Friday, January 15, 2010

Joanne Weiss Invites a Supplemental Panel of Experts to Evaluate the Plans for the Sand-Based Foundation of Her $4 Billion Edifice


Marc S. Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which oversaw a consortium to write standards and assessments in the 1990s, told Ms. Weiss that the only way to gauge that commitment is to send teams out to talk to key officials. “Whatever papers you ask people to sign in the process are worth almost nothing,” he said.

He added, "And the draft proposals the Common Core put out are a piece of shit compared to what we did fifteen years ago." No he didn't, but was he at least thinking it?

Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller asked how best to assess whether states had the technical and leadership capacity to develop and sustain the new testing systems.

In response, Mr. Cohen said that states should be asked to describe their technical capacity in detail, but that the Education Department should assume they will underestimate their capacity to do the job. The challenge for the department, he said, is to press applicants to be specific about their plans and capacity without forcing them to submit “works of fiction” that promise the impossible.

A management expert offered lessons learned from studying 150 consortia in various industries. Byron Auguste, a director of the management-consulting group McKinsey & Co., which studied a wide range of consortia including the Star Alliance of airlines, said no consortium has succeeded without “focus, clarity, and specificity” about its objectives and its division of labor. He offered a sobering vision of consortium prospects, however, saying that only “a few dozen” of the 150 groups studied were successful...

Another unresolved dilemma, captured in a question by Ms. Weiss, was how much test-design detail to demand from states in their applications. Requiring too much could constrain innovation, and asking for too little might allow something less than a well-thought-out plan.

There were so few easy or complete answers to such questions that at one point, Mr. Cohen turned to Ms. Weiss and said, smiling, “If I were in your shoes, I’d be getting a little worried.”

“That happened long ago,” she said with a laugh.

As soon as I heard Duncan announce they were putting $350 million into developing assessments, I assumed that what had happened was this:

  1. Some consultants at the Dept. of Ed came up with the whole Race to the Top plan.
  2. They were analytical enough to see that the strongest point of attack would be at its foundation: our tests are of insufficient quality and rigor to base everything else on them.
  3. Solution: think of the most money you could possibly spend on developing tests, multiply it by, say, five, and announce that was what you were spending on better tests.
  4. Problem solved!

Too bad they didn't talk to the experts about ten months ago.

via TWIE.

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