Sunday, February 23, 2014

Less Testing, More Investing

     "Parents want more information, faster, about how their children are performing relative to their peers. And the state is demanding higher levels of measurement, information, and evidence of progress." This statement is from OSC (Educational Assessment Scoring Environment), a company that will be taking state tests of students from our upstate area to Long Island for cheaper, more efficient, computer-assisted scoring. OSC has been seeking certified teachers to participate in scoring for $30 to $40 an hour. An initial inquiry to the company for teachers from our area to participate in scoring got an enthusiastic initial response, but in follow-up, a more cautious request came from the same OSC employee, suggesting a conference call to discuss the "logistics" of upstate teacher participation. The motivation for a move to this type of scoring is described by this company as cost-effectiveness, and the desire to keep teachers in their classroom instead of pulling them away for scoring. While I think these are admirable motives that most would agree with, the "parents want" stuff seems to be more of the snake-oil salesmanship from proponents of what is being called education reform.
     From new standards, to tests, to undermining the input of educators, to the collection and "uploading" of personal data of school students and their families: the increasingly opposed public has been told these efforts will benefit us all.  But I am not so sure that parents need to have their priorities described for them by leaders in business and policy, or that any description of those priorities should could come from those intending to more efficiently turn children and their schools into data to serve the "free market", the "competitive global economy", or any political/financial bottom line. Education is intended to prepare students to navigate and master these forces; help them make the world their own-not hold them accountable to serving it as-is. Public schools, though, have been scapegoated instead of supported in this effort to serve a population whose struggles and instability are increasing as the wealth in our nation trickles up instead of down, and the school funding disparity in NY shows a clear connection between the resources a district is provided and the achievement of its students.
     As a parent, I care little about what numbers the state would seek to stamp on my children, or how they compare to numbers of others. I've evaluated how politicians, corporations and investors handle such numbers and I'd say it's been two years plus of either ineffective or developing results. If our Governor wants to whine about unions and pretend he's on the side of parents, he needs to own up to his responsibilities for aggressively pushing the common core, "race to the top" package from day 1, not just point fingers at the Board of Regents. His failure to address school funding issues and his recent trip to the West Coast for what has been described as a "glitzy L.A. fund raiser" makes me question his priorities and his effectiveness.

Dan McConnell

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