Standardized testing can be harmful when abused to the nth degree, but to listen to the progressive narrative, standardized testing is the proximate cause and entire extent of the entire problem with public education today. This is blatantly and demonstrably false, as the decline began long before NCLB and RTTT. "High stakes testing," as they like to call it, may not be an effective solution in itself, but pretending it is the root cause of all ills in education is a distraction from the real and significant structural problems that need to be addressed.
"...but pretending it is the root cause of all ills in education is a distraction from the real and significant structural problems that need to be addressed."
Not nearly as much as pretending that standardized testing is the solution.
And you're mistaken that progressives think testing is the problem. It's merely making things worse, especially in inner city schools that already were struggling. I heard an interview with Pasi Sahlberg about why Finland's schools are so good. His answer (among others things), because we focus on the whole child, which I know you dismiss as progressive nonsense. But please don't pretend that progressives don't have a narrative as to how Americans schools can better serve our kids.
Russ - If progressives don't think standardized testing is "the" problem, why does it receive 90% plus of the attention in your posts on the subject and on RIFuture? It would be more intellectually honest to address it as an ineffective treatment than as a root cause in itself, which is how it is ALWAYS presented by progressives.
The "whole child" concept is fine, but it's essentially meaningless platitude that is designed to be wholly unobjectionable. As your idol Deming would say, "by what method?" There is no methodology there, no practicable solutions. It's yet another feel-good term that can mean anything progressives want it to mean in the moment.
"If progressives don't think standardized testing is 'the' problem, why does it receive 90% plus of the attention in your posts on the subject and on RIFuture?"
What's funny is that you sort of ask and answer this one. By what method, indeed. Exactly why progressives are writing about standardized testing: that's what the schools in Providence and in the state are doing.
Your objection seem to be that progressive education doesn't lend itself to a single fixed definition. It's actuallly quite odd that you think that in education, centralized state planning is somehow a silver bullet.
"Progressive Education: Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find"
Progressive educators don’t merely say they endorse ideas like “love of learning” or “a sense of community.” They’re willing to put these values into practice even if doing so requires them to up-end traditions. They may eliminate homework altogether if it’s clear that students view after-school assignments as something to be gotten over with as soon as possible. They will question things like honors classes and awards assemblies that clearly undermine a sense of community. Progressive schools, in short, follow their core values — bolstered by research and experience — wherever they lead.
"because we focus on the whole child, which I know you dismiss as progressive nonsense."
It is nonsense Russ. Like Dan said, where's the methodology. All we here is classes are too big. Kids from urban areas don't come to school and they get no support at home. How are you measuring the whole child if that's the complaint. Their are great teachers out there and there are slugs. While you may hold them all in high regard, they are one of the few educated and certified professions that belong to a union and unions breed mediocrity. The only reason teachers opposes standardized testing is because it exposes them.
Better the illusion of accountability than actual progress, eh? Sigh... read Deming.
"Where's the methodology?"
I'm not an educator. I just know process improvement. Deming would say, "plan, do, check, act." Empower teachers to experiment and see what works.
I'm not far enough in to judge, but "The Quality School" is interesting.
Standardized testing is often feared because it points out the failure of our educational system--thus it must be eliminated--or at least marginalized. It's a tool, nothing more.
As for Russ's discussion of why Finnish schools are doing better...the other half of that story...
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education.
I recently took the GMAT as I wanted to continue my education--unlike others, I knew I didn't already know everything. I scored in the 60% range against those who were going into science and other "hard" fields. Against those planning to go into education, I scored above the 95 percentile.
Can't do it halfway, Russ, and expect success.
Read more: www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html#ixzz2KnJSFtg1
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
"Standardized testing is often feared because it points out the failure of our educational system..."
That's nonsense, but again some would prefer to pretend that the problem were that simple.
As for the best and the brightest going into education, you're at least getting to a real problem... making teaching as respected and lucrative a profession as other professional fields such as doctors or lawyers. I'm all for talking about how to do that (standardizing testing and assignment of blame being not very likely to acheive that end).
Me, I'd say if you need an indicator of the failure of our education system you need look no further than the drop out rate. What standardized test would you propose to fix that?
"Rhode Island Dropout Rate on the Rise"
This is of course was an entirely predictable effect, one that I wrote about on RIF last year.
"As for the best and the brightest going into education, you're at least getting to a real problem... making teaching as respected and lucrative a profession as other professional fields such as doctors or lawyers."
Then you'll need to raise the standards for entry into an educational masters program equal to med or law school. Once they graduate, they'll need to pass their boards which, uh-oh, includes testing. The teacher unions won't be willing to have that discussion.
