Archives for category: Testing

Apparently, the voucher schools were embarrassed by the Ohio study showing that kids who use vouchers lose ground academically.

There were two ways to respond to that finding: 1) improve instruction in the voucher schools by requiring them to hire certified teachers; 2) obscure the data.

The voucher lobby chose the second route.

The Republican-dominated legislature is now vastly expanding the state’s failing voucher program. But a few years ago, it decided that voucher schools would no longer be required to give the same exams that students in public schools are required to take. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute worried about the change, because it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to draw comparisons between students in public schools and their peers in private and religious schools.

That’s the goal.

Many other states that offer vouchers allow those schools not to take the state exams. Some, like Florida, expect no accountability from voucher schools. Others ask those schools to administer an “equivalent” standardized test, which makes it impossible to compare voucher schools to public schools.

Les Perelman, former professor of writing at MIT and inventor of the BABEL generator, has repeatedly exposed the quackery in computer-scoring of essays. If you want to learn how to generate an essay that will win a high score but make no sense, google the “BABEL Generator,” which was developed by Perelman and his students at MIT to fool the robocomputer graders. He explains here, in an original piece published nowhere else, why the American public needs an FDA for assessments, to judge their quality.

He writes:

An FDA for Educational Assessment, particularly for Computer Assessments

As a new and much saner administration takes over the US Department of Education led by Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, it is a good time, especially regarding assessment, to ask Juvenal’s famous question of “Who watches the Watchman.” 

Several years ago, I realized computer applications designed to assess student writing did not understand the essays they evaluated but simply counted proxies such as the length of an essays, the number of sentences in each paragraph, and the frequency of infrequently used words.  In 2014, I and three undergraduate researchers from Harvard and MIT, developed the Basic Automatic B.S. Essay Language Generator, or BABEL Generator that could in seconds generate 500-1000 words of complete gibberish that received top scores from Robo-grading applications such e-rater developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).   I was able to develop the BABEL generator because I was already retired and, aside from some consulting assignments, had free time for research unencumbered by teaching or service obligations.  Even more important, I had access to three undergraduate researchers, two from MIT and one from Harvard, who provided substantial technical expertise.  Much of their potential expertise, however, was unnecessary since after only a few weeks of development our first iteration of the BABEL Generator was able to produce gibberish such as

Society will always authenticate curriculum; some for assassinations and others to a concession. The insinuation at pupil lies in the area of theory of knowledge and the field of semantics. Despite the fact that utterances will tantalize many of the reports, student is both inquisitive and tranquil. Portent, usually with admiration, will be consistent but not perilous to student. Because of embarking, the domain that solicits thermostats of educatee can be more considerately countenanced. Additionally, programme by a denouncement has not, and in all likelihood never will be haphazard in the extent to which we incense amicably interpretable expositions. In my philosophy class, some of the dicta on our personal oration for the advance we augment allure fetish by adherents.

 that received high scores from the five Robo-graders we were able to access.

I and the BABEL Generator were enlisted by the Australian Teachers Unions to help the successful opposition to having the national K-12 writing tests scored by a computer.    The Educational Testing Service’s response to Australia’s rejection was to have three of its researchers  publish a study, “Developing an e-rater Advisory to Detect Babel-generated Essays,” that described their generating over 500,000 BABEL essays based on prompts from what are clearly the two essays in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the essay portion of the PRAXIS teacher certification test, and the two essay sections of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and comparing the BABEL essays to 384,656 actual essays from those tests.  The result of this effort was the development of an “advisory” from e-rater that would flag BABEL generated gibberish.  

Unfortunately, this advisory was a solution in search of a problem.  The purpose of the BABEL Generator was to display through an extreme example that Robo-graders such as e-rater could be fooled into giving high scores to undeserving essays simply by including the various proxies that constituted e-rater’s score.  Candidates could not actually use the BABEL Generator while taking one of these tests; but they could use the same strategies that informed the BABEL Generator such as including long and rarely used words regardless of their meaning and inserting long vacuous sentences into every paragraph.

Moreover, the BABEL Generator is so primitive that there are much easier ways of detecting BABEL essays.  We did not expect our first attempt to fool all the Robo-graders we could access to succeed, but because it did, we stopped. We had proved our point.   One of the student researchers was taking Physics at Harvard and hard coded into BABEL responses inclusion of some of the terminology of sub-atomic particles such as neutrino, orbital, plasma, and neuron.  E-rater and the other Robo-graders did not seem to notice.  A simple program scanning for these terms could have saved the trouble of generating a half-million essays.

