consultants are sandburs

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Two intelligent and well-intentioned gentlemen have a decidedly bad idea and want you to buy into it. What is an educated person? Is "teach to the test" worth a pinch of dirt? It is what they will get, and teaching to the test presumes the test itself is worth a pinch of dirt in predicting a youngster's future.

If either of the two gentlemen can tell me, no twitter word limit, what a "quality education" is then think about their idea. The proposal is instead circular. If a measure is touted as able to define at a young age whether someone is "educated" with "quality" then, does it? It measures only what it can, differences between how different students do, at the standardized test. A no-good test can produce negative quality, turning out tuned persons who may be good with that test, but failures and ill-educated, in truth.

These two gentlemen can cause much more harm than good, if taken seriously. Read three items, Strib on the proposal and the teachers union's reaction to it, here and here respectively; and the proposal, here. Nobody seems attuned to the fact that being educated is not something you can put a yardstick upon. I consider Obama more educated than Pence. Am I right? Wrong? Taking a position that says, better school, better spoken, are measures of better education.

These two gentlemen are chasing a ghost and in the process messing in areas where they are more danger than help. Each has succeeded where you and I have acheived less. Should we blame our third grade teacher? Chance? Politics? All such outside of school factors.

Some people are smarter than others. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but schools passing ill-prepared students into grades according more to their age than their capability makes the range of "education" received differ, within a school, and while using some average test result, School 1 scores higher on average, vs some average for a School 2 elsewhere, who can legitimately say School 1 is a higher quality school than School 2 - providing a higher quality education - based on a test having no guarantee of measuring any truly meaningful thing whatsoever. Any cogent adult knows that is actually nothing but blowing smoke. Junk test; worthless results. Perhaps even counterproductive results - changing a curriculum to better test scores, but providing misguided inferior "education" by doing that.

Standardized testing gives a measure of differences in test results, but how can you go from that to saying, "Perfect test, perfect measuring tool, one school is educating young children better than another if student average test scores differ school to school. It does not follow. The tests do not measure anything worth believing in, and until you can say that is not so, stop touting unverifiable claims about "fixing" education.

As a start, the two proponents of change should first read and understand, "The Education of Henry Adams." It starts things at a more insightful level than "Teach to the test."

Big question someone should ask the two savants - has either looked at the standardized testing used to "measure" student and school differences? Not even studied it and its rationaile in the eyes of the test authorship cabal, just read through a copy, with an open mind? Can either say, "I checked it out, and it seems a fine, near-perfect measure of a student's future quality and worth to society?"

If each answers, "No," send them home, each with a demerit. If either says "Yes," and cannot cogently explain that answer; two demerits, and a note to parents saying "Failed wannabe reformer."

Strib publishes about testing in Minnesota. At a time when the State cuts reliance on the ACT standardized test, the two proponents of a greater reliance on test results - inevitably causing teaching to the test - have ducked the "quality of the measurement" question which haunts their idea, via injecting some reality.

These two men are on a mission with a half-baked idea they cannot ground upon anything beyond a reliance upon testing to measure  relative quality between two schools - presuming without any sufficient evidence that the test actually measures something worth measurement, and that a school with a higher standardized test average is de facto a better program with the lower average score institution obliged to change. Dumb? Ya betcha. What change besides teaching to the test in managing curriculum design/modification.

To the extent teaching to the test is employed, and encouraged by civic leaders, a false sense of testing reliability attaches, whether deserved or not. If not "falsle" reliance, it is unjustified reliance. Again, has either of the gentlemen looked at the test in order to form any personal opinion of its worth? It appears from reporting that testing is presumptively embraced as legitimate. Is it? Who can say?

Finally, consider a college-prep oriented test - used by some higher educators as an admissions measure -  What cause or value is there in wanting non-college oriented students to take a test, so that an average over the entire student body can be calculated to say whether the school needs change. Turning to over-simplifications of what "an education" is and how it is brought to light is a doomed or potentially doomed way to regress in educating the Starte's young population.

Extreme care with hare-brained suggestions is merited. A banker, and a judge who built his name and fame initially in football, paired, still have to prove they know what they are talking about when moving outside of their narrow professional experiences and expertise, to tell others how to do other jobs that neither of the two gentlemen have held at all, never mind length of tenure as a seasoning thing.

__________FURTHER UPDATE__________
Latest Strib item, an LTE from Steve Ford, a former middle-school teacher.