Via a comment on this post, I came across an interesting blog that I hadn’t seen before. The topic is k-12 education reform, something close to my heart since both my parents were high school teachers, my Mom for her whole career, and my Dad while he was in the Peace Corps[*].
I came out of an education system with high stakes testing, so I’m fairly comfortable with it. It seems to me that some sort of testing is necessary in order to measure teaching effectiveness. The stakes for the student should not be all-or-nothing, though. The ideal is testing that measures school performance, but which constitutes only a part of the student’s grade. The teacher and school should be assessed on aggregate test scores across all students, presumably with some cross comparison with other schools in similar circumstances (since it doesn’t make sense to compare inner city schools to suburban magnet schools, for example). The process of actually measuring school performance isn’t simple, but it is necessary to have some sort of feedback mechanism that focuses teacher and administrator attention on a meaningful performance metric.
Testing is a bit of a fad these days, which is a mixed blessing. At least some testing schemes are stupid and destructive (all or nothing tests that track students into the smart kids track or the regular track, for example). The diversity of schemes being tried suggests that at least some will work, and hopefully the good ones will be adopted by other states and school districts. In the meantime some of the kids being experimented on will suffer needlessly thanks to political stupidity, but the alternative is kids suffering due to political neglect, so it’s not obviously a losing proposition.
Anyway, go dig around the site a bit. Even if you don’t have kids, you are directly affected by this.
[*] incidentally, IMO the Peace Corps is probably the best investment in foreign relations that the US has ever made. High level bladiblahblah doesn’t last longer than the leadership of the foreign countries being engaged. Massive aid projects line the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats. Actual US citizens interacting one-on-one with local people and materially improving their lives spreads American ideals into the grassroots, and inoculates at least some people against rabid anti-Americanism in a way that lasts long after the volunteer has gone home.