Another Brick in the Wall: High
Stakes Testing in Teacher Education – The California Teacher Performance
need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher leave the kids alone
Hey teacher leave us kids alone
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
--Roger Waters, 1979
1.1 Roger Waters wrote these words for the 70’s rock icon group Pink Floyd before it became fashionable to place the blame for education’s “failures” on the shoulders of our teachers. In today’s world, blaming
teachers and professors for the education’s perceived “failures” is part of the conservative culture of criticism that has made teachers the culprit in every imaginable aspect of education
1.2 We blame P -12 teachers and university professors for
the “failure” of the schools. We blame them on a lot of levels. We blame
their professional teacher education; we blame what they teach; we blame
how they teach. The simplistic and punitive reform efforts that have resulted
in the creation of standards and the development of high stakes testing
reflect the fact that, for over twenty years, teachers in public schools
and institutions of higher education have been blamed for all that is
wrong with education.
1.3 This paper will briefly explore the context for standards in public schools
and universities in California beginning with Proposition 13, and
the relationship between standards and the latest volley in the quest
for standardization of the curriculum aimed at teacher education--the
California “Teacher Performance Assessment.”
The Initiative Process: a Non-Deliberative
2.1 The passage of Proposition 13 in 1975 1
(Jarvis-Gann) is a good milestone by which examine post World War II California.
In California, an interesting dichotomy was created in 1970’s. First,
the postwar exhilaration that brought a huge investment in the public
infrastructure era and a strong commitment to the development of quality
education systems and other services. Second, as the economy faltered,
it began to create a generation of declining confidence in government
and shrinking public services (Schrag, pp. 10-11). This dichotomy between
a value in huge investment in the public sector and the squeeze on public
services that Proposition 13 brought about, came at the time
California was experiencing significant demographic change--moving from
a society that thought of itself mostly as white, middle class, to one
in which whites became another minority. 2
Latinos, Asians, and African Americans now constitute a sizable majority
of school enrollment and the use of public services.
2.2 The revolt against government taxation that Proposition 13 set in motion
in California resulted in the increased use of the initiative process.
Initiatives--once a bastion of “the people” and their power to influence
public policy--are now most often used by well-organized political and
economic entities on the left and the right, and by incumbent politicians
from the government on down. It is those interest groups, backed by media
consultants, direct mail specialists, pollsters and others, that usually
finance the signature drives that cost millions of dollars to get measures
on the ballot. And, it is the advertising campaigns that drive the
support for the initiative, or effectively block, through the influx of
millions of advertising dollars, the measures of its opponents (Schrag,
1998, p. 11).
2.3 It is interesting to note that the further the initiative process proceeds,
the more problematic effective citizenship becomes. Each initiative
moves control further from the public and the legislature, and closer
to the special interests. This non-deliberative democracy, as found in
the California style initiative process, has no public hearings, no rules
of procedure, no formal debates, and no informed voice. Non-deliberative
democracy fails to present downside arguments, to outline implications,
to control the cost, or, most significantly, to speak for minorities. On
the national scene, some twenty-four states have some form of initiative
or referendum in their constitutions. And, there is increasing pressure
to use it as an agent of political reform. Non-deliberative democracy,
based on the initiative process, is undermining the people’s faith in
our democratic processes.
2.4 During the period of time since Proposition 13, initiatives have been
passed that imposed specific spending formulas on schools, abolished affirmative
action in public education, denied public schooling and public services
to illegal immigrants, and eliminated bilingual education. California’s
schools, which thirty years ago had been among the best funded on the
planet, are now in the bottom quartile among states in virtually every
major indicator of educational progress and success. California has
an average class size of over 32, and in many cases, especially in poor
white and minority areas, there are over 40 students in classrooms designed
for 25. To compound the problem, a vast majority of California’s
educational facilities are at least 30 years old, and many are over 40
years of age, and are in various and dangerous states of disrepair.
In California, we have chosen to spend less on education and more on prisons.
California is currently 41st out of 50 states in per capita educational
spending. The fact is, that during the past twenty-five years, the best
educational system in the world has been fundamentally and systematically
2.5 Lost in this plethora of initiatives, budget cuts and decline of funding, is
the fact that despite what politicians on both sides of the aisle and
the popular press would like us to believe, during the last decade standardized
scores have been holding relatively steady, with modest increases
in both math and reading scores (Berliner and Biddle, 1998). In an
international comparison United States nine year olds were second only
to Finland’s nine year olds, and United States’ fourteen year olds finished
ninth, well above average, and a few points from the top (Bracy, 1992).
