Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tests promise but fail to deliver

Graduation rates from our nation’s high schools are at an all-time high.  We have had high stakes exit exams across the country for about 20 years.  The passing rates kept going up.  The rates have plunged with PARCC testing but as soon as schools learn to teach to the test I am sure the passing rates will climb or we will lower the level of challenge.

Supposedly these tests and the curriculum they measure are to tell us that students have mastered the curriculum and are prepared for college or careers.  But the reality is terribly different.  The facts show that nearly 60% of students entering 2-year colleges are NOT prepared to do college work.  They are, therefore, being required to take remedial courses that cost them money but do not carry credits toward graduation thereby increasing the cost of what is considered to be an affordable alternative.

The New York Regents exams have a very long and storied history, dating back much before No Child Left Behind's onerous testing requirements.  Yet it is par for the course for students to do exceptionally well on the exams only to discover that they need to do remedial work in college. 

And the problem isn’t just in New York.  In Massachusetts a study by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education found that more than a third of high school students who scored “proficient” on the state-required graduation test and enrolled in a Massachusetts public university or 2-year college were unprepared enough to have to take at least one remedial course. 

For some reason parents and students think that if the child passes the high school exit exams the student is prepared for the next academic level. Imagine that!  How naïve!  Pubic school officials opine that many of the students pass these tests as juniors so why would they still remember the content a year or more later when they enter college.  Excuse me, what exactly does the word “learn” mean, or are we talking about “learn to pass the test, then forget”.

Now we are told that this is the reason the PARCC tests are so important.  They represent a whole new academic level that will prepare the student for college.  However, under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, states may use the SAT or ACT exams in lieu of state created tests or the PARCC exams.  So far seven states have opted to do just that and others are considering the choice. 

I am told that in the paperback publishing industry, when a book does not sell the cover is torn off and a new more enticing cover is added to improve sales.   Why do I hear so many book covers being ripped off?

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