Reactions to the Madison Test Protest

A few weeks ago I posted some links and information about David Wasserman’s protest against standardized testing to the Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency list maintained by Gerald Bracey. There some problems with the list and I only got responses yesterday. Although not as timely, I think they are still worth sharing.

Here are the initial links:

Teacher gives in, gives test (Capital Times)
Teacher’s test protest leads to reprimand (Wisconsin State Journal)
Protesting teacher faces reprimand (Capital Times/AP)

I also sent this from George Lightbourn of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (for more on Mr. Lightbourn on AMPS, see here). More local coverage and reaction here and here and on AMPS.

Steven C. Lozeau, School District Administrator, Potosi (WI) Public Schools weighed in with a letter directed to Mr. Lightbourn:

Dear Sir:

I agree wholeheartedly with accountability, testing and with finding ways to use the information to improve student performance.

Knowing that this is only one part of the picture we must also integrate other measures that account for some of the areas you describe such as creativity and other non-standardize tested criteria.

But I disagree with shoring up your position using already overused and questionable data such as the position of US students compared to the world.

We can spend hours on such comparisons and their failings.

Please do not use non comparables to prove your point as most of what you said can stand alone. Comparing apples and oranges, which most country to country testing does only disclaims your point, propagates bad information, and damages higher education’s relationship with public schools.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven C. Lozeau
Potosi School District Administrator

I’m not sure if this was a response to my post, but Michael Paul Goldenberg of the Rational Mathematics Education blog posted AN OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF DAVID WASSERMAN . Here are some excerpts:

I am writing to support David Wasserman’s decision to refuse to administer a test in which he did not believe and to decry the way in which he was subsequently dealt with by his superiors. I am a mathematics teacher educator, teacher, and expert on standardized test preparation with more than 30 years’ experience working with students on various instruments (e.g., SAT, GRE, ACT, LSAT, and GMAT) as well as with grading state tests from Michigan, New York, and Connecticut. With that experience and expertise in mind, I am deeply troubled by the manner in which this nation has been pushed further and further towards accepting an ill-founded religious belief in the power of (for the most part) multiple-choice, multiple-guess tests to measure not only student achievement, a concept which is at best open to question, but teacher, administrator, school, district, and state competency (not to mention national status when viewing similar international tests such as the TIMSS), in total violation of one of the basic principles of psychometrics: never use a test to measure something it has not been specifically designed and normed to measure. This country has long been enamored with numbers and rankings, going back to the early decades of the 20th century, when we shamefully abused IQ scores to restrict immigration in ways that can only be viewed as unscientific and utterly racist. I urge everyone to read Stephen Jay Gould’s definitive work on the abuse of “intelligence” testing, THE MISMEASURE OF MAN, for a shocking and sobering account of how standardized tests have been misused and abused in the United States, generally out of racist and chauvinistic ignorance and bias.

It takes a brave person to risk his job and his livelihood, to put himself and his family in jeopardy, in the face of blind obedience on the part of so many of his fellow teachers and education professionals to what is nothing more than an outlandish political ploy to destroy public education, undermine teacher authority and autonomy, punish students, parents, teachers, administrators, schools, and districts MOST in need of support, and to shamelessly promote vouchers and privatization to help those most advantaged and least in need already. Sadly, there is not a single member of the US Congress (and, I suspect, of any state legislature) who has a balanced view of educational politics, who actually has K-12 teaching experience, who has a background in either education or psychometrics, and who understands that measuring something is not the way to improve it….

David Wasserman had the guts to stand up for his students and for meaningful assessment over shallow, cheaply processed “data”-gathering and number worship. His colleagues, principal, and superintendent should have applauded him. I suspect many of his students were grateful for even a moment’s thought for their plight. Instead, we saw no acts of courage from those with a little more power than a mere classroom teacher. It was business as usual, full speed ahead, and testing uber alles. How utterly sad, and how utterly tragic for real kids and real learning.

I too support Mr. Wasserman and hope that MMSD’s “reprimand” does not come to pass.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under Accountability, AMPS, Best Practices, Gimme Some Truth, Local News, National News, nclb, No Child Left Behind

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