Tuesday, July 19, 2011

School testing

To be sure, we need testing. I think we should have a voluntary federal high school graduation exam that produces a federal high school diploma--that states your grade level of achievement in English, math, social studies, biology, and so forth. High schools can give diplomas based on attendance and grades. Then the graduate would be providing two diplomas to colleges and prospective employers. If there's a big disparity between them, and that disparity is statistically significant--that is, across lots of students--it will certainly draw attention to the teacher/school/district that has such a disparity.

Schools that don't buy into the voluntary federal test would be marked, even without financial sanctions from the feds.

That is, what really bothers me is former students with high school diplomas who can't really read or do arithmetic, or figure out a contract or a ballot. This cheats both the student and the college/employer.

Suppose the federal and state government do nothing about teachers/schools/districts where there is a big disparity. I bet the voters in that district will--especially when colleges and employers start telling them their kids' high school diplomas are worthless. That is, the world will revoke those schools' credentials even if the credentialing authorities don't.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

At the same time, a given teacher's students could do well or poorly for reasons outside the teacher's control. The real solution is principals who can and will get rid of poor teachers, based on the teacher's in-person knowledge--and holding principals responsible for their teachers' performance, since, unlike the teachers, they would be able to choose their teachers, while teachers can't choose their students.

This would mean treating schools by business standards--no tenure for anyone, and using the personal knowledge of your managers onsite to determine who's doing a good job. Teachers are not managers of their students, so the analogy applies to principals where you don't have tenure, but not to teachers.

With or without abolishing tenure, though, my federal voluntary system has the advantages of being relatively cheap and relatively doable. State and local rights are in no way infringed, especially since the testing wouldn't be tied to federal aid.

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