A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Should Reject Federal School Funding with Onerous Strings Attached

The Independent provides multiple viewpoints on the controversial Race to the Top initiative. See what the President of the NJEA, our school superintendent, and a school board member each have to say about this federal initiative. This article is a welcome change from what I commented about last week.

I personally think the federal government is dangling large sums of money before cash-strapped states in an attempt to coerce broader compliance with federal policies of student testing. Unfortunately, no matter what the original intent, these tests have become an inaccurate measure of teacher performance within schools and a poor barometer of relative capability among schools. Testing distracts teachers and students from their curriculum, requiring X percentage of your child's school week to be spent on test prep. Tests are often modified year to year, so changes in test scores become meaningless because they measure different things.

When one compares test scores between schools, this mistakenly assumes that schools have matching student bodies when in fact some schools take in a higher percentage of special students but get no break on the testing averages that result.  This is similar to hospital ratings, where a fine cardiac care unit will drag down the hospital's heart operation survival rate because their highly qualified surgeons are getting more of the area's high-risk patients.

More testing is not in the best interest of our students. I hope the teachers union doesn't have to stand alone for our children's education simply because the White House is offering our state lots of money with strings attached.

1 comment:

  1. In every other industry, we measure performance by outcomes. Why is education different? The factors you mention are accounted for in the state data - DFG, number of students with IEP's, number of students who don't speak English as a first language, etc.

    If there's a problem with the measurement, let's fix the measurement. Testing, with all its problems, is the only solution we have for measuring student performance. And students perform better with better teachers.