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Re: a reflection on ESEA

a couple of quick comments about Mickey's response to me, below

Mickey VanDerwerker wrote:

> In a message dated 3/18/2002 4:49:57 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> kber@EARTHLINK.NET writes:
>> There is perhaps another way, which is to try to educate them about
>> validity and reliability. Again, this is where a clearly written
>> op-ed piece can come in useful. It may be a bit too much for a
>> 100-200 word letter to the editor. One also needs to realize that
>> most writers on the education beat have no formal training in things
>> like statistics, psychometrics, etc. Sometime, if you take the
>> time to communicate with them in a non-hostile way, you might be
>> able to have wee bit of influence.
> Ken.
> We have certainly been working at this. Unfortunately, what the
> editors that I have talked to keep saying is that the
> reliability/validity stuff is too dry and technical and that we'd lose
> people two sentences in. So they hesitate to print the stuff, even
> the friendly ones. WIth 700 words, you don't have a lot of leeway and
> you choose between explaining a small point well or going over a lot
> of stuff not-so-well. What we need is a regular column......
> Mickey

It is possible to write about things without it being dry and technical,
at least, not to begin with. One can always start by giving
illustrations people can understand. This is probably not a could
example (at 5:45 in the morning), but suppose, this being march madness,
that when one shoots a basket from outside, one does not know whether it
is worth 2 or three points because there is no fixed and visible line on
the floor - the referee makes up his mind after the basket goes in, no,
maybe even 5 minutes later, he tells you - btw, that outside shot you
took from 25 feet away - that's only a two-pointer, but the one your
opponent took from 17, that's a three pointer. You don't know how they
are measuring. There is a lack of reliability.

Think about it - how much screaming would there be, especially with the
money involved (both officially, for the colleges and universities, and
unofficially, in everyone's pools). People would be screaming bloody
murder. And yet, we does this with people's lives when we use tests
that lack reliability - if what is being measured is not measured
consistently, there is no reliability.

Using a similar example - on our school track all kinds of world
records are set in any event over 100 yards (involving running around at
least one curve). Our high schoolers persistently run the 220 in 17
seconds, the 440 in 38 seconds, and the mile in 3:22. When we survey
the track, it turns out that rather than being 440 yards around, it is
only 386 yards. We are reliably measuring - that is, we always measure
the same way - but the way we are measuring how far someone has run is
WRONG: We are now reliable, but our measurement is invalid.

Anyhow, that should serve as an example that one does not have to be dry
and technical to get the point across.

I like the idea of a regular column - and in fact we do have one, at
least to a degree, in Jerry B's PDK annual pieces, although they are not
only about testing. I have found that there are papers that are willing
to have someone write occasional pieces - not weekly like a column, but
perhaps avery 6-8 weeks. And the subjects might have to be a bit
broader than just testing. Here in the DC area, I can think of
several. Pat Welch, who teaches English in Alexandria (T.C.. Williams)
used to write regularly for the Washington Post. Ken Haines, who is on
the board of directors of the local teachers' union, writes about every
6-8 weeks for the Prince George's (County MD) Journal. There are other
examples as well.

I will remark, from my own experience, that to write something of
quality takes quite an effort if one is not doing it regularly. My one
big op-ed piece went through 8 drafts (including criticism from
professional journalists) before it was ready to be shopped around for
placement, and then it went to two dailies, one weekly, one monthly
before I finally got another daily to run it. That's partially because
I don't already have a name. But once you develop a name, it becomes a
little easier to get pieces placed.

All I have time for now.

Ken Bernstein