This despite the fact that more students are taking the tests than ever
before whose first language is not English. Berliner and
Biddle conclude that there is no support for the myth that American students
fail in reading achievement, or any other subject. Simply
put, schools are in better shape than we are led to believe. Teachers
have done incredible work despite that fact that the educational system
in California has been crumbling around them.
and High-Stakes Testing: No Rich Kids Left Behind
3.1 As teachers have become convenient scapegoats for all that is wrong with
education, “education reform” has turned its attention to students and
punished them by the introduction of a plethora of standards and high
stakes testing proposals. Abraham McLaughlin in a recent Christian Science Monitor (2003) article states that critics of
high-stakes testing in Massachusetts say that the exams “punish kids--not
schools--for the [education] system’s failings…” (p. 2).
3.2 Standards and high stakes tests have used concepts such as "world
class," "accountability," "competitive,"
and "standards" that are taken directly from the corporate world.
Alfie Kohn (2002) makes the argument that "anyone whose goal was
to serve-up our schools to the market-place could hardly find a shrewder
strategy than to hold schools 'accountable' through wave after wave of
standardized tests" (p. 117).
3.3 All too often, these proposals result in a racist, one-size-fits-all approach
to education that is designed to present a singular and simplistic view
of knowledge, truth, and learning that ignores the diverse needs of our
children of color and those who live in poverty. These so-called
“reform” efforts are intended to blame teachers and punish students for
the problems of education by mandating a focus on drill and practice,
and “teaching to the test,” instead of fostering students’ critical thinking
skills. As a result of these efforts to blame teachers and punish students,
teachers are relinquishing control of the classroom and curriculum solely
to those who construct the tests.
3.4 Martha Rapp Ruddell (2001) quotes Elliot Eisner who reminds us that standards
in education are not new; "they are in fact a 'recapitulation' of
behavioral objectives that so preoccupied us in the 1960’s, and actually
grew from the 'efficiency' movement in education from 1913-1930 that was
based on an industrial model of high productivity." Ruddell
goes on to further quote Eisner:
Uniformity in curriculum content
is a virtue if one’s aim is to be able to compare students in
one part of the country with students in others. Uniformity is a virtue
when the aspiration is to compare the performance of American
students with students in Korea, Japan, and Germany. But why should
we wish to make such comparisons? (p. 11)
Susan Ohanian (in Ruddell, 2001) notes that framers of standards regularly
ignore the developmental reality of adolescence. She says:
Now you and I know that anyone who
says high schoolers should read Moby Dick 1) doesn’t know any
fifteen year olds; 2) has never read Moby Dick or 3) has read
Moby Dick, has a fifteen year old in the house, and wants to
get even. (p. 12)
3.5 Perhaps the most astounding thing about standards and high stakes tests
is the there is no research evidence whatsoever that
their use enhances student achievement and learning (Black and
Wilam, 1998). Still, tests have become so all consuming that more
than 20 million schools days were devoted to them in one year. The case
for high stakes testing and standards is based on simplistic solutions
designed to raise the self-esteem of politicians, businesspersons, and
policy makers. High stakes tests, coupled with standards, sustains and
maintains a classist and corporate system of education where a small and
select number of schools receive an embarrassment of riches.
3.6 Our fixation on standards and high-stakes testing was demonstrated when,
the day after the tragic killings in Littleton, Colorado, high schools
continued their scheduled standardized tests rather than postpone them
and discuss the incomprehensible events that shocked students and adults
throughout the country and world. One is left to wonder how high the scores
were on that day of testing? Will teachers be blamed, yet again,
for these “low” scores?
3.8 Things are bound to only get worse with standards and high-stakes testing. Schools will lose funding or may even be closed if their test scores don’t
improve. The test scores of schools will be compared with others as to
how well they do on the tests. Teachers in “low performing” schools may
be subjected to disciplinary pressures, and even firing if their students
don’t score well on one test. And, “low performing” schools may
be taken over by the state and/or assigned to for-profit corporate entities.
3.9 Standards and high-stakes testing determine the form of most teaching
since, for any given exam, there is a ”best way” to prepare for it. Repetition,
forced memorization, rote learning and frequent quizzes leave precious
little time for more creative approaches where students convey, exchange
and question facts and ideas. With standards and high-stakes testing,
course content is determined by the exam, leaving little time for
any materials not on the exam, such as student reactions, reflection on
main issues of the day, alternative points of view, or anything else that
is likely to promote creative, cooperative or critical thinking .
