Thursday, January 10, 2013

TESTING TROUBLE: -- Schools are having a hard time just educating students; it's the wrong time for unfunded mandates + smf’s 2¢

Editorial: Los Angeles News Group/Daily News, etc.  |

1/09/2013 05:21:43 PM PST  ::  California's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson took a look at the current shambles of the state's once-shining educational system and thought: What we need is ... better tests.

Not, say, a retooling of the insane way the state funds its K-12 schools through a variety of different pots, as the governor is suggesting. Nor more classroom innovation, or better teachers or equipment or more academic freedom.

And certainly not more reform of the type that might free individual schools from the shackles of convoluted educational rules and contracts so that they could figure out the best way to teach their particular students. Nope -- Torlakson, a puppet of the state's teachers unions, doesn't swing that way.

Torlakson and other education officials on Tuesday unveiled plans to ask the Legislature to adopt his recommendations as part of the national Common Core State Standards curriculum. The basic idea is that the statewide testing now done via Scantron and multiple choice questions would be replaced by the 2014-2015 school year with computerized tests that focus on critical thinking.

There's no doubt that the state could improve how it administers standardized tests -- and what it tests. But this is a cart-before-the-horse approach -- and one that puts districts on the financial hook for a new testing protocol that requires equipment and technology not all may have.

Worse still, it seems Torlakson didn't share this plan with the state's school administrators, who found out about the recommendations even as news reporters were getting the scoop. It's troubling that the state's head of public instruction wouldn't consult with, at the very least, the superintendent of the state's largest school district on such a significant shift in procedure.

Instead, John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District said he was "blindsided" by Torlakson's announcement.

It's hard not to imagine some sort of political agenda behind this recommendation. And this might be it: According to his spokesman, Torlakson is also planning a bond measure (as in, a new tax) for 2014 to help districts pay for new technology. What better way to get districts on your side in a campaign than to require them to upgrade their computer systems when they can't even hire enough teachers?

Someone -- ideally district administrators who are in touch with what their schools need -- should push back on this plan. At the very least, they should lobby for more time to switch over.

The Legislature and governor should side with the districts. When schools can't afford books or reasonable class-sizes, that is no time to think up new unfunded mandates.

Meanwhile someone should convene another blue-ribbon commission to examine state offices that are useless red-tape factories, starting with the job of state superintendent of instruction.

2cents smf smf:

  • ●  The Common Core Tests are not Tom Torlakson’s bright idea, they are ®eform, Inc’s money-making idea!
  • ●  The “blindsided” Deasy is upset that Torlakson proposes to eliminate tests he needs to use in his beloved Academic Growth Over Time teacher assessment scheme. And, as Deasy, Torlakson and the Daily News editorial staff know: Those tests are scheduled to be eliminated the next year anyway.
  • The mandate for the new tests comes from the co called Common Core State Standards – which is a federally sponsored private scheme from Reform  Inc., the US Dept of Ed and the textbook publishers + testing companies.
  • Unfunded mandate? Torlakson proposes to fund the Common Core mandate with the State Bond; Deasy proposed to fund the mandate with the local Proposition Q bonds that the voters approved to improve crumbling school infrastructure.
  • 4LAKids believes that the corporate proponents of Common Core – who stand to reap huge profits – should fund the mandate. Not with seed money or one-time start-up funding – but with continuing ongoing support. 

No comments: