When the Gates Foundation issued a press release calling for a two-year moratorium on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, its position met a mixed reception. Some saw it as a victory for the critics of high-stakes testing; others as an attempt to weaken the critics by deferring the high stakes.
Anthony Cody says, don’t be fooled. The Gates Foundation gives no indication that it understands that its path is wrong, it is simply buying time.
The question we should all be asking is how this one very rich foundation took charge of American education and is in a position to issue policy statements that should be the domain of state and local school boards. What we have lost is democratic control of public education; while no one was looking, it got outsourced to the Gates Foundation.
“As a thought experiment, what would it look like if the Gates Foundation truly was attending to the research and evidence that is showing how damaging the new Common Core tests and high stakes accountability systems are? Would they simply be calling to defer the worst effects of this system for two years?
A real appraisal of the evidence would reveal:
“VAM systems are unreliable and destructive when used for teacher evaluations, even as one of several measurements.
“School closures based on test scores result in no real gains for the students, and tremendous community disruption.
“Charter schools are not providing systemic improvements, and are expanding inequity and segregation.
“Attacks on teacher seniority and due process are destabilizing a fragile profession, increasing turnover.
“Tech-based solutions are often wildly oversold, and deliver disappointing results. Witness K12 Inc’s rapidly expanded virtual charter school chain, described here earlier this year.
“Our public education system is not broken, but is burdened with growing levels of poverty, inequity and racial isolation. Genuine reform means supporting schools, not abandoning them.
“The fundamental problem with the Gates Foundation is that it is driving education down a path towards more and more reliance on tests as the feedback mechanism for a market-driven system. This is indeed a full-blown ideology, reinforced by Gates’ own experience as a successful technocrat. The most likely hypothesis regarding the recent suggestion that high stakes be delayed by two years is that this is a tactical maneuver intended to diffuse opposition and preserve the Common Core project – rather than a recognition that these consequences do more harm than good.”
Moratorium or no, he notes, we are locked into a failed paradigm of testing and accountability. Standards and tests are not vehicles to advance equity and civil rights. If anything, they have become a way to undermine democracy and standardize education.