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

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Nebraska Takes a Leap Backwards on Assessment As Christensen Resigns

When I heard Doug Christensen speak at Teachers College, he said that as long as he was State Commissioner of Ed, Nebraska's assessments would not be based on a high stakes test. Well, sadly, Doug is leaving. What a great pick for an Obama Cabinet.

From Monty Neill:
Terrible news - Nebraska Commissioner Doug Christensen is resigning. There is little info in this news clip, but it is highly probably that his resignation stems from the looming legislative decision to destroy the carefully built local assessment system, which has been repeatedly attacked by the federal government and (I've been told by other Nebraskans) a small group of ultra-wealthy Omahans, and replace it with the typical one-size-fits-all testing program. Doug has been harshly critical of such a move, but it is advancing. A year ago, the legislature passed a law for a state test; the Ed Dept was going to create a mix of a state exam (including performance tasks) and the local assessments. At that time, many teachers came out to speak in support of the local assessments, but the legislature ignored them. From my experience and talking with others in and out of Nebraska, it is quite clear that the assessments were steadily improving, teachers were developing much greater assessment knowledge, and the processes not only of assessment but also the growing collaboration among educators in schools that the assessment development process spurred combined to positively improve school educational cultures.

In any event, that law was not good enough for the single-test zealots. They won't ban local assessments, by they will no longer count in the accountability system that NCLB has imposed. That means, as in every other state, pressure to teach to tests combined of multiple-choice items with perhaps a few highly coachable open ended items.

Chalk up another destructive consequence of NCLB, for without that "accountability" pressure, the odds of survival would have been far greater for the Nebraska local assessment system.

If you want a quick read on the benefits of the local assessment system, see Chris Gallagher's article on the North Dakota Study Group website at http://www.ndsg.org/documents.html. His book "Reclaiming Assessment" (Heinemann) is a great read. And the Nebraska Dept of Ed still has valuable information on the state's locally-based assessment system.

I am terribly saddened by this development though it's been coming for the past few months.



Nebraska education commissioner Christensen resigning

LINCOLN (AP) - Nebraska education commissioner Doug Christensen is resigning.

In a letter to the state Board of Education dated Thursday, Christensen said he will step down July 15.

He said his leaving is in accord with the discussions he had with the board during closed sessions in January and March. His letter did not mention any board efforts to change his mind.

It's time to move on to the next phase of his professional and personal life, Christensen said, and to spend more of his days with family.

"I need to be able to schedule my time around their priorities instead of the reverse," he said.

"This decision is not easy," Christensen said. "I can think of hundreds of reasons to stay on and continue this work. But, my heart tells me, now is the time."

In addition, he said, "It is time for me to write the book that I believe is in me."

He didn't say what type of book. An aide in his office Thursday said he was in a board meeting so couldn't be reached. His press spokeswoman did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Christensen has been commissioner since 1994.

He has fought for years to keep Nebraska's unique, district-created assessments, saying local teachers are best equipped to judge their student' achievements.

But the Legislature is considering whether to make standardized tests the state's only tool to measure academic success.

A bill to do so (LB1157) has been given second-round approval. If it became law, it would replace a 2007 law mandating state tests in reading, math, science and social studies beginning in the 2009-10 school year.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law enacted in 2002, states were called upon to devise and offer the same tests in reading and math for every child each year in third through eighth grades, as well as one year of high school.

In 2003, after much resistance from federal education officials, Christensen convinced the U.S. Department of Education to accept Nebraska's unique system and declare that it met the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Christensen's resignation comes near the same time the state will lose another champion of education. Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln, who is chairman of the Education Committee, will be forced out of the Legislature by term limits at the end of the year.

Raikes and Christensen have butted heads over the years over student testing.

"We have not agreed on every issue," said Raikes, who said he wished Christensen well. "On the other hand, the perspective from that position is different."

Raikes said while the state may be losing experienced figures on the education front, it could benefit from new ideas and fresh perspective.

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1 comment:

  1. Damn it.

    I had a feeling he might do that once that bill became a reality.

    I agree... he's the perfect pick for Sec't of Education.