Monday, August 12, 2013

Inequality for all

There is a manufactured crisis going on where standardized test scores are used to undermine confidence in public schools so that education entrepreneurs can pour private equity and venture capital into companies that aim to profit from the public.

Here is an excerpt from my article Telling Time with a Broken Clock: the trouble with standardized testing:
Alfie Kohn begins his article “Fighting the Tests: A practical guide to rescuing our schools” by stating, “Don’t let anyone tell you that standardized tests are not accurate measures. The truth of the matter is they offer a remarkably precise method for gauging the size of the houses near the school where the test was administered.”[4] The inconvenient truth about standardized testing is that socio-economic status is responsible for an overwhelming proportion (50 to 70 percent) of the variance in test scores. The strongest predictor of student performance on achievement tests is socio-economic status, which is why it is a mistake to believe that the scores tell us about school quality when really they are reflecting affluence or poverty. 
No school or school system has ever become great without great teachers, but what can an excellent teacher do about a child who needs glasses or is hungry? To say that teacher or school quality is the most important variable in education is at best naive. Education historian Diane Ravitch writes, “Reformers tell us that teachers are the most important influence within the school on student scores, and that is right. But the teacher contribution to scores is dwarfed by the influence of family and other out-of-school factors.”[5] 
Ultimately, great teachers make great schools, but great teachers can’t do it alone – they require the support of an equitable society. If we are not careful, we risk misinterpreting the scores, and instead of waging war on poverty and inequity, we end up waging war on teachers and schools.
Ultimately, if you care about standardized test scores, then you have to care about income inequality and poverty -- which is why some of Robert Reich's work is so important. Check out this trailer for a new movie titled Inequality for All.

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