Am I a hypocrite?

Dan Meyer put together the slides and talk from Uri Treisman at NCTM 2013. This is a very detailed critique of education bashing (particularly math) in this country that shows poverty and place are major factors in test results. I highly, highly recommend viewing it. Go watch it and come back 🙂

photo credit: _Untitled-1 via photopin cc

photo credit: _Untitled-1 via photopin cc

I am left struggling with a few thoughts.

  • He convincingly shows that the United States is a leader in the world in math when looking at upper and middle class students.
  • Poor students lag behind depending on their location in the United States. 
  • Poor and minority students still have too large of achievement gap to the wealthy but have made large gains in the past twenty years. What has caused these gains? What are we doing right?
  • He does not explain why Texas and Massachusetts are more successful than states such as Alabama? What are they doing right?
  • Do the testing gains that he demonstrates mean an increase in mathematical knowledge in the U.S. or better test prep strategies being taught to students?
  • Agreeing that education in the U.S. is not as bad as portrayed by ed reformers and the media, but also questioning what parts need to be improved especially in lower socio-economic schools?
  • How to reconcile the belief that schools need to teach more mathematical thinking than just algorithms with the test score gains?
  • With the Campbell’s Law example, Treisman warns of the negative effects of high stakes testing on teachers and students. Is that inconsistent with using the data from these tests to make his points about math levels in the U.S.?
  • My biggest ethical/moral/logical question for myself is am I being a hypocrite by criticizing national, high stakes testing on the one hand; while on the other hand using testing data such as presented here to show that U.S. is not universally behind the world.
  • In other words, is it logically flawed to point out based on testing data that the major education issue is disparity based on parent income, while at the same time rejecting these tests as inaccurate, one day snapshots that do not accurately represent students’ abilities/

These are some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain right now. Anyone got some answers for me?

One thought on “Am I a hypocrite?

  1. Raymond Johnson

    As for the hypocrisy, I can say I’ve seen many people — including some of the most esteemed scholars — do the same thing. Even the most anti-testing advocates will occasionally slip into talk of high achieving nations/states/districts, etc., without realizing that those (often useful) measurements are made possible through standardized testing.

    Your last bullet gets at one of the issues around this. I think it’s generally useful to use large-scale test data to compare group performance, or performance over time (in consideration of validity and reliability concerns, measurement error, etc.), but I have to be much more careful about using those same results to judge the performance of individuals. A one-day snapshot might do a good job at summarizing the ability of a thousand students — which is helpful information to have — but that doesn’t mean the measure of a single student’s ability in that group is just as trustworthy.

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