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Should State Tests Require Students to Advocate for Specific Education Policies?: NY’s ELA Test on Teach for America

By Eduwonkette — May 19, 2008 1 min read

A Voice Cries Out reports that this year’s high school ELA retest required students to complete the following task:

Today’s ’situation’ told students that they were in a leadership team who has been debating ‘whether leaders should have experience in their chosen fields.’ They were instructed to write ‘a position paper in which you argue that inexperienced people can provide leadership.

They weren’t even given a choice about which position to take.

They then had to listen to a speech by-you guessed it-Wendy Kopp, about why she started Teach For America. In the speech, Kopp talks about how her lack of experience served to her advantage when creating Teach For America. In the speech she explains that TFA teachers, “challenge the conventional wisdom” that schools are limited in what they can do to ‘overcome the challenges of poverty and the lack of student motivation and parental involvement that is perceived.”

This takes us back to the social justice debate, in which we discussed how schools should and shouldn’t deal with contentious issues in the classroom.

So is this fair game for a state test? Those who have pointed out schools’ trespasses on social and political issues are generally cool with TFA, but what if the prompt instead instructed students to argue that schools need more funds to be effective, or that unions have a positive impact on public education? I reckon that some ed wonk/wonkettes’ heads would explode.

To me, the problem with this question is that it didn’t offer a counter-position, nor did it allow students to choose a side to argue.

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