I'm not against testing. Just against pretending high-stakes testing will improve education.
btw, teachers are already required to pass tests in order to get their teaching certificates in RI. And without progressive outcry.
Nonsense? Because you say it is? For God's sake, Russ, try to do a little research and think before you start typing. Anyone can make a mistake, but to do so consistently.....you take it to an art form.
Yes--I did get closer to the root cause of our educational problem--though no solution as the NEA thugs won't allow it. It isn't "progressive techniques" you selectively espoused--it's much more. Demographics (ethnically homogeneous), a smaller population (6M vice ~300M), and they hire quality people that actually do what they are paid to do. There is more, but time and space limits...:
""Why is a teaching career the number one choice of Finland’s best and brightest students?
Pay is not the answer. Teacher pay in Finland is reasonably competitive but no more attractive than in many other European countries. In fact, the range of salaries among professionals in Finland is very small, compared to most other advanced industrial countries, which means that differences in compensation in Finland generally have less of an influence on career choice than in other countries.
The answer certainly has something to do with the age-old respect for teachers in Finland, but much more to do with the selection process, the work itself and the working conditions. Because Finland has very high standards that must be met to enter teacher preparation programs, getting in confers prestige on the successful applicant. The fact that Finland has moved teacher education into the universities also confers prestige on young people who go into teaching, because they are getting professional training in the same institutions providing training to the highest prestige professions. Because Finland has developed a deeply thoughtful curriculum and then provided teachers ever more autonomy with respect to how they approach that curriculum, they have both a curriculum worth teaching to and the kind of autonomy in how they approach it that is characteristic only of the high status professions. Because Finland is at the frontiers of curriculum design to support creativity and innovation, teachers have a job that has many of the attractions of the professions that involve research, development and design. They are pushing their intellectual and creative boundaries. Because Finland is understandably satisfied with the job its teachers are doing, it is willing to trust them and their professional judgments to a degree that is rare among the nations of the world."
In other words, good people can be given the latitude to succeed--and trusted. Testing often exists when trust does not exist--drug testing, lie detector tests, etc. It's also used for assessment or to pinpoint areas that need improvement.
Our current crop of teachers are often so incapable that they can't succeed unless told what to do. Note NECAP score in RI schools--pretty good in the lower grades--most teachers can teach basic reading and math. The scores start falling off when the subjects get tougher--in High School--and that's not counting the bottom tier students that drop out/don't take these tests--so it's actually worse! Why is that, I wonder? Let's stop protecting the incompetent and holding people to higher standards.
More: "In Finland general practitioners earn, on average, about $70,000 per year, which is less than half of what doctors earn in the United States. The average salary for primary education teachers with 15 years experience in Finland is about $37,500, compared to $45,225 in the United States. Moreover, the cost of living in Finland is about 30% higher.
In short: higher teacher salaries are not what make Finland’s education system better than ours. And I suspect it isn’t recess either."
Please also note That RI teachers are in the top 5 of the highest paid teachers in the US. Average teacher pay (Google)is 67,000--without benefits.
Context is important--as is a more complete picture.
I'll graciously let you have the last word as it seems important to you... :)
Russ - We get it - you're against "high stakes standardized testing." Fine. Just be clear that those tests are a relatively recent phenomenon that may have exacerbated *some* problems in public education, but the testing is not a fundamental structural problem with the public school system. The decline began long before NCLB and RTTT.
It is my distinct impression that progressives such as yourself and Bob Plain focus your efforts on demonizing standardized testing to divert attention from the hard questions that need to be asked about teacher requirements, curriculum, and geography-based public schooling. Anything to distract from what most people now recognize are serious and fundamental problems with the American union model.
When I ask for your recommendations, all I get back are "end high stakes testing" and focus on the "whole child." The first is treating a symptom. The second is meaningless in practice - a platitude. You have no real solutions except "be more like Finland." Okay, how specifically do we do that? Crickets.
The teacher certification tests you mention could be passed by a baboon. The unions would fight any stricter teacher requirements tooth and nail and you know it.
"Nonsense? Because you say it is? For God's sake, Russ, try to do a little research and think before you start typing. Anyone can make a mistake, but to do so consistently.....you take it to an art form."
Ah, yes, out come the personal attacks. I've written quite a bit about this here in the past as I'm sure Dan can tell you. For now, let me just say that you're welcome to put forward a defense of standardized testing as the best method for measuring progress any time you like.
There's of course quite a bit research I could reference...
Fact 1. Our children are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in our history and unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
Fact 2. Noninstructional factors explain most of the variance among test scores when schools or districts are compared.
Fact 3. Norm-referenced tests were never intended to measure the quality of learning or teaching.
Fact 4. Standardized-test scores often measure superficial thinking.
