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Flaws in education reform exposed

QuickPoint!

Discontent with Oregon’s education reform is now coming from new areas. Recently the Tigard-Tualatin School Board voted to side with teachers and drop state-required work samples that schools use to assess student learning in a variety of subjects.

Those who question the state’s curriculum and assessment policies correctly see this as a fissure in support for the education reform act. Although the state has pursued a wrong-headed strategy, it is unclear that many people understand the actual problem with the state’s approach.

The inherent problem with the education reform act is not the work samples or the assessment tests; there are benefits to multiple methods of measuring achievement. After all, even the purported objectivity of standardized tests represents some committee’s values about what students should know. There is a broad range of what students should know based on individual aptitudes and interests.

The root problem with the reform act is that it does nothing to change schools. Although the reform act addresses the need to offer individualized education, raise standards and hold students accountable for performance, it does not recognize how the current system prevents schools from achieving these goals.

The law represents a failure by legislators and policy makers to understand the systemic flaws that give power to bureaucrats and legislators while stripping such control from the teachers, students and parents who are the key to school improvement.

Nick Weller is an education policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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