Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 19, 2013

Another View: High-stakes tests killing schools

High-stakes tests are killing our schools

If the absence of outrage in response to the standardized scores released Monday puzzles you, consider the absence of any serious, break-the-mold reforms in the ways we educate our kids.

Comedian Jon Stewart wasn’t far off when, during an interview with Michelle Rhee last week, the son of a teacher quipped there has been “no real innovation in education since John Dewey,” the philosopher credited for reforms implemented more than a century ago.

Rhee, you may remember, pioneered new teacher evaluation systems as chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools from 2007 to 2010. The system relied heavily on standardized test scores, and Rhee was ultimately forced out for her heavy-handed — and unsuccessful — tactics. Today, Rhee is pedaling her new memoir, “Radical,” while her successor tries to implement a modified version of Rhee’s accountability system.

It won’t work, of course. Neither will the threat of a state takeover of local schools that fail to bring their MEAP scores up, nor even the push for STEM curriculum such as that at Battle Creek Public’s Dudley elementary.

We have monumental problems in our schools, and testing kids more and blaming teachers when they fail won’t help us solve any of them. Indeed, it will likely make them worse.

High-stakes testing may be the ultimate expression of what’s wrong with education in America, a system that’s been in steady decline for the past four decades, a period that roughly coincides with the rise of standardized testing.

Politicians, statisticians, test-writers and maybe even some educators are enchanted by the idea of an objective measure of a teacher or school’s success, but they seem uninterested in any objective analysis of whether those tests yield any reliable data about what’s happening in the classroom. Instead, repeated failures seem only to fuel the pursuit for a better test.

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