The Education Trust. I’ve seen their schtick before – the 72 power point slides that they run through in 10 minutes, making it seem as though their ideas are heavy on data and research, when they are really all baloney.
Today I saw it again at an otherwise wonderful conference about racial healing in New Orleans put together by the Kellogg Foundation for their grantees; PURE is grateful to be one. They fund our work against high-stakes testing.
The conference’s only panel on education included Lisa Delpit, a terrific scholar on bias in education, who has said,
“If teachers make judgments only according to the tests being inflicted on the children by the schools, then they can misunderstand their children’s brilliance.”
We also heard from Edward Fergus Arcia who writes on disproportionality in education opportunity for African-American and Latino children. He actually referenced “bad data” in his remarks.
But not Amy Wilkins of the Ed Trust.
She talked about the “common basis of fact” as she whipped through her 72 slides, claiming that we have “turned the corner” on achievement based on NAEP scores – 4th grade up slightly, 8th grade flatlined, high school down. Okay, sure.
She threw up two slides showing test score jumps at two schools after they were “reconstituted and restaffed,” claiming that this proved something great happened because the schools “decided to do more.”
Well, at last year’s conference, I wanted to say a lot in response to the excellent education panel presentation, but I didn’t get a chance.
This year I decided not to let that happen (I just feel a need to speak out in these settings…), so I was the first at the mike.
Moderator Rehema Ellis, NBC’s education reporter, called on me. I thanked Dr. Fergus for mentioning bad data, and said that the reason I was at the conference was that African-American students in Chicago were being disproportionately flunked based on standardized test scores. I said that things were about to get worse with the new national standards and I urged people to go to the Parents Across America web site, and sign on to the National Resolution against High Stakes Testing.
At this point, Rehema Ellis broke in to insist that I ask a question. I decided not to point out that NBC has a track record of squelching differing views of education reform, especially from parents, so I just asked this question: Would the panelists join in a national dialogue on standardized testing, bringing together civil rights groups which often have widely differing views on the value of these tests?
Amy took the mike and stated that she “disagreed.” She claimed that no one had a problem with standardized tests until there were stakes for adults, which kind of ignores the 30 or so years FairTest has opposed them, the work PURE and others in Chicago have been doing since the late 1990′s, etc. (but to be fair, it was as factual as her other statements). She also claimed that test scores are the “only way” you can compare schools, that there is “no other evidence.”
Well, as I sat down, at least one person mouthed “Thank you for saying that.” I was satisfied.