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Interview with Harvard Professor of Education Daniel Koretz on “The Testing Charade”

October 18, 2017
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As a recent Washington Post article featuring an interview with Harvard Professor of Education Daniel Koretz notes, over the past decades the American public and its political officials have sought to reform the public educational system by holding teachers, educational methods, and education officials, accountable for the performance of their students. One increasingly common way to enforce this accountability is by holding the various constituents of our public educational system responsible for student performance on standardized tests. Beginning perhaps most visibly with the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and again augmented under the Obama administration with the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, standardized test scores have become the holy grail of educational achievement at the K-12 level and beyond.

But in his new book The Testing Charade Koretz puts forth a strong critique of the efficacy of high-stakes testing in evaluating the performance and utility of public education strategies and its practitioners. He illuminates among other problems, the extent to which test scores, taken out of context, miss the mark in demonstrating the value of less traditional educational programs, and the extent to which standardized tests lend themselves to manipulation, and in some cases, downright cheating. From the interview:

“Used appropriately, standardized tests are a valuable source of information, sometimes an irreplaceable one. …

But in our educational system, the use of tests has been anything but appropriate. Policymakers have ignored the fact that tests capture only some of what we want students to accomplish and even less of what we want schools to do. And they created perverse incentives that led educators to cut corners and inflate scores. Ironically, this made test scores less valuable than they would have been. Inflated scores don’t provide a trustworthy indicator of what students actually learn.

For well over 60 years, testing experts have warned educators that pressure to raise scores would cause score inflation and that test scores by themselves are not sufficient to evaluate schools. Over 40 years ago, in one of the most cited papers in the social sciences, Don Campbell repeated the warning about score inflation and the corruption of instruction. As I note in “Charade,” studies documenting bad test prep and score inflation in response to high-stakes testing started appearing almost 30 years ago, and the first study documenting more severe score inflation among disadvantaged students — and, hence, illusory improvements in achievement gaps — was published more than 15 years ago. And very consistent evidence of these problems continued to accumulate over the years.

So … why did people persist with this approach despite all of those warnings and all of the evidence? Just based on my own experience, I think it was for several reasons. Some policymakers simply didn’t know; most don’t read social science; and many had no experts on hand to warn them.”

Fortunately, with Koretz’s The Testing Charade now we do.

Continue reading the interview on the Washington Post website where they have also posted several excerpts from the book.

For more on Koretz and his critique of  American educational policy check out a video of a recent discussion between Koretz and Nina Rees of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. Or see another interview with Koretz on a special video edition of the Harvard EdCast.

The Great Chicago Book Sale

October 12, 2010
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The Great Chicago Book Sale

It’s that time of year again—the Great Chicago Book Sale is back! Now through February 28th, 2011 you can browse our print or online sale catalog for huge discounts on hundreds of general interest, scholarly, and award-winning books. Just use promo code AD9470 when you check out through our secure online shopping cart to receive up to 80% off some of your favorite UCP titles. (You can find more detailed instructions on our website.) To get you started, here’s a list of some of our staff picks from this year’s catalog: At its opening on July 16, 2004, Chicago’s Millennium Park was hailed as one of the most important millennium projects in the world. “Politicians come and go; business leaders come and go,” proclaimed mayor Richard M. Daley, “but artists really define a city.” Part park, part outdoor art museum, part cultural center, and part performance space, Millennium Park is now an unprecedented combination of distinctive architecture, monumental sculpture, and innovative landscaping. Including structures and works by Frank Gehry, Anish Kapoor, Jaume Plensa, and Kathryn Gustafson, the park represents the collaborative efforts of hundreds to turn an unused railroad yard in the heart of the city into a world-class civic . . .

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Autumn Leaves

October 1, 2010
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Autumn Leaves

Image by Rebecca Anne @ Flickr . . .

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Royko was a softie

September 24, 2010
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Royko was a softie

For those that know Mike Royko’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columns, it might be difficult to guess that one of Chicago’s “toughest-talking, hardest-working and hardest-drinking” newspapermen had a soft side, but as several recent reviews of Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol note, his new book not only proves he did, but that it also provided the inspiration for some of his best writing. As Jane Christmas writes for the Canadian weekly Maclean’s: Mike Royko never shared his private life with his legion of newspaper readers, but they came to know him as a perceptive, chain-smoking, funny-but-fearless champion of the underclass, and a thorn in the side of the Chicago politicians he took delight in spearing. He became a celebrated syndicated columnist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the love letters written in 1954 to woo Carol, his childhood sweetheart, were likely the most important assignment of his life. He sure wrote like it was. Crushed to learn of her engagement while Royko prepared for military service in Korea, Royko had thought his opportunity to woo Carol lost. But after returning stateside to serve at Blaine Air Force Base in Washington, he learned of her impending divorce. Mick soon began to . . .

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David Royko on his father’s birthday

September 20, 2010
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Dad, a.k.a. Mike Royko, would have turned 78 yesterday, Sunday, September 19, and if he were still around, I would not greet him with a “Happy Birthday.” Many people, men and women alike, especially after a “certain age,” prefer to ignore their birthdays and wish the world would too. But the rest of us prefer to ignore their wishes and gleefully rub the day in the birthday boys’ and girls’ faces. Hey, we all get older, so get over it, right? Dad, though, was different. On September 19, 1979, Carol—Mom—died. He’d loved her since they were kids, married her when they were very young adults, and lost her on his 47th birthday. They had been coming up on their 25th wedding anniversary. She was 44. And that was it for birthdays. I might’ve tried a quiet, mumbled “happy birthday” one year, but the reaction, the grunt and turning-away, taught me not to try it again. So year after year, I’d try to find some excuse to stop by, either his home or down at the paper, and casually drop something off, like a book or CD, and never with any mention of why. He’d accept it with a quick “Oh, . . .

