Thursday, April 4, 2013

Eugene Robinson gets it right on "the racket with standardized test scores"

Pulitzer prize winning opinion writer Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post recently got it right on the corrupting influence that high-stakes tests combined with merit pay-performance bonuses have become in American education. 

On April 1, 2013 he wrote about the most recent indictments of numerous officials of Atlanta Public Schools.

In his opinion article "The racket with standardized test scores" Robinson states:
  • " It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket."
  • "I mean that literally. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of the Atlanta public schools, was indicted on racketeering charges Friday for an alleged cheating scheme that won her more than $500,000 in performance bonuses."
  •  “Principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated,”
  • "The principal and teachers would get bonuses. Hall would get accolades, plus a much bigger bonus."
  • "And students — duped into thinking they had mastered material that they hadn’t even begun to grasp — would get the shaft."
  • "In the District of Columbia, for example, there are unanswered questions about an anomalous pattern of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets during the reign of famed schools reformer Michelle Rhee"
  • "Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets."
  • "But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security?"
  • "... even absent cheating, the blind obsession with test scores implies that teachers are interchangeable implements of information transfer, rather than caring professionals who know their students as individuals. It reduces students to the leavings of a No. 2 pencil."
  • "School reform cannot be something that ostensibly smart, ostentatiously tough “superstar” superintendents do to a school system and the people who depend on it."
In other words, corruption is the inevitable result of this false approach to so-called school reform, and the result is always detrimental to students, parents and the public interest in public education.