This morning Jay Mathews writes about standardized testing. Based on the story’s title, Improvement on Tests More Telling Than Pass Rates, I was hoping he would have something to say about kids who score “advanced” year after year on standardized tests. Instead the article focuses on underperforming students, and reveals just how out of touch he is:
I have been hearing for some time about this practice of devoting special attention to what are called the “on-the-bubble” kids. They are close to scoring proficient on the annual test, which affects the school’s rating under the No Child Left Behind law. Some schools give them extra teacher time, leaving less help for lower-performing students, such as Shawn, who have no chance of increasing the passing rate. I sometimes shrugged this off as just one more sign of poorly led schools. A good principal, I said, would put an end to such nonsense.
But Fine’s story surprised me, because she is working at one of the city’s best-led public schools. Its founder, Irasema Salcido, has made great strides with impoverished children. That Salcido and her team hired Fine, one of the best writers I have seen among full-time teachers, indicates their good judgment. So does their decision to use Fine as a department chair and teaching coach in her four years at the school. So if focusing on bubble kids was standard operating procedure at Cesar Chavez, it was a bigger problem than I thought.
Reading that, all I could think was “d’oh.” Has Jay been living under a rock? Parents…and teachers…have been talking about this for years.
Jay’s answer? Value-added assessments. I’m all for that. That’s why I’ve been a booster, for example of greater sharing of MAP-R results and increasing the availability out of level testing. The devil is in finding the way to do it. Jay goes on to tout the monitoring systems of International Baccalaureate programs. Now I’m a big high school IB fan too. But I have yet to see where the monitoring/assessment–other than the diploma exams in 11th and 12th grade–come into play. I’m particularly fuzzy on how the IB works in middle and elementary grades. I know that schools have to go through a lot of hoops to be approved as an IB school. But as a parent, again, how do I know? How do I know how my school and/or its teachers are being evaluated? Where can I see their submissions to the IB officials, and the IB evaluation of my school’s program?
“Trust us” is not enough.