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No One Left Behind, So Now Race To?

April 25, 2010

More action from the Feds. Good or bad?

From Baseline:

For example, the relevant professional associations have jointly endorsed a set of principles on appropriate uses of tests which, among other things, caution against using a particular test for purposes other than those for which its validity has been studied and confirmed.

Despite this caution, policy makers tend to pile extra uses onto tests once they’ve required that students take them—for example, once they’ve got a test that’s been validated as a measurement of individual students’ mastery of grade-level curriculum, they tend to aggregate the results of that test and use them to rate a whole school’s overall performance, as in No Child Left Behind.  The tendency has also been for quantitative performance indicators, even if of somewhat dubious quality, to dominate over other forms of evaluation.  We worry that something similar will happen with the use of student performance in determining teachers’ pay, promotion, or retention.  “The numbers” look objective to people outside schools, while other measures like analysis of lesson plans or documentation of classroom observations seem by comparison to be imprecise means by which the “education establishment” can continue to protect the incompetent.

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