UGA professor: Education does not lend itself to standardization or standardized testing

Here is a thoughtful piece by UGA professor Stephanie Jones on the impact of testing.  Jones is an associate professor in the Department of Elementary and Social Studies Education at the University of Georgia.

By Stephanie Jones

Tears welled up in my friend’s eyes and I knew her daughter hadn’t passed her grade level state “standardized” test that determined whether or not she would be promoted to middle school. My stomach sank and tears rose in my eyes too.

My friend was already struggling with motivating her child to read at home and with her lack of enthusiasm about school and learning in general. Anything that resembled “school” had become the enemy, even when it included things that people “just do” in life – like read.

The standardization of schooling and the faulty instruments used to measure schooling have crossed the line of insanity and left everyone suffering except the billion dollar publishing industry providing tests and preparation materials to every school in the nation. Arne Duncan might be partially right that the complex teaching/learning enterprise is about the “talent” of a teacher.

However, a standardized curriculum and standardized instrument for measuring learning efficiently strips teachers of engaging their “talents” to integrate curricula and students’ interests, local issues that could provide innovative sites of learning for students, and extend learning to rich out-of-school experiences that may actually positively impact a child’s life.

When a teacher’s talent is measured by her or his students’ scores on a standardized test, we have truly entered a bizarre world where words have completely different meanings than in folks’ everyday lives. “Reformers” who claim standardized testing is the cornerstone for educational reform but reluctantly admit that the arts don’t lend themselves to standardized testing miss the point that all disciplines – life sciences, mathematics, writing, reading, social studies, history, geography, and so on – incorporate the creative and innovative typically assigned to the arts. Education does not lend itself to standardization or standardized testing.

When a society tries to harness the dynamic processes of teaching and learning by attempting to measure the lowest common denominator of the process that is thought to be measurable, we find ourselves stuck with a generation of students who have been constrained and restricted to that  lowest common denominator.
Might they earn “better” scores on the rigid multiple-choice and closed-ended short response prompt tests that don’t require higher order thinking, innovative problem solving, or making connections across disciplines to better understand and act on the world? Sure – but who cares?

Our society is plagued with problems that require the most innovative, creative thinkers who have deep and broad knowledge and experiences, and we are counting on our youth to have the tools to solve those problems very soon.  Who cares what their elementary and high school test scores were or even their GPAs? Can they stop the oil gushing in the Gulf? Better yet, who will help us end our dependence on oil?

These are the questions that matter today and in the future. But my friend’s child, who is already disenchanted with standardized schooling and will be “retained” because of her performance on the state standardized test if her private tutoring and public summer school (paid for by parents) doesn’t help her pass the test the next time, won’t likely get a chance to be involved in such important questions. Why?

Because she will join the ranks of millions now at risk for dropping out of high school because of her one-year retention, and if she drops out of high school she will not likely attend college during her life and will not likely earn the credentials necessary to even allow her the opportunity to have a job where such important problems will be solved.

High school graduation rates have decreased since the federal mandate of state standardized testing. This is not because learning has decreased, it’s because the instruments are faulty and even if they were good instruments, they would be attempting to measure the immeasurable: Learning, and the teaching that promotes powerful learning, cannot be measured by numbers nor only by words or checklists or surveys or multiple choice tests or short responses.

Learning can be demonstrated in powerful ways through community engagement, project creation, inventions, reports, and an infinite number of other possibilities. The “reformers” of the 80s and 90s – including Theodore Sizer and Deborah Meier among many others who carried much less clout than the politically minded number-crunching “reformers” of today – were more concerned with children’s learning and the diverse ways children could demonstrate their learning through creative weaving of their schooling experiences to the real world.
It’s not too late to change the Race to the Top world view, and the ill-informed educational future of millions of children including my friend’s child.

States seem eager to ask “how high” when federal officials tell them to jump for educational dollars regardless of the negative consequences.

Perhaps federal officials – Duncan at the lead – can ask states to jump into showcasing real learning of children and real talents of teachers by requiring creative and innovative exhibitions of growth.

88 comments Add your comment

The big picture

July 2nd, 2010
2:21 am

NOOOOOOOOO! No Ron Clark blog? LOL

As for this topic:

“The standardization of schooling and the faulty instruments used to measure schooling have crossed the line of insanity and left everyone suffering except the billion dollar publishing industry providing tests and preparation materials to every school in the nation.”

I wonder what the education industrial complex would have done to “re-mediate” Einstein, given that he may very well have failed the CRCT as a child.

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Educator for Life

July 2nd, 2010
3:51 am

There is nothing inherent in standards and testing that keeps teachers from teaching in the classroom. This article does nothing to demonstrate how life in the classroom will be better without testing. Teachers are constant innovators and work incessantly to find the best way to improve instruction in the classroom. Without standards for what is taught and a tool to assess the success of the implementation, teachers and administrators will never be able to determine if the innovation was successful. The business world would never move forward with a model of changing their work without a method of assessing success or failure.

On the other hand, testing will not improve student achievement. Schools need to innovate and provide new methods for improving instruction, but this can not be done without a method of evaluating success. We should be crying out for more innovations to improve our education, not condemning the tool that allows us to show our success. Bring on the community engagement, bring on the project creation, invention and reports. All of this can and should happen in the classroom and there is nothing in testing that would keep teachers from doing any of these things.

Good teachers teach. They always have and they always will. The fact that students are being tested at the end of the year does not keep those good teachers from doing their work in the classroom.

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HS Parent

July 2nd, 2010
4:23 am

I feel that the term “standard” has been abused and bastardized.

In the old days, didn’t we say something about the 3 R’s? Where those standards?

I am in favor of a type of Japanese model …..
1. The nation should agree on what basics any student exiting elementary school should know. And, a national test is given to all students exiting. If they cannot pass it, the parent has the choice to private school their kid until they can pass.
2. The nation should agree on what basics any student exiting middel school should know. And, a national test is given to all students exiting. If they cannot pass it, the parent has the choice to private school their kid until they can pass. After middle school, a student is eligible to find a full time job and not pursue further education – it isn’t for everyone.
3. There should be various high schools available. For example, one to prepare the student for a rigorous college/university. One might be to prepare the student for a career in carpentry, plumbing, etc. One might be to prepare the student for a musical career or one in the arts. There should be a national exit exam for high school as well, except it would be more broad in nature – sort of like the SAT.

HOWEVER, no one should require instructions within a single grade or within a single classroom. The professional educators will know what the students need to learn and should know the best method of instruction. Give the professional educators the opportunity and the support to succeed without interference. If there is a ‘bad’ teacher, then the administrator needs to follow due process to have them removed. If there is a ‘bad’ administrator, then the school system needs to follow due process to have them removed.

HOWEVER, if there is ever an indication that any individual student is denying other students the opportunity to learn, they will be expelled for one year. During that year, it is the parents responsibility to do whatever they need to do to keep the student up with their peers otherwise they will repeat that grade. There is no limitations to how often this happens.

We need to stop the pandering to the lowest common denominator. The world is not a bed of roses at ANY age. And, if a parent doesn’t like it, they are ALWAYS welcome to home school or to pay for a private school.

Public schools are NOT baby sitters. Teachers are NOT parents. Students shouldn’t go to school JUST for a free lunch.

William Casey

July 2nd, 2010
6:08 am

Good article. Three things an excellent teacher/student relationship yields which immediately come to mind as being difficult to standardize and measure:

1. Thoughtful reflection.
2. Love of learning.
3. Persistence.

Educator for Life

July 2nd, 2010
6:09 am

Before standardized testing educational improvement was justified by university professors doing studies and demonstrating student learning through their own modes of research and evaluation. Now, we have standardized tests that give that proof. If we move to pay for performance, teachers will be paid for the work they do not the number of degrees. Yet another move away from the old university model for teaching and learning.

I can understand why professors want to return to the way we use to teach without standards and assessment. In the good old days, we would have to listen to the experts at the universities to know the best ways to teach and we would need to go to those same experts to increase salaries.

Standards and assessments should free educators in schools to find ways to improve instruction. Teachers should stop being afraid of testing and realize that the new model moves school reforms away from the universities and returns that power to the schools where it belongs.

Just a teacher

July 2nd, 2010
6:18 am

Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Albert Einstein, Booker T. Washington, Madame C.J. Walker, Mansa Musa, Sir Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony…how many touched lives without standardized testing? How many lessons were learned from these great unorthodox teachers?

One size does not fit all. Children learn differently and at different rates. What appeals to one may not appeal to another? Teachers are human…they reach children differently also. Standardized testing takes creativity out of teaching because it does not lend itself to the flexibility needed to address human beings who are complex entities.

