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A concerned member of the human race

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Costs of Trying to Game the Systems of the Educational Deformers: For Better or For Worse, For Richer, For "Richerer," in Sickness and in Health

Since 2007, the Bloomberg administration evaluated N.Y.C. schools by assigning A-F grades.  Due to this junk science, schools were closed, teachers turned into vagrant ATRs and communities split apart.  Meanwhile, charter schools gained footholds, pushing the truly public schools aside.

Schools gamed the system for survival as well as administrative merit pay.  Schools worked hard to find ways to graduate more students.  Academic standards suffered.  Credit recovery reigned supreme.  Teaching became increasingly test prep.  Limited resources were siphoned towards aiding the metrics.  For anyone who recognizes the true value of a solid education, so much went wrong--and is still going wrong.  Many schools lost newspapers, afterschool activities, library materials, art and music classes and classroom supplies.

 In "Adjustment Options to Common Core Implementation," issued on February 10, 2014 by the State Education Department, it states:
"The Regents and the Department strongly discourage 'test prep' practices because research demonstrates that is not how students learn best.  In addition, students perform best on local, regional, statewide or national assessments when they have great teachers delivering high quality instruction aligned to rigorous standards.  Rote test prep practices are incompatible with highly effective teaching and lead to lower student performance" (p.16).
I couldn't agree more.  Yet, as long as the test are made high-stakes for teachers, administrators and schools, intense pressure to gear classes and school budgets towards test prep will continue.  And this learning isn't lasting.  Sadly, we are all becoming "Stanley Kaplanized."
Even Roxbury Prep, the school which now State Education Commissioner John King helped found, obtained stellar data at the expense of high suspension and attrition rates.  King is praised for leading the school towards the most impressive state exam scores of all urban middle schools in Massachusetts.  Yet, apparently the school's suspension rate at the time of King's intendancy was 70%.  Roxbury's overall attrition rate was 8.5%, compared to the state average of 2.6%.  Roxbury's male attrition rate was 11.3%, compared to the state average of 2.7%  Roxbury's attrition rate for students with disabilities was 16.7%.  The state average was 2.4%.  King's data should be taken to the dungeon.

President Obama's has a campaign now to rate colleges based upon the percent of Pell Grants, average tuition, loans, debts, scholarships, graduation rates, transfer rates, graduate earnings and advanced degrees.  I can hear the sirens and see the red lights.  I fear the colleges will be destroyed.  I fear some college administrators will game the system either to save their school or to earn federal financial bonuses.  And education will suffer terribly in the process.  I fear for the liberal arts.  Schools will be geared towards turning out dollar-earning dynamos.  The value of my education is not quantifiable and it certainly doesn't translate in any utilitarian fashion into dollars and cents.  I'll not measure my worth in dollars or data points.  I teach, therefore I am.

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