My recent posts on the release of our new study on the effects of high-stakes testing in Florida and posts here and here on the appropriateness of releasing it before it has appeared in a scholarly journal, have produced a number of reactions. Let me briefly note and respond to some of those reactions.
First, Eduwonkette, who started this all, has oddly not responded. This is strange because I caught her in a glaring contradiction: she asserts that the credibility of the source of information is an important part of assessing the truth of a claim yet her anonymity prevents everyone from assessing her credibility. I prefer that she resolve this contradiction by agreeing with my earlier defense of her anonymity that the truth of a claim is not dependent on who makes it. But she has to resolve this one way or another — either she ends her anonymity or she drops the argument that we should assess the source when determining truth.
But apparently she doesn’t have to do anything. Whose reputation suffers if she refuses to be consistent? Her anonymity is producing just the sort of irresponsibility that Andy Rotherham warned about in the NY Sun and that I acknowledged even as I defended her. The only reputation that is getting soiled is that of Education Week for agreeing to host her blog anonymously. If she doesn’t resolve her double-standard by either revising her argument or dropping her anonymity, Education Week should stop hosting her. They shouldn’t lend their reputation to someone who will tarnish it.
Mike Petrilli over at Flypaper praises our new study on high stakes testing but takes issue with referencing comments by Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch about how high stakes is narrowing the curriculum in the “pre-release spin.” I agree with him that this study is not “the last word on the ‘narrowing of the curriculum.’” But to the extent that it shows that another part of the curriculum (science) benefits when stakes are applied only to math and reading, it alleviates the concerns Checker and Diane have expressed.
As we fully acknowledge in the study, we don’t have evidence on what happens to history, art, or other parts of the curriculum. And we only have evidence from Florida, so we don’t know if there are different effects in other states. But the evidence that high stakes in math and reading contribute to learning in science should make us less convinced that all low stakes subjects are harmed. Perhaps school-wide reforms that flow from high stakes in math and reading produce improvements across the curriculum. Perhaps improved basic skills in literacy and numeracy have spill-over benefits in history, art, and everything else as students can more effectively read their art texts and analyze data in history.
Andy Rotherham at Eduwonk laments that what I describe as our “caveat emptor market of ideas” doesn’t work very well. I agree with him that people make plenty of mistakes. But I also agree with him that “in terms of remedies there is no substitute for smart consumption of information and research…” There is no Truth Committee that will figure everything out for us. And any process of reviewing claims before release will make its own errors and will come at some expense of delay. Think Tank West has added some useful points on this issue.
Sherman Dorn, who rarely has a kind word for me, says: “Jay Greene (one of the Manhattan Institute report’s authors and a key part of the think tank’s stable of writers) replied with probably the best argument against eduwonkette(or any blogger) in favor of using PR firms for unvetted research: as with blogs, publicizing unvetted reports involves a tradeoff between review and publishing speed, a tradeoff that reporters and other readers are aware of.” He goes on to have a very lengthy discussion of the issue, but I was hypnotized by his rare praise, so I haven’t yet had a chance to take in everything else he said.