AALA Update | Week of April 8, 2013 | http://bit.ly/10HVBAH
4 April 2013 :: The educational wires have been buzzing lately about the recent indictment of Dr. Beverly Hall, the former Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, and 34 others on racketeering and other charges. The charges relate to the apparent changing of students’ answers on state tests to make them correct. An investigation began in 2010, with a scathing report released in 2011 that said the district had engaged in nearly a decade of systemic cheating-
Dr. Hall had been selected as the top education leader in the country by the Council of the Great City Schools in 2006 and national superintendent of the year in 2009 from the American Association of School Administrators because of the tremendous educational growth the district made under her leadership. Allegedly, more than 180 people were involved in the coordinated effort to change test answers, including almost 40 principals. Apparently, rumors of widespread cheating had been circulating for years when the governor opened a formal criminal investigation in 2010.
The Atlanta Journal - Constitution newspaper has done an extensive analysis (1.6 million records) of 2010 test results for 69,000 public schools in the country and has found high concentrations of “suspect” scores throughout.
The findings represent an unprecedented look at the integrity of school testing, which has seized center stage in national education policy. The paper does state that although their analysis does not prove cheating, it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools...In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion. (March 27, 2012)
The methodology that was used by the newspaper was based on statistical checks for extreme changes in scores and was advised by the American Institutes for Research. Big - to - medium - sized and rural districts had the highest concentrations of suspect tests and improbable scores were twice as likely to appear in charter schools.
But this article is not about Atlanta or cheating; it is about the extreme emphasis that is being placed on standardized testing by federal and state governments, necessitating the complete changing of teaching and learning patterns in the country. Test scores are playing critical roles in education policy and practice and educators have faced tremendous pressure to raise scores, at any cost. Due to No Child Left Behind, high-poverty schools have to deal with often unrealistic, relentless expectations to improve or be called failing and in many cases, be reconstituted or closed. Race to the Top and court cases now require that test scores and student achievement be an integral part of teacher and principal evaluations.
Poor test performance can ultimately result in districts being taken over by the state. Teachers’ and principals’ pay or continued employment may also depend on student achievement scores-
Federal policy over the past decade has set a continuously rising bar for districts with little or no guidance for reaching it. Education reformers push for districts to take a corporate approach and use student test achievement as the single most important measure of success.
Apparently, all that matters is results and in their view, results can most easily be measured by tests. r
This high school teacher’s statements, found on rwww.truthdig.com, wittily express what many educators are now feeling;
“First, we find the tests are sloppy, odd things, full of dumb questions and skewed so heavily to the lower-order memorization skills that were never that cool to begin with and have become nigh irrelevant in a Google age. Questions asked in April are about things not taught until May;
Eskimos are asked about mountain climbing and city kids are asked about skiing; and language learners take the same tests as native speakers. Furthermore, testing takes timer— a lot of it. At many schools now, a sixth of the year is given to standardized tests: A couple of days of test-taking skills prep before, a couple of days of testing, a day to go over the test to see what went wrong, repeat every six weeks.”
So while e the education reformers, with their ties to corporate America, big business and politics, continue to push their agendas and influence elections, what can the legions of educators around the country do?
David Bernstein, Executive Director of the David Project, has an article featured in Education Week (April 3, 2013) in which he suggests that we start building an alternative to the testing movement and show the country another vision for education.
We must stop merely criticizing standardized testing and start talking about something else, showing that returning to the old status quo is not acceptable but that the road to improvement can utilize multiple vehicles other than merely tests. It is an interesting article and makes some intriguing points that we, as educators, need to consider. We do need to stop articulating only what we oppose and become loud voices for what we advocate. We do want students to be college and career ready; we do support linked learning; we do want to educate all students to become productive members of society. If we do not speak up, those with the deepest pockets and less than altruistic motives will continue to hijack public education.