Just a teacher

July 2nd, 2010
6:20 am

It’s early…complex entities…

proud of her

July 2nd, 2010
6:37 am

SJ thank you for a well written letter; i hope you have not stepped on a land mine for speaking out against the GA political machine. The GA political machine wants the money to keep flowing to the test companies. Why would Perdue veto NOT testing first and second graders?

Like others have said before; follow the money.

Teacher/Learner

July 2nd, 2010
6:40 am

@Maureen – would you please try to get the DOE to publish the CRCT item complexity information, as well as the percentages of items that are actually at any designated level for Grades 1-5? I have emailed repeatedly asking for this information and do not ever get a reply.

TW

July 2nd, 2010
6:59 am

Anybody know why the GAE endorses candidates who are pro-voucher?

Time to send the demolition crew home and put the builders back in charge of public education.

Vince

July 2nd, 2010
7:08 am

Great article. This great paradox is seen most vividly with special education children. Whereas NCLB preaches that all children will achieve at grade level, it is special needs students who are being treated most unfairly.

schlmarm

July 2nd, 2010
7:12 am

I am thankful that I am teaching long enough to remember the years when teaching was a joy, when one didn’t have to teach to the test, put up with a lack of discipline, bullying administrators or witness central office bloat. I would never advise someone entering in college now to major in education. What a shame; it doesn’t have to be like this, but politicians got in the way.

Economicwoes

July 2nd, 2010
7:13 am

Well, standardized testing makes the superintendent’s job easier, and it makes the principal’s job easier. The federal money frees up local funds so superintendents can make $350,000 per year while promoting petty thieves, sexual harrasser’s, non degreed friends and relatives; and we haven’t even begun to discuss Dekalb or City of Atlanta. Still Georgia ranks near the bottom. What nerve central office staff have to criticize standardized testing while they draw their inflated salary and continue to fire nationally certified and senior teaching staff.

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
7:41 am

Unfortunately, it seems that parents and teachers, who know this testing “craze” is decimating our schools, have little voice. How do we get the politicians to listen to us? .

Momof2

July 2nd, 2010
7:56 am

This is why I homeschool my children. It amazes me how many people just go along with these tests and think they are part of the education process. My kids were in public school for 5 years and they got to the point that they hated school because all they did was prepare for the CRCT. And it amazes me how much stress the kids put the kids under the pass the CRCT. They prepare for weeks on end for this silly test. The test is a reflection of how well the teachers taught the test. The schools want the government money they get from the test and they put the stress of that on these kids. It’s crazy – so thankful to longer be a part of that!

The Dawg Bone

July 2nd, 2010
8:11 am

Excellent article. This piece is similar to a blog I recently read by Diane Ravich which basically argues that business metrics cannot be used to measure learning. Education and learning are extremely complex. What is to say why some kids get it and others do not. I have seen kids that fail the CRCT only to blow it out of the water on the retest (often times only three weeks apart) making gains of 30 or more points. How does that happen? Surely we do not think that the remediation given for two to three weeks made that much difference? The truth is we don’t know why it happens which is why it is a shell game when we talk about standardized testing and measuring learning.

EnoughAlready

July 2nd, 2010
8:13 am

Actually I thought the article was weak. I wholeheartedly believe that if we eliminated every standardized test from school completely; we would still have a student body that is completely uneducated.

The problem is not the CRCT test or testing in general, it’s the methods in which we teach.

Susan

July 2nd, 2010
8:34 am

Who exactly besides our government and the uber-rich foundations, like the Gates Foundation, want standardized testing? Not parents, not teachers, not educational researchers and surely not kids.

Teacher&mom

July 2nd, 2010
8:45 am

Here’s a radical idea…the week of CRCT testing keep you child at home. Send a note that says your child is suffering from severe test anxiety and keep them at home. If the majority of parents across the state &/or nation participated, think about the message that would send.

Another idea…stolen from Deborah Meier/Diane Ravich…send a postcard to Michelle Obama demanding your children receive the same quality education her girls receive. I wonder if the Obama girls have to sit through a week of standardized testing ???

Teacher Reader

July 2nd, 2010
8:47 am

But the government and foundations and our unions (nea and nflcio) run our school systems. Teachers and parents have little say in how children are educated. Many education researchers are also contributing to the methods currently used for teaching our children, as their “research” is what new teachers are taught as best teaching practices. Our education system is crumbling.

