These are my notes from Dr. David Berliner’s presentation this morning at the Texas Tech University College of Education annual research conference. The title of his presentation is, “Troubles for the NCLB Act: It may not be improving achievement and it corrupts the profession.” A PDF copy of Dr. Berliner’s PowerPoint slides is available.

This presentation is available as an audio podcast on the Texas Tech University College of Education podcast channel.

—- my notes —-

Let me start with my own positions

We have developed a standards movement here in the US,
– they are influencing what is taught and
– it is not a national curriculum but it is a convergence
– many of our school districts are starting

1- teachers are involved in making them
2- so are prof orgs
3- small number of stds
4- they are revisited frequently

This is especially good in mobile educational environments like we have in much of modern America
– more decentralization make

I also believe in accountability: 2 way accountability
– where cities and states are responsible for sending healthy children, and schools are responsible for educating kids
– we just have 1 way accountability now
– it is hard to educate poor children well

We need to remember accountability means to give an account
– to tell what is happening to them
– there is no evidence that anyone in Washington is listening to the voices of parents, teachers, etc
– if you are going to have accountability you must listen to all the voices

We are now getting a pig-headed take on accountability forced on us from on high

I also believe in testing, particularly formative assessment
– what I am against is the heavy use of high stakes testing
– almost invented singlehandedly in your fair state!
– has to do with onuses for performance

Now I would like to move to m
– NCLB does not work, cannot work, and is corrupting our profession

Reasons NCLB cannot work
– you cannot get 100% of the kids to proficient, which is now required by law
– you can’t get 100% of the kids to do anything, line up for
– KIDS DIFFER: there are individual differences, there is no field of ed psyche without individual differences

Getting 2 kids to exactly the same place at the same time: it is impossible, anyone who could think that is crazy

NAPE tests: it will be 50 – 75 years to get most kids to even the proficient level
– most of current politicians will be out of office by that time
– it will be 50 – 2000 years to close the gaps between whites and blacks, whites and hispanics
– take the graphs and run them out: that is what you see
– this is not good for America
– no one seems to have noticed this

– current standards will define most of our schools as failing
– this legislation seems focused on driving people to vouchers

Let’s look at those proponents of high stakes testing
– people say students work harder and learn more
— yet this is not true for ALL STUDENTS
— many don’t like the tests, are embarrassed, turn off
— it is not automatic

some say students are motivated and will do better
– some won’t because of passive aggression
– some kids build Christmas trees on answer sheets

scoring well on the test will lead to feelings of success, while doing poorly on such tests will lead to increased effort to learn

This is literally a pipe dream
– these are half-truths, rather than full truths

It is further argued that students and teachers
– need high-stakes tests to know what is important to learn and to teach
– that teachers need to be held accountable through high stakes tests

we have curriculum guides, textbooks
– we don’t need high stakes tests to know what to teach
– the test is not the curriculum: it should reflect the curriculum

Supporters of high stakes testing say:
– tests are good measures of the curricula that students are taught in schools
– tests provide a kind of “level playing field” an equal opportunity for all students to demonstrate their knowledge, and that
– high stakes tests are no longer obviously biased and now are good measures of an individuals performance, little affected by differences in students’ motivation, emotionality, language and social status

– you never sample a curriculum well through a test
– we are using high stakes summative assessment

there are no experimental studies that show cigarettes cause cancer, and everyone says it is causal
– you have tons of studies showing that poverty is correlated to student achievement
– POVERTY IS CAUSAL for student performance

the exceptions show
– group data shows: the lower your family income, the worse you do in terms of student achievement

Supporters of high stakes testing also believe
– teachers use test results to help provide better instruction for individual students
– that administrators use results to improve student learning and design better professional development for teachers, and that
– parents understand high-stakes tests and how to interpret their children’s scores

most schools don’t have a clue how to do data-based decisionmaking
– small districts without research departments don’t do this well typically

Note from Dept of Ed to the legislature
– “it is an evil for a well-taught and well-trained student to fail in an examination. It is an evil for an unqualified student through some inefficiency of the test, to obtain credit in an examination. It is a great and more serious evil, by too frequent and too numerous examinations, so to magnify their importance that students come to regard them not as a mean in education, but as the final purpose, the ultimate goal. It is a very great and most serious evil to sacrifice systematic instruction and a comprehenbsive view of the subject for the scrappy and unrelated knowledge gained by students who are persistently drilled in into the mere….”

