Re: Chicago Sun-Times Insanity
- Subject: Re: Chicago Sun-Times Insanity
- From: "George N. Schmidt" <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
- Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2001 09:03:15 EDT
- Comments: To: Smgschmidt@aol.com
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
In a message dated 9/7/01 3:34:28 PM, pureparents@PUREPARENTS.ORG writes:
<< Well, as one of those people whom I assume you think should know better,
and as a parent, I think it is extremely appropriate to comment -as I
did- that it is unfair to hold the adults who play such a key role in
our children's education to a lower standard than the children. >>
Bit of a disagreement we have here.
As long as standardized tests yield the enormous economic and racial biases
we see, I think we should express skepticism about any testing program that
is blared about. What was tested? How was the test developed? By whom?
Validity? Reliability? Fairness?
Why is it that a test should be examined and held to a high democratic
standard if it's unjustly applied to children, but that a similarly poor test
is OK if it's applied to teachers? Kid bashing using the ITBS was Chicago's
trick of the '90s. What if the new trick for the 00s is going to be teacher
bashing using standardized tests? Do we have to keep digging out of the same
Local history (and some national contrasts) posts a warning, but of course
that history has been whited out of recent memory:
Chicago can point proudly to the greatest union-based affirmative action
program in AFT history because of this very thing. By the late 1960s, the
majority of Chicago's black teachers were kept in "substitute" categories
because of a discriminatory testing program. That program was the target of
the first Chicago teachers' strike (a "wildcat" that shut down half the
city's schools and was opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union leadership) in
By 1972, Chicago had approved multiple measures for teacher certification,
one of which was the old test route and oral examination route; the second,
the test only (plus one year of praxis); the third, three years of successful
praxis. Within a half decade, a lot of injustices had been wiped out. And
Chicago became unique in the United States (and in the AFT, as I pointed out
a year ago in some dialogue here with Leo Casey, from New York) in the high
percentage of black teachers and administrators in the system. (By contrast,
New York's "standards" kept the numbers and percentages of tenured minority
teachers shockingly low, and every AFT convention was a real story in black
and white... but that's for another time).
The Sun-Times series is whipping up teacher bashing hysteria.
There is no evidence that that Illinois test has any relationship to
classroom success (any more than the Iowa score tells us how much a kid
learned last year in 8th grade).
Nor is there any evidence that a One-Size-Fits-All multiple choice test is
going to measure whether a teacher is ready to teach subjects ranging from
physical education and wood shop to calculus and Tolstoy. I don't think it's
a heresy to suggest -- as I have and will -- that the skills required to be
an effective kindergarten or first grade teacher are different from those
required of a high school teacher who specialized in "remedial" kids in the
hard core of the inner city (but who also taught the "classics" often), as I
I scored in the 8th and 9th stanine on every section (general, social
studies, English) of the old National Teacher Examination I took 20 years
ago. (Most of the editors and reporters at Substance did similar things,
which made the old bureaucracy hate us -- and the Vallas testocracy show the
Those scores did not prepare me to teach in Chicago, let alone to teach in
those lower (elementary level) grades where I might have been assigned. I
eventually became a very successful high school teacher, with an inner city
specialization. Nothing I was tested on measured me for those jobs.
Similarly, my colleagues who "failed" the old NTE (and its most recent
iteration in the Illinois teacher tests) can be very good at certain teaching
jobs that are equally untested by those tests. The Sun-Times is demanding the
right to publish the names of the latest teachers who "failed." There is no
basis for humiliating those teachers I know who "failed" the NTE (and
similar) examinations (then and now) because those tests were biased against
those of my colleagues who arrived here from the blackest counties in the
Mississippi Delta having been educated during the last years of Jim Crow
before and after Brown v. Board of Education.
Now would the same "standards" be fair to our colleagues from Durango today.
Why is "diversity" OK in the abstract, but "standards" (most narrowly
defined) OK as soon as the Chicago media propaganda machine turns its guns
again on "Bad Teachers"?
I don't see why it's so hard to see that when the propaganda machines start
cranking out stuff, we take a very close second look before we land on the
same side of a "standards" attack as Checker Finn.
Of all the injustices the Sun-Times could have devoted that half million
dollar project to, would "failing teachers" even been on the list of most of
us who have worked in and with Chicago public schools?
I was a teacher bashing con, and it worked. Go to the Sun-Times Website and
look at the "sample test" they give. The questions are from the old basic
skills test, but the player of the game is led to believe that this is the
test the teachers "failed."
The same demographics and "Volvo Effects" that apply to standardized kid
tests replay in these teacher tests. And Illinois contracts with one of the
worst offenders for its teacher tests.
Most offensive of all was the attack on privacy rights that led off
yesterday's (September 7) Page One story. The inattentive reader was led to
believe that the headline decrying "secrecy" in the teacher test must have
been about the secrecy of the test.
No. That is not what they were bemoaning. They were irate about the fact that
Freedom of Information laws prevent them from acquiring and posting a list of
"Dumb Teachers" (i.e., those who failed Illinois's secret tests).
Had the Sun-Times demanded the right to publish the list of every "Dumb Kid"
who "failed" the Iowa and TAP test would there have been as much positive
spin on that teacher bashing series? I doubt it.
Happy New (school) Year.
P.S. 1. Next month, the same spin doctors will be bashing "failing" kids and
schools based on ISAT scores.
2. As a parent of a child in Chicago's public schools, I, too, want the
"best" teachers for my kid(s). and while the "best" science teacher may be
measured by certain tests (and many multiple measures) the best pitching
coach might not be measured by anything that can be reduced to A, B, C, or D
on a bubble sheet. We know that.
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