Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sec of Ed King Pushes for Same Failed Ed Policy Seen Under NCLB and Race to the Top

It seems new Secretary of Education, John King seeks to continue the same reliance on test scores and superficial ratings systems to determine how effective schools are doing that his predecessor Arne Duncan pushed. From his recent remarks, King wants to force states into using a "A-F Rating system" (or something similar) to rate the effectiveness of schools, which happens to be the same nonsensical idea that the North Carolina Legislature and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has imposed on public schools in North Carolina. (See "Education Secretary Takes Heat for Pushing Single Rating of Schools"). He wants states to come up with a "single summative rating for schools or districts" that captures the success or failure of schools in the most simplest way possible.

But I have a question for Secretary of Education King: What if the success or failure of a school is not reducible to a single letter or number grade? What if there are so many factors that aren't captured in test scores that attribute to the success or failure of schools? What if education is too complicated for your idea of reducing it to a single rating? 

All King needs to do is look at our North Carolina's A-F public school rating system if he wants to really see how ludicrous this idea is. North Carolina's school rating system rates schools with low poverty students much better than it does their effectiveness. (See The News and Observer article, "NC Public School Letter Grades Reflect Wealth of Students' Families"). King's continued push of the whole idea that all the things schools do to be successful can be captured in a single rating system shows how little he really understands the complexity of schooling and education. His misguided leadership and push for this "rating system" will only continue the failed policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

At some point this Quixotian search by politicians and education leaders for a way to capture school and teacher effectiveness with numbers, ratings, and opaque statistical measures has to be abandoned. With each successive Secretary of Education, President, and revision of federal law, this viral idea that there is a simplistic measure of school or educator effectiveness gets passed on, despite the fact that some states, like North Carolina, have been piddling with this idea for well over 20 years now. Schools, teaching, and education are simply too complex to be reduced to an arbitrary number, letter or "Not Met" rating. Teachers in the classroom and principals in the schools know that their places of practice are too complex and involve too many factors beyond the control of the school. Parents and teachers grow tired of all the testing. Our schools continue to be more concerned about test scores than actual students. All of this happens because of education leaders from the Secretary of Education's office, down through state departments of education, to the local level, just can't let go of their dream of finding a simple measure of education effectiveness.

A "summary rating system for schools, teachers, or educators" is nonsense, and is clearly an idea promoted by people with little understanding of teaching, learning, or schools. I am beginning to ask: Do we really need a Secretary of Education and a US Department of Education? It really does make me wonder if it is time to dismantle the US Department of Education, because it bears a big responsibility in the "test-em-if-they-breathe" failures of education policies since 2000.

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