This was from 1906: exactly 100 years ago. Having learned nothing from history, we move on.

Now let’s look at poverty rates in industrialized nations
– Innocenti report/UNICEF 2005 report

We should never have Mexico as a peer group for children in poverty
– their per capita income is about $7K per year, US is $34 per year

Top countries are Denmark, Finland

We are #1 in children in poverty among the richest nations in the world
– this is really an embarrassment
– this data give 22% as kids in poverty
– it is quite likely that the percentage of US children in poverty is now closer to 24%

If you take the poverty level

The poverty level set in this country is ridiculously low: $22K per family
– that is abject poverty
– no one uses the gov’t

Now if you look at half the people at the poverty level, from US Bureau of the Census
– this is on the increase

Simple question: why would you expect increased student achievement when the numbers of children in abject poverty is on the increase?

The percentage of poor who are poor once in 3 years
– Data from OECD, – mid-1990s from Mishel, Bernstein and Allegretto in 2005
– number of people who fall into poverty and stay there in the US is the worst in the world
– once you fall under the social nets we have, it is hard to get out
– percent of permanently poor is highest percentage in US
– we are not a friendly nation to the poor in this country
– we have a ridiculous perception in this nation of the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor”

Experience in Finland: asking about homeless people
– response was we don’t have them
– stuff that is acceptable here is unacceptable other places

Europeans really do care about their poor in a way that is different than the way we do

Next thing to note about poverty: it is racialized
– White, non-hispanic poverty is fairly constant 1973 – 2001, between 5% and 10%
– Hispanic and African- much higher (Hispanic 20% – 30%, African-American 30%-35% from 1973 to about 1993, then down to about 23% by 2001 and now again on the increase)

our most needy teachers get our most ignorant teachers
– so poverty is racialized

Now look at minority schools and who is in them
– 88% of white students attend majority white schools
– 25% of Black and Latino studetns attend majority white school
– 75% of America’s minorities attend schools that are majority minority, often overwhelmingly so

Jonathan Kozal says we are running an apartheid school system, separate but unequal systems, and he is RIGHT

What happens to our minorities are very clear when we look at the international level

Reading, mathematics, and science literacy rates for 15 year olds
– when you disaggreagate the data: you see US white kids are 4th highest performing in the world, our black and hispanic kids are 3rd from the bottom
– you can really see the racial breakdown in this

We are almost always average
– reasons are we are combining schools and excellence together, so we hide our real shame, and our real excellence

20 public schools in Chicago were treated as a nation, they were 1st in the world in science and 2nd in the world in mathematics
– of our 50 million US kids in school, about 30 million are white
– not talking about just the priviledged whites here

Next is from PIRLS: Progress in International Reading Literacy (nine and ten year olds in 35 countries)

We are a nation that is reading just fine, yet Bush and Rod Paige are going around saying we can’t read
– maybe they can’t read

Our white kids beat up the Swedish white kids
– go down a little lower
— score of children in schools where under 10% are eligible for free and reduced lunch (wealthier schools) = 585

PIRLS also showed score of children where more than 75% of the children are eligible for free lunch: much lower
– we have wealth in the suburbs, poverty in the cities, and it shows up very clearly in the international studies

We cannot look poor kids in the eye and say we have given them the same educational opportunities

You can only use these high stakes tests after equal opportunities have been provided

Now let’s look at the question of whether NCLB is working: are scores going up?
– we plotted state of Alabama on test scores on ACT and NAPE
– we looked if they put in a high stakes exit exam
– Alabama put a test in…
– national data set show that everyone got smarter in those time
– Alabama has no case to make that high stakes testing increases their scores

