Friday, April 1, 2011

Please Respond to Dept. of Ed. Press Secretary, Mr. Hamilton

This past week Anthony Cody at Living in Dialogue commented on Obama's off the cuff response to a student who asked if there could be a way to reduce the number of tests students took. 

Obama replied to the student with the following:

"... we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there's nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at.

Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn't a high-stakes test. It wasn't a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn't even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn't study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.

Too often what we've been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we've said is let's find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let's apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let's figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let's make sure that that's not the only way we're judging whether a school is doing well.

Because there are other criteria: What's the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not."

It gets even better:

"So what I want to do is—one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you're not learning about the world; you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math. All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that's not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they're interested in. They're not going to do as well if it's boring."

The press secretary of the Dept. of Ed. asked Anthony to issue a correction and stated that Anthony had misinterpreted Obama's statements.  Anthony Cody then sent some questions to the Dept. of Ed. for clarification.  Mr. Hamilton, press secretary of Dept. of Ed, has responded. 

I responded to Mr. Hamilton.  I would ask that everyone respond to Mr. Hamilton by going to Anthony's blog at Living in Dialogue. Let's push this discussion!!!

Here is my response to Mr. Hamilton: 

"No. They are not aligned. Why are they pursuing pre/post/interim, (please do not high-jack the term "formative" with the standardized testing regiment - teachers do formative testing every minute of the day.) yet Obama's daughters take a test in which they didn't even know they were going to take it ahead of time - this is a mismatch. Malia and Sasha's test did not sound at all like the Blueprint plan. Why are they pursuing additional testing while singing the praises of Finland where standardized testing does not exist? Where teachers actually create formative tests to determine needs and strengths of students?

Why are they increasing testing when it is crystal clear that it does not improve student achievement and especially considering that these funds could be used to shelter our almost 25% children living in poverty? (higher rate in data express/U.S. Dept of Ed - actually states 44.2 percent). Read my blog at Mr. Duncan, Mr. Hamilton, and President Obama.

Why is New York investing in technology in order to have students take the standardized test - what is project based or portfolio based about that? Why are we not investing in nutrition, school nurses, and books (all of which raise test scores)? 1 in 5 children in an area of upper Manhattan are homeless. No. The policies are not aligned with Obama's remarks. They are not aligned with the needs of America's children. They are aligned with the beliefs of the corporate education reformers who know absolutely nothing about education."

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