April 11, 2015

The idea that standardized tests for school kids are "a civil right."

Argued in a WaPo column titled "Is it a student’s civil right to take a federally mandated standardized test?" Excerpt:
[C]ivil rights advocates don’t trust states to pay attention to disadvantaged children if they aren’t required by federal law to test and make public the scores of blacks, Hispanics, students with disabilities and English-language learners....

States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing as a way of shirking accountability, Henderson said. “This is a political debate, and opponents will use cracks in the facade as a basis for driving a truck through it,” [said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group of civil rights advocates that includes the NAACP and the National Urban League].
Further down in the column — 15 paragraphs later — there's the news that Henderson gets paid something like $88,250 a year from the Educational Testing Service for sitting on its board of directors.
He said there was no conflict between lobbying for testing and earning income from a testing company. “I wanted to understand how testing is used and the quality of measurements,” Henderson said, explaining why he joined the ETS board about a decade ago. “It’s been a useful grounding in understanding the science of psychonometrics.”
It's also useful to be grounded in understanding the science of bullshit-o-metrics.

25 comments:

JAORE said...

It is easier to stand on principles when they consist of a tall stack of cash.

Heartless Aztec said...

As an attorney once told me - "follow the money".

Bob Ellison said...

That's Rolling-Stone-level journalism.

Crimso said...

"States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing as a way of shirking accountability"

That's an interesting assertion. The teachers I know who complain about standardized tests do so on the basis that their class time is spent on teaching to the test, to the exclusion of teaching material that may be just as or more important than that deemed by outfits like ETS. With all their fancy "scientific" psychonometrics (Google it; don't worry, you'll get a link that will bring you right back). IOW, they bend over backwards to get their students to score higher (to the point of very nearly giving them tests that contain the answer in the question). So Henderson assumes these tests are valid instruments, because SCIENCE!

John Lynch said...

Ted Kennedy sponsored No Child Left Behind for exactly this reason.

hoyden said...

WaPo; Pravda on the Potomac, with less subtlety.

Tank said...

When I was in second grade we moved from NY to NJ. I started in a new class of 31 (yes 31) kids I had never met before. Two weeks later (at most) I knew who the smart kids were, who the middling kids were and who the one "slow" kid was.

No standardized tests were involved.

Total cost: Zero Dollars.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Follow the money cause there is gold in the standardized testing crony industry.

SGT Ted said...

What happened to the "standards and testing is racist" narrative?

Did it go sour, like last months cottage cheese?

CWJ said...

I had no idea that simply sitting on a board of directors could be so lucrative. Is this pretty standard? I always thought the value was primarily social and business networking with a side order of influence peddling.

Since Althouse characterized this as "paid," does he get his expenses reimbursed on top of that?

Pettifogger said...

If there's a civil right to accountability in education, it must arise from a civil right to a decent education. That civil right might lead to all kinds of interesting remedies. School vouchers, anyone?

Jess said...

I'd prefer a test for the administrators of education funds. Let private sector business owners compile the question. That, and the complete removal of the federal government from education. To me, it makes no sense to allow an entity that can't balance its checkbook to be involved with educating children, and young adults.

PB said...

If it's the student's right, then they are free to exercise it or not, not have it be compulsory.

Gabriel said...

Let's not forget why standardized testing got so big in the 2000's--because of crap schools.

They claim that now they have to "teach to the test", so they can;t really educate--so what was the excuse before?

NCLB has definitely not made educational outcomes better, but it has not made them worse. They are essentially where they were in 1970, except that we are now paying three times as much, in inflation-adjusted dollars per pupil, as we did them.

Michael K said...

The states have an interest in generating an educated population. For that reason, some years ago, California passed a proposition that ended "English as a Second Language" teaching.using "bilingual" methods. IN that system, the students were taught in their native language until well along in the academic course. The result was people who could not speak unaccented English. English speakers need to learn the language by age 10 to avoid retaining an accent.

