Standardized education is a leveling tool of the liberal left


Posted on 30th June 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Obamaschool | Politics | Testing and assessment

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The setting of the same median goal for all students levels individuals into masses. Sure, you can say you hope many students will do more than pass the minimum standard. Will they? Do they?

Their is an illuminating bit of trivia about all this in an obituary today in the New York Times. The quote that follows begins with the obit’s headline and lede, then a sample of the deceased’s liberal stripes, and concludes with a paragraph (in red) noting the fact that he supported George W. Bush’s education initiative.

William Taylor, Vigorous Rights Defender, Dies at 78

William L. Taylor, who as a lawyer, lobbyist and government official for more than a half century had significant roles in pressing important civil rights cases and in drafting and defending civil rights legislation, died Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 78 and lived in Washington.

Mr. Taylor is also credited with helping to devise a strategy by liberals to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, partly by recruiting well-known law professors to criticize him.

Mr. Taylor could sometimes be unpredictable, as when he openly supported President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law to overhaul education. Liberal critics called the measure punitive, poorly financed and too oriented toward standardized tests.

Yet Taylor was not convinced. As he probably foresaw, standardized educational tests do not lift all students to an equal and meaningful level of excellence. Instead the forced sameness of learning to the tests tends to settled more and more kids into the same level of mediocrity. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was a visceral and relentless liberal and leveler, is another example, like Taylor, who pushed the Bush vision called No Child Left Behind.

Showing his deep leftist core, Obama has not abandoned No Child Left Behind. Instead he is spending billions of dollars on what he calls Race to the Top. The name of that program belies its actual structure and goal. This, Obama’s major education initiative so far, is trying only to boost “failing schools.” He is building a welfare state of public education where youngsters are promoted with low grades, while billions are spent to push children’ scores a bit higher at the worst schools. The effect is not only to lock in a median mass — but to almost ignore education policy that would reward individual achievement. Assessment is made equal for all, while opportunity to learn settles into a media that gets lower and lower.

Beware of the educator with a level in his hand.

Cheat-proof online testing will allow equal and uniform testing


Posted on 30th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles | Testing and assessment

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The most equal opportunity for a student to be tested would be for that student to take the same test as everyone else, under equal conditions. Handschooling can accomplish exactly that by allowing each student in literally the whole world to take a specific test when it is convenient for that student using his or her individual device connected to the internet. Test-takers would be in different locations and circumstances, but they would be treated absolutely equally by the test as they interact with it online. A preppy in London, a student attending a “failing school” in Chicago, a slum kid in Mumbai, and a herder in Peru would be able to pass or fail the identical calculus test.

They will cheat! That is the knee jerk reaction to a global testing taken individually. Yet what is dismissed by the jerking knee is the kind of testing that would remove the quality of schools from the equation and allow universal uniform assessment of individual students. Because it is now assumed that cheating will happen unless there is human oversight, generally testing is done in person in a variety of locales, with hovering human monitors. The expense is huge, kids are tested by groups and classes, and equality is damaged. Cheating still happens in testing locations that are not perfectly monitored.

But it turns out that cheat-proof online testing might be very practical and far more foolproof than human live monitoring. Take the example of Professor Pritchard’s work in identifying homework cheaters. The use of computer algorithm monitoring and similar programed detection systems should/could naturally follow from the approach he has used, as described here from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Enter David E. Pritchard, a physics professor who teaches introductory courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (when he’s not in his laboratory devising new ways to use lasers to reveal the curious behavior of supercooled atoms) [as shown in the photo at left].

Mr. Pritchard did detective work on his students worthy of a CSI episode. Because he uses an online homework system in his courses, he realized he could add a detection system to look for unusual behavior patterns. If a student took less than a minute to answer each of several complex questions and got them all right, for instance, the system flagged that as likely cheating. “Since one minute is insufficient time to read the problem and enter the several answers typically required, we infer that the quick-solver group is copying the answer from somewhere,” he wrote in a paper last month in the free online journal Physical Review Special Topics—Physics Education Research. . . .

School meltdown and the black mobile gap


Posted on 22nd March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool | Schools we now have | Testing and assessment

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As described here in an earlier post, young African Americans are accessing the web 1.5 hours a day on mobile, compared to .5 for white youths. The potential here is to send failing government schools into meltdown. I know, for example, a black New York City teenager who is qualifying for a software engineering entry job online, having dropped out of an awful high school uptown.

A Napster-like knowledge network is emerging out there. Testing is arriving online too. This individual web access to learning subjects and certification is in principle no different from how kids a decade ago accessed their music.

Do you suppose that while the Obama/Duncan government take over pays off all the top down school people, that the kids will do education Napster-like and empty schools? Why not? Surely Wikipedia is a Napster of learning, as Wired Campus reported last week.

For the same reason the music industry experienced in the Napster meltdown, students are approaching a threshold beyond which they can walk out of school and learn whatever they want from the schooling in their hand. This description from Wikipedia of Napster may outline the meltdown that lies ahead for government education:

Napster was an online music file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning while he was attending Northeastern University in Boston. The service operated between June 1999 and July 2001. Its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants, bypassing the established market for such songs and thus leading to the music industry’s accusations of massive copyright violations. Although the original service was shut down by court order, it paved the way for decentralized peer-to-peer file-distribution programs, which have been much harder to control.

You are thinking kids just use their mobiles to play games and text. We will see . . .

Testing online would give diplomas equal meaning


Posted on 3rd February 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Mobiles

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Diplomas for students from high schools and colleges have very different value. On the other hand online certification, like Adobe tests for professional proficiency, has equal value among all who are certified.

The value to the student who earns the first two of these diplomas is woefully different. All the Adobe certificates are equal in value:

  1. Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia was named by Newsweek as the No. 1 best public high school in the USA for 2010.
  2. Columbus High School in Bronx, New York is on the New York City Board of Education’s schedule to be closed because of a “long history of sustained academic failure.”
  3. Adobe Certification for a professional proficiency is a student’s proof of having qualified in a test online given equally to all comers from any place and any background.

Think about it: If high school diplomas were awarded after online testing that is open to all, a Columbus High School student in the Bronx would have a chance to prove her intellectual and knowledge equality to the Jefferson High School students in Alexandria. There is an echo of equality in the notion of standardized tests given at schools — but this echo does not affect the value of a diploma handed to a Columbus High School graduate.

The way public schools award diplomas based upon their own students instead of equal knowledge testing is not fair. It perpetuates an underclass.