Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Groundhog Day All Over Again

Headlines read that the results of recent PARCC testing shows kids are not ready for college and careers.   The results were just awful.   The reasons given were that we had just really upped the standards and made the work more challenging and the test results just show that.  REALLY!
I could have written this exact same paragraph by changing PARCC to H.S.A. testing or go back a really long way and write about Project Basic testing from 35 years ago.
In every instance the first batch of test results was terrible.  In every instance we began to do a better job of teaching to the test.  A practice that everyone totally denied yet acknowledged on the sly that it was “probably” happening.   Of course it was happening, particularly when we began to align curriculum to the test and test results to teacher evaluations.  And in every instance we developed a work around so that there were other options in lieu of passing the test.  And the tests also got easier.  Finally in every instance the results became politically acceptable.   You will notice I did not say the children leaned more.
Some commentators in support of continuing to compare the results of English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged kids, and children with disabilities say it would be morally wrong to do otherwise.   What is morally wrong, for these children and lots of other kids, is to continually spend their time with curriculum that does not meet their needs.
In spite of YEARS of a variety of high stakes testing, colleges and universities still report an unprecedented number of freshmen who are not ready to begin college level coursework.   Employers complain that high school graduates don’t know basic customer service skills, nor how to respond to supervision.  Just what ARE we teaching kids that is of value in either higher ed or the work world.
When we get down to it, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been consistent.  A nationally representative group of 600,000 students takes these tests every two years.  The good news is that even though an increased number of children with disabilities have taken the test over the last few years, the gap between plain kids and children with disabilities has not changed.  The bad news is that gap is pretty wide.  In the most recent testing 33% of children with disabilities scored at or above the basic level.  In that same testing 74% of plain students scored at or above the basic level.  In the math area 54% of children with disabilities scored at or above, and 85% of plain kids did.  These are 4th grade scores.
The point is that the NAEP has been a consistent test through the years.  Teachers do not teach to it; curriculum is not tailored to match it.

The rest of the testing programs serve the needs of politicians.  Gives them something to complain about their predecessors and something to crow about when the scores go up in a couple of years as they invariably do.  Just like Groundhog Day all over again.

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