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, August 18, 2011

Our Failed Education Discourse

Dana Goldstein and Ezra Klein are two smart, capable writers who know plenty about education policy. And yet, when they get together to discuss teacher evaluation, they completely - COMPLETELY - miss the most important point to be made in the entire debate:

I've watched this twice: there is a lot of talk about using student test scores to evaluate teachers, but not once do either mention that it doesn't work.

There is no debate on this - even the corporate reformers admit that value-added modeling based on standardized test scores is hugely error-prone. Every major research group that has studied this says not to do it, including the National Research Council (p. 8), the "gold standard"of science research in the US. The error rates for misidentifying a teacher are 35% - and that's only the 10%-20% of teachers you could judge with test-based evaluation anyway.

Isn't this the key part of the entire debate? Isn't this the most relevant point to be made in all this?

How in the hell can you have a serious talk about using test scores to evaluate teachers without mentioning that all the research says NOT TO DO IT?!?!

I'm sorry, Ezra and Dana, but this is just not acceptable. You MUST acknowledge this every time you discuss the topic. Omitting the fact that evaluation of teachers by tests scores has huge error rates is like omitting the fact that the Earth is warming from a climate change debate.


Leonie Haimson said...

The entire thrust of this MSNBC discussion is wrong-headed and inaccurate.

Goldstein and Klein blame everything on Congress being deadlocked, and imply that all of the administration's proposals are just jim-dandy, including the Common Core (which has no research basis behind it, which will cost billions to implement, will mean even more high stakes testing, and which Goldstein calls "great" and "very positive." )

She also describes the administration's pre-school initiative as pushing for "higher quality" preschool for poor kids, but ignores how it demands more testing in pre-school, which is entirely unreliable, and many experts believe would have very damaging effects.

Goldstein suggests that the deadlock is due to the Tea party, adopting the new spin of the administration, which totally ignores the growing consensus from stakeholders and progressive thinkers against the administration's priorities -- and ways in which the critique is converging from the left and the right.

To add insult to injury, Klein implies that Matt Damon was expressing his support for the administration's position on Teacher reform and teacher pay -- which is completely opposite to the truth.

Altogether a highly disturbing and deceptive presentation of the issues.

Duke said...

Leonie, it always seems to come down to the same thing: we hear lots of talk about the POLITICS, and almost none about the POLICIES.