March 29, 2011

Obama tosses value added assessments under the bus

From a transcript of Obama being interviewed by blue-eyed Jorge Ramos on Spanish-language Univision (Obama was getting an English translation in his ear piece -- he speaks only English, which has obviously slowed his career immensely):
What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize. 
Too often what we've been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. 
And so what we've said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that's not the only way we're judging whether a school is doing well. 
Because there are other criteria: What’s the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not.

Look, if you don't have a standardized test every year, you can't measure how much value that year's teacher added. It's still not easy to do right, but you can't do it at all if you don't test annually. That's not that complicated, but Obama doesn't get it.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think Obama gets it. I am sure the teacher's union(s) have been telling him for a while that they don't like being evaluated ... and they would rather have less nuisances.

Indeed, I would imagine that they would rather that some of the little thugs in their classrooms also go to jail or simply not come to school.

Anonymous said...

When elites start sending their kids to schools that don't require SATs for admission, I'll believe that they mean what they say about the evils of testing.

-Osvaldo M.

Anonymous said...

"What's the attendance rate?"??? Really? Showing up means competence?

Anonymous said...

Look, if you don't have a standardized test every year, you can't measure how much value that year's teacher added. It's still not easy to do right, but you can't do it at all if you don't test annually.

Not correct at all.

-You can measure how much value has been provided by a school to students by seeing how much they're willing to pay for the service. That doesn't work well for free public schools but we can use private schools and various other metrics to guess the value.

-You can't measure value added with testing. This has been tried and evaluated many time but the inherent variation of individuals and circumstances, measurement errors, intangible effects, teaching to the test, and outright cheating are confounding effects. The confounding effects that cannot be controlled add up to a larger signal than the actual academic value of the teaching. There will never be a technocratic, valid, and accurate measure of individual teaching based on testing.

-You can measure a teacher's value one way. You could have parents bid on the chance to place a student in a particular teacher's classroom.

-Widespread school choice and charter schools will accomplish everything that high stakes testing is supposed to accomplish.

-Widespread high stakes testing will accomplish nothing it is supposed to accomplish.

-Testing advocates (Bush and Obama) are just authoritarian nationalizers sabotaging local schools from D.C.

-Mexican schools are tightly organized and run by the SEP in Mexico City. Is that how you want your local schools run?

Anonymous said...

Unless you're a teacher's union advocate and the idea of quantifying teacher impact annualy has absolutely no added value to your agenda... and in fact is in opposition to your intentions of obfusticating teacher value.

Anonymous said...

"Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize. "

I never did understand the "high stakes" vs "low stakes" distinction for standardized tests. At Sidwell Friends, Obama's daughters would be expected to take the CTP-4: it has parts that are definitely correlated with IQ.

Any IQ test is high stakes if you are told the results.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the problem is that deep down he does get it, and he doesn't like the implications.

Anonymous said...

"Look, if you don't have a standardized test every year, you can't measure how much value that year's teacher added. It's still not easy to do right, but you can't do it at all if you don't test annually. That's not that complicated, but Obama doesn't get it."

Is getting elected the first black US president while pretending to be the Magic Negro really all that indicative of intelligence?

Garland said...

He's concerned about high stakes testing and how much it would make his daughters panic. But wouldn't more frequent tests *reduce* the stakes and panic-factor? It's giving them only every few years that makes them so momentous. If you gave them all the time it would be less of a deal to blow one.

Anonymous said...

Send Sasha and Malia to the average public school in Chicago or Washington DC.

Then get back to us what the problem really is.

Anonymous said...

"That's not that complicated, but Obama doesn't get it."

He gets it. He just doesn't like the results, especially along racial lines.

JSM said...

"What's the attendance rate?"??? Really? Showing up means competence?"

You'd guess he thinks so based on all his "Present" votes in the Senate.

anony-mouse said...

Always liked blue-eyed Italian singer Frank Sinatra?

Better looking than the green eyes of Smokey Robinson.

Anonymous said...

Most of the "high stakes" in assessment testing is teachers freaking kids out about it because the teachers want the kids to take the tests seriously.

If teachers really believed that "high stakes" reduced performance, they'd stop singlehandedly raising the stakes.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the attendance rate matters, a lot. If the kids aren't there, it doesn't matter how bright and competent they are; they are going to fail.

Obama really gave the game away, though, with that comment. Motivated students who are doing well in school are generally not in league with the gang bangers and no hopers who are busy on street corners during class hours. But like most liberals, Obama's not interested in motivated students who are doing well in school, unless they are his own kids.

Svigor said...

I think Obama gets it, too. Fewer tests mean fewer reminders of The Gap, less knowledge about where our kids are, fewer headlines about failing schools, happier teachers, happier unions, etc.

Who's going to fight the implication that Bush's testing regime is motivated by bigotry?

Disgruntled said...

Most people aren't willing to throw out the SAT, which shows they don't believe standardized testing is meaningless.

