How “Fringe” is FairTest? Very.
A recent email exchange among education reporters about the difficulty of finding good (informed, thoughtful, balanced) sources to talk about NCLB brought up the issue of whether FairTest, or any other anti-testing outfit, is too “fringe” to be used as an expert source.
I say they are fringier than the fringe on my old suede cowboy jacket, and as such don't often make for good expert sources in stories on mainstream testing.
Nor is it that being on the fringe is necessarily a bad thing. Abolitionists were once a fringe group. So were advocates for women’s suffrage. Evolutionists. Vegetarians. The list is endless.
But FairTest advocates a world that is radically (substantially?) different from the one that we live in. That makes it a fringe position, or organization.
By definition, fringe means out of the mainstream. There are fringe festivals in lots of big cities to celebrate outsider art. The grass surrounding the green in golf is the fringe.
The world we live in has tests – lots of them – used for everything from measuring how well a student is learning new vocabulary in a class every week to deciding whether a student gets to graduate or not.
For better or for worse, I don’t see testing going away anytime soon.
And -- this is key -- I don’t see a broad public or parental view that they should.
NCLB would never have been passed [or lasted this long] if the public didn’t approve of pop quizzes and standardized tests, and none of the current testing and report card requirements in the states and districts would survive a minute if a broad majority or even a substantial minority of the public was opposed.
Tests and teachers – we’re “stuck” with them both. And, far is I can tell, the people generally like it that way.
For these reasons, being as wholly against standardized testing as FairTest seems to be [these days] seems to meet the definition of a fringe position.
For those reasons, journalists using them as convenient experts [on statistics, psychometrics, etc.] who readers assume hold reasonably mainstream views seems likely to be misleading.
There are other testing experts out there -- at NAEP, at the National Academy of Sciences, etc. Maybe I should make a list of them.
Again, Bracey et al may turn out to be right on some of the substance.
As usual, I may be all wrong.
Bring on the fire and brimstone.