Friday, October 20, 2006

Stand and Deliver

Via Edspresso, I came across this article by Jesse Jesness on Jamie Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame.

While it’s a great article that tells the story of how administrators and bureaucrats effectively destroyed Jamie’s AP calculus program at Garfield H.S. in East Los Angels, I did detect one misconception.

In the article, Jesse writes the following:

Whether the administration will take it is another question. We are being primed for another round of "education reform." One-size-fits-all standardized tests are driving curricula, and top-down reforms are mandating lockstep procedures for classroom instructors. These steps might help make dismal teachers into mediocre ones, but what will they do to brilliant mavericks like Escalante?
insinuating that standardized tests limit the creativity of effective teachers, which is a common argument by the anti-NCLB crowd. Jesse misses one point… that he himself addressed earlier in the article.
Escalante’s students surprised the nation in 1982, when 18 of them passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. The Educational Testing Service found the scores suspect and asked 14 of the passing students to take the test again. Twelve agreed to do so (the other two decided they didn’t need the credit for college), and all 12 did well enough to have their scores reinstated.

In the ensuing years, Escalante’s calculus program grew phenomenally. In 1983 both enrollment in his class and the number of students passing the A.P. calculus test more than doubled, with 33 taking the exam and 30 passing it. In 1987, 73 passed the test, and another 12 passed a more advanced version ("BC") usually given after the second year of calculus.
Emphasis mine. Notice the common theme? Jamie Escalante’s whole program was geared around teaching his kids to pass a standardized test. Testing does not and should not be deterrence to outstanding teachers; instead it should serve as a measurement stick for successful teachers to use to judge their performance.