Fact 5. Virtually all specialists condemn the practice of giving standardized tests to children younger than 8 or 9 years old.
Fact 6. Virtually all relevant experts and organizations condemn the practice of basing important decisions, such as graduation or promotion, on the results of a single test.
Fact 7. The time, energy, and money that are being devoted to preparing students for standardized tests have to come from somewhere.
Fact 8. Many educators are leaving the field because of what is being done to schools in the name of "accountability" and "tougher standards."
Kohn devotes much more time to each of these if you care to click through.
As for "smaller" population, last I checked that's 5 times the size of the population of Rhode Island and frankly the "ethnicity" argument is distasteful and notably without anything backing up the assertion (cause you say so?).
I kind of skimmed the rest of it (will get through it in a bit), but I think we agree on that one. Pay is not the answer. Autonomy, mastery, and control are much more important and notably counter to the centralized, top-down approach oddly preferred even by some here who would normally rail against anything being forced by the feds.
"Just be clear that those tests are a relatively recent phenomenon that may have exacerbated *some* problems in public education..."
They are? That's simply false. They've been used for decades in the U.S. and on a regular basis in public education since the 1960s. That's why progressives don't recognize this as real reform. It's simply the status quo on steriods. The same thing we've done for decades only "harder, longer, stronger, louder, meaner.."
A few random thoughts
1. For many years, and perhaps currently, Britain required a standardized test at about the 7th grade. This sealed the fate of those who took it, with regard to future education possibilities. I never cared for that outcome of testing. I have known to may people who received training, education, in the military; sufficient to prove they weren't "dumb asses".
2. Although there was no "education" major where I went to college, I understand that the "best and brightest" are not found there. There are too many reports to be ignored that the majority of teachers come from the bottom 10% of their class, etc. Nothing is ever said of this.
I didn't say there was no standardized testing. I said that the "high stakes standardized testing" associated with initiatives like NCLB and RTTT, which progressives frequently demonize as THE central problem with education today, is a relatively recent phenomenon and is in no way responsible for the gradual decline in student performance that has occurred since the 1950's and 1960's. I don't disagree with you that there is a point beyond which such testing becomes harmful, but the way you and other progressives, such as Bob Plain, present the issue is so disproportionately focused on testing that it distracts from the more fundamental problems with public education that require serious reform. You can ignore the reality of the situation all day long, but major changes needed to be made to the way teacher unions operate in this country.
"When I ask for your recommendations, all I get back are 'end high stakes testing' and focus on the 'whole child.'"
You want simplistic solutions to complex problems. I want actual process improvement. The link above of course lists more priorities, includding promoting community, collaboration, social justice, intrisic motivation, deep understanding, and active learning.
As to how to do it, there are a number of techniques. To address some of that, my own kids' school uses "the responsive classroom," which aligns with those progressive education values.
Posted by Dan:
"the gradual decline in student performance that has occurred since the 1950's and 1960's."
Once again I have to wonder about the parents and skewing by "averages" since the 1950's.
A few thoughts. How are the children of "high achievers" doing compared to the 1950-60's? Is it because they tend to opt out of public education?
Since the 1950's we have gone from a country with 10% "minorities" to 35-40%, it is hard to believe that has not effected the "averages".
Can anyone believe that 80 years ago there were charities to send poor Jewish kids to law school and medical school? At the same time "quotas" kept them out of many colleges. Colleges required a picture with your application, that was to determine your color. Why do Asian "minorities" do so well? Could it be that parents have more to do with it than the educational system? Is it the parents that are failing by expecting the educational sstem to "handle it"? Did schools in the 1950's have police sub stations? There was a very high "drop out" rate in the 50's, were the schools blamed? Should they have been? The "drop outs" were self selecting not to effect the averages. The educational system seems to take the attitude that they can do everything necessary if they are simply given enough money.
"There was a very high 'drop out' rate in the 50's, were the schools blamed?"
Yes, there was a "crisis" in the schools in the 1950s and in every decade since. Books like Educational Wasteland and Why Can't Johnny Read were published in the 50s.
Russ - The actual titles of the books you reference are: "Why Johnny Can't Read" and "Educational Wastelands." If you can take the time to italicize, you can take the time to fact check. The first is an instructional phonics book. The second is a warning about the direction in which public schools were heading at the time. Perhaps people should have listened.
One difference that has to be noted, we were an "industrial" society in the 50's. A kid could drop out of school and find a job that would support him.
Now, our cities have millions of "drop outs" who will never find work.
Warrington - They might as well just teach how to get on SSDI in places like Rhode Island and Washington, DC. If they're not working, the money is coming from somewhere - that means government assistance.