watch as public education crumbles?

This photo reminds me of our schools. Just looking at it makes one feel sick.

  1. a parent says:

    So you’re saying that Baltimore’s public schools are falling apart? From where I’m sitting (parent of 3 kids in City Schools for 11 years) the quality of education is improving. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But this whole “the schools are getting worse and worse” is not backed up by the reality that I’m seeing. I’m not pointing to test scores, I’m talking about my perception of the quality of education my kids are getting and the number of decent choices that exist for finding a school that matches your kid’s needs. You look at a school system from the outside and shake your head about how screwed up it is. I immerse my self in the schools where my kids are enrolled and make positive changes.

    I guess we have different perspectives.

  2. mdeducator81 says:

    I know that some schools are doing well. I wouldn’t say that I exactly sit on the outside and shake my head. I work with very recent high school graduates who do not have the skills necessary for college. I teach the students who have slipped through the system. By that, I mean that they have received a high school diploma when they shouldn’t have because they do not have the skills that a high school diploma is supposed to signify.

    I also take graduate classes with many elementary school teachers, and I hear what they have to say about their schools. I did work in Woodlawn High a few years ago, and I seriously doubt that the school has drastically changed since many Woodlawn students show up in my remedial writing classes in Catonsville.

    Yes, some schools are making improvements, but based on the national data that comes out, on average, no significant progress has been made in the last ten years. I don’t mean to attack every school, because I know that many are doing very well and the students are being well-prepared for adult life. I still worry though, about the huge numbers of students who are dropping out or graduating with insufficient skills. If you could see the skills some of my HS graduates are lacking in, I bet you would be appalled.

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