Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Randi is Right

keep wondering what is going on when I keep agreeing with the teacher’s unions. Randi Weingarten, who I have not quite figured out, had this to say about National Standards at a hearing on the Hill. From the Alliance for Excellent Education newsletter –

"She stressed that simply “getting standards right” would not be enough and called on Congress to fix the “fundamentally flawed accountability system” in the No Child Left Behind Act. “If we are not testing the right information, or the accountability system is flawed, or the tests are inadequate, or teachers are not supported, we will not reap the rewards a standards-based reform system offers,” she said. “As we look ahead to NCLB reauthorization, we need to address these issues in order to fulfill the promise of offering all students a high-quality education.”

She nailed it on this one. My hope is that people get the whole quote right and not just say that AFT thinks NCLB is a fundamentally flawed accountability system – or worse boil it down to AFT hates tests.

I think the unions have a messaging problem. They headlines say that they hate “teaching to the test” and many in the unions are anti-test. But when you really listen and read the quote above, they are really concerned with the tests and the standards we are using – which actually is a viable concern.

The test is supposed to be aligned to the standards. And (this is the real key here) the standards are supposed embody everything someone should learn during that particular year in school. So if the standards are correct and the test is aligned to the standards then, by default, teaching to the test is actually teaching what someone should learn during that year.

What Randi clearly communicates is that our standards aren’t all that great and the tests aren’t all that well aligned. So teaching to the test is not the most productive use of teaching time. Fixing that is critical – but time consuming and costly – if we are ever to truly improve education as a nation.

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