Who is in charge of (and who profits from) assessment?

Professor Michael Moore (not that Michael Moore) of Georgia Southern University has an interesting, if somewhat hard-to-follow article on the flow of money from the government into the coffers of testing and test prep companies.  Here’s what I think it the key line:

If you’re following the money, it goes like this: Link the common core standards to winning “Race to the Top” money, then link this to these quasi non-profits (which really aren’t non-profit) testing companies who get to use federal money to fund the creation of standards’ assessments and who had a seat(s) at the standards writing table, and you’ve got the creation of quite the little market corner.

His gripes, and he’s really got two gripes, are as follows:

(1)  that the decisions on common standards and on testing contracts and such are made largely by groups of people involved and related to the testing industry, without input from actual teachers.  (I should note that, as a college professor, he doesn’t seem to be personally upset at not being consulted, but making a disinterested stand on principle.)

(2) that there’s a great deal of self-dealing and corruption in the economics of this whole process.  Presumably his complaint here is twofold: it’s at least prima facie bad by itself, and it’s likely to lead to suboptimal results where self-interest and excellence and efficiency in assessment part ways.

I think that the second gripe is a potent argument of which interested parties (though not interested in the way he’s asserting) should take note.

But the first gripe doesn’t strike me as necessarily well-founded.  It might be well-founded in some specific, empirical sense — maybe the best people to make a particular decision really would include certain specific teachers, and maybe it would be good policy to make sure that groups of potentially competent decision-makers weren’t affirmatively excluded from the process — but given the way we train and recruit our teachers in this country, for the most part, I don’t see any ex ante need to have them involved in these decisions.

Anyway, like many things I link to when I’m blogging, I don’t necessarily agree but it’s an interesting read.

Comments

  1. One problem with these “assessment” products (or many of them) is that the assessment is supposed to be continuous; teachers are supposed to test students frequently during class time. Continuous assessment can easily become curriculum–so while people are busy arguing about whether or not there should be a common curriculum, it may just materialize under the guise of assessment.

  2. “that there’s a great deal of self-dealing and corruption in the economics of this whole process.”

    ie. politics

  3. Jennifer Denslow says:

    I’m disappointed what you say here: “given the way we train and recruit our teachers in this country, for the most part, I don’t see any ex ante need to have them involved in these decisions.”

    I think that too many times people far removed from the classroom are making decisions about what and how we teach our students. The need to quantify in a very limited way what students learn leads to the marginalization not only of subjects difficult to test in a standardized way, such as fine arts, but the marginalization of critical thinking and affective skills as well.