Alexander Russo has a pretty negative take on my friend Dana Goldstein’s new article “The Test Generation”, a fairly negative take on the educational agenda being enacted by Harrison County, Colorado superintendent of schools Mike Miles.
I think I agree with Russo on the policy merits, but that’s exactly why I disagree with him on the journalism merits. The exposition is very clear and informative, and though it’s obvious Goldstein is skeptical (for basically Campbell’s Law reasons) that this is going to work out, those of us who are less worried about the Campbell’s Law phenomenon see here a very strong portrait of a school district going all-in on measuring and rewarding quality. Michael Petrilli tweeted today his prediction that the piece will turn Miles “into a reform hero” and I agree. To me that’s great narrative policy journalism—you learn a lot, and people still disagree. What’s more the issue she raises here of the tension between what reformers deem evidence-based approaches for teaching poor kids and the sensibilities of middle class parents really is an important one. Ultimately education policy is going to need more flexibility than the search for The Best Way To Run A School District can allow for.
The one real bone I’d pick with her characterization of what’s happening in Colorado is that I’m not sure how much sense it makes to complain that “high-stakes testing” is being administered too often. If you have someone sit for a test 25 separate times per year then the stakes for any one test can’t be all that high. That would seem to me to be part of the point of testing frequently.