Elizabeth

July 2nd, 2010
8:54 am

EnoughAlready hit the mark exactly. When I started teaching, teaching was a joy. We had no standardized tests other than SAT and ITBS. Yet my students performed way above the students of today. Why? Because we taught them to THINK and reason and question and explore. The favorite saying of my students was ” In Miss___________’s class, you think or you sink.” ( I think they plagiarized the quote from a Star Trek novel. But at least they were reading!) You don’t have to think to pass a standardized test– you only have to memorize. Now, teaching is a bore and a frustration– teach the test, stay on the same page as everyone else, do the same activities because we must be “consistent” with all schools and classes in the system. I, like schoolmarm, cannot advise any one to enter the teaching profession today. I drink my coffee from a mug that says “Teaching is the profession that creates all others.” What are we creating today? Good test takers who cannot think or reason or function on their own or solve a problem or be inventive or innovative. Students wqho regurgitate facts but have no idea how to apply knowledge to the real world. In a nutshell, that is why I retired. I could no longer stomach what I was required to do.

glad to hear it

July 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

Well written article! I would love to return to the days of teaching when kids were actively engaged in the process of learning. We are told to teach the standards (which is fine), but then the test barely reflects the standards. There isn’t a meaningful way to test the intangibles of learning. I have had students miss a question on a CRCT prep question, and if it was rephrased for them, understand the question and get it right. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible on the test itself. Also, if there are only 1 or 2 questions for a standard and the question isn’t clear, the student will miss it. There are no easy answers, but I can definitely understand why more and more parents are home schooling their children.

By the way – the blame doesn’t lay solely at the feet of one political party. Everyone seems to think by electing them the problems of education will be solved.

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
8:56 am

Shall we start a postcard campaign?

Affix a 28-cent stamp to a postcard and address it to:

First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Send the postcard with this message (modify if sent by students):

Dear Mrs. Obama,

We want the same education for our children that you provide for Malia and Sasha. Our child is not a test score.

Please tell the President to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!

Sincerely,
Your name
Your address

EnoughAlready

July 2nd, 2010
9:20 am

Don’t waste our First Lady’s time; send a letter to the people who really need to hear the message. See Below:

GA Parents
Any Street in Georgia
1000 Main Street NW
EveryWhere, GA 30010

Send the postcard with this message (modify if sent by non-student):

Dear Mom & Dad,

I want the same education as the students who Exceed Expectations on the CRCT and other standardize test. My life depends upon it.

Please spend more time reading, writing, discussing (history & world topics), working on math and developing scientific experiments to enhance my academic progress! It’s not the testing that is the problem, but a lack of parents that realize that education does not “start” or “stop” at the little school building near our home. We need to spend more time in the library, museums and at nature reserves.

Sincerely,
Your Child
Your address

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2010
9:44 am

Agree with EnoughAlready: “The problem is not the CRCT test or testing in general, it’s the methods in which we teach” and even if we eliminated all the standardized testing, our students would be less educated than they used to be.

In fact, the justification for standardized testing was that too many students were graduating unable to do basic math or read adequately. All of us who teach high school know that we’ve always gotten students who were reading and/or doing math on a primary school level, and this hasn’t changed much since NCLB was implemented.

Professor Jones uses the emotional hook of her anecdotal friend’s daughter quite effectively, but I have to wonder – why can’t her friend’s 5th-grade daughter pass a basic skills test written on perhaps a 2nd grade level? Could perhaps her failure on the test and her dislike of school be caused because she struggles with grade-level work? Is there possibly an undiagnosed learning disability involved? (Yes, the RTI process should discern such a problem, but as implemented by most counties it seems designed more to hide the problems than identify and remediate them.)

I do believe there’s a place for testing, and I think some of the primary-grades teachers who bemoan “teaching to the test” were more inclined “back in the day” to teach fun little projects than actual skills, just as some of the high school teachers before EOCTs gave bookwork and open book tests while they worked on football plays for Friday night’s game – there’s a reason for these stereotypes.

I also believe that most of the state tests have more to do with sending dollars to the testing companies than with actually gaining useful information about the performance of Georgia students, and that students ought to be taught more than how to pass a Georgia test — and I think that if you’re “really teaching”, the students should be able to pass the test without more than a day or two of test-taking lessons.

By the way, who *really* believes that the anecdotal child in the story will have to stay behind in elementary school as a result of failing her 5th grade CRCT?

