Monday, July 28, 2008

Bill Cala: High-Stakes Tests Push Kids to Streets

Susan Ohanian writes:
Longtime educator William Cala points out that in the face of the high stakes pressures, cheating is inevitable.

Bill Cala was a super superintendent who retired a few years ago from Fairport, NY. He ran the Rochester schools as interim superintendent last year but declined to take the job full-time as he and wife Joanne have been doing some great work in Africa (Joining Hearts and Hands - donations welcome.)

We all got to hang out (Susan O and John Lawhead too) at a high stakes conference at the World of Opportunity (The WOO) in Birmingham back in 2003 and I kept thinking that this guy is like no other school superintendent I've ever heard of. We had the most fun talking about the inept NY State ed department under the mis-leadership of Richard Mills, a man who eagerly signed off on Joel Klein's waiver to be chancellor. (Check Mills' work in mis-managing the Roosevelt, LI schools which were taken over by the state.)

When someone like Bill Cala is tapped to run the state education department will be the beginning of true reform in education. Or chancellor of NYC schools. (I can hear his howls of laughter emanating from the halls of Tweed.)

Read the entire article but here are a few excerpts from this gem.

High-Stakes Tests Push Kids to Streets
William Cala
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Full article here

What is the purpose of public education? Historically, it has been to make good people, to make good citizens and to nurture the individual's talents and skills. However, over the past 100 years, these noble principles have been kicked aside in lieu of a sterile testing agenda set by politicians that has ignored the needs, wants and dreams of students, families and local communities.

If schools do not reach certain numeric benchmarks set by bureaucrats, they will be closed. Is it any wonder that we find that social studies tests given in rote, repetitive practice drills in the City School District became the final exam without alteration?

How widespread is this type of corruption? I suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg.

We are test-prepping our kids into the dropout line (fewer than one-half of minorities nationwide are graduating). School is becoming irrelevant.

Pupils need and want to be a part of democracy, not the target of bad politics in disguise as democracy.

The pressure to use tests as the only means of educating children has dramatically increased teacher anxiety and depression, and is driving good teachers out of the profession.

It is said that tests are meant to improve education and enable children to achieve higher standards. However, dropouts have increased since the onset of high-stakes testing (especially among minorities, English-language learners and special education pupils).

Sadly, schools have been dumbed-down to absurdity. Do we really believe that 30 out of 87 correctly answered questions on a high-school math exam "meets standards"?

Cala is a professor at Nazareth College and former interim superintendent, City School District.

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