Friday, July 25, 2008

Miseducated Testers

Andrew Wolf reiterates his strong criticism of the mayor;s educational reforms today, with a look at similar failed efforts in England-the focus here is on the failed nature of the tests themselves: "If we were somehow travel ahead in time, say a decade from now, and land in New York City, one thing is for certain: we will be still be talking of the crisis in education, complaining about graduation rates, wringing our hands over the loss of our competitive position in the world marketplace. The Bloomberg reforms? They will fade away as surely as the morning dew."

Wolf highlights just how the testing regime in England, initiated by Sir Michael Barber, is similar to our own; and how both approaches lead to failure: "The trouble is that the test administration and grading is as faulty there as it is here in America. The issue in Britain right now is that the all-important standardized tests given to pupils aged 11 and 14 were botched, leaving the educrats, in this case an agency called the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, or Ofsted, without timely data."

Sound familiar? The problem lies with the fact that the tests are designed to grade the achievements of the adults-pols, principals and teachers-and when this is put in place the results are predictably bogus: "Or, to put it a different way, it turns out the tests there, like those here, are now designed to evaluate adults, rather than children. And British education officials, just like those in New York, are being accused of having deliberately dumbed down the tests to boost the prospects of those adults.:

So what happens when the testers are evaluated by independent evaluators? "As the Daily Mail in Britain noted on Monday, "chicanery is inevitable because it's not just teachers but ministers who are being tested on their promise to improve education, so ... such tests will always show that standards are rising, even when the opposite is the case. The outcome has been that, while children have been subjected to an ever-expanding battery of tests, their qualifications have become progressively devalued. As measurable achievement has been ostensibly going up, the amount pupils actually know has been going steadily down."

A case here of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, with the NYC DOE being the Dum. The Kleinnemen, aided and abetted-and most importantly, insulated-by the mayor's Teflon dollars, will eventually be judged. As Hegel once observed: "the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk."