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

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Wouldn't Wrap a Fish In the LA Times

Worst editorial of the year? We may have a winner!
Students don't generally like tests, and a certain number of them cheat. Yet it's a rare educator who would advocate eliminating tests or not including them in a student's grade. Why, then, does each new scandal involving cheating teachers and administrators lead to a fresh round of calls to eliminate tests or at minimum not make them count for anything?
OK, stop right there. Are you freaking kidding me? Who is saying we should eliminate tests? Or not make them count? I'll tell you who: no one.

The issue has never been about tests; everyone knows teachers give tests in schools. And the issue has actually never been about standardized tests; almost everyone agrees they can be very useful.

No, the issue - and the LA Times knows this very well - the issue is the use of high-stakes standardized tests. Tests that corporate reformers - with the LA Times leading the pack - now want to use to evaluate teachers to determine their tenure status, pay, and susceptibility to layoffs. Tests that were never designed to evaluate teacher effectiveness in the first place. Tests that, when used to evaluate teachers, have error rates of around 35%.

This is such a stupid conflation of issues that I'm surprised that even a testing whore paper like the LA Times would print it. Then again, it's not a real brain trust over there:
In addition, critics rightly point out that states' annual standardized tests are limited measurements of what students have learned; they were never designed to count for half of a teacher's performance evaluation, as several states and school districts are doing.
Really? Not even half?

Then why in the hell are you posting thousands of teachers' "evaluations" based on those scores?!?!

I am not exaggerating when I say people have literally died because of the LA Times's insistence on publishing data that even they admit doesn't give an adequate picture of a teacher's abilities. They cavalierly defend this clearly deceptive practice and casually smear those who point out how wrong it is. Because if they can get on-line ads to fund this junk, all ethics obviously can be thrown out the newsroom window.
Yet states should not work so hard to prevent cheating that they create a whole new set of onerous regulations; in New York, educators complain that it is now so difficult for students to change an answer that many don't bother.
I have to admit there is a bizzaro-world sort of logic to this. If the misuse of standardized tests is so bad that the error rates make them functionally the same as throwing dice, why worry about cheating at all? Are we worried they'll be even more useless?

One last thought: the LA Times is owned by the Sam Zell's Tribune Company. If you've been following the sad story of corporate education "reform," you've heard of Mr. Zell: he was one of the principal backers of Jonah Edelman's sick little scheme to screw Illinois teachers out of their pensions and workplace protections. The Chicago Tribune, another financially failing property of Zell's, gave the effort its full-throated support.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried, folks.

ADDING: From the Chicago Trib editorial above:
We talk to a lot of students who visit with the editorial board. They know exactly which teachers inspire and which teachers waste their time. Those inspiring teachers and those time-wasters are paid essentially the same salaries. They have the same job protections. The time-wasters aren't pushed out the door to make room for good teachers.
Well, why are we wasting time with all these tests to find the best teachers? Just poll the kids! I'd better buy some new jokebooks...

Oh, and let's get to work on bubble-tests that measure "inspiration."

ALSO: Read your own op-ed page for a rare bout of sanity.

No comments: