NewTalk, an online discussion tool, has a discussion on education that has quickly evolved into a conversation about the issues that are at the heart of NCLB: testing and accountability.
Some of the participants have their own outlets where they regularly air their opinions. It’s no surprise that Checker Finn believes in national standards. He writes about that regularly in the Education Gadfly. Diane Ravitch wants to scale back the federal role to standard setting and data collection. She espoused the same idea in The New York Times and her Bridging Differences blog.
The fresh voices in the NewTalk conversation belong to the educators. Like the others, Deb White and Ryan Hill criticize the current use of standardized tests and once-size-fits-all accountability systems.
“We are limiting ourselves, and our students, by focusing only on tests,” writes Deb White, a high school teacher in Cody, Wyo. “Other mechanisms for evaluation will take more time and effort on the part of educators, and more explanation to parents and community members, but are so much more effective.”
Ryan Hill, who runs the network of KIPP schools in Newark, N.J., says KIPP uses standardized test scores as one measure to evaluate its schools. But it also puts its schools through a rigorous evaluation of classroom practices, student achievement on classroom work, and the school’s leadership.
“From this inspection (which takes multiple days),” Hill writes, “you get a real sense of the quality of the schools, and the training and experience of the inspectors lead to reliable and consistent analyses.”
White responds by endorsing the KIPP inspection system and adding other elements to NCLB accountability. Here are two:
Create a menu of assessment tools which states or districts could choose from to evaluate their students. (This would maintain a large degree of local control.) Train teachers to create assessments and rubrics which are appropriate and interesting to their students (Wyoming has a consortium devoted to developing Body of Evidence assessments and corresponding rubrics.)
All of this sounds a bit like what Helen F. Ladd was outlining in her commentary in the current issue of Education Week. When Congress gets serious about reauthorizing NCLB, will they listen to educators like White and Hill?
A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.