What’s Really Scandalous About the School Testing Scandal

Sorry I’ve been off the grid for a while! Here’s my TIME.com post this morning on the real scandal behind the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal. If you care about what’s going wrong in our education of children, you might be interested in some of my earlier pieces, all collected here in one handy location, as well as other posts/columns here, here, and here

photo: TIME, Inc.

photo: TIME, Inc.

One of the biggest ironies of the Atlanta public schools testing scandal — in which 35 educators have been indicted on racketeering, theft, and corruption charges for artificially inflating students’ test results — is that the faked scores prevented some schools from accessing three quarters of a million dollars in federal money to support struggling learners because they no longer qualified for help. The impact on individual children was devastating. One mother quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution described her fruitless search for reading support for her nine-year-old daughter who was performing at the bottom of her reading group. The child’s phony test score showed improvement, so now, in high school, she reads only at a fifth-grade level.

Current Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Erroll B. Davis has called for mandatory ethics training for all staff and increased security measures, such as “locked safe rooms, tighter chains-of-custody, and clearer test protocols to prevent improprieties and tampering.” Schools with suspicious improvements will trigger automatic audits, he says, in order to, “ensure that our assessments serve children, not adults.”

But this is a little like arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We need a deeper examination of the root causes of this disaster…
Continued at: http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/02/whats-really-scandalous-about-the-school-testing-scandal/#ixzz2PJYx0kTl

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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4 Responses to What’s Really Scandalous About the School Testing Scandal

  1. Thanks, Erika, for this thoughtful piece on Atlanta. I wholeheartedly agree with you that it’s past time for a deeper examination of the root causes of this and other cheating scandals–and so do more and more educators, parents and students around the country. I work for FairTest, which has been pushing for just such an examination for some time. The good news is the nationwide backlash against the ills of high-stakes testing is building up a head of steam, witness the Seattle teacher boycott, and other actions in Texas, Chicago, Providence, New York and other regions.

    You and your readers might be interested in two initiatives. First, there’s the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, which has surged past 17,000 individual and 500 organizational endorsers around the country. It’s here: http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/.

    We’ve also gotten endorsements from 164 Mass. education professors and researchers (including several from Harvard) on the Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing. It’s here: http://matestingstatement.wordpress.com/. Spread the word.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Best, Lisa Guisbond
    FairTest

  2. Montessori Observer says:

    Thanks, Erika, for this piece. I linked to the Times.com piece, as well as your blog, from my own (probably cited below, but: http://www.montessoriobserver.com).

    I read your other pieces about education, and especially pre-school. I think you would be very interested in the Montessori approach—” a young child’s environment is her first and only teacher” is practically Montessori dogma. You’re probably right that many U.S. kids—especially the ones most likely to get private preschool—don’t really need it. But, what Montessori primary (for 3-6 year olds) offers is essentially the observations you are making refined and expanded by over a century of observation an experimentation. To say nothing of Montessori elementary.

    I think (it’s been said elsewhere) that one thing the Finns and other Scandinavians have going for them is cultural homogeneity and wealth equality: children are, I believe, a lot more likely to grow up in an adequately resourced intact household that can provide the kind of holistic, supportive environment you describe. Not so easy to provide here.

    If you’re curious about Montessori, my site offers what I hope is a good selection of information and links, and of course there are many other resources out there. And I’d be happy to answer questions myself.

    By the way, I’m currently living in northeastern Ohio, at the Hershey Montessori School’s adolescent program, which is a day and boarding program on a farm. We are just finishing up our sugaring season here. It’s truly magical.

    David

    • Thank you very much, David. I will definitely check out your blog! I’ve always had a lot of respect for Montessori schools. My own training and teaching practice have drawn more on the tradition of the Reggio Emilia preschools in Italy (which of course drew on many traditions/perspectives of Montessori!). My own educational philosophy is eclectic but it centers on a belief in the one element I find most missing in American pedagogy: the sense of respect for the competency, power, and imagination of the child.I think there are pockets of good pedagogy out there. Personally, I can vouch for the new Birches School in Lincoln MA, Lincoln Nursery School (also in Lincoln, MA) and the Cambridge School of Weston – one of the giants of progressive secondary education. Obviously there are countless more, including the hundreds of Montessori schools doing such great work.

      The Hershey adolescent program sounds amazing. (And I’m partial to sugaring season!) Thanks for sharing.

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