Friday, June 15, 2018

MI: When Legislators Don't Understand Testing

Michigan, having gutted its public school system and repeatedly mistreated its teachers, is reaping the consequences in the form of a teacher shortage, which is of course not an actual teacher shortage, but rather a failure of the system to make the job attractive enough to draw people to it.

One legislator had a bright idea about how to fix this-- get rid of one particular requirement:

The bill, approved unanimously by the House Education Reform Committee, eliminates the requirement that new teachers pass a basic skills examination - currently the SAT - before earning a teaching certificate.

There a couple of things to unpack here. One is the notion that the SAT can somehow be used as a "basic skills examination." How does the SAT in any way shape or form resemble such a thing? It's moments like this when I wish the College Board was run by people who were so ethical that they said things like, "No, you can't use the SAT for an exit exam or a basic skills examination because it was never designed for such things. Therefor, we won't give you permission to do it." Instead, we've got the College Board of this world which says things more along the lines of, "Super! Just make the check out to 'College Board' and you can use the SAT to test first grade reading comprehension if you want to!"

But what also jumps out of the coverage of the bill is one particular piece of language:

Sen. Marty Knollenberg, who sponsored the legislation, said requiring prospective teachers to pass the SAT is a burdensome requirement. 

Pass the SAT? What does that even mean? The SAT gives you a score, which as I told my students every year, is neither "good" nor "bad" until the college you're applying to says so. I talk to someone on line with ties to the testing and data biz and she absolutely hates it when people talk about passing or failing test. And yet, here we are, demonstrating once again that civilians (even elected ones) don't understand that tests are produced for very specific purposes and can't just be swapped to whatever purpose you like as if all tests are fundamentally the same. And instead of seeing some rich source of nuanced data that can be carefully decoded for a wealth of information, these citizens just see a thing that you either pass or fail. No more nuance or richness than a light switch.

And these are the people who legislate how tests must be used and what rewards and punishments will be doled out because of them. Yes, one of the biggest problems with modern ed reform is that it's amateur hour in education. Knowing what the heck you're talking about-- that's the test that people in power keep failing.


  1. I'm sure the elimination of that requirement will encourage all the teachers to head to Michigan. /sarcasm

  2. It's interesting how corporate ed. reformers and/or folks involved in de-professionalization of teaching have a situational opinion of the SAT test --- one that varies depending on the purpose or situation at hand.

    When you want to lower the bar of who gets to become a teacher, those SAT scores mean nothing.

    However, when you want to lower the pay that teachers earn --- which also destroys teaching as a profession --- then you know ... maybe those SAT scores might not be so meaningless after all.

    The article (that is the subject of this blow posts) states, "Bill Disessa, a spokesperson for the department, said there's no research showing that individuals who pass the SAT are better teachers."

    I agree with that, as no one's ever come to any agreement or set any kind of score threshold that constitutes "passing."

    However, check this out.

    This other corporate ed. reform group, in pursuit of their goal of gutting the pay/benefits of teachers, attempts to make the argument that teachers are overpaid. In making that case, they use an interesting criterion to prove this:

    So many teachers, by and large .... HAVE SUCH LOW SAT SCORES (???!!!)

    You see, these prospective teachers get into college with such low SAT scores, and then their undemanding college profs in the Ed. Department --- those folks training future teachers --- then start going easy on those future teachers.

    The proof: because those previously low-scores-on-SAT students then get such high grades in their classes --- again, higher grades than they really should be getting, given their comparatively lower SAT scores --- that is they get higher grades, compared to the grades given to students in other college majors or departments.

    I know. This is asinine, but this is what they try to argue:
    "University of Missouri economist Corey Koedel finds that, despite entering college with below-average SAT scores, 'education students receive higher grades than do students in every other academic discipline.' "

    Damn those grade-inflating Ed. Departments professors!

    It gets better. The typical teacher, given his crap-can SAT (or GRE) scores, gets about what he deserves in base salary, but when you factor in what he gets in other benefits, that same typical teacher graduation from these corrupt Ed. Departments is actually suckers down way more cash than he REALLY deserves, compared to what his higher-SAT-score counterparts in other industries are earning.

    NOTE how it's just a given that SAT scores must be blindly accepted as "more-objective measures of ability" of teachers in the classroom.

    Oh yeah? Says who? What does being able to sit down at take a multiple-choice test at age 17 have to do with being able to deliver instruction, plan and execute lessons, produce students who will succeed later in life, etc. when that teacher is in his/her mid-20's, 30's, 40's, 50's?

    "Instead of relying on paper educational credentials, our study analyzed salaries using more-objective measures of ability, such as SAT and GRE scores, and we found that teachers are paid salaries right around where we’d expect, given their skills as measured by these metrics. Moreover, teachers receive pensions, retiree health benefits, and vacation time far exceeding private-sector averages. This makes their total benefits roughly twice as generous as those found in private-sector jobs."


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  4. Until we disabuse ourselves of the notion that standardized tests do anything other than make money for their makers. . . . .