Thursday, May 29, 2014

Transparency For Reals

Reformsters loves them some transparency. However, by "transparency" what they means is "we want to show your school scores and teacher VAM scores and other fun data-ish stuff to the whole world." But if that's transparency, then Phyllis Schlafly is a stripper. "Transparency" means that the man behind the curtain will pass out some numbers and we will treat them as revelation.

Well, bullocks to that. Here's how we could have some real transparency.

Test Transparency

Along with the score, all parents will receive the completed version of their child's test. A complete copy of the test, with their child's answers marked, plus a brief explanation of why the correct answer is correct.

Parents will receive a complete guide to correlating questions to test areas. IOW, "Question 5 measures the student's ability to make inferences from text." Both these and the tests will be available to any member of the public.

Scoring Transparency

If there is any sort of conversion process to turn a raw score into a final score, that process will be made public. Also available in print and on the net will be an explanation of how the cut scores were set. It should be in the kind of English used by actual human beings.

For tests that involve human scorers, that facility will be open to tours by any interested members of the public. The training manual for those scorers will also be published on paper and net. Scorers names and qualifications will also be available upon request. None of those workers will be under any sort of gag order whatsoever-- they can talk to anybody about any aspect of their work at any time. They can write operas about it and perform them on street corners.

If the test is assessed by computer, that will, first of all, not be a secret. Second of all, any documentation necessary to establish that the program is more dependable than a hamster in a box will be readily available.

Validity Transparency

All data supporting the assertion that the test is valid and reliable will be published in their entirety. Honestly, I don't know why these people are scared of this-- there won't be three people in the country who can bear to read through it. Likewise all data about the field testing of tests will be available for anybody who can stand it.

Data Transparency

All federal, state and local school entities will publish clearly and publicly what other entities will be using test data. All of them.

I actually like the idea of a requirement that every time a piece of your child's data changes hands (so to speak) or is used, the parents are emailed a notification. I balk on this only because I suspect everybody's email would quickly become unusable.

Financial Transparency

Every test will come with a clear indication of who is making money for it. The price per unit of the test will be printed on the front cover, just like a magazine. ("Hey Mom! We took a fifty dollar test today!")

All not-for-profit schools will publish in big bold letters how much they pay their various officials. Maybe on numbers across the back of a jersey that said officials must wear to work every day.

VAM Transparency

All VAM systems must publish their computing formulas in full. With a complete explanation. If the explanation cannot be understood by an average college-educated 22-year-old, the system must be thrown out and started over. All VAM systems must also publish any and all studies done to create the impression that VAM works.

In short, stop throwing numbers around an insisting that if they're numbers they must be True. If you want to be transparent, then stop hiding the heart and spine of this bogus data system in a dark black box. 

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