Same for 4th grade NAEP Mathematics tests 1992-2001 in Georgia, same result

Conclusions: Effects of high-stakes testing on various outcome measures

some states have different rates of exclusion
– Texas and North Carolina had highest rates of student exclusion
– real good way to get your scores up: throw out all the special education and English language learners
– identify kids and get them out of the testing
– we have to ask questions about whether we trust the data

What kind of social policy do you have

If you put in a standards-based curriculum, you narrow the curriculum
– the ACT measures a wide domain
– so in Texas, by putting in a standards-based high stakes testing state, you have reduced your ACT scores
– so it is harder to get into a school like Harvard

outcome measures are NAEP at 4th and 8th grade….

New graph: graduation rates in test-only states and states using multiple measures approaches to graduation prior to 2001
– states that have multiple measures to get out of high school have rising graduation rates
– those with single measures (EXIT tests) have declining graduation rates

That was our first study, got some criticisms
– designed 2nd study
– took 25 states for which we had complete data sets, prepared big folders on these states, Texas was one
– did sampling of newspaper articles, took state laws on exit exams, built a portfolio
– then used comparative judgments: noticeable differences

Ask people to make comparisons about which states are putting more pressure on teachers and students
– had over 300 students involved in making these
– Kentucky and Wyoming were least pressure
– Texas and North Carolina were highest pressure, Massachusetts also high

Point is: we took 25 states and scaled them, lowest pressure to highest pressure
– this is the theory of action: pressure will help
– how does this come out with NAEP results
– big conclusion: the overall assumption of NCLB is absolutely false: there is no relationship of increased scores and increased pressure on teachers

We conclude the theory of action is not applicable for 8th grade level
– does work at 4th grade level, we conclude 4th grade math is better for drill and kill

So it does look like you can manipulate NAEP scores with drill and kill at 4th grade

Last point: NCLB is corrupting our
– 1975 Donald Campbell: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor” – p35
– George Madaus in 2002 called this the social science equivalent of the Heisenbuerg uncertainty principles
– the higher the stakes involved in testing, the less likely you are to get an accurate measurement of the construct you most want to measure
– this is a social science law
– so you simply cannot have both high-stakes and high validity because the higher the stakes the more corrupt the measure becomes
– Thus uncertainty about the meaning of a test score rises with increases in the consequences associated with scores on the test

The indicators in college basketball become corrupt because they take on too much value

1946 prompt

If you put people’s job on the line, they will do what it takes to give you what they want
– I am finishing a book now with Sharon Nichols: Campell’s law predicts you will find teachers cheating, breaking standardization
– that is equivalent to a statistician cheating
– about 15% of teachers admit to going up to a kid and look over their shoulder, give them feedback
— that ruins the validity of the test, we see this all the time

One principal said “I want nothing new taught in the 6 weeks before the test”
– friend who was superintendent responsible for “The Tacoma Miracle”
– then recruited for chancellor of New York, then to Miami
– day after he left they fired the test-prep company and the scores went down
– moral: they

When person who was running the test prep company was confronted with this, he defended himself because the rich are all hiring tutors to help their kids score well on the SAT

teachers do triage now: bubble kids, they work with those
– forget the real low kids
– teachers view kids as score increasers or score suppressors

kids that are easiest to teach get the best teachers

corruption of administrators: many kids were dropped as “thugs” 3 days before the testing
– corruption of the indicators and the people

I think Rod Paige was the most corrupt superintendnet
– Houston simply lied about dropout rates and other stats
– NYC also forced kids out so scores went out

Maryland: we are cancelling naps, students are not learning enough
– also recess

School district outside
– 7 minutes for lunch: McNuggests and wraps

Boston: armored truck in April, delivered to principal big carton of state tests
– principal signed for it
– on top is large ziplock bag: instructions, when children throw up on the test, put on your latex gloves and put the test in the ziplock bag

What kind of system did we create that we are preparing for kids throwing up, and we expect them to
– think about the poor guy in the state dept who has to check those bags in, probably at minimum wages