ETS is not satisfied in just automating the grading of the writing portion of its various tests.  ETS researchers have developed SpeechRater, a Robo-grading application that would score the speaking sections of the TOEFL test.  There is a whole volume of scholarly research articles on SpeechRater published by the well-respected Routledge imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group.  However, the short biographies of the nineteen contributors to the volume list seventeen as current employees of ETS, one as a former employee, and only one with no explicit affiliation.

Testing organizations appear to no longer have a wide range of perspectives, or any perspective that runs counter to their very narrow psychometric outlook.  This danger has long been noted.  Carl D. Brigham, the eugenicist who then renounced the racial characterization of intelligence and the creator of the SAT who then became critical of that test, wrote shortly before his death that research in a testing organization should be governed and implemented not by educational psychologists but by specialists in academic disciplines since it is easier to teach them testing rather than trying to “teach testers culture.”  

The obvious home for such a research organization is the US Department of Education.  Just as the FDA vets the efficacy of drugs and medical devices, there should be an agency that verifies not only that assessments are measuring what they claim to be measuring but also the instrument is not biased towards or against specific ethnic or socio-economic groups.  There was an old analogy question on the SAT (which no longer has analogy items) that had “Runner is to marathon as: a) envoy is to embassy; b) martyr is to massacre; c) oarsman is to regatta; d) referee is to tournament; e) horse is to stable.   The correct answer is c: oarsman is to regatta.   Unfortunately, there are very few regattas in the Great Plains or inner cities.

Education Trust, led by former Secretary of Education John King, sent two letters to the Biden administration, urging the administration not to allow states to receive waivers from the mandated federal testing. The signers of the letters were not the same. As State Commissioner in New York, King was a fierce advocate for Common Core and standardized testing.

Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, and board member of the Network for Public Education, wrote this about the pro-testing coalition assembled by King:

I asked my assistant Michael Horwitz to figure out which organizations were on the first Ed Trust letter pushing against state testing waivers, but not the letter that just came out, advocating against allowing flexibility by using local assessments instead.  National PTA, NAN (Al Sharpton’s group), LULAC, KIPP and a few others did drop off the list. 

I then asked Leonie if she could add the amounts of funding to these organizations by the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation and she replied:

The largest beneficiary of their joint funding among these organizations has been KIPP at over $97M, then Ed Trust at nearly $58 million, who spearheaded both letters. Also TNTP at $54M, NACSA at $44M, Jeb Bush’s FEE at nearly $32 M and 50Can at $29M. [TNTP used to be called “The New Teachers Project,” and was created by Michelle Rhee.] Michael Horwitz did the research.

Signers on the first letter:

The following orgs were on the second letter, but not the first: many more obviously pro-charter, right-wing and more local organizations:

Leonie Haimson 
leoniehaimson@gmail.com

Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson 

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/

Three researchers published an article in the Kappan that is highly critical of the edTPA, a test used to assess whether teacher candidates are prepared to teach. Over the years, there have been many complaints about the edTPA, because it replaces the human judgment of teacher educators with a standardized instrument. It’s proponents claim that the instrument is more reliable and valid than human judgment.

Drew H. Gitomer, Jose Felipe Martinez, and Dan Battey disagree. Their article raises serious criticisms of the edTPA.

They begin:

The use of high-stakes assessments in public education has always been contested terrain. Long-simmering debates have focused on their benefits, the harms they cause, and the roles they play in decisions about high school graduation, school funding, teacher certification, and promotion. However, for all the disagreement about how such assessments affect students and teachers, and how they should or should not be used, it has generally been assumed that the assessment instruments themselves follow standard principles of measurement practice.  

At the most basic level, test developers are expected to report truthful and technically accurate information about the measurement characteristics of their assessments, and they are expected to make no claims about those assessments for which they have no supporting evidence. Violating these fundamental principles compromises the validity of the entire enterprise. If we cannot trust the quality of the assessments themselves, then debates about how best to use them are beside the point. 

Our research suggests that when it comes to the edTPA (a tool used across much of the United States to make high-stakes decisions about teacher licensure), the fundamental principles and norms of educational assessment have been violated. Further, we have discovered gaps in the guardrails that are meant to protect against such violations, leaving public agencies and advisory groups ill-equipped to deal with them. This cautionary tale reminds us that systems cannot counter negligence or bad faith if those in position to provide a counterweight are unable or unwilling to do so. 

