Individual repository of Sherman Dorn, Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. In my scholarship, I trace how society defines school problems and how those definitions shape education policy. In my first major research project, I documented that dropping out became defined as a crisis in the 1960s when the proportion of teens graduating from high school had been rising for years. I have written on various topics on special education, from the fuzzy public-private divide to how the mass culture of test-prep undermines formative assessment. My book on accountability explores how we have come to distrust schoolteachers but trust test scores.
The spread of academic testing for accountability purposes in multiple countries has obscured at least two historical purposes of academic testing: community ritual and management of the social structure. Testing for accountability is very different from the purpose of academic challenges one can identify in community “examinations” in 19th century North America, or exams’ controlling access to the civil service in Imperial China. Rather than testing for ritual or access to mobility, the modern uses of testing are much closer to the state-building project of a tax census, such as the Domesday Book of medieval Britain after the Norman Invasion, the social engineering projects described in James Scott's Seeing like a State (1998), or the “mapping the world” project that David Nye described in America as Second Creation (2004). This paper will explore both the instrumental and cultural differences among testing as ritual, testing as mobility control, and testing as state-building.
This is a brief text intended for use in undergraduate school-and-society classes. Your class may also be titled “Social foundations of education.” “Social foundations of education” is an interdisciplinary field that includes both humanities and social-science perspectives on schooling. It thus includes study of the philosophy and history of education as well as sociological, economic, anthropological, and political perspectives on schooling.
The core of most social foundations classes lies in the relationship between formal schooling and broader society. This emphasis means that while some parts of psychology may be related to the core issues of social foundations classes—primarily social psychology—the questions that are asked within a social-foundations class are different from the questions raised in child development, educational psychology, and most teaching-methods classes. For example, after finishing the first chapter of this text, you should be able to answer the question, “Why does the federal government pay public schools to feed poor students at breakfast and lunch?” Though there is some psychology research tying nutrition to behavior and learning, the policy is based on much broader expectations of schools. In this case, “Children learn better if they are well-fed” both is based on research and also is an incomplete answer.
This paper presents a Bayesian framework for evaluative classification. Current education policy debates center on arguments about whether and how to use student test score data in school and personnel evaluation. Proponents of such use argue that refusing to use data violates both the public’s need to hold schools accountable when they use taxpayer dollars and students’ right to educational opportunities. Opponents of formulaic use of test-score data argue that most standardized test data is susceptible to fatal technical flaws, is a partial picture of student achievement, and leads to behavior that corrupts the measures.
A Bayesian perspective on summative ordinal classification is a possible framework for combining quantitative outcome data for students with the qualitative types of evaluation that critics of high-stakes testing advocate. This paper describes the key characteristics of a Bayesian perspective on classification, describes a method to translate a naïve Bayesian classifier into a point-based system for evaluation, and draws conclusions from the comparison on the construction of algorithmic (including point-based) systems that could capture the political and practical benefits of a Bayesian approach. The most important practical conclusion is that point-based systems with fixed components and weights cannot capture the dynamic and political benefits of a reciprocal relationship between professional judgment and quantitative student outcome data.
Analysis of newly-released data from the Florida Department of Education suggests that commonly-used proxies for high school graduation are generally weak predictors of the new federal rate.
The current debate over graduate rate calculations and results has glossed over the relationship between student migration and the accuracy of various graduation rates proposed over the past five years. Three general grade-based graduation rates have been proposed recently, and each has a parallel version that includes an adjustment for migration, whether international, internal to the U.S., or between different school sectors. All of the adjustment factors have a similar form, allowing simulation of estimates from real data, assuming different unmeasured net migration rates. In addition, a new age-based graduation rate, based on mathematical demography, allows the simulation of estimates on a parallel basis using data from Virginia's public schools.
Both the direct analysis and simulation demonstrate that graduation rates can only be useful with accurate information about student migration. A discussion of Florida's experiences with longitudinal cohort graduation rates highlights some of the difficulties with the current status of the oldest state databases and the need for both technical confidence and definitional clarity. Meeting the No Child Left Behind mandates for school-level graduation rates requires confirmation of transfers and an audit of any state system for accuracy, and basing graduation rates on age would be a significant improvement over rates calculated using grade-based data.
This case study explains varied perspectives on a difficult dialogue. It provides recommendations for student affairs professionals and faculty members who work with students and teach courses in content areas that are related to diversity, social justice, and privilege.
The recent battle reported from Washington about proposed national testing program does not tell the most important political story about high stakes tests. Politically popular school accountability systems in many states already revolve around statistical results of testing with high-stakes environments. The future of high stakes tests thus does not depend on what happens on Capitol Hill. Rather, the existence of tests depends largely on the political culture of published test results. Most critics of high-stakes testing do not talk about that culture, however. They typically focus on the practice legacy of testing, the ways in which testing creates perverse incentives against good teaching.
More important may be the political legacy, or how testing defines legitimate discussion about school politics. The consequence of statistical accountability systems will be the narrowing of purpose for schools, impatience with reform, and the continuing erosion of political support for publicly funded schools. Dissent from the high-stakes accountability regime that has developed around standardized testing, including proposals for professionalism and performance assessment, commonly fails to consider these political legacies. Alternatives to standardized testing which do not also connect schooling with the public at large will not be politically viable.
In the wake of both the end of court-ordered school desegregation and the growing popularity of accountability as a mechanism to maximize student achievement, the authors explore the association between racial segregation and the percentage of students passing high-stakes tests in Florida's schools. Results suggest that segregation matters in predicting school-level performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test after control for other known and purported predictors of standardized test performance. Also, these results suggest that neither recent efforts by the state of Florida to equalize the funding of education nor current efforts involving high-stakes testing will close the Black-White achievement gap without consideration of the racial distribution of students across schools.