May 17, 2012

Florida's kids won't be left behind

When they said it takes a village to raise a child, they didn't mean a village of idiots.

In a stunning example of the sort of education administration decision that makes Tim's head explode, Florida takes first prize:
The Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida's standardized test after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.
Lower the passing grade so students can pass.  What in the world could be wrong with that plan?

Who is served by lowering the bar each time the standard isn't met?  Some in Florida are complaining that scoring standards were changed this year, and say that is to blame for the massive failure rate.
The writing exam was made more difficult by increasing expectations for proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure. The board also increased the passing grade from 3.5 to 4 on scale of zero to 6.
The kiddos need to be able to write a grammatically correct sentence and get a 66% overall.  Yeah, I can see how difficult that could be.  But don't let facts get in the way of a good story:
The Department of Education's notice for the proposed emergency rule says when the board approved the scoring changes it "did not have, and could not have had, impact data" that would show how those revisions would affect the results. It adds that the preliminary results now indicate "the heightened scoring rules may have unforeseen adverse impacts on school grades."

Asking kids to spell, capitalize and punctuate correctly adversely impacts school grades.  Wow.

I'm not a big fan of standardized testing. I realize that our public school systems have little choice in being measured by such tests if they want to keep their accreditation and state and federal funding.  The system simply isn't set up to support independent measures and there is little else to use as a benchmark of (non)progress.

The Princess' report card is a sight to behold.  Not because of the grades, but because of the style and content.  It usually runs more than a dozen pages.  It includes self-analysis, goal-setting and progress made toward those goals and clear rubrics with examples of work to support the assessment.  There are some numerical and letter grades, but none of them stand alone without teacher comment.  There is a portfolio of her work in primary school that shows her progress over the course of six years.

Most public school teachers would look at The Princess' school's assessment process and cringe at the thought of how many hours her teacher spends measuring the student's progress.  But it gets done.  It gets done well.  It provides clear and concise information on what my daughter has and has not learned.  Isn't that what a report card is supposed to do?

I get that traditional public schools don't provide the support, pay, staff or tools to assess kids adequately.  I could probably even make a good case for the use of standardized tests - but only as a measuring tool, not as a teaching rubric.

And yet...every argument for and against testing and meeting broad standards brings me to the same conclusion - what should we expect when we let the government tell us how to educate our kids?

1 comment:

CenTexTim said...

When results fail to meet expectations, don't improve the process or product. Instead, lower the standards.

Sounds like the government's 'solution' to lots of problems.

Thank goodness I just got a fresh roll of duct tape...