Background: Violations of assessment principles 

The edTPA is a system of standardized portfolio assessments of teaching performance that, at the time this research was conducted, was mandated for use by educator preparation programs in 18 states, and approved in 21 others, as part of initial certification for preservice teachers. It builds on a large body of research over several decades focused on defining effective teaching and designing performance assessments to measure it. The assessments were created and are owned by Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) and are now managed by Pearson Assessment, with endorsement and support from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). By 2018, just five years after they were introduced, they were among the most widely used tools for evaluating teacher candidates in the United States, reaching tens of thousands of candidates in hundreds of programs across the country. They have substantially influenced programs of study in teacher education. And for the teaching candidates who take them, they are a major undertaking, requiring them to make a substantial time investment, as well as costing them $300.  

In 2018, two of us (Drew Gitomer and José Felipe Martínez) participated in a symposium at the annual meeting of the National Council of Measurement in Education (NCME), which included a presentation on edTPA by representatives of Pearson and SCALE (Pecheone et al., 2018). We were struck by specific claims that were made in that presentation: Reported rates of reliability seemed implausibly high, and reported rates of rater error seemed implausibly low, implying that a teaching candidate would receive the same scores regardless of who rated the assessment. A well-established feature of performance measures of teaching, similar to those being used in edTPA, is that raters will often disagree on their scores of any single performance and, therefore, the scoring reliability of any single performance is inevitably quite modest. The raw data on rater agreement that edTPA reports are consistent with the full body of work on these assessments. Yet, the reliabilities they reported, which depend on these agreement levels, were completely discrepant from all other past research. 

At the NCME session, we publicly raised these concerns, and we offered to engage in further conversation to clarify matters and address our questions about the claims that were made. Upon further investigation, we found that the information presented at the session was also reported in edTPA’s annual technical reports — the very information state departments of education rely on to decide whether to use the edTPA for teacher licensure.  

In December 2019, we published an article detailing serious concerns about the technical quality of the edTPA in the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ), one of the most highly rated and respected journals in the field of educational research (Gitomer et al., 2019). We argued that edTPA was using procedures and statistics that were, at best, woefully inappropriate and, at worst, fabricated to convey the misleading impression that its scores are more reliable and precise than they truly are. Our analysis showed why those claims were unwarranted, and we ultimately suggested that the concerns were so serious that they warranted a moratorium on using edTPA scores for high-stakes decisions about teacher licensure.  

Then they discovered that members of the Technical Advisory Committee had not met very often.

Our brilliant reader Laura Chapman, retired educator, decided to dig deep into the politics of education reform in Minnesota in response to a post about a dubious constitutional amendment sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Chapman, who lives in Ohio, writes:

I am not from Minnesota, but this post sent me deep into some policies there. The idea is to frame education as a fundamental right to “quality schools” as “measured against uniform achievement standards set forth by the state.”

No. This law is written as if the standard-setting process is a business-as usual-review of existing standards and benchmarks for learning, with periodic revisions. It is not.

Right now, there is a huge controversy over the social studies standards. The battle is about whose histories count and whether conservatives should settle for anything other than patriotism as the major purpose of teaching American history. https://patch.com/minnesota/across-mn/controversy-over-mn-s-social-studies-standards-explained

Students Learning English (ELLs), are unlikely to pass the absurd requirements being proposed by the Federal Reserve (why bankers?) and as a constitutional amendment (why bankers?).

Minnesota has NO academic tests except those in English. According to a 2020 report from the Migration Policy Institute, and the 2015 American Community Survey, at least 193,600 Minnesota residents have children still learning English. All are in harm’s way. The largest foreign-born groups in Minnesota are from Mexico (67,300), Somalia (31,400), India (30,500), Laos including Hmong (23,300), Vietnam (20,200), China excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan (c), Ethiopia (19,300), and Thailand including Hmong (16,800). One of the fastest growing immigrant groups in Minnesota is the Karen people, an ethnic minority in conflict with the government in Myanmar. Most of the estimated 5,000 Karen in Minnesota came from refugee camps in Thailand. Ojibwe and Dakota are the indigenous languages of Minnesota.

Many of Minnesota’s charter schools are devoted to segregating and strengthening the identities of linguistic/ethnic groups. There are three dual language Spanish-English schools. Eight charter schools are devoted to immersion in these languages/cultures: Chinese, French, German, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. There are at least five Hmong immersion charter schools, and two for Ojibwe immersion. Two charter schools offer ELL education for East African families and one offers education using American Sign Language/English bilingual approach.

