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Tue May 20, 2014, 10:13 AM

Obama 2011 "One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test."

I agreed with him then completely. I also agree with the head of the school which his daughters attend.

To be quite honest as a retired teacher and as a parent I think the school is doing the right thing by NOT linking academic success to the scores on a standardized test. I approve of their stance.

I only wish public schools were not being forced to do such linking. Teachers are being fired because of these test scores. Students are kept from graduating. Art and music teachers are fired because of reading and math test.

What our most famous private school is hiding

So why, with all that fame and success, is Sidwell so reluctant to release any data on how its students are doing? Other private schools, such as Washington International, National Cathedral and Gonzaga, reveal on their Web sites how many students graduate, the number of and passing rates on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, and SAT and ACT test score averages.

Sidwell keeps that data secret. The numbers could help parents and potential applicants, but they also could be used to compare Sidwell to other schools. Sidwell and some other local private schools resist being part of any ranked list, including the America’s Most Challenging High Schools survey I do every year for The Washington Post.

“We believe that parents and students are not helped by rating systems which purport to evaluate school quality based on test data,” Sidwell head of school Tom Farquhar told me. Independent Education, the local private school association, encourages all of its members to keep their numbers to themselves.

Farquhar acknowledged that the fear of being compared to other schools is at odds with what many private educators see as their responsibility to their parents and potential applicants, leading some Independent Education members — but not Sidwell — to put the information out anyway. “They are proud of how well their kids are doing and they are comfortable with prospective families taking a look at all the available information as they weigh their decision,” he said.


I so much agree with Farquhar.

And yet, this comment by our president was at Education Week in 2011.

Bridging Differences

If George Orwell were still alive, what would he make of the following quote from President Obama? (Thanks to Valerie Strauss for pointing to a piece written by Anthony Cody for his Education Week Teacher blog, Living in Dialogue.)

"Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test [at the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington]. But it wasn't a high-stakes test. It wasn't a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn't even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn't study for it, they just went ahead and took it. ... It was a tool. ... Too often, what we've been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we've said is, let's find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let's apply it in a less pressure-packed atmosphere; let's figure out whether we have to do it every year, or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let's make sure that that's not the only way we're judging whether a school is doing well. Because there are other criteria: What's the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not."

And, as Cody writes, "Then he said something really radical."

"So...one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you're not learning about the world; you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science. ... All you're learning about is ... the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test."

This is not an old speech; it's new! So new, in fact, that maybe U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hasn't been told about it yet?


I agree with President Obama in what he says about testing. I agree with the head of Sidwell Friends. They are right in what they say. Maybe they are not aware of what Arne Duncan is doing? (A little sarcasm there)

And yet here is Arne Duncan's policy, and he is sticking with it.



Oh wait. That's more than a little hypocrisy. It's a whole lot of it.

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Reply Obama 2011 "One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test." (Original post)
madfloridian May 2014 OP
madfloridian May 2014 #1
madfloridian May 2014 #2
FloriTexan May 2014 #3
madfloridian May 2014 #4
FiveGoodMen May 2014 #5
woo me with science May 2014 #6
Squinch May 2014 #7
madfloridian May 2014 #8
Squinch May 2014 #9
knitter4democracy May 2014 #10
sabrina 1 May 2014 #11
madfloridian May 2014 #12
sabrina 1 May 2014 #13
madfloridian May 2014 #14
TheKentuckian May 2014 #15
Orsino May 2014 #16

Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 10:28 AM

1. "I'm so sorry that you have been taught that your educational worth is based on one flawed test."

Those are the words of a teacher apologizing to her students for the pressure they are feeling over testing.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10024966712

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 02:05 PM

2. Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to....

to take but Eva does.

Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to take but Eva does

I get a lot of e-mail from parents and teachers who wonder if President Obama, whose children go to the private Sidwell Friends School, knows what is actually going on with all of the standardized testing in public schools. Here’s an open letter to Obama explaining what he is missing, written by Rebecca Steinitz, a literacy consultant in urban high schools, a writer and an editor. She was previously director of the High School Program at Lesley University’s School of Education and an English professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she ran the Freshman Writing Program. Steinitz is also a parent, as you will see when you read this post of hers, which also appeared on Huffington Post.


Some of that letter:

Dear President Obama,

We have something very important in common: daughters in the seventh grade. Since your family walked onto the national stage in 2007, I’ve had a feeling that our younger daughters have a lot in common, too. Like my daughter Eva, Sasha appears to be a funny, smart, loving girl, who has no problem speaking her mind, showing her feelings, or tormenting her older sister.

