Monday, June 9, 2014

Test + Punish = Real Accountability

Over at the StudentsFirst blog, Jacob Waters opens the door to more disingenuous flimflammery with a post entitled "Some Much-Needed Honesty on Accountability."

The post is one more entry in the "Let's beat up Weingarten and Darling-Hammond for daring to break ranks" sweepstakes that has been running all week. The sweepstakes is a bit bizarre, since all the two hard core Core fans have suggested is that the accountability side of the reformster program is in danger of killing off the CCSS. Maybe it is time for the Dennis Quaid of reform to cut loose the Jay O. Sanders of testing before he drags them all down into the abandoned shopping mall of broken dreams.

This "cut loose the testing before it kills the Core" is not a new idea-- various conservative pundits have been tossing it out for months. But you would think Weingarten and Darling-Hammond had actually wised up enough to abandon the CCSS (no such luck, campers). Instead, they call for a "support-and-improve" model, which is a weak soup indeed, leaving the reformsters' fundamentally flawed approach in place.

Anthony Cody has effectively shown why the Weingarten-Darling-Hammond piece is too little of the wrong fix. But Waters effectively distills what the reformsters object to in their proposal.

And of course we need to do a better job providing classroom support. But this masks their true goal: passing the buck on our educational failings.

We are reminded, once again, that StudentsFirst really doesn't give a tiny rat-sized tuchus about students. What they really want to see is teacher tuchuses kicked, and kicked hard, preferably to the nearest curb.

Note the article of faith in Waters's sentence-- we know that we have educational failings. Even though the accountability measures we need have been barely present in NY (our model state) and in fact this whole argument because California has NOT put the measures in place, we just know, we know with our guts, our heart, our very marrow that schools are filled from bottom to top with loads of failing teachers. There is no question of if. We know they're there, like monsters in the closet.

The piece Waters lauds for its honesty is here in HuffPost, cranked out by Kati Haycock and Russlyn Ali (drum majors from two more of the endless parade of corporate Core-horn-tooting marching bands) in defense poor, picked-on John King. Those two paint King as a dedicated crusader for the educational rights of black, brown and poor students. Meanwhile, in California, whose "educational system has for years been gripped by a kind of 'pobrecito' phenomenon, where hugging kids is too often considered an acceptable substitute for teaching them." Yes, those damn California teachers, with their terrible hugging and niceness and grit-destroying kindness.

As for the W/D-H charge that King's approach is "test and punish," Haycock and Ali deftly dismantle that charge by calling it "preposterous" and then listing-- well, no, actually, all they have for proof is an adjective.

The essential difference between New York and California is that educators in the latter state will never feel consequences themselves. In New York, educators and schools who don't grow their students after years of feedback and support will face consequences. Unless California changes course, their counterparts there will be able to continue doing damage for decades to come.

The reformsters want to see teachers punished for low test scores, and they want to see it now. Nothing else will do. No other method of helping students achieve, nor of measuring that achievement, will do. We must test students, then we must punish their teachers (oh! "test then punish" not "test and punish"!). Only that is "real accountability." Also, knock off that damn hugging.

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