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* Fiddling with Indicators while using Toxic Tests
|Posted By: Dick Schutz on February 2, 2016|
|I concur with everything the authors say, but the danger is larger and the focus on letter grades/single indicators is misplaced. As long as we continue to rely on tests that are sensitive only to SES differences and not sensitive to instructional differences, schooling will be toxic to many students, and more so to poor kids than to rich kids. This will hold no matter whether the reports are in terms of letters or numbers, scaled scores or pictographs, raw or adjusted, formative or summative, et al.|
The danger in touting "multiple indicators" is that the additional "indicators" draw attention to matters (e.g graduation rate and school climate) that are "nice" but that detract attention from instruction that reliably accomplishes specified schooling intents.
Schools do reliably accomplish valued societal intents for which they receive little or no credit: free "baby sitting" in a safe environment, surrogate parental care and counsel, feeding kids who would otherwise go hungry, first responders in health and psychological screening, athletic farm training--to name just a few. The only area in which schools fall really short is the area that parents and public think schools are there for--to teach kids how to read, write, and compute, along with whatever else they can do to equip kids academically.
The danger in focusing on "poverty" is that the focus establishes an unnecessary insurmountable obstacle to reliable instruction. Poverty does indeed have a pervasive negative influence on all aspects of life. But gains in health, nutrition, and other areas of well being have been obtained, not by reducing/eliminating poverty, but in spite of this influence.
It's ironic that the most vocal supporters of the toxic tests today are the Civil Rights interests that are committed to serving "poor and minority students" and find the test results valuable in sustaining public financial support for their interest. The claim that the tests are useful in attracting attention to the "achievement gap" overlooks the fact that the "gap" was recognized as the highest priority 50 years ago with the enactment of ESEA 1965, and is as obvious today as it was then.
Inadvertently toxic tests support inadvertently toxic instruction, with toxic results attributed to the students, their parents, or to poverty. That's a larger and more consequential danger, wouldn't you say?