There is, however, one important difference between them: Sasha attends private school, while Eva goes to public school. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support your decision to send Malia and Sasha to private school, where it is easier to keep them safe and sheltered. I would have done the same. But because she is in private school, Sasha does not have to take Washington’s standardized test, the D.C. CAS, which means you don’t get a parent’s-eye view of the annual high-stakes tests taken by most of America’s children.

...I have been watching Eva take the Massachusetts MCAS since third grade. To tell you the truth, it hasn’t been a big deal. Eva is an excellent student and an avid reader. She goes to school in a suburban district with a strong curriculum and great teachers. She doesn’t worry about the tests, and she generally scores at the highest level.


She then gives an example of an essay prompt from the test that her usually very bright daughter complained about:

The prompt:

You have learned about electricity by reading two articles, “Energy Story” and “Conducting Solutions,” and viewing a video clip titled “Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits.” In an essay, compare the purpose of the three sources. Then analyze how each source uses explanations, demonstrations, or descriptions of experiments to help accomplish its purpose. Be sure to discuss important differences and similarities between the information gained from the video and the information provided in the articles. Support your response with evidence from each source.

Eva’s comment on this question: “It’s impossible, and there’s like 15 parts.” Just as I feared, she exaggerated. There are only four parts. But take a close look at those parts. Can you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing here, President Obama? And could you have done it in seventh grade?

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 02:09 PM

3. Kick

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Response to FloriTexan (Reply #3)

Tue May 20, 2014, 02:13 PM

4. Thanks, I found it almost to page 3.

Not an important issue I guess.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 02:43 PM

5. Surely he knew he was lying at the time.

He couldn't have made the appointments that he did if he was serious.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 03:06 PM

6. Third Way lies.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Tue May 20, 2014, 07:21 PM

7. I love Obama. But I think he's a moron about education. His policies are a disaster.

This is the DU member formerly known as Squinch.

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Response to Squinch (Reply #7)

Tue May 20, 2014, 09:04 PM

8. He doesn't seem to be fully aware of how bad it's gotten.

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Response to madfloridian (Reply #8)

Wed May 21, 2014, 12:24 AM

9. I think he never attended to it, and he just threw all his trust to the worst possible people.

Thinking he dropped the ball on this major responsibility is bad, but it would be worse to think he is an active part of the policy-making that has brought us to this point.
This is the DU member formerly known as Squinch.

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Response to madfloridian (Reply #8)

Wed May 21, 2014, 12:50 AM

10. If that's true, he's a crap president.

I think the real truth is that he just doesn't mind it because he's a corporatist. He gets big money from for-profit education companies, so he looks the other way and trots out the right speech from time to time.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Wed May 21, 2014, 01:26 AM

11. How sad this is. As a teacher in a private school I agree with Sidwell. I agree with THIS Obama,

especially where he says that we might not even need to test every year, that tests are just tools. We never tested our 1st and second graders because it was not required by law in NY. We tested them in third grade. The earlier years were spent LEARNING and by the third grade they aced those tests. We did use old tests to get them accustomed to the format and they simply had fun with them.

I quit teaching, as many did when the writing was on the wall. Even though we were a private school, we had to prepare the students for public school and I knew that I could not teach with THAT in mind.

So what happened to this president who was so RIGHT back then? Was he just saying what he needed to say to get elected, or was he told AFTER the election, that he had no say in these issues, that a system had been put in place and he could not do anything about it?

What has happened to education under his watch is simply appalling. Reading his own words, he SOUNDS like someone who has given a lot of thought to the subject.

Did he make these comments recently? Because if so, it's hard to believe he is even aware of what his OWN policies on education actually ARE. They are in direct conflict with what he is saying.

Something isn't right about this. Was he trying to send a message without outright opposing the policies now in place? I don't know what to think.

Great post MF. I can't figure this out at all.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #11)

Wed May 21, 2014, 01:32 AM

12. Best I can figure his words about testing were from 2011.

Hard to get a correct timeline because Arne pretty much has control. Arne's got a firm hold on the situation. And he doesn't care much for public schools.

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Response to madfloridian (Reply #12)

Wed May 21, 2014, 01:55 AM

13. It's hard to believe that President Obama wasn't aware of what Arne was up to even in 2011.

Is it possible that his remarks were a cry for help? As subtle as he could make them? I know, I'm stretching here, but it makes ZERO sense that he would have made those remarks in 2011, three years into the worst ever education policies and not be aware of what was going on? He's not a stupid man. But those comments were a direct argument AGAINST what his own Education Secretary was doing.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #13)

Wed May 21, 2014, 01:58 AM

14. Actually I agree with you.



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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Wed May 21, 2014, 10:27 AM

15. By 2011, it was clear the statement was misleading, at best.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Wed May 21, 2014, 12:13 PM

16. That's exactly what unfunded test mandates do, Mr. President.

By design.

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