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But Will Secretary Duncan Listen To Her?


The New York Times has published a major article on technology use in schools titled In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores.

I’ll be adding it to The Best Research Available On The Use Of Technology In Schools, but I wanted to highlight what I thought was the most interesting part of the article:

Karen Cator, director of the office of educational technology in the United States Department of Education, said standardized test scores were an inadequate measure of the value of technology in schools. Ms. Cator, a former executive at Apple Computer, said that better measurement tools were needed but, in the meantime, schools knew what students needed.

“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great,” she said. “Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.”

Of course, the entire agenda being pushed by Ms. Cator’s boss, Education Secretary Duncan, is based on using test scores as the only way to measure…..well, just about everything —  Is a teacher good or bad? Is a student really learning anything?  Is a school or school district failing?

It would be nice if Ms. Cator and Secretary Duncan realized that students learn lots of things that may not be measured by test scores, and not just through the use of tech tools.  How about developing resiliency to push through challenges, a desire to become a life-long learner, a greater sense of intrinsic motivation and self-control, skills in working cooperatively with others?

What do you think — Will Secretary Duncan ever listen to her… and to us?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. What will be required is an acknowledgement and an appreciation that learning how to use these tools properly is a valued component of what it means to be literate. Once it’s valued, then it will be actively sought. Right now, the score on other things has the biggest political value and we’re stuck on that.

  2. Duncan will listen only when it suits him for unproven policies like digital learning, expansion of charters and undermining the professionalism of the teaching force w/ temporary workers and merit pay; then the research, results, and test scores don’t matter.

  3. He hasn’t listened to anyone so far, except his boss.

  4. Read the article yesterday. Cator’s comments were outrageous. She is working for a federal department that pushes testing in place of sound educational policy. Arne Duncan claims that every facet of instruction and teacher effectiveness can be measured quantitatively, yet Cator points out various benefits of technology which can not be measured. What a revelation!!! Educating our country’s children, our future, can not be accomplished as a numbers game. Yes, Ms. Cator, you are correct. Standardized test scores can be an inadequate measurement.

  5. Pingback: When Ed Reformers Want You to Ignore Test Scores | Scathing Purple Musings

  6. Pingback: Test Scores, Tech Budgets, and Other Reasons to Doubt Ed-Tech | Hack Education

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