August 7, 2006

Shorter Rapp

There's a new debate going on over at edspresso on standardized testing starting today.

Professor Dana Rapp takes up the anti-testing mantle first and to spare you the indignity of having to plow through the incoherent mess of an argument that it is, I'm going to give you the short Rapp version with my helpful color commentary.

According to Rapp, standardized testing is bad because it:
  • eliminates recess
  • links teacher salaries to test scores (like the unions would allow this)
  • makes kids sick
  • makes teachers dislike their jobs (see bullet two above)
  • makes kids learn less
  • made the baby Jesus cry
  • is unreliable and/or unethical
  • makes schools dehumanizing places
  • evaporates enriching opportunities for students
  • erodes local control of curriculum
  • causes kids to be doped into educational submission by Big-Pharmacy
(Ok, I added one of the above bullet points (dare I say the most ridiculous one) see if you can guess which one.)

Left unsaid is whether it is the standardized tests that cause this parade of horribles or the schools' own bad decisions when the standardized tests showed that their students weren't learning anything.

But the parade's not over yet, here come the floats. In paragraph two Rapp turns his attention to the capitalist pigs who are profiting on the back of schools' failure.
Testing is a booming market where companies like McGraw-Hill and Harcourt-Brace are reaping record profits with the sale of the textbooks, tests, practice tests, and improvement kits.
Oh, the humanity. Textbook publishers are actually making profits selling ... textbooks. Have they no shame? My monocle almost popped out when I read that line. But it gets better:
As testing proceeds to earlier grades, even kindergarten, CEO'’s and industrial "“leaders"” can rest even more assured that future employees will not have the skills, knowledge, dispositions, and collective consciousness to recognize and act to change disparities of wealth, loss of jobs, lack of health care, and corporate corruption in the organizations in which they work.
Huh? So you mean to tell me that when my son took that fancy DIBELS test in kindergarten that it wasn't to see if he was at risk of reading failure as I so naively suspected at the time, but rather to assure that the plutocrats will be able to beat him out of health care twenty years hence? Lucid criticism or unintentionally hilarious? You be the judge.

Then we come to yet another parade of miserables (cut and pasted write from the socialist's party platform no doubt) in which we find out that standardized testing is neither Santa Claus nor the Tooth Fairy. A snippet will suffice:

Often over-shadowed by a focus on higher standards and test scores by politicians, who are anything but accountable themselves [Ed: except at, you know, the ballot box], are deeper social problems that increased test-scores will never address. At this time in the United States: 5% of the population has 95% of the wealth; middle and lower income citizens are working 10 hours more than 1990 (that is 180 hours a year away from families) for less money; U.S. citizens have nearly four weeks less vacation time on average than do people in almost all other industrialized countries; at least 25% of US citizens do not have health coverage; half the new jobs created are at minimum wage (that is $10,800 a year); one in five children in the U.S. go to school hungry; the U.S. is bankrupting it’s future generations by wracking up a record deficit; programs for the elderly are being cut; global warming and environmental degradation are more apparent by the day; and, Iraq and Afghanistan are out of control. [And soylent green is made from ... people !!!]

Reminds me of the Simpsons episode when Homer asks, "If they can send a man to the moon, why can't they make my shoes smell good?"

So in honor of Homer J Simpson let's summarize Rapp's "argument" (see, I know how to use ironic scare quotes too) as: Standardized testing: won't make your shoes smell good.

5 comments:

SteveH said...

"Dana Rapp: curriculum theory, teachers and civil disobedience, democratic practice"

Huh?

Where do these people come from?

Teachers grade homework and give tests. Standardized tests do the same thing and show whether schools meet some lowest common denominator of success. Look at a typical state standardized test (or the NAEP site) for math and English and see for yourself how trivial the questions are. Have an open house at the school and show parents these questions and explain the grading system.

When you look at the details, common sense will prevail.

KDeRosa said...

Where do these people come from?

Clearly he was part of the third of the population sent to earth by the Golgafrinchans.

I still don't understand if the state standards are supposed to be what we want kids to learn and if the tests are supposed to be aligned to the standards, why standardized tests are so evil.

SteveH said...

"I still don't understand if the state standards are supposed to be what we want kids to learn and if the tests are supposed to be aligned to the standards, why standardized tests are so evil."


All schools and teachers test at every grade level. The issue isn't testing. The issues are control, accountability, and philosophy.

The actual tests are trivial - not what most parents call grade-level. That's why I tell parents to look at the actual tests and grading system. (Schools will do their best to hide these tests and grading systems - for "security reasons".) Parents would quickly realize that something else is going on here. It's not that NCLB is forcing schools to get kids up to a level that is more than trivial, it's that NCLB forces schools to meet some minimal level of accountability.

This is perhaps understandable when teachers look at what comes walking in their classroom door. Apparently, many teachers define this as the problem with education. Rather than consider it a failure in the school system (curriculum, expectations, pedagogy, etc.), they look for other reasons, like parents, home life, SES, society, and developmentally apropriate concerns. They fail to consider how easy the tests are.

Our public schools use a full-inclusion model that tracks same-age kids through 8th grade. Kids of a very wide ability range (22 percent IEP) go walking into a teacher's classroom each year. In spite of this, our schools are "High Performing" on state tests.

All schools test. Standardized tests are trivial. What is the real problem?

1citizen said...

When Clay, Fountas and Pinnell line their pockets with proceeds from their snakeoil, it's for the kids. When phonics people sell things they're greedy capitalist pigs.
The common thread in anti-NCLB frothing is a complete ignorance of competition, free markets, and the basic laws of nature. All the more reason to divest them of power and access to our children.

SteveH said...

D. Rapp, from today,

"Simply, before I support mandatory tests, I want to mandate that no child be hungry, no child live on the streets, and no child have to go without health care, including dental. At least one quarter of all the students I studied had trouble focusing because of tooth aches."

Tooth aches cause NCLB failure!!!

This is one of the biggest cop-outs of education. Rapp should print this up and hand it out to all parents.

I suppose Rapp would think it's OK to separate those kids who meet the criteria for testing from those who don't. Apparently, Rapp doesn't mind testing if certain conditions are met. Of course, that would require separation of Rapp's social agenda from the job of teaching the trivial stuff on standardized tests. There seems to be many in the education world who set their social agenda above education. Perhaps they see them connected in ways that cannot be separated. Actually, they don't want separation because they would lose their leverage.

Rapp also makes a case for local or state control over education. I would go one step further and give the control (and money) back to the parents. That way, poor familes with good teeth don't have to wait until society gets fixed before receiving a good education. Rapp is denying a good education to those who need it the most.