Sec. of Education Duncan Orders New Types Of Student Assessments; Will this (Finally) Change The Face Of Standardized Testing?

Dyer Sez:  Looks like Education Secretary Arnie Duncan might be a little worn down from all the grief raining down on him from educators and teacher associations; maybe the lack of an invite to the last NEA  national pow-wow may have clued him in to the discontent of educators with the federal government’s involvement in public schools.

National standardized testing (a recent phenomenon which came of age after the passage of the No Child Left Behind act) is a much maligned and somewhat dysfunctional part of the public school landscape. The result of putting so much emphasis on these tests is that instead of receiving an education, children and teachers are being corralled into teaching/learning how to take the test (and, perhaps, game the system a bit) in lieu of a rich curriculum based on the actual impartation of knowledge and critical thinking about the subjects being presented.

But now the worm may be turning, just a bit.

Sec. Duncan has stated that $330 million dollars (which came out of the Race to The Top fund) has been awarded to two separate groups whose goals are to come up with alternative student knowledge assessments which may move away from the end-all-be-all tests which are currently in place.  

Duncan mentioned that he began this process at the behest of teachers themselves:

“As I travel around the country the number one complaint I hear from teachers is that state bubble tests pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn’t measure what really matters,” Duncan said in a statement. “Both of these winning applicants are planning to develop assessments that will move us far beyond this and measure real student knowledge and skills.”

 While, on the surface, this seems like a positive move, education is overly prone to the pitfalls of fads and fashion; very often, huge amounts of money are tossed at grand and flashy strategies which are then  implemented in a school system, only to crash and burn as these magnificent programs are revealed to be nothing more than ostentatious window-dressing.

Additionally, I have very little of faith in Arnie Duncan. He was handpicked by Obama from the Illinois public school system. Taking only the briefest look at Chicago schools, one can easily surmise that the man was given the position as an ode to chi-town politics and not due to any success he may have had a hand in generating.

That being said, I will still keep my fingers crossed and watch closely as this plays out of the next couple of years.

Story from The Washington Post:

Race to the Top grants go to groups developing new student assessment strategies

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010

The federal government awarded $330 million Thursday to two groups that are developing new student assessment systems for the District, Maryland and dozens of other states in an effort to upgrade their much-maligned standardized tests.

Drawn from the Obama administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, the grants aim to build on the fast-growing movement toward national standards in English and math. With new expectations for what students should learn come new hopes for improving how their achievement is measured.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – a consortium that includes the District, Maryland and 24 other states – would receive $170 million. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, representing 31 states, would receive $160 million.

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