Part III: Assessment & Credentials
Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)
The federal policy that issues standards and expectations at the state level for public education. Before ESSA we had the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, 1965), No Child Left Behind (2001), and Race to the Top (2009). While the stated goals of these federal policies is to adequately fund all schools and programs (i.e. Title IX for women’s athletics or free and reduced lunch programs) these policies are increasingly driven by punishment for low test scores, demand the purchase of expensive tests and technology, and invite privatizersin to privately manage public school programs, while data mining the students. Each policy sounds good on paper until you read the fine print.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will allow you to replace one horrible test with an equally-horrible nationally-recognized one like the SAT or ACT; start using MULTIPLE accountability measures so we can get even MORE data, including soft skills; and incorporate performance assessments which will hasten the shift to competency-based education. Parents, students and educators despise end-of-year standardized tests, but technology and venture capital interests aren’t about to let go of data-driven instruction.
What online technology companies say: “Our plan is to make you feel heard and begin to phase out the single BIG test. We’ve worked closely with elected officials to craft flexibility under ESSA. We’ll also encourage you to use lots of smaller tests that will appear to answer concerns about having real-time, actionable information and reduce student stress. Student Data will belong to our corporate vendors, because it can be used to assess education impact investments and determine education data futures markets. Derivatives require dynamic data, so we’re really pleased that we were able to get this flexibility embedded into ESSA. In the end, it will give us even more of what we want and that is data on your children.”
Students will be expected to jump through hoops created by outside entities (corporations), and they’ll still be evaluated by rigid rubrics that limit the professional judgment of your child’s teacher.
Reformers will talk a good game about creating authentic task-based assessments as an alternative to multiple-choice standardized tests. You’ll like the sound of that. But they won’t go out of our way to tell you these assessments remain aligned to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards or that teachers will NOT be creating performance tasks themselves. They might even take a real world activity like a chemistry lab and virtualize it so students watch an online version of an experiment on a screen rather than physically participating. While not nearly as satisfying as the real thing, it collects more data AND saves on materials costs. The fact that these assessments also incorporate “habits of mind,” is a boon for corporations because it expands collection of social-emotional data.
What supporters of performance assessments say: “At the end of the year your child will have an e-portfolio chock-full of digitized bits showing ‘evidence of learning.’ Missing, of course, will be many intangible aspects of education that can never be stored in an online learning locker. We’re hoping you won’t stop to think about all the relationship building, connections and opportunities for truly creative and innovative thinking that were lost along the way while we were busy ticking off the boxes for the many required performance tasks every child is expected to complete.”
The system demands granular data on individuals, not only what a person knows and what skills they have, but also who they ARE and how they operate in the world. For that reason, reformers decided to shift to online learning lockers or e-portfolios. Once Blockchainis set up for educational records, they’ll be able to hold an infinite amount of data. 21st-century education is about preparing human capital for an uncertain economy where students are expected to hone their personal brand from an early age so they can out-compete their peers. Those in human resource management are aiming to design an educational system that will flow uninterrupted from pre-k through college and into the workforce. They’ll call it “lifelong learning” to make students comfortable with the idea. Report cards and diplomas may have served the twentieth-century “factory model” of education, but they are entirely too vague for today’s needs. Private companies won’t know whom to hire if they can’t review a person’s academic and behavioral record from their earliest years.
What supporters say: “We’ll tell you it’s secure, although we know the vulnerabilities. Your record will be permanent and exhaustive in detail, just like we like it.”