The Incompetency of Education Reformers: The Texas Testing Edition

One of the biggest cons going is the belief that education reformers are get-it-done pragmatists. As I noted, regarding Florida’s ridiculous use of test scores, that’s not true:

What boggles the mind is that people at the Florida Department of Education put serious cognitive activity–I refuse to call it thought)–into this policy. Somewhere, meetings were held, drafts were read, policies were discussed. I doubt this was something an intern whipped up one late night. And they wound up with a policy wherein seventy percent of teachers are ‘evaluated’ using students they have never taught.

To put this in highly technical terms, these people are fucking morons who fell out of the stupid tree and hit every damn branch on the way down.

Education reformers style themselves as hard-headed pragmatists who get things done, but, in reality, they are incompetent ideologues* who shouldn’t be trusted to organize a school picnic, never mind an educational system.

In 2011, the Texas legislature decided that, in certain courses, the test used to evaluate student progress would account for fifteen percent of students’ final grades. Let’s just ignore the Campbell‘s Law implications. As usual, reformers didn’t think about how that would actually work (boldface mine):

From the school district perspective, the 15 percent rule was an administrative nightmare. But not until mid-2011, just before it was set to kick in, did district officials really start hollering.

What were the problems?

Start with the fact that few Texas schools issue “final grades” in high school. Semester grades are almost always the ones that matter. Did they all need to change their grading system to be legal?

Then consider the variety of ways Texas grades are presented: Letter grades, four-, five-, six- or 100-plus point scales. But STAAR scores are a four-digit number that fits none of the district systems. How to match them up? Neither the Legislature nor the Texas Education Agency offered guidance.

Children aren’t details to be neglected. Differences of philosophy notwithstanding, they are also incompetent.

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