Thursday, June 21, 2007

EdWeek: Are You Kidding?

I laughed out loud when my EdWeek NCLB alert this morning included a link to this article: "To Know NCLB Is to Like It, ETS Poll Finds."

Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.

The poll generating results indicating support for No Child Left Behind was commissioned by Educational Testing Service (ETS), the non-profit testing giant which has much to gain from renewal of the policy. As a formidable member of the Association of Test Publishers (ATP), ETS is also a major player in the accountability lobby.

Did EdWeek note either of these facts? Heavens, no.

According to EdWeek's report, 1,526 respondents during eleven days in May were asked their attitudes towards NCLB and were also "tested" on particular knowledge of NCLB as policy (state standards for achievement, grade levels for testing, how schools qualify for federal funds).

Here's the twist: Before respondents were "told" correct answers about the law by the interviewer conducting the survey, they split almost evenly on support vs. non-support of NCLB. But then, "[O]nce the interviewer mentioned the law’s focus on standards and accountability, requiring highly qualified teachers, and other details, 56 percent said that they viewed the law favorably."

The article also quotes Susan L. Traiman, Director of public policy for the Business Roundtable, essentially arguing that the negative associations of NCLB can be overcome by a simple shift in terminology: from "testing" to "identifying kids" and "providing assistance."

Wow. I can't help but recall the industry rallies at the 2005 ATP Conference in Scottsdale, where speaker after speaker repeated how it was a good day for the test business, but gee, they could really use a break in the public relations department.

The latest ETS maneuver is harrowing, but rhetorically effective: Quiz 'em on knowledge, expose technicalities in knowledge gaps, and then call for an "attitude adjustment." Sounds like a perverted version of direct instruction for students: Ask what they think, show them what they don't know, then teach 'em when they're feeling humble.

EdWeek does mention research conducted by Scripps and Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup. But this outlet for teacher information could do more than take ETS's word for its own benificence.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Yow. In my media unit, I show kids how polls can be constructed to yield the results the pollsters seek. The ETS method is rather like this generic, but not uncommon, poll quesion formulation:

Considering that abortion is the horrific, senseless, bloody, brutal, painful, and society-destroying murder of cute, innocent, helpless little babies that will cause everyone involved to be devalued as human beings and to suffer eternal damnation, and considering that no truly humane person could possibly be in favor of this, do you believe abortion should be legal?

They really do think we're morons, don't they?