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Is the Obama Administration Pushing Teaching to the Test?

The U.S. Department of Education today announced yet another competition-based federal funding program today. This time, it's looking to disseminate more than $400 million to "support local projects that reward teachers, principals and other school personnel who improve student achievement."

Arne Duncan went on Morning Joe today for a love-in with Joe Scarborough, who was effusive in his support of the Obama administration's reform, especially its encouraging of states, specifically New York, to lift caps on charter schools. (Video below).

According to a post on Newsweek's The Gaggle blog, Duncan's appearance on CNN this morning was less of a mutual admiration society meeting:
Throughout his CNN interview, Duncan was asked repeatedly whether the grants would encourage teachers to "teach to the test," or sacrifice worthwhile educational goals in order to focus on test-taking strategy and more testable material. But Duncan dismissed the concern, reasoning that such practices aren't effective and, therefore, won't be rewarded. "It doesn't work," he said more than once, adding that grant money will end up going to dynamic, high-quality educators who truly succeed in helping their students learn.

It's hard to argue with the fact that the language used in the Education Department's press release isn't at least hinting that test scores are part of the metric for evaluating teacher effectiveness when it states that effectiveness needs to be demonstrated "using fair and transparent evaluations based on multiple measures including student growth."

Do you think the incentive program, which a recent report said will not work, could cause more teaching to the test? Or is this the best carrot for getting teachers to expect more from their students?

Photo (cc) via Flickr user ccarlstead.

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