3.10 High stakes tests have proven to be very reliable predictors of factors related
to socio-economic class, and poverty. Standardized testing is a
strong indicator of where the wealthiest schools are, and where children of
poverty go to school. Students of color, second language learners, and
children in poverty consistently score lower on all standardized tests.
High-stakes tests are strong indicators that children of poverty get an
education that does not compare to that received by wealthier, white students.
With their enormously high price tags, what these tests do predict and
ensure is that no rich kids will be left behind. The National Commission
on Testing and Public Policy (1990) says that as early as 1990 standardized
testing in America consumed more than $900 million in one year. A decade
later, the price tag is much, much higher.
3.11 Alfie Kohn (2002) argues that standardized testing promotes the presence
of corporations, and a corporate ethos, in public schools. Kohn states
that testing promotes a corporate mentality that does four things
very effectively: 1) brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to the
handful of corporations that produce the tests; 2) serves as a sorter
and screener of students for the convenience of industry; 3)
fosters a corporate ideology where assessment is used to compare and evaluate
people in uniform ways; 4) shocks the public into a need to “improve”
education through vouchers, and for-profit schools (p.116).
3.12 In addition to Kohn’s critique of the corporate influence on education,
former Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), has issued this blistering
analysis of the “the bottom line” agenda that businesses have when
it comes to education:
In speech after speech,
it is our corporate CEOs who state that an educated, literate work force
is the key to American competitiveness. They pontificate on the importance
of education. They point out their magnanimous corporate contributions
to education in one breath, and then they pull the tax base out from
under the local schools in the next. Business criticizes the job our
local schools are doing and then proceeds to nail down every tax break
they can get, further eroding the school’s ability to do the job. (in
3.13 What testing and the corporate influenced “educational reform” movement
reveal--more than any other factor--is the absolute certainty that testing
does not serve the needs of all students in a democratic society,
and the democratic goal to help all students become enthusiastic
A Nation at Risk?
4.1 One can pinpoint in time when the clarion call for accountability began.
In 1983, the Regan administration, amid much fanfare, released the
incendiary report on the state of American education entitled A Nation
At Risk , prepared by a prestigious committee under the direction of then Secretary of Education Terrell Bell. A Nation
At Risk made sweeping claims attacking the conduct and achievement
of America’s public schools and documented these claims by “evidence.”
4.2 The “evidence” provided in A Nation At Risk made the case that the failures of the public schools were damaging the
nation, and if not addressed, stood to weaken our democratic future. Though some of the claims had validity and were made
to genuinely improve public education, a disproportionate number of these
claims can be construed as blatant attacks that were contradicted by sound research-based evidence,
and were outright hostile or untrue. As more and more of the attacks denouncing
public education made the front pages of the news media and the six o’clock
news, business persons and governmental leaders were endlessly repeating
the attacks, and giving life to these distortions and falsehoods. Ironically,
many prominent members of the educational establishment often supported
the attacks that were endlessly reported by an unquestioning press (Berliner
and Biddle, 1997). David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle (1997)
in their examination 5 of the rise
of the standards and accountability movement argue that:
It is small wonder that many Americans
have come to believe that education in our country is now in a deplorable
state. Indeed, how could they have concluded anything else, given such
an energetic and widely reported campaign of criticism, from such prestigious
resources, attacking America’s public schools? To the best of our knowledge,
no campaign of this sort has ever before appeared in American history.
Never before had an American government been so critical of the public
schools, and never had so many false claims been made about education
in the name of ‘evidence.’ We shall refer to this campaign of criticism
as the Manufactured Crisis. (p. 4).
4.3 The most recent results of the 34th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup
Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Schools (Phi Delta Kappan,
2002) support the idea that there is a slowly forming disconnect between
the public’s attitudes toward education and the critics unfounded attacks
on education. The poll reported that national public support for, and
reliance on, public schools is strong and increases as people have more
contact with schools. This trend for public support of schools has been
steadily rising since 1992.
