SAT scores are way up this year, the College Board reported this week. And that might be cause for celebration, if you wanted to ignore these three facts. The test is easier than it was a year ago. The achievement gap between students of different races and parental education levels is just as entrenched as ever. And fewer than half… Read more →
Let’s add this to the mountain of evidence that suggests our nation’s suburban high schools are rewarding mediocrity. A new study by two researchers and reported here by USA Today indicates that teachers are increasingly handing out easy As to high school students who don’t deserve those high grades — and are learning less than they were two decades ago. The… Read more →
Last week, I wrote broadly about Illinois’ new accountability plan, where the goals promised “a focus on equity and excellence for all students” but where the details appear to fall far, far short of that. Understanding this plan is not yet cast in stone, let’s look at one area where Illinois seeks to break new ground but only clears a… Read more →
The letter was thin and flat. The letter was thin and flat. I’m embarrassed to say it took a second for me to realize. Traditionally, they sent acceptance letters in big envelopes, but could things be different now? Maybe they sent the bulk of the information through email. By the time the letter had been in my hands for two… Read more →
When ESSA, The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed and the president signed it, we knew it would happen: States would take the flexibility now afforded to them under federal statute to backslide on accountability. But—maybe naively—I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, before the rule-making around ESSA’s accountability provisions have even been finalized. We’re seeing it across the country,… Read more →
I don’t consider myself a “tiger mom” and, while I haven’t taken a poll, my kids would probably agree that I’m a soft touch. Yet a column this week in the Wall Street Journal called “Here’s Why Tests Matter” brought me up short as it described a “predictable outcry” by parents against the new SAT — “why do we have to… Read more →
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.