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Jesse Jackson: Testing Policy Encourages Cheating…

July 16, 2011

I have never been a huge fan of Jesse Jackson, I just want to say that upfront.  I don’t dislike Mr. Jackson either, but he has simply always struck me as a political opportunist.

But, Mr. Jackson makes some excellent points in this CNN piece on our nation’s flawed testing policy and how it negatively impacts certain groups of students over others.

I have often thought that it is unfair at times to test students who come from immigrant backgrounds where parents don’t read or write English and norm those tests against middle class Americans.  The reason I have felt this way is because I have taught these children and for at least the early years of elementary school these students need time to catch up to the language and reading abilities of those students whose parents were born and educated here.  Make no mistake about it, these students DO catch up, but sometimes it takes them a bit of time to do.

Mr. Jackson’s piece in CNN accuses  the Top – Down testing policy for the recent cheating incidents.  I have written before that the testing policy creates an incentive to cheat because there is so much pressure on schools to increase scores.  Here is some of Mr. Jackson’s article:

The recent disclosure of test altering practices across Atlanta’s public school system has turned the spotlight on a national crisis. Instances of grade changing and test tampering have also been reported across the country in cities such as Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington.

These revelations shake the very framework of civil rights initiatives dating back to Brown v. Board of Education. The needed focus on closing the achievement gap for the poor and students of color is giving way to reliance on test scores and metrics that often have little bearing on educational achievement.

The Obama administration’s approach to public education, which has placed a higher value on competition for dollars rather than the premium of competence, has caused many educators to seek approval and high marks at any and all cost, no matter how immoral or illegal.

Sadly, these practices are becoming all too common.

Top-down polices such as the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top have provided an incentive to manipulate test scores, deceptively report graduation rates and falsify actual student performance in our schools.

Schools that don’t meet the NCLB/RTT test score standards can be denied federal funds or have sanctions imposed. Thus a “test trap” environment exists as schools are pressured to “teach to the test” at the expense of offering a broader learning curriculum, or even falsifying test scores to meet NCLB/RTT standards and avoid penalization.

I think a “test trap” environment is a good way to describe the current situation that is so pervasive as school absolutely do have to “teach to the test.”

Research has shown that schools, students and teachers in low-income communities and inner cities will be unfairly neglected in the competition to meet higher standards and the drive to impose accountability for students’ standardized test results.

Already some advocates of government-financed vouchers to fund enrollment in private schools or charter schools that self-select their student body seem to aim at educating the few at the top. And the existing tax-based public school funding formula in place in many states undermines the principles of equal protection under the law and equal opportunity.

It is no secret that schools in the suburbs have far greater allocation of dollars per student than those schools in the inner cities, let alone schools in high-income neighborhoods having greater financial and educational resources than schools in poor neighborhoods in the same city.

This is another manifestation in our country of the wealthy getting what they want without concern for the well-being of others.  It has become a problem, from our tax code, down to our public education policy.

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