Ed Reform is a nationwide movement, and there is much of value to learn from different states' efforts as described on the Web (see EDUCATION REFORM SITES). But in none of these states is there any degree of the teacher bashing that is going on in Massachusetts, nor is there use of Board of Education rigged Teacher Tests, with a cut-off score pre-determined to produce a 59% failure rate, containing unsubstantiated and unvalidated content specified by two private university administrators on the Board (Boston Globe, August 8,1998, with confirming acknowledgement by National Evaluation Systems--the test developer). The state leadership on this issue is reminiscent of a "Good Cop/Bad Cop" technique, only there is NO "good Cop" at work. Not a single leader has stepped forward to offer support for teachers to make needed changes. Neither the tests nor the rhetoric pay any regard to the priorities of the Common Core of Learning or other State reform documents that set aims for reform. Instead we have Chairman John Silber rhapsodizing about his grade school teacher, amidst sputtering about garbage collectors and prepositions, showing continuing inability to comprehend or consider other viewpoints, and spewing a vitriolic stream of invectives for nearly every class of educators he is charged to serve through his positions.
I recall lines from a Buffalo Springfield song in the 'sixties:
"Something's happening here/ What it is ain't exactly clear...Hey, Stop! Children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down..."
It's time we all stop and look at what is happening. The Guidelines issued with the Curriculum Frameworks say they are to be taken as suggestions for schools. But the MCAS tests based on the Frameworks are cast as a determiner of the future viability of the local school, the student's right to a diploma, and are used as the Subject Test basis for the Teacher Tests.
Should teachers be tested on random details that they would in normal teaching look up in preparation for classes? This test requires them to demonstrate understanding of random bits of information from a vast scope of content guidelines, with no reference materials such as teachers normally use in teaching.
Where did all these random details come from? In an article appearing in the Nov. '98 Phi Delta Kappan, former Department of Education official Dan French describes how the current Board of Education--the same leadership that re-wrote the Teacher Test--scuttled the Reform work and Frameworks built over the past six years, rewrote the Frameworks, filling them with the Eurocentric (some say racist) catalogue of content that reflects the extreme conservative agenda.
National testing expert, David Stratman, reports being told by one of the participants of a Massachusetts Department of Education meeting in November 1997 at which a DOE official predicted a 59% failure date--five months before the first test was given and one month before it was constructed.
The Professional Standards for Teachers specify the kind of teachers we want and what we mean by effective. But the Teacher Tests bear no resemblance to any of these descriptors. Many teachers ask, why not use the Praxis II test of ETS, also called the National Teacher Exam, used in 39 states, both of which have been in use for several years and have been validated and shown reliable? Why was "National Evaluation Systems selected as the test developer? Was there a properly competitive bid? Was consideration given to this firm's similar "Teacher Test" being thrown out by a U.S. District Court judge in 1989, and a current challenge in New York state? What's going on here?
Was the discredited N.E.S. firm selected so that Drs. Silber and Delattre could interfere in the test development process in order to artificially deflate scores at other colleges, and then rig the score reporting process at Boston University to deny that those who scored low were ever enrolled in their university (see September 26 Boston Globe), and thus inflate their own record? By placing the Federalist Paper#10 dictation at the beginning of the test, and allowing minimal time, the confidence of the test takers was immediately attacked. By adding grammar questions, the test takes a controversial part of the English frameworks which over a century of research has proven has no efficacy for improving communication, and demands teachers in all subjects define irrelevant grammatical terms. To top all this off, the test is unreliably scored, with different scorers giving totally variant marks to the same question.
The Council of Presidents of the State Colleges commissioned a study to see what correlations there were between the Teacher Test and other academic predictors. The results, issued in December 1998, found that the Teacher Test has no correlation to S.A.T. scores, no correlation to high school or college grades, no correlation to any other academic measure! Is it any wonder that National Evaluation Systems has lost two statewide contracts and court cases because of deceptive practices?
The MCAS Tests given to students last spring put students into two weeks of four-hour testing, using formats previously unseen by students, with no accomodations for Special Needs, ESL, or younger students. Talk coming from the Board of Education last spring centered on expectations that students would do poorly, that many schools would need to be put on probation, and that some would come under Board control. Results reported in December showed the disparity in scores based on socioeconomic status of the cities vs. suburbs, the "savage" social "inequalities."
Meanwhile, the late Board of Higher Education Chancellor, Stanley Koplick, called teacher education the "cash cow" of the colleges, and painted a vision of the future with substantially fewer teacher education programs, gateway cut-offs at entrance and graduation for the colleges, a downsizing of Higher Education. And what will be the weapon for the assassination of the People's colleges' teacher education programs? The afore-mentioned Teacher Tests! Correlated to nothing, developed by a discredited and "outlaw" company, rigged by conservative, private University Board members--this "Test" is proposed as the measure on which 80% of teacher candidate would have to pass or the teacher education program is to be discontinued.