Miami Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho joined educators from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Mexico before a congressional committee yesterday and urged them to revamp “how the federal government measures student success.”
Above all, they criticized how the existing law compares test scores from one group of students to another (for example, this year’s ninth-graders to last year’s ninth-graders) instead of measuring how one group of student improves over time (this year’s ninth-graders in August compared to May). Schools, they argued, should find out if students are learning at least a year’s worth of material in one year.
The four educators also suggested the law — which breaks down student scores in reading and math into categories of race, disability and poverty — also take into account science and writing. Members of Congress said teachers and parents are frustrated by an emphasis on reading and math that leads to “teaching to the test” instead of focusing on skills such as critical thinking.
Carvalho in particular asked for a more nuanced measurement of student achievement for children with special needs or who are learning English as a second language.
“States build a road,” he said of the U.S. education system. “But it’s up to the federal government to install the guardrail to make sure nobody falls off.”
Not sure what to make of that last little metaphor, but Carvalho communicated to Congress some of the perils in relying on test scores. This is a good thing. And its at odds with another prominent Floridian, Jeb Bush, who wants strict adherence to NCLB’s steadfast guidelines. Senator Marco Rubio created some daylight between himself and Bush with a critical letter to Federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan which became public this week.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle fawned over Caravalho yesterday in Washington. It’s been speculated that the Miami-Dade superintendent desires a future in politics. His critique of NCLB is a nuanced one, yet separate from the dogmatic reliance on test data from the Bush-Michelle Rhee-Arne Duncan wing of education reform.
Bush is beginning to face naysayers from his own state. John Winn, who was education commissioner during the Bush years called the Florida governor’s school grade system a “disconnect that send the wrong signal.” Rubio’s letter was critical of Duncan’s waiver power grab while Bush has urged Duncan to grant more. Caravalho’s audience before congress yesterday gives further pause to the Bush way.