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A course syllabus for the digital age

September 17, 2010
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A course syllabus for the digital age

As culture and technology find themselves increasingly intertwined—for better, or for worse—scholars like Christina Dunbar-Hester, professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers, are finding themselves at the forefront of some of the most complex, yet compelling, inquiry in the humanities today. In a recent article in the Atlantic, Dunbar-Hester has offered up a course syllabus for her PhD-level class on technology and media citing some of the best new books on the topic including several published by the University of Chicago Press. The following is a short list of the UCP titles that she deems required reading for her course: How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics by N. Katherine Hayles In this age of DNA computers and artificial intelligence, information is becoming disembodied even as the “bodies” that once carried it vanish into virtuality. While some marvel at these changes, envisioning consciousness downloaded into a computer or humans “beamed” Star Trek-style, others view them with horror, seeing monsters brooding in the machines. In How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles separates hype from fact, investigating the fate of embodiment in an information age. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and . . .

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The myth that gridlocks the Senate

September 10, 2010
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The myth that gridlocks the Senate

In an article for the current edition of the New York Review of Books contributor Michael Tomasky delivers a timely critique of current legislative procedure—a topic that has been on everyone’s mind lately as November’s elections threaten to produce a gridlocked Senate, unable to swiftly pass legislation in a time when efficient government decision-making is so direly needed. Tomasky reviews several books including Gregory Koger’s Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate to help dispel several commonly held myths about senatorial procedure which, he argues, have little historical precedent, and greatly hinder its core functions. Among these myths, the notion of the filibuster as an integral part of the legislative process ranks high. While many believe the filibuster to be an idea sanctioned by the constitution Tomasky uses Koger’s definitive historical account of the subject to show that it is not: Of congressional rules, the Constitution says only this, in Article I, Section 5: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” As Gregory Koger points out in his impressively researched Filibustering: “The ‘right’ to filibuster in the Senate is based on tenuous precedents and informal practices. At no point did senators consciously choose to . . .

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“International Burn a Koran Day” and Al Qaeda’s “recruitment bonanza”

September 9, 2010
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“International Burn a Koran Day” and  Al Qaeda’s “recruitment bonanza”

  In an interview broadcast this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” President Barack Obama has added his voice to a growing number of top officials denouncing Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center’s planned “International Burn a Koran Day“—stating that if the group really decides to go through with the protest, it would likely result in a “recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda.” And while Obama’s words are likely motivated by a desire to put a stop to what amounts to hate-speech, it also might absurdly suggest that Muslims would be so offended by the foolish acts of a single fringe religious group that they would be willing to rush out to kill themselves and others in droves by way of retaliation. Enter Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It—an insightful look at how suicide terrorists are really created and the best strategies combat them. In the book Robert A. Pape and James K. Feldman, two of the world’s leading experts on the subject, offer a close analysis of suicide campaigns by Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka, to argue that . . .

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Ebooks on JSTOR?

September 7, 2010
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Ebooks on JSTOR?

Over the last decade or so digital content archives like JSTOR and Project MUSE have become indispensable resources in the academic community, allowing students and professors to easily sort through and access literally tens-of-thousands of journal articles with the click of a mouse. However, for those working with scholarly monographs and other book-length works, usually a trip down to the library and more than a few minutes spent digging through the stacks has been necessary. But an article in this morning’s Chronicle of Higher Education points out that this may be coming to an end. According to the CHE “Next year, Project MUSE plans to expand beyond journals into digital monographs with a venture called MUSE Editions. And JSTOR is having its own conversations with press directors about the feasibility of its building a mechanism to get scholarly e-books into library hands, as it already does with journal content.” But the word is still out on whether full-length e-books have as bright a future as journal articles on library platforms like JSTOR. The CHE article cites Kiely remarking that “eighty percent of Chicago’s e-book sales last year . . .

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CMOS 16 in the News

September 1, 2010
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CMOS 16 in the News

The reviews are in, and they’re all raves! One day after the official publication date of The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, the Chicago Tribune weighed in with a feature-length story about the new edition and the readers who love it. Steve Johnson, the Tribune‘s pop culture critic, writes: Bound, famously, in orange and thicker with each new edition, the 104-year-old reference classic has kept watch over the publication of hundreds of great books and thousands of not-so-great ones, an arbiter and aide-de-camp for editors trying to decide how to handle items in a list, punctuation within quotes or, these days, the proper hexadecimal code for the German double low-9 quotation mark (201E, as you probably suspected). The Tribune article also quotes Wendy McClure, an author and editor at Albert Whitman & Company: “I love that big, crazy, orange book.… It’s what I’ve turned to when I’m unsure about something when I’m proofreading. But also, when you have your first publishing job and are trying to figure out how this all works, you’ve got this whole big book you can plunge into.” The New York Times Paper Cuts blog chimed in with a “usage geek’s” take on what’s new . . .

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