Saturday, October 01, 2005

The S(H)MO Model--Part Three

At the 2005 ATP "Innovations in Testing" Conference, I was privy to more goodies than I knew what to do with. When I first checked in, I received the ATP logo conference tote bag, packed with treats above and beyond the giant notebook tidily organized with daily agendas, speaker bios, and corporate sponsor ad-sheets. A few highlights from the tote as well as things I picked up during poster (advertiser) sessions over the three-day period:
  • Blue and orange M&Ms in a sealed baggie, labeled: "You can't manage what you can't measure." (Caveon Data Forensics)
  • A blue luggage tag, inscribed: "College Board: connect to college success, Research and Pyschometrics."
  • A laser pointer: "LaserGrade: Your computer Testing Specialist"
  • A puzzle-shaped piece of chocolate stamped with the Thompson Prometric logo.
  • An Educational Testing Service (ETS) calendar and notepad.
  • A green Performance Testing Council (PTC) button that we were encouraged to wear throughout the conference. (I couldn't bring myself to do this. Most people didn't.)
  • A Thompson Prometric Testing flow-chart map, made into a kraft-wrapped puzzle
  • A dainty box of RecruitMints: The flavor that lasts a lifetime! Your best career investmint! (Measured Progress)
  • A bag of Famous Amos Cookies: "Join us for our closing keynote speaker Wally Amos, 'the face that launched a thousand chips.' " (more on this later)
If there was one theme, it was advertising. Even though three of ATP's four divisions are not directly related to education, it was startling how promotional language used by both business and education corporations fit seamlessly, interchangeably together. When I didn't recognize a particular company name, I often had difficulty discerning at first whether it was in the business of testing kids and schools or employees. The overlap is merely tangible evidence of the Business Roundtable's powerful influence on education policy, something Susan Ohanian has documented for years. I found myself having Professional Learning Community and WASC committee flashbacks.

A few highlights from some of the prominent sponsors:
  • Questionmark Perception: Explore the enclosed CD and get to know the benefits of using effective and interactive assessments throughout the learning process.
  • Professional Examination Service: Delivering Client and Stakeholder Satisfaction
  • The Pearson VUE difference! [...]Biometric processes help authenticate valid test takers from imposters... Truly collaborative customer relationships featuring service excellence...
  • Promissor: Knowledge Beyond Doubt, The Total Solution Provider
  • Thomson Prometric: Enhanced testing capabilities from us. Improved testing solutions for you. Measuring success.
  • ETS Pulliam: Instructional Data Management System, Standards Based Teaching, Learning and Accountability.
  • E-Instruction, Classroom Peformance System (CPS): Successful Training is No Accident.
  • Vantage Learning: Intelligent Technology for Intelligent Decisions, Measuring Success One Student at a Time
  • Integral 7: How Can You Effectively Manage Your Business Without Effectively Managing Your Data?!
  • M2: Research and Psychometric Services: Meaningful Measurement
  • Castle Worldwide, Inc.: Building Relationships, Offering Guidance, Tailoring Solutions.
There was something else equally striking: a co-option of language (or glosses of language) from the humanities and from social justice movements, in order to articulate, promote, and justify test-as-measurement.

In the opening session, the Industrial-Organizational (I.O.) Division chairman gave a talk with an almost "I Have a Dream" tenor. As best I could, I scribbled notes on what I could get verbatim. His speech crescendoed with this point: "I would like to see a qualitative change in how the public views testing, to see testing as the solution not the problem. Testing as the best way to judge who's qualified. There is nothing better than testing to do this. I look forward to the day when a job applicant will be stunned if there is no testing." This speaker emphasized the urgency of lobbying efforts, PR and legal monitoring, and promoting test industry interests to the general public. He also pointed out that the strongest resource of ATP was in fact the I.O. Division itself, needing to lead the drive for change.

So much for on-site vertical teams. I thought about this a lot during the conference. While so many individual teachers were hard at work inside isolated classrooms--convinced by teacher-training workshops that the big picture is too daunting, too overwhelming, too irrelevant, that their day-to-day work with individual kids is the only precious thing that counts--here was a convention of professionals revving massive financial, political and rhetorical engines to drive the entire educational train down the track. These folks spare no expense. They stick to time limits in their meetings. They make no apologies for their interests. They don't whine.

And as long as teachers buy in to doublespeak about "collaboration" and "standards," ATP doesn't need smoke-filled back rooms, either.

[Continued next week...]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are building to quite a call to action. I'm looking forward to your final installment.