Is everything for which reformers fight actually making things worse?
Photo by ToniVC
"Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know, singing
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure?
Or am I part of the disease?"
-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002
I am haunted by the title of your post: "The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap" Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?
"It's OK to ask: 'What if I'm wrong?'" you wrote last week. So let me ask it. It wouldn't be the first time. A year ago, for example, I explored the "test score hypothesis"—a line of reasoning, undergirding much of the reform movement, that says that if we can significantly improve low-income students' math
On Monday, we kick off By the Company It Keeps in what I think is an exciting and important way. (It’s also going to be out of the norm, but more on that below.)
Three very influential organizations working on one of our field’s most important topics participated in a revealing Q&A.
I’ve been writing about the Common Core–aligned testing consortia for some time now, occasionally raising concerns about how things were progressing and what that meant for the future of high-quality assessments and the standards themselves.
Then a couple weeks ago, I wrote a short piece raising the ante, in effect wondering if we had reached a serious turning point. Independently, Checker, reading the same tealeaves, wrote a longer, more detailed piece drawing the same conclusion.
In short, we both suggested that an exodus from the consortia might be on the horizon.
Whether you’re a CCSS supporter or opponent, this should matter to you. Assessments are an essential part of meaningful standards-and-accountability systems. Their results tell us a whole lot about our schools, districts, teachers, and kids. And they are expensive.
These assessments are particularly important. They are supposed to be aligned with new common standards. They are supposed to be “next generation.” They are supposed to generate data that can be compared across states. They are supposed to give us a true reading on our students’ college- and career-readiness. They are being created by consortia of states. And
Thanks for inviting me to join you on your blog. Even though we disagree on many issues, I have great respect for you and the work you've done in your career.
As I write this, I'm returning from the Education Writers Association annual conference, held this year at Stanford. I spoke on a panel about the "opportunity gap" with professors Sean Reardon and Prudence Carter. Reardon, as you know, recently published a fascinating but sobering study about the growing income achievement gap. (ASCD's Educational Leadership has an accessible version of the study available online.) And Carter co-edited the new volume, Closing the Opportunity Gap.
What Professor Reardon's research shows is that, over the last 60 years, the achievement gap between the nation's poorest and richest students has widened dramatically. That's true of both test scores and college attainment.
It's not that poor children are falling behind the middle class. It's that the richest students are breaking away from everybody else.
Photo by John-Morgan
This finding is not surprising for people who have been paying attention, but what is surprising is where the gap lies. It's not that poor children are falling behind the middle class—they're not. It's that the richest students are breaking away from everybody else.
Dr. Bennett recently spoke at the Fordham Institute on the state of American education.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
William J. Bennett, former U.S. education secretary (and former NEH chairman, drug czar, widely published author, radio host, and political commentator) recently spoke at the Fordham Institute on the state of American education.
On the thirtieth anniversary of A Nation at Risk (watch our video retrospective on the paper here), Dr. Bennett talked about where we’ve come with NAEP scores and other indicators—with real gains in fourth grade, modest improvement in eighth, and none whatsoever in twelfth. (That’s true of other high school indicators, too.)
Bennett noted, too, that school choice has made great strides, technology is playing a promising (but as yet unfulfilled) role in education, and Americans now know the difference between teachers and teachers unions. Mostly good news—but not all. Our worst subject, he made clear, is history (U.S. history in particular), as well as civics—and offered the excellent work of E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation as at least a partial solution to this acute problem.
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
May 16, 2013
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