Monthly Archives: March 2016

Here’s Why Tests Matter: With grade inflation, report cards are basically meaningless

Wall Street Journal, Commentary, 3/31/2016

Earlier this month, students for the first time took a new, and allegedly improved, SAT. The test’s developer included more-contemporary vocabulary and removed penalties for guessing the wrong answer. The changes came with a predictable outcry—complaints, for instance, that too many word problems in the math sections disadvantage some students. There was also a familiar refrain from parents: Why do we have this exam at all? Why do colleges put so much stock in the results? And why-oh-why do our kids have to take so many tests?

It might seem unfair that admissions officers place almost as much weight on a one-morning test as they do on grades from four years of high school, as a 2011 survey from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling showed. But there’s a simple reason for this emphasis on testing: Policy makers and educators have effectively eliminated all the other ways of quantifying student performance.

Classroom grades have become meaningless. Last year a public-school district in northern California decided to score on an “equal interval scale”—meaning every letter grade is assigned a 20-point range. Students who score above 80% get an A. Only those below 20% will be given an F. This is only part of a larger trend.

Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard, eventually gave in to grade inflation by assigning his students two grades, an official inflated grade for their transcripts and an unofficial grade reflecting what they actually deserved.

When Common Core research makes apples-to-apples comparisons before the fruit is ripe

Common Core implementation is not an apples-to-apples comparison, or even an apples-to-oranges comparison. Rather it’s a big messy fruit salad, and unfortunately for Brown Center researcher Tom Loveless, he cut up the fruit before it was ripe enough for harvest. The Brown Center recently released its 15th annual report on “How Well Are American Students Learning?” and while the well-regarded policy paper covered… Read more →

Math tracking, AP scores & Common Core changes

This post first appeared on the blog, JoanneJacobs.com Tracking in eighth grade — usually in math — correlates with higher scores on AP tests at the end of high school, concludes the 2016 Brown Center Report on American Education. In eighth grade, the tracking question currently boils down to whether high achieving students who are ready for a formal algebra… Read more →

Editorial: Opt-out movement is out of hand

Newsday, Editorial, 3-27-16

The next round of standardized tests for third- through eighth-graders begins April 4. The high-pressure lobbying to opt out has already started. The pressure is mostly coming from the well-organized and -funded opt-out movement, and the tactics are exposing the lie that this is a parent-led push. It’s teachers unions and members fighting with all their might to destabilize standardized testing in New York in pursuit of their own goals.

Calif. Teachers, Administrators Say Common Core Is Rigorous and Relevant

Education Week, Teacher Beat blog, 3/24/16

California teachers and administrators agree that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than old standards, are more relevant to students’ everyday lives, and will better prepare them for college and careers, but they are split on how well implementation has gone in the Golden State, according to a new survey report by WestEd, a San Francisco-based research-and-consulting nonprofit. While over 70 percent of district leaders deemed their progress as either good or excellent, teachers say there’s room for improvement and have a wish list for moving forward.

Cue the Eyeroll: Hey First-World Parents, Fighting Tests is Not Like Fighting Slavery

Here’s today’s little opt-out gem in the New York Times. At Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, part of District 15, more than a third of the eligible students did not sit for the tests last year, and the principal, Elizabeth Phillips, has in the past been outspoken in opposing them. At a PTA meeting there last week, Ms.… Read more →

‘Counterfeit’ Diplomas: We’re Killing Our Kids With Kindness

I recently had my developmental (remedial) English students complete an essay assignment that required them to read and respond to an editorial in The New York Times entitled “The Counterfeit High School Diploma,” which focused on the unsurprising relationship between rising graduation rates and sinking academic achievement in our nation’s public schools. Because many of my students are recent high… Read more →

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