"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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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"2012: An Educational Odyssey" and HALene the Computer

Welcome to your new reality.

View this clip on a practice test to see how children will taking assessments from Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) via computers. NWEA is described as:
Putting kids first, since 1977
We are a not-for-profit dedicated to helping kids live their dreams. Data is our tool -- gathered through our assessments, validated by research and brought to life by our 4,000 partners -- with our professional development as support.

How old do you think the children are in this tutorial?  This practice test is for primary grades so I am assuming this test is targeted toward kindergarteners or first graders.

The test is exceedingly slow and there is no way to speed it up.  Granted, this is a new test for 5-6 year old children, but the test is so boring and antiseptic in its vocal delivery and directions, it will be a miracle if many of the students will be able to listen and comply with the monotone of the computerized voice.  There is also no way to review past answers.  Once an answer is entered, it's in the data record forever. 

Remember HAL the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Let's call the voices used in this clip "HALene".  She has as much emotion and caring in her voice as HAL did in the movie.  HALene remarks the reason for the test is to help know what "you are ready to learn".  What the test doesn't measure are certain issues that may impact a student's answers:
  • Dyslexia (can't read the sentence provided)
  • ADD (inattention to detail and directions)
  • Lack of knowledge of vocabulary used in the test
  • Gifted (exceedingly bored with material already mastered)
  • Inexperience with computers (non-aquired fine motor skills causing frustration and possible wrong answers)

If you can make it through the directions and activities in the practice test, try to put yourself in a 5-6 year old child's place sitting through these directions.  They have no opportunity to review answers and they have to sit still listening to a monotone voice imparting multi-level instructions.  There is also no paper trail for the parents to review their child's progress and in fact, NWEA doesn't believe it has to share this information with the parents.  Screenshot from page 4 of the ParentToolkit.pdf:

Privacy experts believe that's a misrepresentation of FERPA and incorrectly cited.  This is an example of  a private company crafting assessments, compiling data on your child and claiming no accountability to those parents who have funded those same assessments.   FERPA is designed to protect student information and provide parent/student access to educational records, not to disallow the retrieval of information by parents/students from companies accessing student information. 

Is this a vision of computerized assessments?  No accountability provided to taxpayers and parents?  Does this antiseptic approach to testing excite students to learn more or dread their new "teacher"?   How much do these assessments cost the district and why can't you, as a taxpayer, have the information this company is compiling on your student?  Your student's work product should be under your control and decision on who reviews it and profits from it.  This the difference between a teacher grading a test and reviewing it with you and your student.  This information is now going to a private company and do you know where and to whom it is being disseminated and for what purpose? 

Parents being provided a parent toolkit which doesn't and won't provide answers to the above questions might want to review HAL's quotes from the movie:

Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave Bowman
: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave Bowman
: What's the problem?
: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman
: What are you talking about, HAL?
: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave Bowman
: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
Dave Bowman
: [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Dave Bowman
: Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
: Without your space helmet, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult.
Dave Bowman
: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!
: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye

We are now in 2012: An Education Odyssey with as much control over our public education institutions as Dave Bowman had in trying to open a pod door.   

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't watch their video, projectile vomit kicked in after the word 'special'.


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