However, a huge problem for teachers in schools with poor student quality is that many students don't care about the test and randomly bubble answers. The same doesn't hold for the SAT. You can usually assume students taking the SAT want to get into college.

Svigor said...

But wouldn't more frequent tests *reduce* the stakes and panic-factor? It's giving them only every few years that makes them so momentous. If you gave them all the time it would be less of a deal to blow one.

Heh, good point.

Kylie said...

"I think Obama gets it, too. Fewer tests mean fewer reminders of The Gap, less knowledge about where our kids are, fewer headlines about failing schools, happier teachers, happier unions, etc."

Yes, and fewer testing scandals, too.
In Georgia, test-answer erasures triggered criminal probe.

James B. Shearer said...

Look, if you don't have a standardized test every year, you can't measure how much value that year's teacher added. It's still not easy to do right, but you can't do it at all if you don't test annually. That's not that complicated, but Obama doesn't get it.

Trying to assess individual teachers is basically futile because teachers don't actually make much difference. The small effects that differences in teachers (within the range commonly found in the US) have on academic performance are swamped by the much larger effects that differences in students have on academic performance. This means the signal to noise ratio is too small to reliably evaluate individual teachers (particularly based on a single year). Not to mention the enormous cheating and gaming the assessment system problems that arise when you try.

beowulf said...

Actually, I think the President has seen the future and teachers ain't in it ("At age 4, Nell receives a stolen copy of an interactive book, Young Lady's Illustrated Primer: a Prop├Ždeutic Enchiridion in which is told the tale of Princess Nell and her various friends, kin, associates, &c.,").
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diamond_Age

"Digital tutors as effective as personal tutors. Researchers have long aspired to develop
educational software that is as effective as a personal tutor, one of the grand challenges in the President’s innovation strategy. DARPA and the Navy have supported the development of a digital tutor to train new Navy recruits to become IT systems administrators. After using the digital tutor for only seven weeks, Navy recruits are dramatically outperforming their peers who are receiving traditional classroom-based instruction and have the level of expertise of an IT specialist with three years of experience. These early results from the DARPA project show the promise of additional investment in this area."

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:BV44YIQSWswJ:www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/arpa-ed-background.pdf

eh said...

He'd probably also like to do away with that "value added assessment" coming up in 2012.

Although re-electing bad Presidents seems to be de rigeur nowadays.

John Craig said...

What are the odds that Obama himself didn't do all that well on standardized testing, certainly not up to the standards of what one would normally expect from an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and that this informs his attitude towards such tests. He's spent a lot of money on lawyers who make sure his academic records stay sealed. I have to believe some of that is because he would be embarrassed to have his SATs, LSATs, and grades made public.

Anonymous said...

"Better looking than the green eyes of Smokey Robinson."

Man, he went for contacts in a big way. His eyes were light brown on the record albums I recall.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Actually, I think the President has seen the future and teachers ain't in it..."Digital tutors as effective as personal tutors..."

I really, really doubt it. I know your source (Wiki) mentions the Grand Poobah's "innovation strategy" but I question its veracity. Do you realize how many Democratic votes all the school board employees at brick-and-mortar schools are good for?

Also, this whole debate is just kicking the can down the road. Once the data starts getting collected, "disparate impact" will rear its head in teacher evaluations.

Inkraven said...

Steve,
Somewhat off topic, but did you happen to catch this today? The article talks about possible cheating in DC schools to boost test scores.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-28-1Aschooltesting28_CV_N.htm

sfer said...

I am against high stakes testing too. You get data but there isn't much you can do with it. There is no proven education reform anyone can implement to improve test scores. A lot of the improvements that you see is a result of cheating. Generally this is done by manipulating the population that takes the test, but in DC they just changed the answers on some of the tests.

Anonymous said...

"He's spent a lot of money on lawyers who make sure his academic records stay sealed. I have to believe some of that is because he would be embarrassed to have his SATs, LSATs, and grades made public."

He always believes HE is the smartest guy in the room so he doesn't want YOU getting a mistaken impression that he has sub-Mensa IQ.

"Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

Or in the case of the Magic Negro, even an affirmative action mental mediocrity, when he withholds his college transcript, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips about his SAT and LSAT scores is esteemed a man of understanding.

Anonymous said...

"I am against high stakes testing too. You get data but there isn't much you can do with it."

Yes, but employers would know what to do with it: select the smartest job candidates for interview.

Our economy is struggling because millions of workers of all races are performing sub-optimally in jobs they got on the basis of an interview (25% correlation with job success) instead of testing (70% correlation with job success), which is now banned because of disparate impact.

Svigor said...

Our economy is struggling because millions of workers of all races are performing sub-optimally in jobs they got on the basis of an interview (25% correlation with job success) instead of testing (70% correlation with job success), which is now banned because of disparate impact.

While I agree with the sentiments motivating your post...

Really, is it that hard to make the interview into a test, that is legally still just an interview? I think not. But the results, man, the results. Disparate impact.