Recent reports also show how charter schools are racially segregated. In St Paul, one hundred percent of students at Higher Ground Academy are black or African-American. This percentage is about the same for Minneapolis’s Friendship Academy. In both cities the overall population of black or African-American residents is below twenty percent. By design, many charter schools in Minnesota are segregated schools. Will these schools be subjected to the wishes of the bankers or not?

In 2021, the Minnesota Federal Reserve, having no expertise in education, called in “experts” to make suggestions on a fix for so-called achievement gaps, meaning differences in scores on standardized tests. This “we-can-fix it” program was sponsored by all 12 of the nation’s District Banks in the Federal Reserve System. In other words, what happens in Minnesota may not be limited to Minnesota but extend to the orbit of District Banks in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas City, New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond (VA), San Francisco, and St Louis,

Among the highly visible “experts” called in for this multi-state program were Geoffrey Canada, president of the well-endowed Harlem Children’s Zone (endowment about $148 million, and sponsor of Promise Academy brand of K-12 charter schools), and CEO Salman Khan, founder of online Khan Academy, and Kahn Academy for Kids. The papers for this program also featured the post-Katrina takeover of New Orleans schools as if exemplary. https://www.minneapolisfed.org/article/2021/feds-racism-and-the-economy-series-explores-racial-inequity-in-the-education-system.

Bankers are clueless about education but they have an agenda certain to harm thousands of students in Minnesota, especially ELL students, and if applicable to charter schools, the many students ill prepared to take a test only available in English.

The last thing we need to have are the nation’s clueless bankers making permanent changes in education based on proposed Minnesota’s model of “quality.”

The Financial Times reports on a new phenomenon: educators around the world see the pandemic as an opportunity to break free of standardized exams.

Tony Stack, a Canadian educator, was developing a new way to assess children even before coronavirus. The decision to scrap end-of-year assessments after the pandemic struck presented the chance to put the “deep learning” approach into practice. “It offered an opportunity for an authentic learning experience, outside some of the constraints of an exam,” said Mr Stack, director of education for Newfoundland and Labrador province. This alternative model, used in 1,300 schools across eight countries, that prioritises skills and independent thinking “set a way forward for a more ethical approach to assessment,” he explained. “Skills that students need to learn through the pandemic cannot be assessed in a single test,” he added.

Most viewed the abrupt cancellation of exams in countries around the world as a regrettable loss that would diminish learning and life chances for a cohort of young people. A vocal group of educators also saw an opportunity to call time on the traditional exams system they say is unjust and outdated. “The pandemic has exacerbated all these problems that were already there with exams,” said Bill Lucas, director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the UK’s Winchester university.

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d64e479-182c-4dbd-96fe-0c26272a5875

He believes traditional assessments unfairly standardises children of different abilities, fail to capture essential skills and put young people off through its rote-learning, one-size-fits-all approach. “Survey after survey says creativity, critical-thinking and communications are what we need. Exams don’t assess those things,” Mr Lucas said. “Covid has forced us to ask the question: ‘do we want to go back to where we were or do we want to stop and think?’” Rethinking Assessment, the advocacy group he co-founded to push for change, has attracted support from teachers, trade union leaders, policymakers and academics. Among them is Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Cambridge university neuroscientist who argues that exams such as the GCSEs taken by 16 year-olds in England exaggerate stress and anxiety at a time when teenagers’ brains are still evolving. “We need to reassess whether high intensity, high stakes, national exams such as GCSEs are still the optimal way to assess the academic achievements of a developing young person,” she wrote late last year.

Edutopia reports on new research by Professor C. Kirabo Jackson of Northwestern University, who finds that a “good school” does much more than raise test scores.

In a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, C. Kirabo Jackson, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, and his colleagues found that schools with robust impacts on student well-being may be helping students in ways that aren’t picked up by standardized tests. These schools may not have the highest test scores, but they’re the most likely to motivate students to graduate and attend college, especially those students who are less likely to do so in the first place.

“Test scores aren’t everything, and schools that promote socio-emotional development actually have a really big positive impact on kids,” Jackson told me. “And these impacts are particularly large for vulnerable student populations who don’t tend to do very well in the education system.”

