"[I]f I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." --Charles Darwin

Monday, August 8, 2011

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

This story in the Washington Post starts off with some good news:
School leaders in Virginia and Maryland said they are likely to seek exemptions for the most stringent requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law after an announcement Monday that the Obama administration will offer flexibility to states willing to modernize their accountability systems.
Sadly, this is not prompted by the realization that the accountability systems don't make sense, but that most states will not reach the 2014 goals set in the original act. Education officials have got it partially right, saying they want to focus on improvements in performance, not on predetermined proficiency goals.

But the bigger problem is that there is no proven, reliable way to measure what has been learned. We can monitor what teachers intend to teach, we can measure the amount of information that has been memorized, but we still don't know how to measure learning. Which is not to say we should give up. But we need to stop pretending that standardized tests, especially multiple-choice and short answer tests, measure anything valuable at all.

I hope all 50 states apply for waivers to provide for time to figure out new, sound and reliable ways to measure what students are learning, and even better yet -- how the heck it happened...Link happened...

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