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Richard Rothstein and the Cream Puff Caper

By Eduwonkette — February 24, 2008 1 min read

In a talk last Thursday at Teachers College, Richard Rothstein proposed a “Report Card on Comprehensive Equity” that would broaden the set of measures we use to assess the achievement gap. Rothstein argued that accountability systems that focus only on basic academic skills distort the educational process as schools focus more on skills for which they’re held accountable. Because we want more out of schools that math and reading scores, Rothstein proposed extending the data we collect to include domains such as critical thinking and problem solving, social skills and work ethic, readiness for citizenship and community responsibility, foundation for lifelong physical health, foundation for lifelong emotional health, appreciation of the arts and literature, and preparation for skilled work.

How could we collect these data on a nationwide scale? Rothstein explained that NAEP was originally designed to collect data on a wider range of skills, including civic engagement and students’ ability to work in a group. Rothstein and his co-authors, Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder, plan to propose an expansion of NAEP’s data collection activities to the National Assessment Governing Board. Rothstein provides a clear picture of what these measures could look like here.

What of the cream puff caper, you ask? After some discussion of public education’s goal of promoting physical health, attendees were greeted with plates full of cookies and cream puffs. Cream puffs that, while delicious, had the unfortunate side effect of food poisoning. Hopefully only a handful of people learned of the perils of eating dessert the hard way.

What do you think about Rothstein’s proposal? I think it’s an important first step in accounting for the many goals of public education that we care about. It was a formidable task to pull these data together - kudos to Rothstein, Jacobsen, and Wilder.

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