Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Turn to Tattle

I have recently gotten really into reading other teacher blogs. It's amazing to me to see how similar things are in so many areas of the country right now. Teachers are struggling with the same things.

I recently read in The Elementary Educator:

As No Child Left Behind’s magical year of 2014 draws near, where an impossible 100% of students must be proficient in math and reading in every school throughout the United States, states continue to redefine “proficiency,” reducing the cut scores needed to pass the state tests to astoundingly low levels.

In Michigan, for example, third graders who answered 19 out of 45 questions correctly on the math section of the MEAP (our state standardized test) were labeled “proficient.” 19 out of 45 is approximately 42%, which already sounds pathetic, but it gets worse: this test was multiple choice. Not only that, but there were only three answer choices per question!

Let’s analyze that for a moment: third grade students in Michigan who knew the right answers to 6 of the 45 math questions, then guessed with average success on the remaining 39 questions (getting 13/39 correct), are labeled proficient. Not only that, but third graders are tested in the fall of third grade, and the test only covers material from the previous grade. So third graders who understood a mere 13.3% of what was taught in second grade and had average luck when guessing on the other 86.7% of the questions are considered proficient by the State of Michigan.

Isn't it astounding?

I knew this kind of thing was happening, but someone putting it all out like that, into numbers, makes me cringe. This is what the national government is encouraging. THIS is the impact of No Child Left Behind.

NCLB is good in some ways. It encourages accountability, and forces schools to look not only at the big picture, but also at important subgroups to make sure that there aren't gaps in the education they provide.

I get frustrated, though, sitting in a "failing" school. It is not fair for the national government's policy to treat us differently than other schools with our levels of success just because our state has refused to drop standards.

Our standards are considered some of the most rigorous in the country, and our standardized test is certainly not passed by 97-100% of students, like the Michigan test.

Let me be clear: I am glad the state of Indiana is holding itself to high standards even though No Child Left Behind in its current state doesn't mandate it. It is frustrating to me, however, that we are facing sanctions that other schools don't face, even if their students are at the same levels as ours.

I strongly support President Obama and Arne Duncan when they say that every state should have standards and tests with similar rigor. I don't believe that National Standards or a National Test are necessarily the way to do that, but I do believe that someone at the national level needs to be looking at each state's standards and tests to determine if they are truly measuring proficiency.

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