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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why Testing & Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education

By Dov Rosenberg

High stakes tests & charter schools make public schools less effective:

A) High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.

B) Less than 20% of privately-managed public schools (charter schools) are successful; they also segregate children and minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community, ultimately making public schools less effective.

High-stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability:
■Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
■Many tests contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (look up Pineapplegate).
■With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic & regional differences aren't considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
■Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
■Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
■National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: "Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
■Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
■Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
■Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
■Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
■Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
■Test results are not able to predict future success.
■Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, & schools.

High-stakes tests are harmful to children:
■Minimal time for socializing & physical activity b/c recess & PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
■Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, & even incontinence in the classroom.
■Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
■Year-end tests require sitting still & staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
■Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) & punishments for low scores (threats).
■Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.

High-stakes tests make public schools less effective:
■The lowest & highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
■Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
■Arts & other electives are cut in favor of test prep & testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
■Children don't receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
■Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson & ETS (Educational Testing Services).
■Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), & administration.
■More established parents move to private schools to avoid the abundance of testing in public schools.
■When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
■Give testing firms control of the curriculum
■Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
■Reduces teacher creativity & autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
■Minimize teachers' ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
■Create unreasonable pressure on students, teachers, administrators, and school districts to cheat

Less than 20% of charter schools are successful:
■Even the pro-charter documentary "Waiting for Superman" notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
■Charter schools can artificially inflate their published success rate by deflecting low-scoring kids back to public schools, usually

Charter schools segregate children:
■Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
■Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
■Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don't know each other, & don't play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.

Charter schools minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community:
■Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
■Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
■One more thing for parents & kids to worry about as they wait for acceptance letters.
■Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (& therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.

Charter schools make public schools less effective:
■Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they're utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
■Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
■Charter schools aren't obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
■Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to "work the system" (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
■Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models & seen disastrous results.

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