Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Test is Not to Blame

Janet Murguia: Failing Schools--Not Just a Label, A Fact

My Response (I tried to post this at the Huffington Post, but it was too long... so I just decided to post it here.)

I agree with Ms. Murguia that a great majority of schools that serve primarily low-income and minority schools are failing.  Although NCLB and its associated tests aren't perfect, the law and the tests aren't to be blamed for the achievement gap that exists in our nation. It seems like it's time to move the conversation away from whether NCLB is of merit.  I agree that there are major problems using only standards-based tests to assess our students as well as with the idea that when a student is proficient on such tests, that he/she has achieved everything our nation hopes for in a K-12 education.  It's true.  There are major problems with NCLB. 

But, I believe we do need data that compares schools across the nation.  I believe that we need to keep having the conversation about how to improve schools serving low-income and minority students.  That's why I think we need to focus our conversations more on reform and what reforms will work.  Simply changing or doing away with testing will not fix public schools.  Too much energy is wasted using NCLB as a scapegoat for the problems with public education.  On the other side of the debate, too much energy is also wasted using teachers as scapegoats. 

We have a test, the test is one piece of data that describes how our schools and our students are doing, and we need to see that data as not an end-all-be-all but as a tool to actually help improve things. At the very least, the tests tell us a truth that low-income and minority students have trouble taking these types of tests and probably also have trouble with the reading, writing, and math necessary to get right answers.  Until a better assessment comes along, let's try and come together and face the facts that a very large number of students in our nation have skills that are too low.  Let's try and come together to focus not on the test, but on the reforms necessary to make a difference.

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