To the Editor:
Peter J. McWalters, Rhode Island’s education commissioner who is stepping down next year, should be commended for adhering to his principles, but condemned for his cockeyed optimism (“Outgoing R.I. Chief Bucked National Push for High-Stakes Tests,” May 7, 2008).
Should high school graduation really be based on performance assessments such as senior projects and portfolios, as Mr. McWalters believes? That posture might be appropriate if he were president of the National Education Association, but as a state education official, he is simply out of touch with reality.
As someone who spent 34 years in a Massachusetts public school classroom, I am certain that both senior projects and portfolios are too easily compromised (that’s code for cheating). Teachers, parents, administrators, fellow students, siblings—anyone can contribute to the final product of these or similar subjective measures. While many offering assistance may simply be trying to help marginal students in their attempt to graduate from high school, both of these alleged assessments too easily tempt the inappropriate.
A version of this article appeared in the June 04, 2008 edition of Education Week as Performance Assessments And ‘Cockeyed Optimism’