This is the latest in a series of studies examining the broad impact that teachers and schools have on students. Jackson’s previous research looked at the impact that teachers had on noncognitive skills such as self-regulation, and found that teachers who improved these skills improved their students’ long-term outcomes, boosting not only grades, but also attendance and high school graduation rates. The skills that are valuable for future success aren’t usually measured on tests, Jackson points out. So while teachers and schools are often evaluated by their ability to improve students’ test scores, broader measures should be used.

In the current study, Jackson and his colleagues looked at over 150,000 ninth-grade students who attended Chicago public schools between 2011 and 2017, analyzing test scores and administrative records. They also examined responses on an annual survey students completed on social and emotional development and school climate. The survey covered a range of topics, including peer relationships, students’ sense of belonging, how hard they studied for tests, and how interested they were in the topics they were studying. The data were then combined into a three-part index: one that included test scores and other academic outcomes, a “social well-being” index, and a “work habits” index.

Jackson’s team found that schools that scored high on the latter two indices—those that promoted social and emotional development—were also the most effective at supporting long-term student success. In these schools, there were fewer absences, and more students graduated and went on to college. And perhaps more importantly, the benefits were greatest for student populations who struggled the most in school.

A teacher in California, who must remain anonymous to protect her job, wrote this post. CAASP testing is the Common Core test produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

“We are 100% virtual, and teachers just had to sign an affidavit regarding CAASPP testing. I cannot believe they are STILL going forward with this. They expect that kids will 1) be in a quiet place with no distractions, 2) have their cameras on at all times, 3) not be using any other materials except pencil/paper, 4) that kids will have earbuds/headphones so they can hear the audio portion, 5) that kids won’t talk about the test content with ANYBODY.

And then, teachers are 1) supposed to simultaneously monitor 20+ students’ cameras and computer screens, 2) write down every time a student looks away or commits some other infraction, 3) keep every kid from unmuting their microphones (impossible).

I have students who stagger their time on chromebooks because of limited Wi-Fi, students who are self-conscious and terrified to have their cameras on, students who have multiple siblings all trying to do virtual meetings at once, students who literally hide in the bathroom so they can concentrate on my teaching (until they are kicked out 10 minutes later), students who are home alone at 8-10 years old, and I could go on. How is this EQUITABLE? How will the results be ACCURATE? I just cannot understand the rationale behind going forward with CAASPP testing. Oh, and 99% of our student body has to take the CAASPP in order for our results to be valid. Do you think that is going to happen? I am not being negative; I’m being realistic. I am praying that the decision makers will come to realize how ridiculous it is to try and do this test virtually.”

The teacher who forwarded this post added this thought:

This is where we are in CA right now despite CTA’s push to cancel the test, everything is moving forward. I just finished two weeks of MAP testing, 200 students from my school of 1200 did not finish and yet they think we are going to do the SBAC test which is four times longer.

Andrea Gabor has written recently about the importance of civics education. She has reminded us that the obsession with standardized testing has robbed students of the joy of learning and consumed time that could be better spent in other ways.

The 22-year-old Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who spoke so beautifully at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, reminded her that we have lost the study of poetry in our mad Race to Leave No Child Behind and to force testing on every student and teacher.

I heartily agree with Gabor. I have always loved poetry. I edited two collections that included many iconic poems: The American Reader and The English Reader (with my son Michael). During a time when I was grieving the loss of a child, I read poetry and found solace in a poem by Ben Jonson. When my children were young, we read poetry together, and they learned the fun of wordplay.

Gabor writes in her article about the need to allot more time to reading and writing poetry.

For too long, poetry has been treated as impractical, and even frivolous, with just 12% of the U.S. adults reporting, in 2018, that they had read a poem during the previous year. Perversely, that sad metric represented a major improvement over the previous decade, when annual poetry reading fell to below 7%. With schools encouraged to focus on practical subjects such as math, science and engineering, and a growing emphasis on nonfiction in the Common Core standards used to help states and school systems decide what to teach, poetry has become an afterthought.

It shouldn’t be. Poetry can be inspirational and teach important lessons about communication (thanks again, Amanda Gorman). It can even be practical, as poetry-loving business executives have long asserted. Elevating the role of poetry also could serve as a low-cost way to bolster student creativity and engagement.

For children, poetry serves as a key to literacy with the rhythm and cadence of books like Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” helping even the youngest decode words and meaning, while its absurd rhymes make reading fun. Think of Thing One and Thing Two and the havoc they’ll do.