Did it work ? I don't know. A lot of these kids speak Spanish in the home and their English proficiency is limited by their experience. I do know that teaching in Spanish will result in NONE of them speaking native English.

The current education fad, which come along every few years, is inhibiting teaching. My grandson is having trouble with fourth grade math and his teacher has told his mother she cannot do the problems the "Common Core" way either.

Common Core and immigration will elect the next Republican president if only a candidate is smart enough to make the case well.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Here in Philly,the student's parents have begun a movement to opt of taking the tests.

Eleanor said...

I taught in a large high school (over 2400 students) with a large immigrant population. When non-English speaking kids enter school in the elementary grades, English immersion is a great way to the get the kids fully up to speed and on track in school. But when a high school student enters for the first time, it takes a long time for them to move from a social level of speaking English to an academic level. While they're working on that, if they aren't being taught at least some of their academic subjects in their first language, they fall way behind. Depending on how late into their schooling they enter, they may never qualify for a high school diploma. We need a blended system because one size does not fit kids of all ages.

Sydney said...

The whole testing industry is lucrative. There's a bit of a scandal going on now in the field of medical specialty testing where the CEOs of the specialty boards average pay of $800,000 or more and spend millions on lavish buildings. At the same time there is no evidence that the measures they are charging physicians for are accurate reflections of competence.

buwaya said...

Several states had comprehensive testing systems prior to Federal legislation, such as Texas and California. I have been doing independent analysis of the results of these programs almist from their beginnings. The correct reason to run such testing programs is to create a feedback mechanism to judge teaching methods, content and structures. They provided, over two decades now, some very clear lessons. Texas adopted some real functional reforms driven by testing, California did nearly nothing, in spite of having a superior system of analysis (my opinion). A look at the relative positions of Texas and California in NAEP is instructive, especially if one disaggregates by race. Texas kids of every race beat their California cousins silly. Testing alone does nothing much unless one is willing to accept that its data will drive policy.

Fernandinande said...

Gabriel said...
NCLB has definitely not made educational outcomes better, but it has not made them worse.


They're slightly worse than in the 1970s; different population.

"Is it a student’s civil right to take a federally mandated standardized test?"

No, but anyone who wants to take some test can pay money and take it.

States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing
is related to
Henderson gets paid something like $88,250 a year from the Educational Testing Service for sitting on its board of directors.

Since race, rather than poverty/income (unless by "poor" he menat poorly performing) is a better predictor of which side of "the gap" one will be on, he was actually referring to black and possibly mestizo students. He's on the ETS board because: lawsuits about that fact and because he's black so...the consistent testing gaps are not as racist or something.

Figure 5. Point gaps are artifacts. "Shaded areas are passing percentages. Setting the passing score at level 1 produces a gap of 34 points. At level 2 the gap shrinks to 14 points."

Gahrie said...

What happened to the "standards and testing is racist" narrative?

They are using the discrepencies as a justification for more funding for minority and innercity schools now days.

CWJ said...

buwaya puti makes an analytic comment with far more heft and common sense behind it than most others. I commend him/her.

At some point we lost track of actually trying to accomplish anything. Tools become totems. Once the personal becomes political (comrade), posturing and appearance take center stage. What works and reinforcing it is so last century.

n.n said...

The irony of individual achievement suffering under minority leaders has escaped their grasp.

That said, whatever happened to the demand for privacy?

For disparity purposes, should our health records also be made public? Should capital executions (i.e. elective abortion) also be made public? Are they feigning concern for individual or class welfare? The social complex is progressive and dysfunctional.

kcom said...

"Ted Kennedy sponsored No Child Left Behind for exactly this reason."

I thought it was because of the disastrous outcome of his No Mary Jo Left Behind policy. He wanted a second chance.

Lady Liberty 1885 said...

I am sure Ann saw The Reverend Al coming out on this same issue?

http://wp.me/p14vwx-3rW