The proficiency debate goes round and round

Sending an e-mail to ed-reformers and asking for their two cents results in a many responses, as Michael Petrilli learned when he shared his article “The Problem with Proficiency” and asked, “Who’s with me?”

Here’s a small snapshot of the thoughtful, respectful, and fifty-eight-round (!) conversation that included forty-some opinionated edu-thinkers.

  • “I would argue we need a different accountability system,” writes Randi Weingarten. “One that :

1. Pressures all of us to do better, by shining the spotlight particularly on our most vulnerable children, and what we are doing to help them succeed;

2. Credits improvement appropriately;

3. Defines success (and frankly, proficiency) radically differently than by a test score; and

4. Includes accountability for what we value—and for managerial steps that must be taken such as the provision of supports, not simply outcomes.”

  • “The big question to me is not who holds the bag on the end of year test result, but how we transform the quality of daily work,” asked David Coleman, president of College Board. “How can teachers and students engage in excellent work on a far larger scale?”
  • Frequent Flypaper blogger Andy Smarick tunes in on the state aspect: “The entity that SHOULD be held most accountable, but is actually LEAST accountable, is the state. State constitutions empower/require state governments to ensure kids are educated. If we're displeased with results, and the state is ultimately responsible, we need to hold state governments to account...meaning change how they organize the delivery of education.”
  • Suzanne Tacheny Kubach, executive director of the PIE Network, tied the conversation to Common Core: “Most intriguing, ‘standards’ don’t even make sense to parents as an idea unless you measure them. I wished we’d videoed those moments in the conversations: If you suggested having standards but no common tests, parents got mad. They literally pushed chairs back from the table or threw pens down to make their point. ‘You can’t say you have a standard if you don’t also measure it.’” (For another great read from Suzanne, check out Getting Back to the Head Nod on Common Standards.)
  • Checker Finn—calling the last (public) shot in “Let’s hear it for proficiency”—posited that in the real world, proficiency matters:

“All true—but not reason enough to abandon proficiency. Not, at least, so long as it matters greatly in the real world. Do you want the pilot of your plane to be proficient at take-offs and landings or simply to demonstrate improvement in those skills? (Do you want to fly on an airline that uses only “growth measures” when hiring pilots?)”

Alas, there was no final agreement on proficiency. I’m sure Mike would love you hear your view. (Tweet your thoughts to @MichaelPetrilli.)

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