Standards, Testing & Accountability

Writing in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, the Lexington Institute's Robert Holland and Don Soifer reject the idea of national education standards on three grounds: that they're not truly voluntary, that they'll inevitably lead to a much-feared "national curriculum, and that part of the roadkill will be Maryland having to replace its "rich," "well-organized" English standards with this unproven multi-state model.

It's premature to evaluate the products of the current "common standards" project being led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers for the subjects of reading/writing and math. The first "public" draft is promised to be available for comment in mid-September. (I saw an earlier version of the reading/writing part a few weeks back??and, within some important limits and caveats, found considerable merit there.)

Yes, those who abhor the thought of national education standards and tests for the United States will find all sorts of reasons to oppose them. I don't know if the forthcoming product, once fully massaged, will be to my liking. But I do know that our present motley array of state-specific standards and assessments is??obsolete and dysfunctional--as well as mediocre or worse in many states....

Gov. Strickland needs to make up his mind about what to do with persistently failing schools in Ohio. Most recently, Strickland's position seemed to indicate that closure was out of the question. As Gongwer News Service reported, Strickland referenced the state constitution as his primary justification.

"Gov. Strickland said a failed Senate amendment, that would have applied the same closure standards for both charters and traditional public schools would have violated the constitutional requirement to provide a free education for Ohio's students.

"I think chronically failing public schools should be reorganized, closed, the leadership should be changed," he said. "So I'm not willing to let public schools off the hook either, but the fact is that it's not possible to actually close a public school because the state is constitutionally required to maintain public schools for the students of our state." (see here for more on this, and Strickland's conversation with Secretary Duncan about charters).

However, it wasn't long ago that Strickland was proposing legislation to shut down entire school districts for non-compliance. During his January State of the State Address, he said, "In short, if a school district fails, we will shut it down."...

Today at a conference hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education, titled Teachers'?? Use of Data to Impact Teaching and Learning , I was quickly reminded of how critical it is to be explicit in describing what one means by phrases like "data-driven instruction." The presenters called for a "fundamental shift" in the way the teaching profession thinks about assessment and student learning. In the new paradigm, teachers would take responsibility for the achievement of all students. They would embrace testing as a tool to improve student learning, rather than bristling at it (see an earlier post about why Cleveland State University education professor Karly Wheatley is wrong to demonize testing).

This sounds like common sense, but it might not be. I wonder if perhaps the two camps (those who rally behind increased testing and data-driven instruction, and those who show hostility toward it) are using two totally different definitions of "testing." Today's conference reiterated that assessment can take many forms, and encompasses far more than the end-of-year summary assessments???i.e. state standardized tests. I imagine this is the type of testing that Wheatley has in mind when he describes the collateral damage it creates. But...

Amy Fagan

Stay tuned???..tomorrow we will be releasing our next report: "The Great Graduation Rate Debate." It's a very helpful primer on a very complex topic, and it'll be up on our website in the morning!

The Education Gadfly

Fun Fact Friday! - Per Pupil Spending and NAEP Test Scores from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

Don't miss our other videos in the Fun Fact Friday! series:

Student/teacher ratio (starring marshmallows)

Star Wars and calculators



U.S. per pupil spending in constant 2006-2007 dollars:

National Center for Education Statistics

U.S. long-term trend reading scores for 9-year-olds:

National Assessment of Education Progress,

National Center for Education Statistics

Alex Klein


"I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States." --President Obama, in his speech to the NAACP

AP: Obama Stresses Education in Speech to NAACP


2 : The number of Ohio standardized tests that got the axe. Leglislators agreed to drop the fifth-grade social studies and fourth-grade writing exams, which will save the state $4.4 million over the next two years.

Columbus Dispatch: Two standardized exams fail budget test

Alex Klein


"The bottom line is that we have to both give our students credit for the progress they've made, but also accept the reality that more must be done before we can have the best school system in the nation." --Richard Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago

ChiTrib:??Chicago school officials tout higher test scores


40 : The number of erasures found on some 2008 fifth grade math exam answer sheets in Georgia. When certain schools' low sixth grade scores made the high fifth grade scores suspect, the Governor's office conducted an audit. (The average answer sheet has only 2 erasures.)

AP: Georgia could toss suspect math exam results

Laura Pohl

Checker discusses national standards with John Merrow in this interview on the Taking Note blog. The conversation covers the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), No Child Left Behind and includes Checker's judgment on the direction of U.S. education:

A big modern country like the U.S. on a shrinking planet in the 21st century needs to move in the direction of national standards and tests, yes. Whether the present approach will get us there nobody can yet say. We had a false start or two in the nineties; it's not beyond imagining that we could have another one now.

Read the whole interview here.

Amy Fagan

Well, well, well. Looks like our Mike Petrilli is unstoppable. This week he burst onto the scene in the land of cheese and football. The land of the Green Bay Packers! That's right. Mike wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. He didn't exactly mince words though ??? he criticized Wisconsin for having ???some of the easiest tests in the country??? and for ???playing games??? with the implementation of No Child Left Behind. Hmmm??????.well, at least he didn't botch the name of their football field!