THE RUBRIC for the very first standardized test that Todd Farley scored seemed simple: one or zero. If the fourth-grade student provided just one example of bicycle safety in a drawing—wearing a helmet, both hands on the handlebars or stopping at a red light—he’d get a one. No examples—zero.
But for Farley, author of Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, it wasn’t that simple. The student had indeed included one example: the rider in the drawing was wearing a helmet. He was also doing an Evel Knievel-like leap over a chasm spewing flames. Baffled, Farley consulted his supervisor; he was told that the rider was wearing a helmet and that that was enough to indicate that the child understood the basics of bicycle safety. Score: One.
Farley encountered many answers that did not quite fit the rigid set of rubrics in his 15-year career. One high school girl who wrote a beautifully moving and well-constructed essay about “A Special Place” could only rate a three out of four because her piece did not include the words “a special place.” Farley also cites a number of questionable practices by the testing company, including hiring scorers not fluent in English, requiring workers to mark one essay every two minutes for eight hours a day and little cross-checking of scores. . . .
This is an excerpt from Lisa Haver’s commentary in today’s Daily News, “Let’s flunk school testing and save our kids’ futures.” It is an excellent analysis of the limitations of No Child Left Behind and standardized testing, and is an apropos rebuttal to Dom Giordano’s recent article “Let’s start grading teachers.”
Giordano asked for a debate, and he got one. I hope you’re listening Dom! You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.
Thanks for reading.
by Christopher Paslay
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has a new plan to cut drop-out rates in America: Publicly humiliate high schools with poor graduation rates by placing them in the spotlight. She plans to do this by forcing states to use a uniform reporting system to track drop-outs, graduates and transfers (this will allow states to better compare rates and thus hang poor performers out to dry). She will also use No Child Left Behind to raise the goals for graduation rates in the 2012 school year, and penalize schools who don’t meet these goals by firing principals and forcing them to pay out of pocket for extra tutoring (if only the drop-out rate could be fixed by more tutoring!).
The power of the spotlight is what’s important about No Child Left Behind,” Spellings said. “We haven’t really tracked high school accountability, and this is a giant step toward doing that.”
Spellings vision is interesting indeed. Hold the school accountable for students dropping-out, not the child or the parents. I wonder how this is supposed to work? Are we going to make every public high school a boarding school so teachers can keep 24 hour tabs on wayward teenagers and eliminate truancy? Are we going to send out the National Guard on camouflage trucks every morning to yank disillusioned students out of bed, hose them down and haul them off to school?
Are we supposed to use mental telepathy like Carrie White from that Stephen King novel? Wiggle our noses and make students show up for class? Tap out feet and make them get off drugs, put down their cell phones and iPods and come into the building all smiles, motivated and ready to learn?
These new requirements initiated by Margaret Spellings are further proof that her grasp of public education in America is tragically limited. It’s one thing to hold schools accountable for the content being taught inside classrooms (such as English and Math), but it’s another thing to hold teachers and principals accountable for the values a student is suppose to be learning at home—their desire to take advantage of a free public education.
Everyday hard working educators across America do their best to offer students a top notch education. And how does Spellings thank us? By threatening to publicly humiliate schools because unappreciative teenagers from dysfunctional families throw their educations out the window.
Spellings and her logic are as broken as our nation’s drop-outs. Let’s just hope President Elect Barack Obama has more sense when it comes to schooling America’s children.