Education and Testing

It seems to me….

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” ~ John Cotton Dana.

The U.S. system of education and training is inadequate in the new global environment. Technology by itself is not the panacea to educational improvement; that can only be achieve with better teachers. Unfortunately, recruiting better teachers will not occur until educational training programs are improved, college admittance standards are more stringent, and teacher compensation increased to levels competitive with non-academic employment opportunities. The majority of U.S. teachers are from the scholastically lower one-third of graduates whereas in nations rated as having the best schools; e.g., Finland, South Korea, Singapore…; teachers are from the upper one-third.

Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in the U.S.: the teachers’ unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired. Teachers’ unions usually attempt to portray themselves as a union of professionals but actually behave similarly to representatives for assembly line workers. Teacher effectiveness is the primary determinant of student success being more important than class size or methodology.

It is time to eliminate outdated tenure and seniority rules so as to ensuring the best professionals rather than the longest-serving assembly-line workers are in our classrooms[i]. Granting teachers tenure after only two years and requiring least experienced teachers to be laid off first regardless of ability is insufficient time to judge individual effectiveness, harmful to students, and unfair to administrators needing to retain a school’s best teachers. The recent California court ruling in Vergara v. California[ii] that state laws allowing teacher tenure and other teacher job retention protections are unconstitutional is long overdue and hopefully will be affirmed by the state appeals court giving encouragement to similar challenges in other states.

There admittedly is legitimate historical justification for providing teachers with employment protection, Prior to these protections, a teacher could be fired for holding unorthodox political views, attending the wrong church, giving the child of an influential community member a failing grade, or administrative conflict. But today, schools need to change. K-12 teachers frequently have only a low-level mastery of subject material. Teacher effectiveness should be measured by observation and the ability of a teacher to increase test scores rather than by credentials such as a specific degree or certification.

This will be difficult. Parents raised on a culture of low standards and high self-esteem are outraged that tests show many American schools are not teaching their children enough. The tests therefore must be at fault because they know their kids are brilliant! Some liberals and teacher groups are upset with the emphasis on testing. And Republicans now oppose it despite having championed it only a few years ago largely because the Obama administration also backs the project.

Data provided by standardized academic testing provides a means for measuring student progress across race and income level enabling educational oversight to monitor and remedy disparities among students and in economically varied school districts[iii]. Though substandard schools and districts frequently have objected to comparative testing when their students’ test scores were below average, parents and a school’s community are entitled to standardized assessment so as to enable evaluation of their school’s effectiveness.

Testing is required to measure how students compare with their peers in different districts and socioeconomic categories. In addition to ACT/SAT scores, colleges normally consider academic history for admission acceptance. If academic testing is not consistent, impartial admission determination is extremely difficult.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[i] Klein, Joe. The Students vs. The Unions, Time, 21 July 2014, p16.

[ii] Vergara v. California, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vergara_v._California.

[iii] Edwards, Haley Sweetland. Leaving Tests Behind, Time, 16 February 2015, pp28-31.

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About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Academia, ACT, Education, Education, K-12, SAT, Seniority, Standards, Teach, Tenure, Testing, Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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