I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Testing Nation

To paraphrase Bob Dylan: "Everybody must get tested!"
Skeptical parents and adamant administrators are squaring off over a surge of new testing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, as teachers watch warily and brace for hours of new work. 
Next week CMS will launch trial versions of 52 new tests, including an exam for kids as young as kindergarteners who must be tested one-on-one. The tests will be used to evaluate teachers, as the budget shrinks and officials prepare to lay off faculty. 
Superintendent Peter Gorman acknowledged Wednesday that the tests put a burden on teachers and volunteers, especially in elementary schools. But he said they ensure that kids get the best possible instruction: "We can see who's a great teacher, who's a good teacher and who's a teacher that needs improvement."
You know, you could have principal and peer evaluations determine that. But I guess it's better to have strangers test kindergartners TWICE - because you'd have to do a pre- and post-test to find teacher effect, right?
All testing is to be monitored by another adult so teachers don't cheat on tests that rate their effectiveness.
For a standard class of 22 students, that's up to 44 hours of adult time spent on testing. 
"It's crazy at a time like this," said Mary McCray, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators. 
Gorman said it's considered "best practice" for teachers to test their own students, because young children respond best to someone they know. But he said assistants, administrators and other faculty could also do testing. 
However, his 2011 budget plan calls for eliminating assistants in grades one and two. [emphasis mine]
Did this guy graduate from the Broad Institute? Because he's as dumb as a bundle of fill-in-the-bubble sheets.

What's finally going to stop this are parents who care about their kids' education enough to stand up and demand that these corporate tools stop implementing their unproven, nonsensical plans:
Parent protests
Katie Catron, a former teacher and member of the Cotswold PTA board, said she learned of the new tests last week, when the school issued a call for volunteers to cover classrooms for four days while teachers give a trial version of the new exams. 
She wrote Gorman and the school board, saying she won't let her kids participate. 
"You are overburdening a system that is at a breaking point," she wrote. "I give full support to the staff at my children's school. This is one area that I must stand up for my children and other CMS students to say enough testing is enough. Find another way to evaluate your staff." 
Gorman and Chris Cobitz, who oversees the new program, say they've gotten several requests for kids to be pulled out of the testing. But CMS won't allow that, they said. 
Catron says that's not CMS' decision to make: "If I have to take my kids out of school next week, I will do it."
Good for her. Maybe if more parents take this attitude, districts can avoid the inevitable lawsuits that are coming from good teachers who were fired on the basis of bad testing.

Until then, follow the money:
Gorman says the $1.9 million for test development came from money left from the 2009-10 budget. Ongoing costs are estimated at $300,000 a year - the equivalent of about six teacher salaries. 
Gorman said that cost is justified by the benefit to students across CMS. Even before results are used for performance pay in 2014, they'll help identify areas where students are struggling. CMS can identify successful teachers in those topics and design training to help others reach students more effectively, he said.
You can design the training now with tons of unnecessary standardized tests, you idiot. And I guarantee you'll be spending much, much more on testing; the security alone will cost you plenty.

Not that the costs of creating and administering bad tests is prohibitive: just get a bunch of $10 an hour temps to plow through them. But the pockets of the testing company owners must be lined.

By the way: when this guy retires, how much do you want to bet he takes a job at one of those companies? The career path of military officer to defense contractor is coming to education, folks: just smell the money.

ADDING: micaela in the comments rightly takes me to task for not following through on my own snark:

micaela said...

yes, OF COURSE he's a Broad alumnus. I'm a CMS parent and I feel sick every time I see/hear him on the evening news.
It's true: Gorman is a Broad Academy grad.

I'm really speechless. I swear to you, I was joking when I made the comment about Gorman being a Broad alumnus.

Lord help us all...


micaela said...

yes, OF COURSE he's a Broad alumnus. I'm a CMS parent and I feel sick every time I see/hear him on the evening news.

Duke said...

OMG. I swear to you - no really, I swear - I said that in jest. I would never have believed he really was a Broad grad.

Reality is trumping satire.

Duke said...

Just to add micaela: thanks for the info and stopping by the blog. Seriously, you've opened my eyes.

Galton said...

As you predicted above, Peter Gorman now works as a VP of sales for AMPLIFY.