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Obama on Testing: Which Way Will He Go?

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Two weeks ago, I reviewed where two of President-elect Barack Obama's K-12 advisers stood on assessment issues related to NCLB. Jon Schnur supports the idea of creating a national test that is developed by states or private organizations. Linda Darling-Hammond suggests there should be multiple measures that determine whether a school is successful.

Then, I promised to give you an update on what the next president thinks on testing.

I've looked through everything I can find. But I don't have a clear idea of where the president-elect stands on the issue. Then again, I'm not the only one in that spot.

Here's a look at two important statements on testing that Obama has made, one that dates back to the beginning of his Senate career and one that explains what he will do as president.

First, look at the bill that Sen. Obama introduced in 2005 and again in 2007. In it, he proposed that 20 districts be selected to use innovative approaches to improving student achievement. Among the requirements, the districts would need to establish accountability systems to measure individual students' achievement starting in 1st grade. The data from those accountability systems would be used to inform important decisions, such as evaluating the quality of students' teachers.

But Obama's current plan doesn't mention such testing. It criticizes NCLB for forcing teachers "to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests." It says the Obama administration "will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner." It also calls for improving accountability "so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them."

Comparing the two, I'm not exactly sure where Obama stands. He doesn't appear to be headed toward national tests, as Schnur has suggested. But he doesn't say whether his accountability measures would use multiple measures, as Linda Darling-Hammond would like.

So far, President-elect Obama has focused his transition on hiring his economic and foreign policy teams. Maybe we'll know more about where he stands on important education issues once he picks his education team.

1 Comment

I truly hope the President Elect DOES NOT expect a school distict to come up with its own "innovative" tools to measure anything. Only because it is very difficult to create true experiments in the classrooms and let's not forget the ethics of research if a control group is not given "the" variable that may be helpful in their education process. The fact is all of the districts have the flexibility to do carry out a theory through experimentation, even today. The problem is if the variable does not cause a significant difference, then the researcher must try his/her next hypothesis. Herein lies the problem, schools and teachers have decades to experiment, but each student has one grade level each year to get it right.
Until the school system actually learns how the scientific method is carried out and the true definition of duplicating a proven theory, we should be hesistant to trust the outcomes. We need to recognize that a correlation occurs with best practices, but when working with humans, there are so many confounds that scientific and education probably should not even be mentioned in the same sentence.

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