Linda Darling-Hammond thinks that passage of a new bipartisan ESEA bill is "really possible". I doubt it. But I don't run in those circles.
Writing this week in Huffington Post, she says any new federal legislation has to represent a break from the old No Child Left Behind, especially on testing and assessment. She correctly points out that despite NCLB's focus on more and more standardized testing, "achievement gains have slowed in the NCLB era, and achievement gaps have remained stubbornly large". Many of her criticisms of current testing approaches also apply to the new PARCC exams.
You might remember that Darling-Hammond was unceremoniously dumped and exiled back to Palo Alto by an Obama administration that had bought uncritically into the worst aspects of corporate-style reform. Fearful that she was too teacher/union friendly, they handed the D.O.E. over to Arne Duncan instead. The consequences have been disastrous for public education.
I still think Darling-Hammond is too accepting of Common Core standards and of testing as a driver of curriculum. But, I think she offers some smart ideas about how and why we test. They include:
- Assessment results should be reported and used for information and improvement, rather than for labeling schools or administering sanctions, a purpose for which they were never intended.
- Federal law should no longer prescribe technical features of tests - how they are designed and administered -- in ways that prevent innovation and change.
- States should be invited to create integrated systems of state- and locally-administered assessments that provide information for the multiple purposes they need to serve, combining rich assessments to describe annual student learning and progress in ways that can inform teaching.
- ESEA should encourage accountability systems based on multiple measures of student success, as well as students' opportunities to learn.
These open-ended exams, which feature essay questions and complex problems, often include project-based components completed during the school year and scored by teachers who are trained to ensure consistency. Rather than treating tests as black boxes to use as hammers for sanctions, these countries understand that assessments of, as, and for learning should be integrated into instruction and support better teaching.Good ideas, Linda. Good luck in getting any of them through this congress.