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
9:51 am

I would be curious to know how many students who “failed” the CRCT, actually get held back. Are those stats anywhere?

Time to test....the parents!

July 2nd, 2010
9:52 am

You all have such short memories. The reason we have standardized testing is because so many of our schools were horrible and completely unaccountable. Something had to be done to minimize the “quirky individuality” of teachers and admins (which bad employees could easily use as a shield against accountability) and make them meet at least some minimum standard. Now you want to turn around again and replace standardized testing. Okay, but with what?

My suggestion: More testing….but this time for parents. Each classroom should have (in addition to all teaching staff) a child advocate empowered to intervene in families where there is inadequate parental support (such as in families where the do-nothing parents do nothing to assure homework is completed). Parents would be graded as well as students, and if parents failed the test, their children would be eligible for (and compelled to attend) remedial classes as well as getting extra tutoring. It’s time to protect children from the laziness and neglect of their own deadbeat parents. If society really has a financial interest in these children, then we have to get over this idea that anyone with reproductive organs can be a parent, and can do a terrible job of it without being held accountable. It’s ridiculous to place all the responsibility for teaching and learning on teachers, and none of it on parents. Parents should and must be held accountable for the performance of their children in school.

Expensive? Certainly. But what is the cost to the U.S. of an undereducated generation of urban children?

Maureen Downey

July 2nd, 2010
9:58 am

@Dunwoody Mom, We did a long piece on this a few years ago and found very few students are held back as a result of the reconsideration process, which involves the parent, teacher and principal. However, we also found differences by system on how many kids were retained as a result of low CRCT performance and retest. I don’t have access to our archives right now, but I will post the information.
Maureen

Prof Mom

July 2nd, 2010
9:58 am

The idea of standardized testing was originally based on a business model, as someone mentioned. The idea of setting objectives, measuring progress along the way, and rewarding those who meet or surpass the goals is a sound one. But, when the goals are low level and the progress measured accordingly (e.g. with the CRCT and pay-for-performance), then you get what you asked for. For alternatives to the learning goals and progress measuring, Google “Edutopia” – there are numerous videos that show what learning and assessment can be.

Teacher&mom

July 2nd, 2010
10:05 am

@Time to test the parents….How confident are you that “so many of our schools were horrible and completely unaccountable?” Do you have solid, concrete evidence to back up that claim? OR do you just rely on what you’ve been fed from the media and political parties.

I agree that a student with involved parents is usually successful in school. No one will disagree that parent involvement is key. However, the scenario you suggest for penalizing parents borders on Communism/Dictatorship principles. Also, who will step up to the plate to raise these students with unfit parents? If I’m not mistaken, we already suffer from too few foster parents.

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2010
10:11 am

AJC database on students per system promoted despite failing CRCT:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/06/28/crct-ajc-analysis.html

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
10:33 am

Thanks, ScienceTeacher671 – these stats are just mind-boggling. Take Cedar Grove Middle School in DCSS – 247 students did not pass the CRCT retakes, but 93% were “promoted”.

EnoughAlready

July 2nd, 2010
10:36 am

I disagree with testing the parents. However, I think we should have a state law that requires parental involvement at the school level. Every parent should be mandated to sign an attendance form for parent teacher meetings and to volunteer at the school at least 8 hours or more for each school year per child. It should be done in a way that does not cause parents to loose pay or fired by their employer.

Batgirl

July 2nd, 2010
10:38 am

Teacher & Mom and Dunwoody Mom, I am with you. Although I do not have children of my own, I certainly want much better for my students. I suggest we set up tablets outside grocery stores or other high traffic shopping areas and pass out the cards.

I think there is some testing needed but not every year and certainly not the CRCT. I think I have mentioned this before on another thread, but I’ll tell the story again. We had a student come to us from elementary school unable to read his basic 200 sight words. He spent a great deal of time in ISS, did nothing in class and yet passed all parts of the CRCT. Oh, and Dad’s a drunk and Mom’s not in the picture. Either he is secretly a genius or the CRCT is pretty worthless. I think it’s the latter. I would suggest we go back to the ITBS or the Stanford.

EnoughAlready

July 2nd, 2010
10:44 am

Batgirl,

I think he’s a lot more intelligent than you give him credit. There are lots of kids with worthless parents who are highly intelligent and they use that lack of attention to act out in school. When they are in contact with excellent teachers and guardians their LIGHT shines very brightly.

