7/15/2005

"Fringe" Responses: Like Asking Quakers About Iraq

Of the dozen or so responses and comments that have come in response to my initial posting about FairTest (below), my favorite is the one that says quoting FairTest is like asking Quakers for their views on the war in Iraq.

In addition, the organization itself has sent out a press release this morning -- much calmer than Jerry Bracey's typically hyperbolic initial response -- but still in my view hiding behind the fig leaf that FairTest is not anti-testing and that its positions are anywhere near the mainstream:

"Russo's extraordinary attack on an organization with a twenty-year track record did not accuse FairTest of a single factual error or even cite an example of over-the-top rhetoric. Instead, he mischaracterizes us an "anti-testing outfit," a label easily shown to be false by examining the assessment reform proposal we advocated in Russo's home city of Chicago, a plan that includes periodic standardized exams as one component.

"The core of Russo's argument is that FairTest is "out of the mainstream." That charge is also false. A broad range of polls and focus groups show that the American public, particularly parents and educators, continue to have grave doubts that the test-and-punish approach will bring about real improvements in academic performance. The impetus for schemes such as "No Child Left Behind" and state graduation tests comes from politicians and corporate executives who have latched on to the simplistic notion that there's no problem in education that more testing can't solve.

"We hope that you will continue to draw on FairTest as a resource in covering the increasingly heated debates around the proper role of testing in the nation's public schools, colleges, and workplaces. "

2 Comments:

Anonymous Susan Ohanian said...

Russo's definition of "fringe" is dubious. He says it means being against all standardized tests. I was going to identify myself as fringe and proud of it, but I'm not against all standardized tests. There is a huge difference between standardized tests and high stakes standardized tests.

Russo oils his way through distortions, misinformation, and ignorance--such as his claim of why NCLB passed. It passed because the Business Roundtable wanted it to pass. Read Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

Russo's blog is substantive, effective, and wrongheaded. For example, below he reveals his ignorance of education when he cites vocabulary tests as worth anything. All reputable research shows that the singularly most ineffective way to increase a child's vocabulary is to give him/her 20 words to memorize each week. Children acquire vocabulary through reading. Not through being quizzed on reading but through reading books of their own choice.

I won't get into all the distortions. Just ask yourself: Would you rather be fringe or a corporate shill?

For the record: If I have a quarrel with FairTest it's because they travel a cautious path and aren't fringe enough.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Dave Ziffer said...

Ah yes ... Susan Ohanian reliably dragging out the unquestionably evil intentions of corporate America and defending the necessarily honorable intentions of FairTest and the rest of the Education Establishment, and making blanket statements about "all reputable research". Yes I've noticed how conveniently all "reputable" research always seems to fit perfectly into the ideological frameworks of such people. And on top of this, she's offering us the binary choice of agreeing with her or being a "shill". Lovely. Typical.

I have a question. Isn't it funny that there's this organization that must almost certainly be staffed by a bunch of full-timers that can somehow afford to do nothing but complain about testing, while apparently offering no practical competing solutions? I mean, who pays these people's salaries? And what are the motives of the people who pay these people's salaries?

And how does FairTest get quoted in virtually every newspaper story across America that discusses testing? In my personal experience, getting that kind of press coverage requires hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid annually to professional PR firms. (Do you seriously think that newspaper reporters, each beseiged by hundreds of people looking for mention in their articles, have all just somehow put FairTest into their Rolidexes because they believe FairTest is some sort of authority? And if so, from where exactly does FairTest derive this authority?)

And isn't it interesting that FairTest, which apparently presumes to speak for the American public, apparently declines to list its funding sources on its web site?

For more interesting questions about FairTest, read "Putting FairTest to the Test" at http://www.illinoisloop.org/dz_testing.html.

4:23 PM  

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