4.4 Regarding testing, the public attitude toward testing remains remarkably
stable over time. Even when the call for testing is increasing, 47% of
those polled indicated that the amount of testing is about right, down
from 48% in 1997. Thirty one per cent think there is too much testing, up
from 27% in 1997. When asked which is the best way to measure student
achievement--by means of test scores or by classroom work and homework--53%
support classroom work and homework over test scores, while only 23% think
test scores is the best way to measure student achievement. When asked
how they would grade schools in their own community, 47% give schools
an “A” or “B.” Interestingly, 24% think the schools in the
nation deserve an “A” or “B”. When asked to grade the school their
oldest child attends, a stunning 71% give that school either an “A” or
“B.” Finally, 69% of those polled support reforming the existing
system while only 27% think we should find an alternative to a “failing”
system of schooling.
4.5 Seldom do we see these kinds of results that support the work of schools
reported in the popular media. What seems to be the case is that the public
is not inclined to believe negative and unfounded media reports when it
comes to schools they know about, and trust to educate their children--even
when they are being deluged with daily negative attacks in the media.
In spite of a continued avalanche of unsupported attacks on public schools,
the public remains, as it has for the past decade, unconvinced that schools
are as terrible as their conservative critics suggest.
The California Teacher Performance
5.1 In the wake of the testing mania that swept through P-12 education
like a firestorm, the hegemony of accountability and standardization of
the curriculum has finally arrived at the door step of teacher education
in the form of the California Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA).
Senate Bill 2042, signed into law by governor in 1998, requires all preliminary
credential candidates to pass a high stakes teaching performance assessment,
the TPA. The law provides that professional teacher preparation programs
may use the TPA or they may develop their own assessment. 6
5.2 Prototypes of the TPA were developed and piloted to measure thirteen Teacher
Performance Expectations (TPE) or standards. The TPEs purportedly
describe and measure on a singular exam “what California teachers need
to know and be able to do” before receiving a preliminary credential.
There are four performance tasks that collectively measure the TPEs in
the following areas (adapted from the California Department of Education
Pilot Draft of the TPA):
Task I: Principles of Content-Specific and Developmentally Appropriate
Pedagogy - students are asked to demonstrate knowledge of principles
of developmentally appropriate pedagogy and current specific pedagogy
from four specific prompts (see Appendix II for a summary of these
Task II: Connecting Student Characteristics to Instructional
Planning - students demonstrate their ability to learn important
details about a small group of learners and to plan instruction that
is shaped by those student characteristics (see Appendix III for
a summary of these tasks).
Task III: Classroom Assessment of Academic Learning Goals –
students demonstrate their ability to use standards-based, developmentally
appropriate student assessment activities with a group pf students.
Students will demonstrate their ability to assess student learning and
diagnose student needs based on their responses to the assessment activity
(see Appendix III for a summary of these tasks).
Currently, many “early adopter” credential programs are engaged in piloting
the TPA and its four tasks. These “early adopters” have been given the task
of trying to determine how best to administer and field test the TPA. To
date, little information is known regarding the success of the state’s pilot
program. It is clear that the TPAs are being developed with little
assistance from professors in teacher education programs. The state is offering
a series of information only, technical assistance “training”
workshops, offered so as to bring teacher education programs “up to speed”
regarding the TPA. However, a closer examination of the TPA raises
some interesting issues, questions and concerns.
Task IV: Academic Lesson Design, Implementation and Reflection
after Instruction - students demonstrate their ability to
design a standards-based lesson, via a 20 minute video tape, for a particular
group of students, implementing that lesson while making appropriate
use of class time and instructional resources. They also show their
ability to meet differing needs of individuals within the class, manage
instruction and student interaction, assess student learning, and analyze
the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson (see Appendix IV for
a summary of these tasks).
The TPA: A Time -Worn, Top-Down
6.1 At first glance, the TPA is a somewhat innocuous measure of teaching
effectiveness. It is based upon Teacher Performance Standards (TPE)--standards
that, for the most part, remain unquestioned by most teacher educators.
The four tasks that comprise the TPA assessment are based upon ideas in
performance-based assessment that has been used widely by teacher educators
across the country. Many educators believe the concept of examination
to determine teacher readiness is not a bad idea. Witness efforts by the
University of California and Stanford Universities to develop their own
high stakes examinations as substitutes for the state developed and administered
examination. These efforts to test remain unquestioned by even the most
radical opponents of curricular standardization and the TPA. 7
6.2 Many teacher educators object to the top-down nature of the TPA process.
Not only does it ignore the knowledge and professional commitment
professors have toward building effective teacher education programs,
the TPA also moves the State of California’s historical responsibility
for teacher education from accrediting teacher education
programs, to externally controlling and effectively mandating
what should be taught and how it should be delivered in Universities.
