September 2009 Archives

Alternate title: What Does the Best and Wisest Parent Want? Dear Deborah, I am glad to see that you are trying to draw us back to the issues where we have genuine differences! You and I agree that testing and accountability—as currently practiced under NCLB—have become enemies of good education. We would probably disagree on the value of testing. I do think that testing, when sensibly deployed, is valuable. I am not part of any anti-testing movement. I think it is important to know how students are doing, as compared with their past performance and as compared...


Dear Diane, We can go on forever about why "testing as we know it" cannot lead to becoming a well-educated people. We agree, we need to invent a road test—which might in some cases look like AP exams. Or, it might look like the examination system used at Central Park East Secondary School or Mission Hill (my old schools) or other formats now used by Consortium schools in New York. On the federal level, what we need are deeper and better NAEPs—where sampling continues to be wise. (They can thus be cheaper and more authentic at the same...


Dear Deborah, Over the past week, you and I have each weighed in on the defects of testing. You have been arguing for many years that standardized testing is replete with flaws. I have only recently recognized the ways in which pressure to raise scores, mainly prompted by NCLB, has corrupted testing and accountability. Our policymakers have fallen in love with the idea that incentives and sanctions can "drive" educational improvement. They believe that if we promise rewards when test scores go up, we will see test scores go up. So they commit hundreds of millions of dollars to give "merit...


Note to readers: Bridging Differences will be off-line on Saturday, Sept. 19, while the edweek.org staff attends to technical issues. The blog will be accessible again on Sunday. Edweek.org apologizes for any inconvenience....


Dear Diane, Yes, the ways in which standardized bubble-in tests are open to abuse are rampant—and gaming of test scores has increasingly important repercussions. In the long run it leads to an increasingly toxic education in the name of “standards.” I urge you to read the two chapters in "In Schools We Trust" on my own experience and subsequent investigation of standardized testing for 7-year-olds. I discovered, in my effort to “prep” them, that while reading tests may in part test the ability to read—comprehend (vs. re-code into sounds)—they are even better at detecting one’s class...


Editor's note: See author's "P.S." added since entry was first published. I will have to delay a bit before I can get to the book you recommended. When I finished "Daniel Deronda," I immediately plunged into Robert Caro's wonderful biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker," which I am enjoying very much. It is fascinating from the start as a description of the life and times of a man who did so much to redesign New York City, who was celebrated and powerful, but in the end...was the subject of a very unflattering biography by a master historian. ...


Dear Diane, I’m in the midst of reading a marvelous book by Danielle Allen called Talking to Strangers. I’d love to discuss it with others. Do read it so we can converse about it soon. Her concept of “political friendships” between strangers intrigues me. Which relates to my unpleasant encounter between NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg that you refer to in your letter yesterday. The New York Post reported that the mayor’s aides claim: Bloomberg demanded that the Senate’s grant to NYU be redirected it to CUNY, because of … Deborah Meier! My critical stance toward the mayor’s...


Editor's Note: Bridging Differences returns today from its summer hiatus. The blog will resume its regular Tuesday-Thursday publishing schedule next week. Dear Deborah, School is open, and it is time to talk! What a busy summer for all of us who care about education. I had a good summer, finished editing my new book, and got it off to the publisher. I also managed to finish George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, my main summer reading. It took 140 pages before I became fully engaged, but then the plot and the characters grabbed me. The big education events of the summer ...


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