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Rainy Day Musing about Tests and Property Rights

Posted on | February 8, 2013 | Comments Off

It’s a rainy day in Claremont: a good day to muse over the blogs and emails.

Teacher boycotts of standardized tests in Seattle have taken a new turn.  District superintendent José Banda has ordered administrators at Garfield High School to give the tests instead of the teachers giving them, according to The Seattle Times. At the same time, many students are opting out of the tests, and the school’s parent association is organizing to notify parents of their right to withdraw students from them.

The standardized test boycott has spread to Portland where a group of students is urging test boycotts, and Jackie Zubrzycki reports on the Education Week blog “District Dossier” that the movement is growing.

The protests may lead to a game of educational chicken, where districts and schools demand that students take tests in order to graduate, and students threaten sabotage the results by doing poorly on purpose.  The upside of all this is that both in Portland and Seattle, the protests have given rise to a reexamination of the value of standardized tests.  In an educational policy world that claims (often without justification) to be “evidence based,” what counts as evidence, how it is collected, and how it is measured is extremely important and should be the topic of political debate.

On this point, see Michael Apple’s review of the a 2010 book Understanding Education Indicators: A Practical Primer for Research and Policy by Michael Planty and Deven Carlson.  I’ve not yet read the book, but understanding clearly what these tests can and can’t tell us about student learning ought to be part of the core skills of every school administrator and teacher leader.  And as Apple, in his usual fashion, points out, the construction and mandating of tests is not politically neutral act.

And all this comes as the country lurches toward the Common Core standards and its associated tests.

File this Under Selling Young Picassos. The Prince George’s County, Maryland, school board has voted to assert ownership of teacher and student work.  So, just in case you thought your 1st grader’s drawing was cute, you may have pay the school to send it to grandma.  According to a Washington Post story by Ovetta Wiggins, the move was prompted when two school board members went to an Apple Computer presentation on how teachers can use apps to create new curricula.  And they figured that the schools ought to own the product.  Maybe they overreached a bit.

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