This is a major and historic change in policy. This change is viewed as
political, and driven by a genuine mistrust of teacher educators--led
by policy makers and large corporations (Kohn, 2002). M ore importantly,
this top-down regulation undermines the ability of teacher educators to
prepare highly qualified and effective teachers.
6.3 Bertell Ollman (2002) in “Why So Many Exams?” details eight myths that
surround exams and testing in our society. Among these is the largely
unquestioned belief that exams are unbiased and that it is possible
to produce an exam that is “culture free.” It is this largely unchallenged
assertion that drives the examination mania that grips our culture. The
fact remains that there is no singular high-stakes examination that has
been proven to be totally unbiased.
More importantly, this myth of unbiased testing supports the assumption
that a complex set of concepts and behaviors embedded in a yearlong teacher
education curriculum can and should be measured in
a singular examination.
Teaching is an ever-changing enterprise. It has been estimated that, in
the course of a single day, a teacher makes thousands of decisions
that impact the quality of education for their students and ultimately
how well they perform the complex tasks of teaching.
6.6 In teaching, the ambiguity of not knowing what can and will happen from
moment to moment is as frightening as it is challenging. To consider that
the task of teaching should and can be measured by
a singular high-stakes examination reduces the complex act of teaching
to a fragmented, de-contextualized set of unrelated exercises that have
no real meaning. The fundamental assumption that teaching can be simplistically
measured by a single examination is folly, and not supported by research. Our
views about testing in teacher education need serious re-examination.
6.7 Rather than testing prospective teachers, we need to be working
with our future teachers to expand the idea of assessment to provide
multiple, yet rigorous, ways for students to demonstrate what they know.
We cannot expect prospective teachers in the 21st century
to adopt new means of assessment in their curriculum and for their students, if
their future careers are based upon a hackneyed, high-stakes testing ideology
rooted in 19th century beliefs about testing.
Among these beliefs is the time worn notion that students learn best when
performing short, segmented tasks--stressing speed and neatness--to
the ticking of a clock. This ideology is embedded in the work culture
of late 19th century America where students were being prepared
to work mindless, low skill, repetitive jobs in factories. Most would
agree that the world of the 21st century teacher has changed
inestimably since the late 19th century. So why haven’t our
notions about assessment and testing?
Political Ramifications, Economic
7.1 Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the TPA is the fact that its existence increases
the likelihood that the scores it generates will be used for political
purposes to compare students, institutions and ultimately professors.
The TPA will serve as a bellwether--as has been done with most standardized
tests--for the public as to the institutions that are "best"
doing their job of educating teachers. The scores of students will most
likely be reported to the public, with rewards and punishments being
distributed accordingly. In response to this kind of application of standardized
test scores, Nancy Kober (2002) reported that high stakes test scores
do not seem to generalize to any other index of achievement other than
their own. In fact, Berliner and Amrein (2002) discovered that in
states where high stakes testing scores were on the rise, math scores
on the NAEP, ACT and SAT fell. Put simply, the scores of high stakes
tests do not transfer to learning in other areas. Higher education may
wish to enter this highly questionable area of test score interpretation
and application with some degree of trepidation.
7.2 There is also some discussion that individual TPA scores would be released
to schools that are hiring new teachers for the purpose of screenings
and evaluation. With the meaning of these test scores under question,
such a development could possibly prevent hundreds of potential teachers
from becoming employed based upon a singular score on the TPA. 8
7.3 In an era of declining educational budgets, the economic costs of the
TPA have yet to be resolved. However, the main accrediting body of teacher
education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) has
entered into a $3.7 million contract with the Educational Testing
Service to develop a prototype TPA examination. No exact figures have
been agreed upon regarding the direct costs the TPA will have for Schools
of Education, but it is clear that issues such as administering
the test and “training” teachers to score the TPA exams will place
additional burdens on already overwhelmed and under-supported schools
of education. One educator stated that archiving the 20 minute video tapes
(each tape must be kept for 5 years) and the voluminous supporting documents
that are required of the TPA’s four tasks will require that the California
State University to “buy a barge and park it in the San Francisco
Bay for the purpose of storing the tapes and documents that the TPA will
7.4 Ultimately, some believe that the TPA may actually be part of a maneuver
to discredit and weaken schools of education, and open the door to the
idea that teacher education be disseminated by districts and private corporations,
leaving schools of education out of the process. In the short run, the
creation of the TPA will certainly seek to standardize the curriculum
among Schools of Education and provide faculty with less of a voice in
the development of a sound teacher education curriculum. In fact, curricula
will be compromised and eliminated in order to fit the rigors of the TPA
into current teacher education programs. The development and implementation
of the TPA is an effort for the State of California not only
to accredit teachers but also to dictate, in a top-down manner, how they
should best educate teachers.
