The link between ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and testing

Aug 11, 2011 by

Carol Corbett Burris

I went to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” the other night. After the first ten minutes, everyone in the theatre knew things would not end well — at least not for the humans. The well-meaning protagonist ignores the warning signs that something is just not right with his experimentation. The damage is compounded when the entrepreneur smells the profit. The doomed experimentation accelerates and chaos ensues.

Carol Corbett Burris has taught graduate courses on school reform at Teachers College

The theme is a familiar one. It is found in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” The best of intentions falls prey to hubris or desire, blinding the man of science to the warning signs that things are not working as they should. The lessons to be learned are always the same — proceed with caution, analyze your effects, and beware of the unintended consequences.

Not bad advice, I think, for the crowd that shouts, “no excuses.” Before you go to scale, evaluate what you are doing to see if it is working. Yet the obsession of reform by test scores blindly marches on. The most recent example is the evaluation of teachers by test scores, with Pennsylvania being the most recent state to jump on board.

One might understand the rush to use test scores for evaluation if there were research that showed it improved student learning. However, there is no research that indicates that test based evaluations will improve teaching or learning at all. As Kevin Welner and I point out in our letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, during the two years that IMPACT has been in place in Washington D.C., elementary student scores have gone down, and the strong correlation that you would expect to see between observations of teaching and test scores is not there.

via The link between ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and testing – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post.

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