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Center for Policy Studies
Public Affairs Discussion Group

The Effects of High-Stakes Testing on Students and Schools

Dale Whittington Ph.D. - Director of Research and Evaluation, Shaker Heights City School District
Friday October 10, 2014
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

The current controversy about "common core" state standards for curricula is the latest battle in at least a two-decade war over the content and use of tests of student performance. What makes tests "high-stakes" is that they are used to evaluate not only the students but the teachers and schools. In the dominant model, as promoted especially by reformers who claim to be following the model of successful businesses, test scores are supposed to be used to justify firing some teachers, rewarding others, overhauling supposedly failing school systems, and to guide parents who would "shop" for the "best" school.

This model has some bipartisan support: an emphasis on testing has been carried over from President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" to President Obama's Department of Education, led by Arne Duncan. It has been promoted by a powerful array of foundations, especially the Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation, and Broad Foundation. Critics are accused of favoring selfish teachers and their unions over the needs of our children. Who, after all, could object to measuring performance and rewarding or sanctioning teachers and schools based on that performance?

Actually, many people who have looked closely at the numbers and the theories behind testing. Perhaps the most prominent critic is Diane Ravitch, an historian of education who served as Assistant Secretary of Education in the George H. W. Bush administration and who moved from supporting testing and market-based reform to criticizing them, in books such as Reign of Error and The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Tests and their interpretations can be flawed in many ways, yet school system administrators and teachers must determine whether (and how) to "teach to the test," and what to cut in order to meet the priority put on test results.

So this is a major policy issue: one that will shape the country's future broadly, because the education system affects so much else, yet also one that affects many of our families directly. Therefore we will be pleased to welcome Dale Whittington, who can speak, based on her work as a researcher and in the Shaker Heights school system, about the debates.

All best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest

Dale Whittington, Ph.D. is the Director of Research and Evaluation in the Shaker Heights (Ohio) City School District, a position she has held for 13 years.

Previously, Dale was Associate Professor and Coordinator of Teacher Education at John Carroll University, where she taught courses in research, statistics, and educational psychology. Her prior experience includes being an examiner and program administrator at ETS, assistant director of research at Bellefaire-Jewish Children’s Bureau, and faculty member at The University of Akron and Cleveland State University.

Dale holds a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in measurement, evaluation & statistics from Columbia University. She holds teaching licenses in social studies, psychology and administration: research. She is active in several professional associations including American Educational Research Association, National Council on Measurement in Education, National Association of Test Directors, Directors of Research in Education and the Ohio Test Directors’ Alliance.

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convenes each Friday when classes are in session, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. We usually meet in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library..

October 17: "Obamacare" and The Free Clinic. With Danny Williams J.D., MNO, Executive Director, The Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland. ***Alternative Venue: Mather House Room 100***

October 24: An Update on the Search for an AIDS Vaccine. With Michael M. Lederman, Scott R. Inkley Professor of Medicine and Co-Director, CWRU/UHC Center for AIDS Research.

October 31: The Midterm Election. With Karen Beckwith, Flora Stone Mather Professor of Political Science, Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science; and Andrew Lucker, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science. ***Alternative Venue: LL06 B & C at Kelvin Smith Library***

November 7: ROTC Returns to Campus. With Lt. Colonel Donald Hazelwood, Northeast Ohio ROTC Commander and Professor of Military Science, John Carroll University. ***Alternative Venue: Mather House Room 100***

November 14: Perspectives on Human Subjects Research Requirements. With Suzanne Rivera Ph.D., M.S.W., Associate Vice President for Research and Assistant Professor of Bioethics. ***Alternative Venue: LL06 B & C at Kelvin Smith Library***

November 21: Local Government in an Age of Austerity. With David B. Miller, Associate Professor in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and Council President, City of South Euclid.

November 28: Thanksgiving Break

December 5: Godless Democrats and Pious Republicans: Party Activists and the Mythical God Gulf. With Ryan Claassen, Associate Professor of Political Science, Kent State University.
October 7, 2014

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Upcoming Events

How Good is Your Retirement Plan? 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis

A discussion with James W. Russell, the author of Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis (Beacon Press, 2014)., Monday October 13, 2014, 2:00 p.m., Wolstein Auditorium, Iris S. and Bert L. Wolstein Research Building, 2103 Cornell Road, Cleveland. Sponsored by the Department of Sociology, Center for Policy Studies, University Center on Aging and Health, and Weatherhead School of Management.

A discussion of how the wholesale conversion from traditional pensions to 401(k)-like retirement plans, beginning in 1981, provoked a growing retirement crisis in the United States. The talk will include the speaker’s experience in leading the first university employee movement to successfully challenge the dominant trend and replace a defined contribution plan administered by TIAA-CREF and ING with a more secure and beneficial traditional pension plan.

James W. Russell is an authority on retirement policy in the United States, Europe, and Latin America, he teaches at Eastern Connecticut State University and has been a Fulbright professor in Mexico and the Czech Republic.

Pandemics, Public Health, and Political Change: The Critical Importance of Communication

A discussion with Richard E. Besser, M.D. Chief Health and Medical Editor, ABC News, Wednesday October 15, 2014, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Moot Court Room (A59), Case Western Reserve University School of Law, 11075 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106-7148. Sponsored by the The Law Medicine Center and The Oliver C. Schroeder, Jr. Scholar-in-Residence Lecture at the CWRU School of Law.

Dr. Besser is the Chief Health and Medical Editor for ABC News. In 2009, he served as Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of the H1N1 influenza pandemic. In his lecture, he will talk about the interplay among public health, political change, and communications and how the CDC media strategy was an important component of their response. His experience during that time led him to conclude that the media can be a powerful tool during a public health crisis.

In a world of constant media coverage and Internet connectivity, sophisticated attorneys must know how to use the media to their advantage. Dr. Besser, a veteran government official and television journalist, will provide important information concerning messaging and media strategy in the context of public health law and policy.

Killer Bureaucracy: Inside America’s Lethal Drone Program

With Gregory S. McNeal, JD/PhD, Associate Professor Pepperdine University School of Law, Friday October 17, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Cleveland Museum of Art Recital Hall (lower level), 11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106 Sponsored by the CWRU Homecoming & Reunion Weekend Think Forum.

When the U.S. government kills people with drones — and it does so on a regular basis — bureaucrats play a key role in those killings. In this talk, Case Law alum (2006), and current Pepperdine Professor Gregory S. McNeal, JD/PhD, will describe the U.S. practice of targeted killings. His talk is based in part on field research, interviews, and previously unexamined government documents. Professor McNeal will begin by broadly describing the legal authorities that the U.S. government believes support the targeted killing program. Professor McNeal will then progressively narrow our focus, from laws, to policies and procedures, ultimately ending with the decision making process that precedes the launching of a strike. After examining this complex mixture of law, policy, and practice, Professor McNeal will then step back to examine the broader issues of accountability associated with the targeted killing program, and will discuss potential reforms.

October 2014







































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