Friday, September 16, 2016

CURMUDGUCATION: Petrilli: Mission Accomplished + What do you mean? I took the test.

CURMUDGUCATION: Petrilli: Mission Accomplished:

Petrilli: Mission Accomplished

Remember when we had a terrible, terrible crisis in the number of terribly bad awful really no good schools (filled with stinky, disastrous teachers) and we had to put the reform pedal to the scholastic metal toot de suite! Common Core, teacher evaluations, choice-flavored systems-- we had to have them RIGHT NOW and couldn't afford to wait another second because crisis crisis CRISIS! Remember all that?

Well, good news. Crisis over. All fixed. Mission accomplished. At least that's the word from Mike Petrilli (Fordham) over at the Flypaper blog. 

School failure is no longer the United States’ most pressing educational problem—mediocrity is.

 For sure, we’re used to hearing that, and some of us are used to saying it. Indeed, many schools serving African Americans (and Latinos and low-income students) haven’t been very good. Some are still failing. But the truth is that they have gotten better over the past two decades—a lot better.

What Petrilli is arguing for here is a shift of focus, from focusing on creating excellent schools rather than eliminating bad ones.

Now as always we need to remember that Petrilli is not always in lockstep with his reformy brethren (he's still pretty much alone in pushing out loud the idea that not only should charters be allowed to  cream, but that creaming is really their actual purpose). Nevertheless, cancelling the Terrible Schools Crisis represents a bit of a rhetorical shift.

So what's going on here? Let me offer a couple of possible interpretations of the shift.

It's politics.

Petrilli invokes Trump's special message to black voters-- "Your lives suck terribly"-- and backs away from it. Right now reformsters have a Trump problem; specifically, their problem is that Trump is CURMUDGUCATION: Petrilli: Mission Accomplished:

What do you mean? I took the test.

 My class is wasting our time engaged for two days with a popular "research-based, computer adaptive assessment that helps kids learn."  It is several hours of our lives that we can't have back, and it reminds me once again of the very basic hurdles that these standardized bubble tests have trouble overcoming.

The biggest first hurdle is that the students have to care. The students have to think that it's really, really important that they give their all for these tests. The whole business makes me wonder if any of these test manufacturers have ever met an actual human, but I suspect that the real problem is that they have themselves so convinced that these tests are really important, valuable measures that it just no longer occurs to them that other people don't see reality in the same way (is there a word for when you gaslight yourself?)

But yesterday's first round reminded me of another issue, more subtle, but equally problematic.

So my student Chris (not the actual name) completes the forty-three questions in roughly ten minutes. This strikes me as improbable. SO I ask Cris, "Did you actually read the questions"

"Sure," Chris says.

"And did you read the selections that the questions went with?"

"No," Chris replies, with a subtext of "why would I 
What do you mean? I took the test.

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