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Father of High-Stakes Testing, Paul Vallas, now opposes them

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Reuters reports that former Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas thinks end-of-year assessments are “not useful” and that it’s “a big mistake” to use them for high-stakes purposes.

Well, he needs to apologize to about 125,000 Chicago Public School students who have been flunked because of the high-stakes testing policy he started in 1996 as CPS CEO. And maybe his “education consulting firm” can figure out how those students who were thrown off-track by retention can recoup their educational losses and how taxpayers can recoup the more than $1 billion CPS has wasted over the years with Vallas’s failed student promotion policy. That kind of money would come in pretty handy right now, what with CTU contract negotiations underway.

In fact, Vallas is the Father of High-Stakes Testing. He was the first to flunk huge numbers of students every year based solely on their end-of-year Iowa test scores. You may have read this powerful story by one of the first students to be affected by Vallas’s “ending social promotion” fiasco. Read it again (or for the first time) as you consider Vallas’s apparent change of heart, according to the Reuters story:

Even some advocates of testing are beginning to publicly complain about the system.

Many state assessments are given in March or April, so they capture only what a student has learned in the first two-thirds of the school year. The results often don’t come back until the summer, too late for teachers to use the scores to guide their approach in the classroom.

“They’re not useful,” said Paul Vallas, a veteran superintendent who has helped turn around districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans and is now running the schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Vallas is hardly anti-test: He favors giving abbreviated versions of standardized tests every six weeks, all year, so teachers can monitor student progress and adjust accordingly. But a single high-stakes test? “A big mistake,” Vallas said.

“The assessment systems are not reliable,” he said. “They need to be more sophisticated, more accountable, more fair.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, CPS still uses an only slightly modified version of the old Vallas promotion policy. PURE's December 2010 complaint against the policy has been sitting at the U. S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, apparently just collecting dust, while CPS massages the same failed policy — a handful of changes were made at the May 2012 Board meeting, including dropping poor attendance as a factor and changing a couple of terms.

So, more CPS students will be sent to summer school in a few days and possibly flunked at the end of the summer based on assessments that are “not reliable,” in the words of the Father of High-Stakes Testing.

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