The High Stakes of the TPA
8.1 The TPA is the first volley for standardizing the curriculum of higher
education. The TPA is a high-stakes process that holds severe consequences
for students, professors and the university. Its ultimate success will
determine how much teacher education and the university will succumb to even more demands
of the standardization movement.
8.2 Teacher educators, not state bureaucrats or professional test makers, are best equipped to develop demanding,
yet inclusive, proficiency exit standards that combine student portfolios
and performance-based projects - not just one high stakes standardized
test - to credential teachers.
8.3 Robert Ahlquist (2003) suggests that teacher educators should ask themselves
some serious questions about their work: What kind of vision do we hold
for teacher education? What kind of citizens do we hope to “grow” within
the context of the American public school system? Do we want a school
system that teaches people how to critically think and act from multiple
perspectives on the world in which we live? In the 21st century,
teacher educators need to involve parents, prospective and practicing
teachers, community leaders and legislators in seeking answers to these
fundamental questions regarding education in our 21st century
8.4 If we are move to a new age of assessment that rejects time-worn 19th
century idea ideas and practices, then multiple assessments must be adopted
to determine the success of a program, provide information to students
regarding their achievement, and hold schools responsible for how well
taxpayers’ money is being spent to prepare high quality and effective
teachers. It is time to demand that our nation, our state and our schools
stop relying on a single, corporate influenced, standardized, and racist
measure of student achievement, and adopt a variety of student assessments
- are designed to provide feedback
that improves student learning;
- involve students, parents, teachers
and the community collaborating for improved student learning and
- allow a variety of measures
that focus on individual student learning;
- do not limit the curriculum to
a singular, standardized assessment based
on a high stakes approach.
8.5 University and teacher educators need to be reminded of the truly high
stakes involved in the high-stakes examination called the TPA. The
control of the curriculum and its assessment by teacher educators is at
risk. A closer look at this latest initiative to standardize the teacher
education curriculum by all who are interested in high quality teacher
education is warranted.
8.6 In a significant study of 16 states that have implemented high stakes,
high school graduation examinations, Amrein and Berliner (2002) reported,
among other things, that high-stakes tests are associated with 1) higher
numbers of low performing students being retained in grade before pivotal
testing years to ensure that students are properly prepared to take high
stakes tests; 2) higher numbers of low performing students being suspended
before testing days, expelled from school before tests, or being reclassified
as exempt because they are Special Education or Limited English Proficient
(LEP) – strategies that prevent low-scoring students from taking high
stakes tests; 3) higher numbers of urban school teachers, in particular,
are “teaching to the test,” limiting instruction to only those things
sure to be tested, requiring students to spend hours memorizing facts,
and drilling students on test taking strategies; and 4) because the subjects
of art, music, science, social studies and physical education are often
not tested, teachers and administrators focus less on these subjects as
high-stakes testing dates approach.
8.7 These results reflect the ademocratic nature of high-stakes examinations;
this may soon be the plight of higher education as high-stakes exams like
the TPA are implemented. High-stakes exams are shaking the very foundations
of a democratic education in a free society; yet another brick in the
wall in the struggle for the control of the curriculum that is the standards-based/high-stakes/accountability
8.8 If allowed to become part of teacher education, the TPA could result in
a loss of control over the teacher education curriculum, and a de-validation
of the professional responsibilities of teacher educators. But most significantly,
future teachers may become deskilled, degraded and driven by the prescribed
methods of a state driven curriculum, rather than becoming the critically
aware, intelligent, well-informed professionals who are so desperately
needed to maintain a healthy and productive democratic society.
Ahlquist, R. (2003) “Challenges
to academic freedom: Calfornia teacher educators mobilize to resist state-mandated
control of the curriculum,” Teacher Education Quarterly, 30(1).
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Inside the black box: raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi
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Kober, N. (2002, June). Teaching to
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Phi Delta Kappan (2002, September).
