A brief comment to Steph Rivera at Teacher Under Construction:
I don’t know enough about Michael Bloomberg or Michelle Rhee to fully engage with this post and the last, but I would like to say a word about standardized tests. I view the most common criticisms of standardized testing, which you’ve articulated here, as totally valid. Standardized testing of basic proficiency, and the particular ways we pursue it, have serious downsides. But to appropriately weigh these downsides, it’s necessary to consider their full context. And in the context of a functional school, where a myopic focus on test scores might hold great teachers and great students back from doing creative or advanced things, testing looks one way. But in the context of a failing urban school where most students are years behind in most subjects, testing looks quite different.
Standardized tests do at least a serviceable job of testing the basics. And there are a tragically high number of students who don’t know those basics. And these students make up the majority of many student bodies, like those I’ve taught. When the instructions and incentives built around tests work to emphasize basics at the expense of depth, enrichment, critical thinking, creativity, etc., then this is a very serious problem. But when they work to emphasize basics in a way that brings more students closer to proficiency than they would otherwise be, this is progress.
In short, knowing the basics is not as good as deep engagement. But knowing the basics is much better than not knowing the basics.
So when examining standardized testing, it’s important to consider not only how the best teachers and students might be held back, but also how the lowest-performing students might be helped.