Is high-stakes testing “the civil rights issue of our time” or a strategy for avoid the hard steps we need to take to improve education? See what you think.
Continued from MCAS and Somerville kids: Adam Sweeting’s forum
In this excerpt from Adam Sweeting’s MCAS forum, the debaters are Greg Nadeau and Jim Kaplan, and they agree–sort of.
Listen to hear them debate link
I think that people have made a lot of great points. The thing that I feel is missing from this conversation is the impact that MCAS and education reform and No Child Left Behind has had on our public education system, to refocus us on the kids most in need. And we as a country traditionally did a terrible job with the kids who were at the lowest part of the education system. As the superintendent said—we had a 50% drop-out rate—our public ed system was a sorting system where we sorted the kids through the door A or door B and we just failed kids for generations.
That is changing and it’s changing in very significant way because of MCAS and ed reform and No Child Left Behind. There are problems with it, there are things that certainly can be improved. Carl’s bill, I think, gets to—and the study, there’s a lot of things to have multiple measures, to do growth models so you’re looking at the gain for each kid, there’s a lot of things that can be done better, but I think that somehow or another I feel like that we’re missing in this conversation just how profoundly public education has resynched itself to focus on the kids who are most in need.
I mean, for me, MCAS is the most important civil rights initiative of our life, and I don’t understand how we can talk about the failing urban kids and how it’s, you know, that it’s creating anxieties or test… I mean the truth is, it has completely refocused our public education system.
I actually want to agree with Greg, that No Child Left Behind and Unz and MCAS have changed education tremendously. I think they’ve been tremendously successful in shifting the debate.
For years, I’ve worked on desegregation and that’s off the agenda, that’s totally off the agenda now. We’re going straight back to hyper-segregation and that’s not under discussion. The Boston Latin School gets unleashed from racial balance. The Supreme Court says every remedy is unconstitutional—every remedy; any time you calculate a remedy, they’ll knock it down as unconstitutional, whether it’s affirmative action or busing or geographically wider districts for desegregation; every single remedy. There’s one or two that might work. But desegregation is really off the agenda.
So I think that’s the triumph of No Child Left Behind, it just got race and segregation totally off the agenda.
That’s actually not so good.
No, I didn’t say “good,” I just said “successful.” It was intended to do this, and it has done it.
Another big success is that it has shifted off of strictly educational issues such as class size, because class size is very expensive. If you reduce class size, if you divide, say, 60 kids into four classes, that means four teachers; into three classes, only three teachers; and if you have thirty kids per class, you only need two teachers.
So, if you go from thirty kids per class to 15 you need not just two teachers and classrooms, you need four classrooms and that means you need new buildings and then that means you’ll end up hiring more teachers. But you’ll end up paying for bricks and mortar and the building fund has to go up and that’s off the agenda too.
That’s all going to take more money.
Well that’s a tremendously successful bill, right? It’s totally taken our eyes off of class size, it’s totally taken our eyes off of putting up new buildings. Even in Somerville, with state aid, we’ve been scraping to get money for building again.
I agree with Greg. It’s been tremendously successful: it’s been successful in resegregating the schools, promoting dropping out among minority kids, increasing segregation in the labor force by language, by ethnicity, and by race, and taking our eyes off of class size and new buildings: tremendously successful.
It’s just not true that ed reform was not accompanied with more money. Ed reform more than doubled the amount of state aid [and] race is one of the subgroups that you’re now accountable for.
Continue on to MCAS and Somerville kids, Part 3 for the last part of the forum discussion