Posted in Duncan, Testing

Evaluate Harvard

Arne Duncan, while not a teacher, is a trained social scientist. He graduated magna cum laude in 1987 from Harvard with a degree in sociology.

Sociologists and other social scientists use tests in their work, so good social science preparation programs train their students in the basics of tests and measurements. It’s necessary that they understand such concepts as…


Two of the most important concepts in testing are validity and reliability. Simply put, the validity of a test indicates the extent to which it actually measures what it claims to measure, and reliability is a measure of how consistent a test is. For example…

Validity Evidence

Construct Validity
Construct validity refers to the degree to which a test or other measure assesses the underlying theoretical construct it is supposed to measure (i.e., the test is measuring what it is purported to measure).

As an example, think about a general knowledge test of basic algebra. If a test is designed to assess knowledge of facts concerning rate, time, distance, and their interrelationship with one another, but test questions are phrased in long and complex reading passages, then perhaps reading skills are inadvertently being measured instead of factual knowledge of basic algebra.

A test, then, is invalid if it fails to test what it is supposed to test, if it actually tests something other than what it is supposed to test, or if it is used for something other than that for which it was intended. Psychologists wouldn’t use a test of receptive language to measure IQ. Physicians wouldn’t do a throat culture to determine if a bone was broken. Teachers wouldn’t use a math test to measure spelling achievement. It is a misuse of a test to use it to measure something other than that for which it was intended.

As a trained social scientist Duncan should know this.


Why, then, has he been encouraging the misuse of standardized achievement tests?

White House Wants To Make Sure Schools Do A Much Better Job Of Preparing Future Teachers

“With these proposed regulations, the administration is moving to rate teacher preparation programs based partly on the test scores of the K-12 students of the graduates of the programs in question,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement. “By replicating the K-12 test-and-punish model … the administration is simply checking a box instead of thoughtfully using regulations to help craft a sustainable solution that raises the bar for the teaching profession.”

To be fair, grading schools of education on their students’ students’ test scores (did you get that?) isn’t the only way of evaluating a school of education being proposed by the Duncan Department of Education. It is, however, a use of tests which has no validity…just as grading teachers for evaluation on their students’ test scores is invalid. Granted, the U.S. DOE doesn’t come out and say that schools of education should be graded by students’ students’ test scores. Instead, the DOE

…demands that emphasis be placed on teacher outcomes, such as employment, retention and success in the classroom. That could include evaluating training programs based on the test scores of K-12 students taught by their graduates, a model that provokes heated contention in the education community.

and states ought…

…to develop rating systems for teacher preparation programs that would track a range of measures, including the job placement and retention rates of graduates and the academic performance of their students.

Duncan’s DOE doesn’t say the states must use test scores to evaluate teachers and schools of education, but they use the common euphemisms for test scores. Phrases like “success in the classroom” and “the academic performance of their students” clearly call for using student test scores to measure teachers and the schools which train them. This is an incorrect use of standardized testing.

Student achievement tests aren’t valid tools for evaluating teachers. Student achievement tests aren’t valid tools for evaluating schools of education.

As a trained social scientist Duncan should know this.


During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn’t.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn’t be allowed any federal grants.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Retired after 35 years in public education.