Sunday, September 25, 2011
NCLB and Student Accountability
State test scores are out, and education reformers and critics need to take a good look at discrepancies in the state testing model. Basically, these tests are completely unreliable, and it comes down to one simple fact that no one is willing to talk about.
Students don't try on these tests. Period.
Like many schools, I know, state test scores for my high school are less than impressive. These disappointing results conflict the reality that my school is one of the highest performing schools in the country. The Washington Post and others regularly rank it in the top 2% in the country. Some researchers have concluded it is one of the top 30 schools in the nation for preparing students for college. My school regularly has between 25 and 35 National Merit scholars. It's schoolwide pass rate for AP exams is above 90%. Students rack up more than $20 million in scholarship money to some of the top schools in the country. Our ACT scores - especially in English - are through the stratosphere.
Yet, on state tests 40% of students are below proficient in writing. That reading numbers are almost that abysmal.
Students simply don't put much effort into these tests. Some skip the tests - or ironically go on college visits - resulting in zeroes on the tests. The students know these score don't matter - and the scores are worst for sophomores. That's a year before they absolutely rock the ACT, SAT, and AP scores. That's two years before 95+% graduate and go on to top schools and universities. The top students actually showed that smallest gains, and had actually dropped the most from past years. And, yet, state rankings are now counting these scores for as much as 25% of the overall ranking. And, these scores are to be used - according to new laws - as 50% of a teachers evaluation.
This discrepancy is absolutely outrageous. And, while I am not a union member, this lack of student accountability could be the one thing that could put me on the front lines of labor negotiations ... with a bull horn.
Students are no longer putting adequate effort into state tests that have no accountability for them. This situation must be the primary focus of school reform.