California Governor seeks to track student performance from kindergarten to the workforce

John Warner of Inside Higher Ed has written a blog post that urges Gavin Newsom, the new governor of California, not to spend $10 million creating a computer surveillance system that will track students as they move through the education system and into the workforce.  Warner argues that doing this effectively will be way more complicated than Newsom thinks, will cost way more than 10 million bucks, and won’t work anyway.  To get at that third point he has a and nicely annotated reading list for Governor Newsom.  Some of it will be familiar to Bad Assessment readers.  Some is new to me and thus might be new to you.

This is why I’ve compiled a reading list for Governor Newsom to consider as he makes his final decision.

For background on the limits of data and algorithms I would like Governor Newsom to read Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil, and The Tyranny of Metricsby Jerry Z. Muller.

Brisk and readable by the layperson, both books make a case for how human performance cannot be reduced to quantifiable measurements.

Next,I would like Gavin Newsom to read three books more specifically dealing with education:

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Betterby Daniel Koretz. Harvard education professor Koretz shows how our thirty-year obsession with standardization and assessment has not only led to no appreciable gains in student achievement, but how perverse incentives to improve scores have driven out subjects like art, physical education, music, and recess, while resulting cheating and short term prep that has no lasting impact on learning.

Better Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Qualityby Jack Schneider. In this book Schneider, an Assistant Professor of Education at UMass Lowell reveals the shortcomings of the kinds of measurements we tend to use when we judge schools. How we think of a particular school is rooted in value judgments about what’s important to the individual. A tracking system will inevitably crowd out this nuance.

Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children in School by Carla Shalaby. In this portrait of students who are deemed “troublemakers” Shalaby demonstrates how subjecting students to a system which seeks standardization and quantification is damaging even to those who toe the line, and disastrous to those who exist at the margins.

There is more in his recommended reading list that you can see by clicking the link above.

If there is one thing Newsom’s proposal brings home to me it’s that assessment in K-12 and assessment in Higher Ed are increasingly related  issues.  It seems that states and accreditors are anxious to replicate the “success” of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top at the college level.  It’s sure to work this time…