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2010
10:45 am

Dunwoody Mom, the really scary thing is that even passing doesn’t mean anything – students aren’t working anywhere close to grade level unless they “exceed expectations”.

For instance, an 8th grader who took the CRCT and ITBS and made the minimum passing score on the reading and math CRCT would, according to the ITBS, be at a 4th grade equivalent grade level.

Maureen Downey

July 2nd, 2010
10:47 am

@BAtgirl, But when you look at the CRCT results, for every one of the miracle kids who you cite that pass with seemingly little ability, there are hundreds of kids who don’t pass. (See Dunwoody Mom’s comment below on Cedar Grove.)
I have not personally seen the disparities in performance and testing that many of you have seen. Most kids I know who struggle in class do not fare well on the CRCT. Also, when you look at the school-based performance on the CRCT in elementary and middle, it typically aligns with performance in the feeder high school. Low CRCT shows up later in low EOCTs.
For those of you who doubt the CRCT, have you looked at the school performance of the feeder schools through high school?
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
10:48 am

The CRCT is worthless – it’s a waste of money – precious money that could be used to actually educate our children. I want an State School Super who has the guts to say “ENOUGH” – we are done with using the CRCT as the sole determination of the worth of a student, teacher or school.

Teacher&mom

July 2nd, 2010
10:49 am

In looking at the database, I wonder how many of those students not passing were special education or ESL students? I also wonder if the numbers are based on failing both the reading and math portions or just one subject? Is there really any difference in ability if a student fails the CRCT by 3 points and another student passes by 3 points? What happens when a student (who doesn’t qualify as math LD) fails the math test but meets or exceeds all other subject areas? Do you make that student repeat the entire grade? What about the student who was in and out of school all year with mono or his parents were going through a contentious divorce? Do you hold that student back because they failed the 8th grade CRCT?

Maureen Downey

July 2nd, 2010
10:56 am

TEacher and Mom, Based on what I have seen, the appeals process is for the very cases you describe. I think the bottom line is that schools do not hold kids back if the parent objects strongly.
I am not a fan of retention as the research doesn’t suggest that it makes a difference, that kids fare better when kept in their grade and given remediation.
The kicker is whether they get the right remediation.
I know there is some new research that retention is not as negative a factor as earlier studies have shown, but I still think the ideal is moving the kid with summer help and remediation once school resumes. (I also think that we are overly wed to age determining a child’s school grade. There are kids I know who could have started school a year early and done well, and there are some who should have waited a year.)
Maureen

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2010
10:58 am

Teacher&mom, I think that a lot of the students who fail the CRCT have undiagnosed learning problems. However, while we screen for vision and hearing problems, we don’t screen for neurological problems such as dyslexia or other learning disabilities until a child is hopelessly behind.

EnoughAlready

July 2nd, 2010
11:00 am

Dunwoody Mom

July 2nd, 2010
10:33 am

93% promoted does not constitute a problem with the CRCT. It could also mean that the class work isn’t sufficient enough and/or the students grade is being inflated in the classroom. It happens very often and most parents don’t realize how bad it is until the student moves to another grade level and doesn’t understand the material taught in the prior year.

The CRCT and class grade should be used as a check and balancing process.

Cathy Vilar

July 2nd, 2010
11:02 am

When I taught middle school in the 90s, before NCLB and the testing mania got underway, I had my math kids use a transit and field note to peg the outline of a “house” outside. I drew cartoons of a fire, skyscraper and fire engine on the board while they furiously worked to find out if the ladder was long enough to reach the stick figure; while they worked, I drew smoke, then flames, a papoose baby, urging them to hurry to rescue the poor stick figures. They enlarged a small pen-and-ink of famous mathematicians and wrote a report and made a presentation. Kids hated to miss my class, and I still keep in touch with many who are in med school, lawyers, sales, and traveling around the world. With QBE we had time. I retired when the “new math” dictated what I was to teach each day. There’s no time for application. No time for fun. No time to make math, a notoriously disliked subject, their favorite subject instead. QBE may have been a mile wide and an inch deep, but we could take the kids scuba diving. The new math Georgia has adopted is 3 miles wide and a half-inch deep, and you never have time to do more than wade. I substitute now, and I must hear “you need to know this for The Test” from otherwise good teachers. Not, “you’ll need to know this to balance your budget” or “to be able to converse intelligently” or “to analyze any area in which you must make a decision” or even “to simply feel GOOD about achieving something you had to work hard/persistently for to understand”. I may have to change my stance and agree that private school might be better for my little granddaughter.
By the way, regarding merit pay: how will you measure the progress of kids in the arts? PE? foreign language? gifted classes? special needs classes? That’s a big hole that no one seems to notice. Just curious.

