All In   |  April 01, 2013

Does focusing on test scores lead to inferior education experience?

Chris Hayes and his panel continue their discussion of the Atlanta cheating scandal.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this so we score higher on the state tests? if we're teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?

>> nothing, it assesses us. they can say the schools are improving. the scores stay down, they can't.

>> juking the stats.

>> excuse me?

>> making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. we juke the stats and majors become colonels.

>> wherever you go, there you are.

>> clause of my contract, we can play a wire clipping. just fyi. you tee up the question, the reason we played the clip is why are we? because we are seeing that in a lot of places. that usa today investigation was amazing and i think completely undercovered. why is the reason we're seeing that?

>> the segment gets at it, when you put this kind of pressure on people, that is to say your salaries, your bonuses, your school is going to be determined and effected by how well students perform, then you create an incentive for some people who are unethical to cheat. but you also do something else. you really cheat children of a well-rounded education. we have very clear evidence right now that kids' test scores are going up and they're still taking remedial courses in college because what they're good at now is taking a test. they still don't write well, they don't know how to problem solve. and this is the whole problem with the way we view the assessment under no child left behind . we have completely distorted learning so now kids are focused on preparing for a test, but they're not focused on how to be prepared for life, to think independe independently, and that's why arne duncan y had to name him, because he commended beverly hall. he deserves some of the -- he's culpable in this, too, because the whole administration under bush and obama, have put this kind of pressure on schools to narrowly focus on test scores at the expense of inshrning that our kids are getting the education they need.

>> i will tell you i think part of this is generational. when i grew up, i took standardized assessments all the time. and so to me, the statatorily, they were not linked to the amount of federal dollars that flowed in necessarily.

>> so i was like 4. so they didn't share that with me, right, but what i knew was that --

>> i see what you're saying.

>> what i knew is that i took them and at the time, i did not feel like i was getting any, you know, less of a great education. here is what the benefit of assessment is. assessments give us more information about where our kids are. and you can argue -- like, lots of views on nclb, race to the top , lots of people who don't normally agree on these things who agree there's a benefit here, but they're imperfect. we know so much more, particularly about our neediest kids now than we did before no child left behind and that's about assessments and publishing data.

>> there's assessments and then linking them to pay for performance and whether a teacher is fired or not or whether a principle is fired. we can have a world of assessment that stops short of where the assessments are tied to a performance ban. one of the ings in baseball in the steroids era is people who hit more homer made more money and a lot of people started juicing.

>> well they were corking the bats, but i have to tell you i understand and i agree with the context that says we overtest students based on very superfinishal goals, but at the end of the day , this is about integrity. we're talking about teachers sitting in a blacked out room, erasing and correcting answers for a student, and a principal standing guard at the door. we're talking about teachers being threatened if they came forward. we're talking about writing memos that had to be burned after the meeting was over. i knew the people who investigated this. they are as straight shots as they come.

>> let me say this also. the reason we know about this is two teachers blew the whistle. they wore wires, who felt so terrible about doing it. the most jaw-dropping detail was the school -- i think it's wall wall waller . parks middle school , christopher waller , they went from 24% proficiency to 86% in one year. and the jump was so much that they skipped through the level at which they qualified for federal money and walked away from $750,000.

>> $750,000 while chris waller took home thousands of dollars in bonuses. that is theft.

>> is there a way to make assessments, this kind of central accountable mechanism that isn't going to have the negative affects here? is there a way to not throw the baby out with the bathwater? if we're going forward, the ways we should apply this?

>> assessment has to be an integral part of learning. but what you want to do is remove the high stakes associated with it. you want to make sure that if kids didn't get it, that they get it. you know, come back and do it again until there's real evidence that kids are making progress. what we have done wrong, i think, is we have put this pressure on a single test, this moment in time when you take this exam, and what that has done is to undermine and deappreciate the rest of the whole year when we should be making sure the kids are excited about learning, there is real evidence they're learning throughout the year, not just on that single day.

>> one of the things to think about here is this is far on the -- this is an extreme example of a whole spectrum of things of people dealing with high-stakes testing. this is the most extreme kind of thing, but teaching through the test are other ways or maybe just being better teachers which is the argument of the people who favor this. pedro, darryl, goldie taylor, atlanta resident here in new york. thank you for joining us. that was awesome. that is "all in" for this evening. i'm chris hayes . the rachel maddow show starts now. good evening.

>> you did it. you launched.

>> happy birthday.

>> thank you. this was a very, very nice birthday present for you to give me, doing such an awesome show . so great that you're here, chris. i could not be more excited.

>> i just want to make