Last week I posted a blog about testing those who are having a major impact on education in America. Are these people qualified to affect the lives of children? To reorganize or destroy schools? To evaluate teachers? To introduce alien and unproven processes and top-down edicts on all schools? What must they know and be able to demonstrate before they are credible? Should they be tested with the same flawed exams they force on kids and teachers? Should the tests we give them be fair measures of knowledge, or devices to inculcate, place, punish, or placate?
How can we get accurate information about the knowledge and competence of the education reformers? We can not use True-False tests or standard Multiple Choice tests of the type forced on students. We cannot use tests created to inculcate political or religious ideas. We need to know what the reformer knows about schooling – teaching, learning, human development, and socialization. How can we find that information about them?
How do we test them? Easy, we find out what they know about education, their experiences as a teacher, their knowledge of learning styles, their… well, any competent, experienced educator can add to this list. No, I’m not talking about someone who taught a couple of years through TFA, never took the courses or did the work necessary to understand that teaching is not an ego trip or a popularity contest, but really hard work diagnosing and prescribing educational paths for all students. Really hard work mastering knowledge of the subject(s) they teach. A teacher, like a doctor, must master complex knowledge and the correct means of treatment. You want a teacher who is prepared.
The tests we must give to the Bill Gates, Eli Broads, Michelle Rhees, the Waltons, Michael Bloombergs, the Joel Kleins, the Arne Duncans, the Jeb Bush type reformers, and the Pearson test-mongers, (to name a few) and the politicians who represent themselves as education experts, must delve into the knowledge they have of how schools work, what teachers do, and how political-economic systems, not teachers, create poverty and human suffering.
Here are examples of inaccurate tests that we force on kids and teachers that we must not use to get accurate information about reformers:
Flawed T – F tests have questions like this: T or F America is a Christian nation.
The question, whether marked T or F, sticks in the mind. These tests are carefully crafted and used to teach concepts that are politically desired and acceptable. The test-maker shapes political thought and skews epistemological data for ideological and political means.
A Multiple-Choice test is one of our most powerful and dangerous teaching devices. We put students under pressure and tell them the importance of the test. They focus, concentrate, and read the questions. There are usually four choices, one of which is correct according to the test writers. The students, focused and concentrating, respond to the stimulus of the question and pick the response they conclude is correct. Stimulus-response, equals a strong connection in the student’s mind. If “d” (the answer they pick) is not the correct answer, even reviewing the test doesn’t erase the original connection. The test has taught the student the wrong information.
The way to create a valid multiple-choice test is to make all four choices correct, and ask the student to write her reasons for her choice. Of course, it takes time to evaluate a test that actually measures what the student knows. Machines can’t do it.
I believe educators will create and administer valid tests to evaluate those who call themselves Education Reformers. With information about them, I believe they will be discounted and laughed out of the arena of public education. Most are quacks.