As children get older, the metaphors and ambiguity of more complex poems serve as an intellectual puzzle, helping youngsters analyze, make connections between words and concepts, and foster critical thinking. Poetry teaches grammar in bite-sized stanzas. Great poems embed unforgettable images and teach the power that a few spare words by Carl Sandburg can convey:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Gorman herself described the research skills that her inaugural poem employed, including examining the work of earlier poet laureates, as well as the oratory of Fredrick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. She drew on the musical “Hamilton,” which pays homage to hip hop and rap, the street poetry that rose out of economic devastation in the 1970s. And she examined tweets following the Capitol riot, which inspired the line, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter this nation rather than share it.”

For Gorman and Biden, who both wrestled with speech impediments, reciting poetry paved the way to eloquence. Gorman has trouble pronouncing Rs, so she practiced the rap lyrics of “Aaron Burr, Sir” from “Hamilton.” To help him overcome a stutter, Biden recited the poems of William Butler Yeats.

For poor children, from New York City to New Delhi, poetry serves as an especially important outlet for self-expression and even for promoting mental health. In Allison Baxter’s class of English-language learners at West Chicago high school, teaching Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” is a key to understanding Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “A Raisin in the Sun.” The poem begins:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

The sophistication of the language and grammar in both the poem and the play provide a welcome challenge for students who relish reciting excerpts from both works, Baxter says. They also offer a window on the Chicago of Hansberry’s youth and an opportunity to help introduce students to their adopted city. 

Poetry has its real-world uses, too. Sidney Harman, the founder of the audio-technology company Harman Kardon, once famously said: “Get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers.” (Harman endowed a writer-in-residence program at Baruch College; I’m on the program’s selection committee.)

Consider the frustration of Wes Chapman, a health-care technology entrepreneur, who once rejected dozens of applicants for a marketing job at his Hanover, New Hampshire-based startup M2S — English majors from Dartmouth College, his alma mater — because none of them could identify a favorite poem or poet. “Marketing is a job that requires command of language and understanding how words and images influence people,” says Chapman, who notes that the scientists he worked with, at the time, recited poetry. Although Chapman favors 19th-century verse, he eventually hired a young woman who was able to recite a poem by Maya Angelou.

Poetry is an important part of the liberal arts tradition, which is again being seen as a key to business success.

School principals should encourage teachers to make time for verse. And states and districts should help fund the kinds of organizations — including libraries and student clubs — that offer resources and outlets for student poets. And with states advocating for the federal government to suspend standardized testing this year, in recognition of the difficulties posed by the pandemic, schools could be encouraged to produce year-end projects instead, including those focused on poetry.

Inspiration, creativity, joy, critical thinking about language and its nuances: these are the lessons of poetry, and they matter more than bubbling in the right answer. That is, if you care about real education.

Louisiana has been firmly in the grip of “reformers” (i.e., believers in privatization, Teach for America, and high-stakes testing) for many years. The “reformers'” biggest coup was the complete demolition of public schools in New Orleans, in the years following the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Buoyed by funding from out-of-state billionaires, the proponents of disruption took control of the state board of education (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education). Apologists for privatization still point to New Orleans as their proof point of success, but the state has recently assigned grades of D or F to about half of its schools.

In January 2012, John White, one of the stars of the privatization industry, was selected by the state board as superintendent of the state. He served for eight years. During that time, Louisiana dropped to near the bottom of the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

After White resigned, the state board chose Cade Brumley, an experienced Louisiana educator who had held district superintendencies in the state

After reformers hyped the “success” of reform in the state for 15 years, Brumley recently revealed that reading scores had declined in the early grades.

A new report shows reading scores for Louisiana’s youngest students have plunged for three consecutive years, raising red flags over arguably the state’s top challenge for improving achievement in the classroom.

The issue is getting new attention after state leaders learned last week that reading levels for students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades have all steadily dropped.

More than half of students in all four grades are performing below grade level, a potential harbinger of major learning problems.

“Clearly what we are doing is not getting the results that our kids deserve,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Former state board member Leslie Jacobs, who was one of the most outspoken cheerleaders for the demolition of public schools in New Orleans, said that Louisiana needed to follow the Florida model. Florida gets high fourth-grade reading scores by gaming the system; it holds back third-graders who are not up to grade level. This artificially inflates the state’s scores on fourth-grade NAEP. By eighth grade, however, the Florida readings scores are mediocre; you can’t hold back the low-scoring readers forever.