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How NCLB Is Like A Russian Novel

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The big Time article on NCLB reauthorization (How To Fix NCLB) is a fun read, though it struggles hard to say much that's new. It describes the law "astonishingly" ambitious and points out -- shouldn't Toppo get royalties for this? -- that administrators and wonks like the law better than frontline teachers. There are also a handful of minor but annoying mistakes -- calling NCLB tests "high stakes," for example, is a pet peeve of mine. (That's not what high stakes really means.) But there are also some highlights, including an Ohio educator's comparison of NCLB to a Russian novel: "it's long, it's complicated, and in the end, everybody gets killed."
4 Comments

I don't think high stakes is a term of art, and I'm not sure you can really criticize people for using the term differently from you.

high stakes may not be a term of art, but it most often is linked to graduation or promotion at least.

But to my point, I am interested in their proposals or guidelines. Are these Times? Where did they get them from? And do they realize that their language could create more headaches them much of the existing language? For example, "Leave school turnaround to the people who are closer to the students, but fund research into what works." "closer" and "works" could use some crafting and what happens when nothing happens? There is lots of room to play here, which if fun, and I am glad to see Time giving the reauth some coverage.

The term "high stakes test" refers to thew consequences for whoever is affected by the score. Traditionally that meant the student taking the test that determines if they move onto the next grade, get to graduate high school with a diploma, or are accepted by the kind of college they want to attend. All these are pretty consequential, and hence high stakes.

Given that the tests required by NCLB are intended to demonstrate basic proficiency in key subjects and that the standard of proficiency is often quite low as measured against NAEP, what's at stake for the students here is no less consequential - it's just that the consequences accumulate over a lifetime of earnings etc, rather than taking the form of a single outcome.

Moreover, the stakes of tests taken by students that relate to Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB are also pretty consequential for schools and districts. Failure to make AYP has fairly painful changes for principals, teachers and administrators.

as i've said before, quite convincingly i might add, high stakes has a precise meaning, and using it to describe the tests used to create AYP ratings for schools is misleading and inflammatory -- especially considering how little teeth the NCLB sanctions have on the ground. not making AYP is akin to getting a bad grade on a course, not failing the class and having to repeat the grade.

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