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Topic: Strong school reform: Public worried
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Strong school reform: Public worried
Posted: Aug 26, 2000 1:09 PM
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From ASCD SmartBrief (and Gannett News Service), August 23, 2000
Public worries over strong school reform

Most support local systems, survey finds

WASHINGTON - Amid signs of rising support for public schools, there
are indications of new worries about using high-stakes testing to
improve schools further, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The annual Phi Delta Kappa poll shows 70 percent of those polled give
their local schools a grade of "A" or "B." That is a rise of 4
percentage points from the year before.

Since 1981, the public increasingly has given their public schools
better grades, said Lowell Rose of Phi Delta Kappa, an organization
of professional educators.

"The decline in public confidence in public schools we hear so much
about is basically a myth," he said.

Rose agreed, however, that with voters listing education as their top
concern there is widespread belief that schools can do a better job.

To achieve that, nearly every state has chosen the same path: First,
set high standards for each academic topic in each grade. Next, make
schools - and students - accountable for meeting those standards with

When those tests have consequences, such as retaining a child in
grade or denying a diploma to a failing student, they become
high-stakes tests.

About 18 states use graduation exams, including Arizona, most of them
measuring only basic skills. But about 10 states, including Virginia,
New York and Massachusetts, are phasing in more demanding high-stakes

According to the Phi Delta Kappa poll, however, the public is likely
to begin resisting the tougher tests:

. Between 1997 and 2000, there was a 10 percentage-point jump, from
20 percent to 30 percent, in those saying schools were using "too
much" testing.

. Asked whether a student's academic progress should be measured by
tests or classroom work, 68 percent chose the latter.

. When asked if the primary function of tests should be to determine
how much a student learned vs. what kind of instruction that student
needs, 65 percent chose the latter.

"The results of this poll ought to be another word of warning to
elected officials about their efforts to bring about school reform,"
said Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy, a
group that lobbies on behalf of public schools.

"Student testing needs to be restored to its rightful place in
education - as a stethoscope for understanding how to teach students
better, not a hammer to shake at students, teachers and schools,"
said Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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