Dallas Black Blog



Posted by DallasBlackBlog on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dr. George H. Wood – (740-448-3402)
for immediate release Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More than 100 leading educators, scholars, and researchers have sent a letter to members of the Senate and House education committees in support of a call from civil rights groups that any overhaul of NCLB include “multiple assessments of learning and multiple indicators of school performance.” Twenty-three civil rights and disability organizations, including the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), ASPIRA, and the National Alliance of Black School Educators, conveyed that message to Congress in an August 7 letter. The groups called for changes in NCLB that would assess schools “in ways that produce high-quality learning and that create incentives to keep students in school.”

Among the 117 signers of the letter are policy makers Nebraska Commissioner of Education Doug Christensen, Massachusetts State School Board member Ruth Kaplan; leading measurement and evaluation experts, including Gene Glass, Edward Haertel, Robert Linn, Lorrie Shepard, Richard Shavelson and Eva Baker; educational researchers Linda Darling-Hammond, Howard Gardner, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Henry Levin; civil rights advocates Nadine Cohen and Clyde Murphy; and leaders in school renewal including Ted Sizer, Wendy Puriefoy, Pedro Noguera, and John Goodlad. (Complete list of signers at http://www.forumforeducation.org/foruminaction/index.php?page=39

The letter of support explained that “current administration of federal educational policy has, through its exclusive emphasis on (primarily multiple choice) standardized test scores, both narrowed the curriculum in many schools and led to a focus on lower level intellectual skills” as opposed to “the higher-order thinking skills our democracy and economy require.” It has also undermined efforts to develop more valid assessments of learning for special needs students and English language learners, while increasing incentives to exclude students from school.

Lorrie Shepard (Dean, College of Education at the University of Colorado and President, National Academy of Education) praised the effort to push for multiple measures: “Measurement experts are keenly aware of the limitations of standardized tests. That’s one reason that the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing require that critical educational decisions be based on more than a single test score. We also know from 20 years of research on the effects of high stakes testing that greater and greater pressure to raise test scores exacerbates the known weaknesses of standardized measures. The call for “multiple assessments of learning” and “multiple indicators of school performance” would provide some protection against the narrowing and dumbing down of curriculum that occurs in response to multiple-choice accountability tests.”

The letter emphasized that using multiple sources of evidence, including performance and locally-based assessments, provides many benefits to education and accountability:

  • The use of an index of measures of school performance provides a better picture of overall school performance;
  • Multiple measures supports a balanced approach to school improvement, insuring that a single-minded focus on standardized tests does not lead to narrowing the curriculum or to inappropriate practices such as keeping out or pushing out students who do not test well;
  • A range of assessment types is the only means for assessing a comprehensive range of content and skills;
  • Performance assessments provide for a focus on higher-order thinking skills.

The letter also noted that NCLB calls for multiple measures of student performance and a focus on higher-order thinking skills, but little in the administration of the legislation had aided such outcomes. The writers explained, “Our experience with the law as educators, policy makers, researchers, and parents over the past five years has shown us that the current law and its implementation have discouraged the kinds of state and local assessments and reporting systems needed to make educational progress and to validly assess all of the students in our schools.”

Eva Baker (Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA) indicated she hoped that this effort would lead to improving “NCLB to encourage student accomplishments that include but go beyond transient test scores. Every student needs to demonstrate skills and knowledge in technically sound ways that will serve them in school and work.” Linda Darling-Hammond (Ducommun Professor of Education and co-Director of the School Redesign Network at Stanford) noted that moving to such assessments would also “direct more attention to the higher order skills and content which are necessary for our children in the economy of the 21st century.”

George Wood, Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, and a school principal, praised the focus on higher-level thinking skills. “Many of us in the field know that the reliance on standardized test scores as the only measure of school success is narrowing the school curriculum, particularly for our most school-dependent children. This is a crucial civil rights issue; denying our children access to the skills and content which make democratic citizenship possible consigns them to second class citizenship and economic hardship.” He went on to note that he was pleased with the response that calls for multiple measures of school and student success have received in Congress and expressed optimism that NCLB reauthorization would fund such options for states and districts.

The full copy of the letter and a complete list of signers may be found at http://www.forumforeducation.org/foruminaction/index.php?page=391

The civil rights group letter is available at www.edaccountability.org


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