"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Orgies of Tabulation

Michael Winerip reminds us that during this current orgy of tabulation (we had another one during the first eugenics craze of the 1920s), we now impose 45,000,000 standardized tests every year. And that doesn't count the SAT, ACT, GRE, and other tests used by professional credentialing.

Oh yes, we have come a long way since the first IQ tests were used to determine which GIs in WWI would get desk jobs and which ones would end up in the trenches of France. Now we use them to to justify the creation of urban work camps for the poor that begin in kindergarten (click here for some video clips of "direct instruction" if you think your stomach can take it).

The focus of Winerip's piece is on how NCLB pressures have undercut the "world-class standards" the testing hysteria was supposed to solidify. He quotes Thomas Toch, who is the author of a new study, Margins of Error: The Testing Industry in the No Child Left Behind Era (305K) [description] [download]:
"The scale of N.C.L.B. testing requirements, competitive pressures in the testing industry, a shortage of testing experts, insufficient state resources, tight regulatory deadlines and a lack of meaningful oversight of the sprawling N.C.L.B. testing enterprise are undermining N.C.L.B.'s pursuit of higher academic standards," he writes. And that is from a man who supports the federal law.
And here is another from Jim Popham, who points out that states spending the funds to develop valid and reliable tests are being underfunded, thus pressuring them to use the same off-the-shelf junk that is sold by companies like Bush family friends, McGraw-Hill:
"Connecticut's reputation is to produce tests that are the best in the country," says James Popham, a national testing expert who is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The Feds' position is so shortsighted. N.C.L.B. is supposed to be increasing the caliber of education and this is lowering it. It's eroding the power of the test to explain what kids can and cannot do."

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