A very interesting Op-Ed piece by Charles Murray appeared in “The New York Times” this week. The piece focused on comparisons between schools as measured by those same standardized tests we’ve come to abhor. This latest evaluation has been performed in Milwaukee, matching 3000-plus students from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program with a like number attending public schools in the city. Predictably, the achievement growth rates for both groups were similar.

Which, of course, is not the point!

Murray writes:

“So let’s not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.

It should come as no surprise. We’ve known since the landmark Coleman Report of 1966, which was based on a study of more than 570,000 American students, that the measurable differences in schools explain little about differences in test scores. The reason for the perpetual disappointment is simple: Schools control only a small part of what goes into test scores.

Cognitive ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excellent instruction. If test scores in reading and math are the measure, a good school just doesn’t have that much room to prove it is better than a lesser school.”

As we have written in previous BLOGS, standardized testing mistakenly confuses learning with memorization and, at the same time, short changes thinking and analytical skills. Too many people in authority continue to believe that “The Enlightenment” is the sole path to knowledge. And, unfortunately, our children continue to be sidetracked from their natural born traits of curiosity and imagination. Consequently, learning suffers and, ultimately, so will our nation.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning