The system of assessing schools under NCLB is not only flawed but lacks validity.I will use 7th graders as an example. Here are the specifics:
FIRST AND FOREMOST THE TEST USES A DIFFERENT SET OF SKILLS
Recently I studied Spanish through the Rosetta Stone program. I quickly passed the first three levels with over a 90% score at each level. There was only one problem, after completion I couldn't speak a lick of Spanish. So I took the three levels over again and again passed with over 90% correct. I definately got and A. Again I couldn't speak any Spanish. I then studied each phrase and shared my learnings with a Spanish speaking friend. Ahora mi espanol es un poquito mejor. Es bien por un anciano. Then and only then did I begin to learn the language., The reason is taking a test and learning are two different things. They use a completely different set of skills. Test taking is a skill within itself where all your senses are used to win, to get an A. Learning requires a focus on the subject matter at hand. Once we realize this, a whole world of educational practices opens up and teaching changes. We know how to teach kids, we simply aren't allowed to.
THE TEST SERVES NO PURPOSE FOR STUDENTS!
The standardized test is given to every seventh grader in October of each year with the results available four months later.As the student levels have changed in that four months, the information gathered has no value for teachers or the education of the students.Therefore, the results are put into a file cabinet never again to be seen.Parents, tell your kids not to worry about the test.No one ever sees how well they do.It does not matter how well they do.It has nothing to do with your kids.
And the solution? Although the test is only a snapshot in time and some students are much better at this form of assessment than others, the only value for teachers and students is an immediate return on the information with specific suggestions to help the students educational process.
SCHOOLS ARE JUDGED BASED ON STUDENTS THEY DIDN’T TEACH!
As the tests are given to students who have only been in the school for a year, there is no assurance that the students were educated in their current school prior to that.In fact, in urban systems students quite often change schools. Is it valid to assess a school when many students were not taught by them? Now, if you go back 1 year and 2 months from the October testing date, the students are in elementary school instead of middle school which is usually a different school. Considering that it takes many years of constant development to assure true proficiency, is it valid in any way to judge schools based on students, who were taught by others throughout the years? Are the schools supposed to "make up the difference" in one year after 6 years of failure and then be punished if they don't? And all we look at is averages, no one knows how many students were successful in their current school.
When I was a middle school administrator there was a standard joke going around for those whose schools were considered failures.When asked how to resolve the problem, the response was simply wait until next year.Then you will get a new group of students.If you can work hard to get the best scoring students, your scores will increase and you will be a good school. However, if you get the best scoring poverty kids you will be a great school!Although a joke for us, you can believe that this is what is happening, “big time” around the country.
And the solution? On the testing level, the only way to do it is using pre and post tests within one years time and then state how many students gained one year or more in reading and how many didn't. No matter how bad we want students to catch up, if they gain a years skills in a years time, the schools have done their job.
THE WKCE IS NOT AN ACCURATE MEANS OF ASSESSMENT
I recently worked with a teacher whose 7th grade student was given three standardized tests. On the WKCE, he scored at the pre primer level in reading. On the MAP test he scored at the 4th grade level. On the QRI, a test that is given one on one to eliminate distractions, he scored on the 7th grade level. The reality is that any standardized test is only a snap shot in time.Assessment is only as good as the information gathered and its application to the education of the student.Beyond that, it is a worthless artificial effort to rank schools and to falsely prove failure.
And the solution? Students learn and demonstrate learning in different ways. Some call it authentic assessment when kids demonstrate learning in the way they are most capable. What if there were several different options from which a student can choose to assure the information gathered is accurate? Even some adaptations as simple as "one on one" assessement to avoid obstacles would be helpful as with the afore mentioned student that showed remarkable success. And giving a speech rather than bubbling in a test would be better for some. Using reading that connects with the students specific background might be another issue. The goal is accuracy and fairness.
THE SYSTEM OF ASSESSMENT IS ONLY FOR THE STEPFORD KIDS!
In a middle school a student entered the 7th grade reading on the pre primer level. After a lot of support the light bulb went off and he gained four years in reading. Yet he is not "on level" and his individual gains are not recognized so therefore it is more likely that the school and the student are considered a failure. Kids blossom at different times! They start walking at different times, talking at different times, get there teeth at different times but when they enter school, they must be at the same level at the same time or they fail. And those who have major obstacles built into daily life will often learn at different rates even if they are smarter than the stepford kids. To not build these variables into assessment is an atrocity.
And the solution? First, we should NEVER use the number of students "at proficiency" as an indicator of school success. In most cases those "at proficiency" have been there throughout their educational years and their success does not have much to do with the success of their current school.
We must recognize the reality that kids blossom at different times. They are not failures if they are 1 year behind or even more as long as they are now making sufficient gains. And if it takes them a little longer to graduate, that's ok. As long as they graduate. The emphasis on the stepford kids or Aryan race mentality must no longer exist! We must maintain the intensity for progress but eliminate the "failure" mentality that is driving kids out of school. Standards must become guidelines for success rather than deadlines for failure.
A SNAP SHOT IN TIME
Consider this. A student is tested several hours a year. The same student is seen by teachers over 1200 hours a year. Which are you going to believe when it comes to academic achievement. The test is merely a snap shot in time only to be used as a baseline. Information is then passed to teachers for a jumping off point to truly determine student needs. Use of this "snap shot" should never be for ranking students and certainly not to convince them of their failure!
To change, we must leave our comfort zone.This is not easy but someone must stand up for the children who need us the most.
Remember, students who fall far enough behind and are pushed out of school are relegated to the poverty class for the rest of their lives. And this is all determined at the childs tender age of 16,17 or 18.
THE CURRENT SYSTEM OF ASSESSMENT OF SCHOOLS IS A SET UP. IF WE TEACH THE KIDS THAT NEED US THE MOST, WE FAIL. IF WE TEACH THE STEPFORD KIDS, WE WILL DO JUST FINE! AND WE ARE OK WITH THAT?
Read my book, "Saving Students From A Shattered System" if you dare. Change is not for the faint of heart. Beware, do not get crushed when the dominoes start falling (chapter 2)