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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Testing and what American students know

Joannejacob.com had a couple of interesting entries at her blog the beginning of this month. The first was an entry titled "If you test it, they will learn," where she described in "the most recent NAEP history test in 2001 showed that 'just 10 percent of high school seniors had an adequate grasp of important people, events, and concepts in American history, such as identifying America's allies and enemies during World War II. One-third of fourth- and eighth-graders and nearly two-thirds of high school seniors did not meet a basic threshold of knowledge.'"

The problem with most standards is that they represent one group's view of the curriculum, at the exclusion of other groups. This is one of the reasons why white folks have historically done so well on the SAT (I'm reminded of a line from the television show Sping City, when after the bumbling, know-nothing mayor takes a standardized exam intended for grade eight students and is asked how he did so well, "The section on yachting really put me over the top!"). As an example of this assertation, take a look at the World History course for the new Georgia Performance Standards (go to http://www.georgiastandards.org/socialstudies.asp and click on "World History Social Studies"). Where is the world in these standards? Literally 75% of these standards are based upon Western Civilization. Might as well named the course "Western Civilization Social Studies"!

The second was an entry titled "NEA vs. achievement gap." According to the entry, the NEA President in a speech stated


leaders of minority communities are "being courted by those who want to destroy public education, and, unfortunately, some are being persuaded" to support, for example, charter schools and vouchers. He blamed what he views as the foes' success, in part, on lagging achievement among black and Hispanic students compared with their white counterparts.
The third was an entry titled "The rich get poorer," which stated something that I find pretty obvious (but it seems that those who are in favour of testing and punishing those who don't do well on the test don't get), "schools with a lot of poor students have a much harder time educating them than schools with a few poor students."

Now, you may be asking what these three entries have in common or what theme am I going to use to tied this entry together... I wonder why the American public are yearning for a past in education that never existed and trying to achieve that mythical past by hurting those in education who need the most help? Answer that for me and not only will you ensure a Democratic victory across the board next time, but you may even have a chance to do something about America's school system.

The larger problem for education, as I see it, is the title of a fourth entry by Joannejacob.com (see "Evaluating teachers") . This larger problem is that we aren't that far off (assuming we aren't already there yet) of evaluating teachers base upon how their students perform on flawed evaluations of biased standards. I'm again reminded of the stories written a couple of years about the dentist and standards (see http://teachers.net/gazette/DEC02/marshall.html). Is this what we are coming to in K-12 education?

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