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2010
11:03 am

Maureen, I agree that we’re overly wed to age, and I think it would be ideal if students were promoted according to mastery rather than according to age – let the students who catch on quickly keep going, and give the others time to master each skill before moving them along – and ideally, students could move at different rates in different subjects.

And, you’re correct that the kicker is remediation. We have students who are promoted to high school from middle school using this appeals process, and the paperwork says that they will receive certain remediations in high school. The problems arise when the high school teachers aren’t informed of what the paperwork says, or the paperwork says the student will receive assistance that isn’t offered at the high school, or the assistance is contingent on parent cooperation (such as afterschool tutoring, in a system that doesn’t offer transportation for afterschool tutoring) and the parent cooperation doesn’t materialize.

Teacher&mom

July 2nd, 2010
11:17 am

Maureen, I agree. Do you realize that summer school is almost always a budgetary decision? Some years there is money…..some years there isn’t money. Some years there is enough money for two teachers and some years there is plenty. Under the Perdue reign, summer school money has almost dried up. Schools adjusted by offering remediation during the last few weeks on school. Once CRCT scores were returned, the students who failed were placed in all-day remediation classes and re-tested the last week of school. Everyone involved with this end-of-year blitz will tell you that it is ineffective but their only option.

Also, the decision to retain can be impacted by the number of students coming up the next year. Administrators have to look at how retaining a large number of students will impact the class size. Often the increase in class size isn’t enough to justify another teacher but the impact of placing four or five retained students in a classroom is huge. Just ask an elementary or middle school teacher .

I teach at the high school level and I understand the frustration of having students reading below grade level. Most of the time you’ll see a pattern of low CRCT/EOCT scores. If you can find the data, you’ll also see a lower than average IQ. Not low enough to qualify for sped services but low enough to significantly impact a student’s ability to keep pace with the other students.

What I find hurts these students the most is the pace that most teachers have to follow to cover all the standards. At the elementary and middle school level the pace is intensified because testing takes place in April. I’m a former middle school teacher and I remember the pressure to cover everything by the second week in April.

Then to add to the craziness…a friend of mine told me that her school had a student who marked all C’s on the GHSGT and passed three subject areas!

Warrior Woman

July 2nd, 2010
11:20 am

Schools don’t want meaningful parent involvement. If they did, they would offer involvement opportunities beyond making copies or supervising the lunch room.

If I’m going to take time off my job to be involved in my children’s education, I demand meaningful involvement. And with my degrees in math and economics, 6 years college classroom experience, 5 years elementary and secondary classroom experience, and 20 years involvement in teen mentoring programs, I know I have better uses within the school than making photocopies or sorting supplies in the office. But that’s the only regular volunteer opportunities I’ve seen publicized at the 5 Cobb County schools my children have attended.

Knowing how the system works, I’ve pushed a bit, and been offered opportunities actually working with students and using my qualifications. I do wonder, though, how many parents are turned off or turned away because they want involvement, not file clerk work.

Teacher&mom

July 2nd, 2010
11:22 am

@Cathy Vilar
“QBE may have been a mile wide and an inch deep, but we could take the kids scuba diving. ”

You win the prize for quote of the day!

Maureen Downey

July 2nd, 2010
11:23 am

THis is a question for all, Many of you discount the CRCT, but I have seen fidelity in the scores to student performance in my own household. I have also seen — in the rare instances where the information is somehow made available — that teachers who are generally perceived as strong have higher pass and exceed rates for their classes.
I wish that schools would post the data as did Gainesville city schools. (No names are posted.) I know in my own system there are teachers who get kids having problems because they have had success in advancing such kids. And they keep getting those kids because they keep being successful with them, both in raising class and CRCT performance.
I just don’t see the disconnect that many of you do — at least on the macro level of looking at the scores.
And while I think the ITBS is fine to give us national standings for kids, do we not need some way of measuring not only whether kids are learning the state curriculum but how well schools are teaching it?
I think there are two questions that we have to ask with CRCT scores.
Did the kids not learn it? Or did the teachers not teach it?

Maureen