Our system has gotten corrupt

Wrapping up: The dissatisfaction of most teachers with these tests is something to take seriously
– we have been blessed in this nation for the levels of dedication

Now think about what education really means: educated in a discipline, to think like a scientist, historian, etc
– to ponder on the meaning of truth, the meaning of beauty, and its opposite
– and to deal with what is evil and good: because we do have both and need to deal with them

Then think about our measures

High stakes tests cannot adequately measure those things we want to measure

standards, accountability, and assessment are not our enemies
– high stakes testing IS the enemy, however
– the promise of education is not likely to be realized if we stay with this onerous system much longer

The single engine of the world’s economy right now is the US economy
– that was
– US economy thrives not because we have good schools, but because we have schools with great diversity

I can make a case that it is the diversity of our talent and our entrepreneurial spirit that makes this nation great
– till WWII European education system was very elitist
– it has democratized more

An economy thrives if it has diverse talents, is relatively….

Question: why don’t we have a more rigorous curriculum
– I think, we need one
– we have got to get a rigorous curriculum

a large percentage of kids who drop out are dropping out because we don’t have a rigorous curriculum
– single most important edpscyh issue for kids is how to get engagement
– so we need more involvement, more group projects, a lot of ways to do that

the 19th century curriculum we are using now has to end

answer to my question
– Render unto Cesear what is Cesear’s
– see Black and William’s book on formative assessment
– use those formative assessments and portfolios of work as moderating
– system should
– I resent this violation of professional ethics, when you do that willingly you are less of a person
– making decisions based on a single measure

Problem was we didn’t have videos
– not like what happened in Selma when dogs were released
– civil rights movement took a strong turn at that point
– if we had had videotape of white sherrif turning back black poor into a city that was drowning, the response might have been different

Solution for our modern concerns: the one night in 4
– every teacher and administrator working at home, one night in 4, go to rotary, churches, all organizations, go and talk about the stuff of live
– what happened in America: every social organization in America had increased membership through the 1960s
– people socialized, at those social meetings, they talked about the things of life (schools, potholes in streets, etc)
– there was a perception of participation
– in most parts of the US this does not exist anymore
– my only way of thinking about creating concern for children is to meet with people in a communal atmosphere
– go out to these places as an educator and make sure the messages about what is happening

We have become a nation that sends $20 to our favorite organizations instead of actually going to them

“Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam shows this huge decline in American social life
– 1960: everyone had TV, it became popular to stay home
– women in the workforce mushroomed, so they stopped going out because they were tired like the men were (increased work for everyone, we are a nation of isolated families instead of communal beings)

Scholarship isn’t going to change anything, it is going to change 10 people’s minds
– anecdotes at school board meetings and community meetings are what is going to change America

In the Bible you see this understanding that you can’t have this oligarchy and the passing on of wealth
– lesson of “jubilee”
– what we have now is unbridled capitalism

I love capitalism, but I love a nation that is 52% capitalist, not 99%
– northern European standards of living in Finland, Norway, etc have higher standards of living
– redistribution of wealth
– I am not a communist! But we need a redistribution of wealth in this country

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3 Responses to Troubles for NCLB: It may not be improving achievement and it corrupts the profession

  1. JB says:

    KER– POW. You just hit um with a big hammer Wes. Now tell me why every superintendent in the state of Texas is not sitting on the steps of the capital this very moment demading better education?

  2. […] Coincidentally, Wesley Fryer posted an article about a presentation by Dr. David Berliner on the effects of NCLB. I was curious to find out more about Berliner, who had so much ammunition to fire at the standardized testing movement. I found a few links to more work published by Berliner. […]

  3. […] I’m working on an enhanced podcast version of Dr. David Berliner’s presentation on high stakes testing and NCLB from yesterday in Garageband, and ran into a frustrating problem I’ve just solved. When I record on my iPod using my iTalk mic, the resulting audio file is in WAV format. If I try to import that file directly into Garageband, it does not sound/play correctly, it is garbled. This is one of the reasons I love editing my podcasts with Audacity, which never has this problem and seems to import audio in any format without difficulty. […]

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