DURHAM, N.C. — Two Duke University education experts have serious concerns about the Obama administration’s proposal to link teacher evaluations to student tests scores as a criterion for how much federal stimulus money states will receive for K-12 education.

Friday (Aug. 28) is the deadline to submit public comments on the proposal that will disperse more than $4 billion in grants. The U.S. Department of Education has said it will issue its final rules sometime after the deadline.

Helen F. Ladd, the Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy at Duke, says that while student test scores play a role in the overall effort to improve schools, the proposed regulations “give them a pride of place that will lead to little good and is likely to do much harm.”

“The main problem with the heavy focus of the proposed test-based approach is that it ratchets up the pernicious narrow test-based approach to education represented by No Child Left Behind,” Ladd says in comments she has submitted on the proposal.

“The approach is narrow in part because the requirement that all students be tested every year means that students can be tested in only a limited number of subjects. The result is a heavy emphasis on the basic skills of math and reading, to the detriment of other skills and orientations that young people need to become effective participants in the global society.

“Further, the emphasis on test results for individual teachers will exacerbate the well-documented incentives for teachers to focus on narrow test-taking skills and drilling. It is time to move beyond this misplaced emphasis on test scores in a few subjects to return to the broader goals of education that have been such an important part of our history.”


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Comments

  1. #1 Scotlyn
    August 28, 2009

    Think of it as the application of selective pressure. Teachers and schools will compete for funding. The fittest schools will be those who can successfully attract students who are likely, because of their “initial conditions,” to perform better and who can successfully discourage or reject poor-performing children with – for eg. learning disabilities, language and speech disabilities, cultural backgrounds biased against learning, poor socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. The fittest teachers will be those who teach children to do well on tests – and to do well on tests. The effect will be to greatly impoverish the schools that the most education-needy children will end up attending, and to greatly impoverish the quality of education, as well as the diversity of students in the fittest schools. Possibly, the fitter schools and the unfit schools may diverge to the extent of becoming separate species.

  2. #2 hibob
    August 28, 2009

    Is the scoring going to be a value added model or just straight performance? By value added, I mean that for each teacher/school, they are graded on how much their students improve compared to comparable peers. If a kid starts the year at the 25th percentile and leaves at the 35th, he improves your ranking while the kid who comes in at the 95th and stays there has little effect. If implemented correctly, there would be no bias against any poor performing group of students – if they are improving compared to their peers, the teacher is doing an excellent job.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    August 28, 2009

    These are good questions. We do not really want a Darwinian process here, and we do not want to simply enhance the revered middle class and fuck the poor again, as per usual.

    Well, we can do that if we want to, but it would be un-American.

  4. #4 Scotlyn
    August 28, 2009

    hibob – that sounds a bit sophisticated. Too many variables. The fittest evaluation system will prabably be one that is easiest to implement and least administratively taxing.

  5. #5 Freds
    August 28, 2009

    I find it ironic that the administration of our first black President is pushing a school curriculum that will train poor and minorities in narrow, low level skills while the better off will bail from a dysfunctional public school system. It stuns me that President Obama supports a school education that discriminates against poor blacks.

  6. #6 PoxyHowzes
    August 29, 2009

    Greg @ #3:

    These comments are a bit muddled for you. In what sense do you believe that Modern Humans should work, tooth and nail, to exempt themselves from evolutionary pressures? In what sense do you believe that they can succeed? (Or is what you sloppily or sarcastically called “Darwinian process” meant to convey just that thought?)

    And in modern “Pro-America,” I see little, if any, attempt to “enhance” the middle class. Since 2000, and unfortunately continuing into the Obama/Gaithner/Summers/Bernanke administration, all “enhancement” has gone to the Ultra-Upper class, and all f**k has embraced poor and middle-class alike.