Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Arne Duncan's Proposal to Use Test Scores to Measure Teacher-Prep Program Effectiveness

Public schools have suffered under Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind law waivers. Testing, not learning has become the focus. Schools have cut arts programs and non-tested subjects. Enormous amounts of time are spent during the school year getting students ready for the tests. And, since the Obama administration took office, there are many states like North Carolina that administer a record number of state tests, and the use those results as a part of teacher evaluations. It has been this President's education policy that has done more to elevate test scores to even higher levels than under No Child Left Behind. 

Now, Arne Duncan is once again trying to elevate test scores even higher: he wants to use test scores to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher programs too.

Under Arne Duncan's latest effort to hold somebody else accountable for education except himself and politicians, Duncan now wants to create a new, massive bureaucratic procedure to judge the "effectiveness" of teacher preparations programs around the country. This behemoth proposal would bizarrely twist test scores once more in the name of accountability. As I read through this proposed procedure, I simply grow more and more angry at a President and Secretary of Education who simply have no clue as to what their "test-them-if-they-breathe" education agenda has done to schools, students, teachers, classrooms, and the future of the education profession. If you read the fine print of this massive document, you can quickly read between the lines regarding what Arne Duncan is actually proposing.

  • Using test scores, most likely value-added measures, to determine the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs that receive federal funding.
  • The development of a massive pile of red tape and bureaucratic procedures to make sure teacher preparation programs comply to the dictates of the US Department of Education.
  • An enormous overreach of federal power and powergrab by the US Department of Education.
There was a time when I would have defended the existence of the US Department of Education. Now, I am slowly beginning to feel that perhaps the best thing for public schools is for this new Congress to simply dismantle it. Has there been a single good policy or idea that has come down through this department during the Obama Administration?

I think it's perhaps time to write some letters, send emails, and make some phone calls on Duncan's bizarre plan to use test scores in yet another high stakes manner. All US educators and pre-service educators need to take some time and let the President, Secretary Duncan, Congress, and the US Department of Education know their thoughts on this one.  Otherwise, like the Race to the Top, Duncan will claim he has heard only praise for this latest effort to bend the education world to tests.

If you would like to submit your own comment or opinion, you can do so at the address below. The deadline for submitting comments is February 2, 2015. Perhaps enough educators will submit comments that it will take the US Department of Education five years to read them. 

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