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Letter: Bad news from Nebraska

April 3, 2008

Substance:

Terrible news. Nebraska Commissioner Doug Christensen is resigning. There is little info in the news clip that follows this not, but it is highly probably that his resignation stems from the looming legislative decision to destroy the carefully built local assessment system, which has been repeatedly attacked by the federal government and (I’ve been told by other Nebraskans) a small group of ultra-wealthy Omahans, and replace it with the typical one-size-fits-all testing program.

Doug has been harshly critical of such a move, but it is advancing. A year ago, the legislature passed a law for a state test; the Ed Dept was going to create a mix of a state exam (including performance tasks) and the local assessments. At that time, many teachers came out to speak in support of the local assessments, but the legislature ignored them. From my experience and talking with others in and out of Nebraska, it is quite clear that the assessments were steadily improving, teachers were developing much greater assessment knowledge, and the processes not only of assessment but also the growing collaboration among educators in schools that the assessment development process spurred combined to positively improve school educational cultures.

In any event, that law was not good enough for the single-test zealots. They won’t ban local assessments, by they will no longer count in the accountability system that NCLB has imposed. That means, as in every other state, pressure to teach to tests combined of multiple-choice items with perhaps a few highly coachable open-ended items.

Chalk up another destructive consequence of NCLB, for without that “accountability” pressure, the odds of survival would have been far greater for the Nebraska local assessment system.

If you want a quick read on the benefits of the local assessment system, see Chris Gallagher’s article on the North Dakota Study Group website at http://www.ndsg. org/documents. html. His book “Reclaiming Assessment” (Heinemann) is a great read. And the Nebraska Dept of Ed still has valuable information on the state’s locally-based assessment system.

I am terribly saddened by this development though it’s been coming for the past few months.

The following article was published Online: April 3, 2008 (Associated Press).

“Nebraska education commissioner Christensen resigning

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska education commissioner Doug Christensen is resigning.

“In a letter to the state Board of Education dated Thursday, Christensen says he will step down July 15th.

“He says that his leaving is in accord with the discussions he had with the board during closed sessions in January and March.

“Christensen has been commissioner since 1994.

“In his letter, he says it is time to move on to the next phase of his professional and personal life and to spend more time with family members.

“He also says he intends to write a book.”

Monty Neill, Ed.D. Deputy Director, FairTest

Cambridge, MA 02139

monty@fairtest.org



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