High Stakes Testing should we even be doing it?


Bird Droppings July 11, 2014
High Stakes Testing should we even be doing it?

Six years ago the staff at our high school spent several months getting ready for a peer review, actually it is called a GAPPS Review. About the same time you throw in the Georgia High School Graduation retests and PSAT, and End of Course tests coming up and literally daily there was an ongoing teaching to the test and or inspection of one sort or another in education. In the days since it has not changed if not only become worse. We gear ourselves so diligently in getting ready for the tests maybe even more so than actually taking the tests and we lose sight of what education is really about, a quality education.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

When I first saw this quote it made me wonder has Bill Gates lost his marbles. But look deeper in to what Gates is really saying. If a company has no unhappy customers they are doing everything right essentially. Basic Phillip Crosby quality control is to be sure customers are satisfied. Another big gun the late Steve Jobs had an issue with the iPhone 4 seems the phone when held had a hard time getting a signal I actually think they had a left hand designer who put antennae on the side a right handed person would hold phone and thereby canceling signal. Solution a free case to all iPhone 4 purchasers which at last count was about six million.

“Quality is meeting or exceeding the expectations of your customers” Phillip Crosby

If we expand that customer base further to all people who we come in contact with then that idea, a source of learning is magnified many times over and if we now also have that group of everyone having expectations of us we quickly become either good or evil depending on how we are viewed by the world. That could be a stretch but in reality this is how we do see things. What if we could apply this to education? Bill Gates has been attempting but has been talking with the wrong customers. Teachers, students and parents impacted by education are not the ones the Gates Foundation considers customers it is the corporations supplying materials and for profit programs.

“Learning is not compulsory …. Neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming

Leading into my thoughts a fellow from years gone by, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming was one of the greatest industrial management consultants and thinkers of the 20th century. He provided the insight that Japanese industrialists built empires on after World War II. He summarized in fourteen points which I have included because there are some good thoughts regardless of whether you are in industry, teaching and or simply a parent. I can recall my father borrowing these from Deming as he discussed a good and a quality Safety Program.

The 14 points for management in industry, education and government Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

1. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place. (Maybe we in education need to read this one several times and then again)
2. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
3. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
4. Institute training on the job.
5. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers. (Leadership what a powerful word yet in education you generally get management)
6. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (oh if we could eliminate fear among teachers what a workplace we could have and who knows maybe even empower teachers)
7. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
8. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. (I wonder when we will ever see this in education as we constantly want to compare the US to Japan to China to each other to ethnic groups our educational system is built on comparison and the great quality expert is saying no way)
9. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
10. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership. (See my response on 8)
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
Reference: http://www.deming.org/ – The W. Edwards Deming’s Institute

Interesting as I looked through the list and see applications for myself in teaching. There are very near parallel to Foxfire Core Practices and several other teaching references. For example point one “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Not only did Deming see this as a problem, but as Sen. Paul Wellstone states.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying they will not tolerate failure. But it is a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone

This was being seen in industry as an issue by Deming. If an inspector has to check for errors and or faulty pieces of an item what was interesting in his research done on inspectors the number of pieces faulty was in direct correlation to total number of pieces actually produced. In effect inspectors knew they had to find x number of pieces and that is how many they found. Many faulty pieces went through regardless of inspection if total was met. Deming is saying build a quality piece first so there will be no faulty pieces. Teach appropriately and you will not have to test.

”A plague has been sweeping through American schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools. Invoking such terms as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar,” people with little understanding of how children learn have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.” Alfie Kohn

Sitting here this morning after spending much of yesterday teaching colleges classes I am waiting to relax and sit quietly for a few minutes then get into some serious writing Each year we seem to add two or three more weeks of intensive testing in our high school officially called the End of course Tests, EOCT and Georgia High School Graduation Tests, GHSGT. There is not much pressure on High School Students at all to succeed in Georgia that is an understatement. In bold letters every student knows if you do not pass this test you will not pass this course and or graduate. I hear that there is actually a rumor, that this statement is being tattooed on students before tests, pass or leave, but I found out it is false. In industry, in politics, in homes and in schools we so often use that mentality to accomplish the ends with our children, employees and even friends.

As I look at Bill Gates quote again and think of students taking standardized tests you would think someone would have caught on somewhere. Maybe we need to get tested more? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and do look over Deming’s fourteen points there are a few good ideas and be sure to always give thanks namaste
.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

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