"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Autonomy vs Acquiescing: A Tale of Two Superintendents. One Requests Map Test Waivers, One Requests Common Curriculum

This is an article about the Springfield District requesting to opt out its students from the MAP testing, and instead, replace it with Performance Series Examinations. The superintendent (Dr. Norman Ridder) believes this alternate set of tests gives quicker response which allows more immediate feedback for classroom teachers.

We wrote yesterday about Federal Government control over states and districts in educational mandates and spending. Springfield's superintendent must go to the state who then must file a waiver and wait for a decision from the Department of Education. If the DOE turns down the waiver, then the district must administer the MAP. Even if Ridder and DESE believe an alternate test would work better for a district, they basically have no power over the decision of the Federal level. (Just asking: Where in the Constitution is the Federal Government given authority over the states in educational decisions?) How much more obvious does it need to be to taxpayers and legislators that local control does not exist in education?

What does DESE think about the waiver idea? According to the Commissioner:

Springfield’s system gets a favorable opinion from one of the state’s top education officials. Chris Nicastro, commissioner of education for DESE, called the MAP a “snapshot” test that doesn’t provide results in a timely manner. “If you find out something isn’t working, you want to know that right away so that you can make the change immediately,” Nicastro said during a Springfield appearance Tuesday. “You don’t wait until your end of year report to say that something didn’t work 10, 11 or 12 months ago. If you did, your business would be in trouble and your board of directors would probably be on your back. “In education, that’s kind of what we’ve got. So I think we need to talk more about an assessment system that really informs instruction and gives us the kind of real-time information we need to make adjustments.”

The Joplin School District does not want to follow Springfield's lead; Joplin Superintendent Huff believes the MAP is sufficient:

C.J. Huff, superintendent of the Joplin School District, said the district will likely keep using the MAP because it helps the district gauge how its students perform when compared to other districts.

Testing decisions should be under a superintendent's purview. One aspect of education traditionally left to districts under state law is curriculum decisions. What is surprising are Huff's following statements regarding curriculum based on Arne Duncan's statements about education:

“This law has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed,” Duncan told Congress this week. “We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk.”

Huff said that preliminary buzz over what such a new law would look like would be to develop a nationwide set of curriculum standards upon which tests could be based.
Currently, every state has its own set of standards. But Huff said a consortium of different states is forming to come up with a common core curriculum.

“We’re not getting an apples to apples comparison,” Huff said. “We all need to get on the same page and grow and learn from another.” (emphasis added)

Apparently Superintendent Huff wants to share a common core curriculum...not just common core standards or assessments, but a common core curriculum. Last time I researched this issue, a common curriculum was illegal and individual school districts were given the freedom to set their own curricula. How can a superintendent support a common curriculum when it is illegal?

One superintendent wants to practice district autonomy in MAP testing and another superintendent wants to jump on the bandwagon of a nationalized common curriculum. When did the control of the Federal government become so invasive that districts have to ask for permission to ask if it can use a particular test? Conversely, when did some superintendents believe (and accept) that the Federal Government has the legal authority to set curriculum frameworks which lead to a nationalized curriculum?

Tomorrow: do parents have the legal authority to opt their child out of MAP testing? Or do they need a waiver from the Federal Government as well?

1 comment:

  1. When did some superintendents believe (and accept) that the Federal Government has the legal authority to set curriculum frameworks which lead to a nationalized curriculum?

    Good Question!
    Short Answer: Since our State Board of Education and Governor Nixon decided to sign-on to Common Core. It isn't just a wave of the hand...




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