amvans's Blog

Musings from a confirmed "Technical Difficulty"

Messing around when I should be doing my homework

There is no better motivation for accomplishing the least important task on the To-Do list than having a major assignment due in two days and which has not yet been started. I’ve cleaned up all my e mailboxes, updated my Facebook page, subscribed to a few new mailing lists, visited all those “websites you should be wasting time on right now”, “Stumbled” around a bit, read all the news…so the only thing left would be to write pointless drivel no one will ever read on my blog …something like 6 months after the last entry….wasn’t that the last time I had a major project due?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the No Child Left Behind act. The impetus for that was a movie a friend of mine told me I absolutely had to watch “Waiting for Superman”. I got about halfway through before I turned it off. What a waste of a Netflix choice. It started out OK, but as it went on, I started to realize it was pure propaganda for the NCLB. The “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” has a better grip on statistics than that movie. Instead I decided to read “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education”.  Ravitch, who is a former assistant secretary of education makes a very strong case against standardized testing and Choice ( ironically for me…since my kids are choiced in).

I’ll say up front I’m no fan of standardized testing. Anyone with experience in experimental design knows how important it is to control for all the variables when designing an experiment of any kind, but the most notoriously challenging (and difficult to repeat) are those that deal with human subjects. As far as I can tell, the standardized tests given to kids in accordance with NCLB measures nothing useful. I know that the results of these tests are a kind of performance evaluation for teachers. But if you measured the number of railroad cars attached to a passing train and divided it by the time of day you’d get the same amount of functional data. I have yet to see any strong evidence that use of these tests help in any way other than to advance the agenda of test and educational instrument producers. If you follow the money trail, they are the ones truly profiting from this arrangement…clearly, students and teachers are not.

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