Friday, October 17, 2014

CCSSO & CGCS Offer No Useful Change on Testing

The big news on the street is that the CCSSO and CGCS (state ed leaders and big city school folks respectively) have announced an intention to rein in the testing juggernaut. 

I'm not impressed. To begin with, they put front and center NY State's John King, Louisiana's John White, and DC Public's Kaya Henderson-- three big fresh faces of the anti-public school reformster movement (two TFA temps and a charter profiteer). That's a big fat signal that this not about changing course, but about protecting the current high-stakes test-driven status quo.

And in fact these folks were not there to say, "We realize something is wrong and we're committed to fixing it." They were there to say, "We recognize that we're taking some PR heat on this, so we're going to see if we can't tweak the optics enough to get everyone to shut up while we stay the course." They're going to "look at" testing. Maybe "audit" the number.

Andy Smarick broke the non-event down into Ten Big Takeaways. He tries to sell this as a "smart 'third-way' approach," but it certainly looks like the same old spam to me. Smarick tries to sell the new ... well, "plan" seems like an overstatement. Maybe "expression of a general new inclination"? At any rate, he tries to paint this as a compromise, but it's not.

The whole trick of this new position is that it carefully avoids the most important question. And so we're having a conversation about having less testing without discussing the quality of testing and its role in driving education. We're going to combine tests and streamline tests, but we're not going to discuss the value of the tests or the uses of their results. It's as if we discovered that students were getting arsenic on their school lunch every day and the compromise response was, "Well, let's just look at putting a little less on there." It's like living in a crime-ridden neighborhood and being told, "Good news! The muggers have gotten together and decided that they will coordinate more carefully so that you only get robbed once a day."

John White earns the Dumbest Statement award for the phone conference. He suggests that most of the daily testing is from the everyday work in schools, and characterized local testing as "nonessential." According to the Washington Post, he said, "We believe we can work together with our districts to make sure the testing we have in our states at the state and local level is the minimum necessary to inform our decisionmaking."

So the kind of daily assessments that teachers do in order to know, right now, how well students are grasping the material-- that's what White thinks is nonessential??!! Meanwhile, we need to keep our commitment to standardized testing programs that are no instructional help to classroom teachers at all.

No, the announcement is nothing more than a sort-of-commitment to make testing more efficient, which is about as comforting as knowing that the guy who's planning to punch you in the face is getting a nice manicure.

I am not surprised that reformsters are circling the wagons and figuring out how to protect the testing industrial complex. But I am bum-foggled that people are reporting this under headlines that talk about vows and changes.

The fundamental problem remains-- a systematically toxic dependency on tests that do not measure what they purport to measure in order to use data that is not true to prove things that the data cannot prove, while at the same time reducing public education to a test prep process that steals time and resources from the real process of actual education in order to feed a process bent on reducing students to trained circus animals and teachers to clerical workers.

This is not a step forward. In fact, to the extent that it convinces people we're taking steps forward, it's a step backwards.

1 comment: