Monday, May 9, 2016

Educational conundrum

Interesting. Who Likes Testing? by Walter Russell Mead.

Gallup has released a new study on the attitudes of parents and students to the testing regime in schools (here)

Mead observes:
First, contrary to the common perception, a large majority of students, and a narrow majority of parents, do not believe that there is too much testing. Anti-testing sentiment is much more pronounced among higher education professionals (whose pay and status can sometimes be tied to student scores):
This study identifies an important contrast in views of testing time: Three-quarters of students and more than half of their parents (52%) say students spend the right amount of time or too little time taking assessments. Meanwhile, more than seven in 10 teachers, principals and superintendents say that students spend too much time on assessments.
On the one hand, this result lends support to suspicions that teachers and administrators fight assessment standards as a means of avoiding accountability for learning outcomes. On the other hand, as the authors of the report emphasize, teachers are not hostile to all forms of assessment—while they oppose standardized tests, they are more favorably disposed to various classroom assessments—leaving open the possibility of a reformed testing regime that would be more amenable to teachers while preserving accountability. (Given the intransigence of teachers’ unions in the face of virtually any policy change that could threaten their seniority-based, tenure-for-life system, we are skeptical).
I find that very interesting. From the general media, you would gain the impression that there is overwhelming opposition on the part of everyone to too much testing. Sounds like that the overwhelming opposition is from those being held accountable via test results.
Second, parents in lower-income households are twice as supportive of standardized testing as their higher-income counterparts:
Lower-income parents are more likely than higher- income parents to agree or strongly agree that state tests improve learning. One-third of parents (33%) with a household income under $60,000 agree or strongly agree that state tests improve learning, compared with 16% of parents with an income of $60,000-$89,999; 17% of parents with an income of $90,000-$119,999; 21% of parents with an income of $120,000- $179,999; and 15% of parents with an income above $180,000.
This result likely reflects a sense among poor and working-class parents that their children are getting a raw deal from the public education system, and that standardized testing is an important tool for exposing and resolving inequities. (For upper-middle class parents whose children go to good schools, state testing might seem like at best a waste of time, and at worst an encroachment on their children’s precious individuality). So this is one area where America’s much-maligned “bipartisan elites,” who tend to push a more testing-friendly education reform agenda, really are responding to the policy preferences of ordinary families—even if, by pushing through clunky and needlessly bureaucratic federal testing bills, they are going about it the wrong way.
This is a great insight and makes sense. If you are poor, one of the few means, other than through sports accomplishments, for a child of ability to stand out is via education, a path followed by innumerable immigrant groups in the past to their great personal benefit and to that of our nation.

We spend vast amounts on K-12 education but in the more dysfunctional neighborhoods, the schools seem almost to have become means of denying children opportunity rather than creating it. Testing is one means of finding those who are talented and giving them a chance to escape their circumstances.

But, as Mead points out, testing is not a solution in-and-of itself. Teachers and school administrations need to act on testing results, which they are reluctant to do. Likewise, parents also need to act. Gallup reveals that 61% of parents rarely or never discuss test results with their children. To me, this reveals the crux of the problem. Not completely schools, not completely parents, but a sad mix of inappropriate behaviors between the two of them and to the detriment of the children. It is inappropriate of schools to "fix" parents who send their children to school without a good cultural infrastructure to support them. It appears that schools are incapable of overcoming the consequences of those parental behaviors. That is the conundrum.

No comments:

Post a Comment