“34th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of Public’s Attitudes
Toward Public Schools”, Phi Delta Kappan. Available online: http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k0209pol.htm
National Commission on Testing and
Public Policy. (1990). From gatekeeper to gateway: Transforming testing
in America. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College.
Ollman, B. (2002, October). Why So
Many Exams, a Marxist response. Z Magazine. Available online :
Ruddell, M. R. (2001). Teaching
content reading and writing (3rd ed.). New York: John Wiley
Schrag, P. (1998) Paradise lost:
California’s experience, America’s future. New York: The New Press.
In the face of soaring property taxes, Proposition 13, passed in 1978,
rolled back property values to 1975 levels and could be raised
no more than 2 percent a year for inflation until the property was sold
and transferred , at which point it could be reassessed at the purchase
price. The tax rate was limited to 1 percent on the value of each
parcel, with the legislature determining how that 1percent apportioned
among the various local agencies that had previously set their own tax
rates. Henceforth , local agencies, including schools, would be effectively
prohibited from issuing any new bonds. (This was mended in 1986 when school
districts were given authority to issue construction bonds if they were
approved by a two thirds vote of the electorate) Howard Jarvis and
Paul Gann, sponsors of Proposition 13, believed that schools should not
be funded by property taxes.
The California Department of Public finance reports that the population
of California in the year 2000 is 49% white, 35% Latino, 12% African
This comes as a direct result of the three strikes initiative, Proposition
184. The California Legislative Analyst predicts that prison costs will
be $3 billion by 2003 and $6 billion by 2020.
4 A Nation At Risk makes for interesting
reading as a historical document. It leads the way in to what resulted
in endless legislation, and standards that led to the present day accountability
educational reform movement. In it, many claims were made regarding
the “failures” of the public schools and how these “failures” were
confirmed by “evidence.” None of the supporting “ evidence” actually
appeared in the document nor did the manuscript provide citations to inform
the reader where the “evidence” might be found.
and Biddle counter the myths and lies of the attack on America’s public
schools by discussing and displaying evidence that has so often been misrepresented
by critics. Some myths they counter are: 1) student achievement in American
primary schools has recently declined; 2) American spends money on its
schools than other nations; 3) The productivity of American workers is
deficient, and this reflects the inadequate training they receive in American
schools; 4) Recent increases in expenditures for education have been wasted
or have merely gone into unneeded raises for teachers and administrators.
Berliner and Biddle persuasively argue that none of the attacks on public
education have merit and cannot be supported by the data.
date, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University
are in the process of developing their own, alternative, assessments.
Undoubtedly, more institutions will follow this expensive lead or perhaps
purchase the exams created by teacher educations specialists rather than
state department bureaucrats.
7 On September
10 2002 the Social Justice Cluster in the School of Education at San Diego
State University following considerable deliberation, passed this motion
which is now being circulated among Schools of Education throughout California:
reject the TPA process for which we initially volunteered, in good
faith. Our experience with the process leads us to conclude, furthermore,
we must reject the standards that give the process motion, and the law
gives it force. We believe this is not a process to improve teacher
education, but to regulate and standardize knowledge, not only in colleges
education, but throughout the university system, in a manner which is
in the best interest of our students nor ourselves. We believe the
standards are partisan standards, the tests that will follow will be
partisan tests, with profound problems of class, race, linguistic, and
Therefore, we call upon all college of education faculty in the CSU system
follow our lead, so say no to this intrusion. Moreover, we will inform
students and the community of our action in hopes that we will be able
spark additional resistance to the one-size-fits-all high-stakes testing
movement which we believe will not improve assessment, but deepen
segregation and promote the irrational worship of exam scores---scores
measure, above all, inherited capital.
believe that while we are indeed working within a state teacher
credential program, we have rights of academic freedom which not only make
possible for individuals to reject this proposed regulation, but which
as a treasure to the community, reflecting the vital role of a
university where people can gain and test knowledge in a reasonably free
atmosphere, and to offer that society criticism which may not be possible
to the above proposal, the literacy faculty in the School of Education
at San Diego State University proposed an alternate resolution:
"Today, the School of Teacher Education
elected not to proceed with the field testing of the TPA, for many valid
pedagogical and timing reasons. We also asked our Dean to pursue the
collaborative effort being undertaken by the UCs and Stanford to arrive
at an assessment that is more relevant and meaningful. While we deplore
the ill-considered policy decisions, we do not reject SB2042 or the
Teacher Performance Expectations."