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Home » Clarion » 2013 » March 2013 » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

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Seattle Test Boycott and Education’s Future

I retired to the Seattle area in 2003. Imagine how surprised I was to see the article about Seattle’s Garfield High School’s boycott of the “Measures of Academic Progress” (MAP) test in the February 2013 Clarion. One of our friends was an English teacher at Garfield, and boycott leader Jesse Hagopian was her student. She thought your article was excellent.

The trend toward inappropriate standardized testing could be a disaster for K–12 education and, by extension, colleges. The MAP test from the Northwest Evaluation Association is particularly egregious. The company says that it aligns with district or state curricula, but Garfield Academic Dean Kris McBride says that it does not. The Algebra 1 test “is filled with geometry, probability, statistics and other things that aren’t part of the curriculum,” says McBride. “It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on school resources during the weeks the test is administered.”

Despite this flaw, results of the MAP test will be used by district officials to help evaluate the effectiveness of instructors, even though NWEA says this is inappropriate. A surprisingly honest analysis of the exam’s reliability by NWEA official John Cronin is available online at bit.ly/131qdBi.

No one would like to be evaluated on the results of an exam students didn’t take seriously and that covered material not taught in class.

Keep up the great work with Clarion.

Harvey Carroll
Kingsborough CC (emeritus)

The Corporate Model

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s January 29, 2013 remarks at a CUNY Financial Management Conference on “The Future of Higher Education” (tinyurl.com/CUNY-FMC) are very disappointing. It is again apparent that he sees his role as essentially that of a higher-education head who appropriates a corporate model as the sine qua non for CUNY’s future growth. Privatization, financialization, perhaps even subcontracting, outsourcing and other Wall Street strategies appear to be in CUNY’s future.

As Goldstein interprets it, the concept of “value” is defined by the market. In his attempt to represent himself as the pied piper of public higher education, he is merely following in the footsteps of for-profit colleges which are undermining the role of critical thinking as a touchstone of higher education.

In that context, Goldstein argues that the faculty role in academic decision-making is a matter of “entrenched interests.” He says that the faculty role may involve “shared governance” but “it’s not a matter of constitutional right.” In the Chancellery’s hierarchical mindset, a new offensive beyond Pathways is not unlikely.

The notion of a no-classroom-time model of MOOCs (massive open online courses) seems to titillate the Chancellor and he looks ready to plunge lemming-like toward an unreflective adoption. Lastly, he advocates limiting academic integrity and autonomy in the development of a curriculum to be directed by business and commercial priorities.

Peter Ranis
Graduate Center & York College (emeritus)

In Focus

I appreciated the article in the February 2013 Clarion about the movie Lincoln, which I had just seen and admired. The commentary provided just what I wanted to see next – a discussion of the facts and sensibility of the times from someone who really knows the history. Thanks much to PSC members, like James Oakes, who share their expertise and opinions with a wider audience in Clarion.

Pat Arnow


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