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Friday, August 15, 2014

Down the Up Staircase: Common-Core State Tests Slam Students Again

Reformers today seem to be enjoying a grand old time making sure the vast majority of kids, but not their own, taste utter failure. The 2014 Common-Core aligned NY state test scores were released yesterday.  Although in aggregate, the scores inched up, the rate of proficiency still remains lower than 40% for both ELA and math statewide.  The overall message, in my mind, seems to be "unmitigated failure."  

Still, Regent Tisch and Commissioner King chose to "accentuate the positive."   It is probably a good idea given the growing backlash against State policies.  Tisch said, "The test scores show that students from all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress.  This is still a transition period.  It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in the test scores.  But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state."

I would attribute it to something else.  I would attribute the slight improvement in part to the manner in which test questions and cut scores are politically engineered.  I would also attribute it to a better knowledge of the content of the exams and an increased use of classroom time for test prep.  Teachers are prepping to save their pants as well as those of their school.   Do you think Tisch ever wonders about tradeoffs?

When Tisch speaks of "changes taking place in our classrooms," I am sickened.  She has no idea, nor a care, for what is happening in classrooms.  Students and teachers are stressed to the max to prep for senseless tests that aim to fail them from the start.  It is as if, they are worshiping an idol that will ensure only their own failure.  Education is upside down because people with little-to-no experience in the field wear blinders.  They hold the reins of power and charge recklessly onwards with ears closed to public opinion and hearts closed to the damage they inflict upon children.  

And, who is truly succeeding by these standards?  Well, the Success Academy, of course.  While perusing the results of some school districts, I hit on the page with the results of the Success Academy.  A number of Success Academy schools had passing rates over 90%.  Harlem Success Academy Charter School 4 had a 100% passing rate on the 6th-grade math test.  For anyone who tells me, it's because the school or the teachers are so great, I'd ask you to check the school's entrance policies and attrition rate.  The magic formula for success is usually little more than counseling out those who fail.    

I wish these reformers, if they must experiment, would do so upon their own children instead of mine.  Then, they could really show that they have the courage "of their convictions."   

But I would prefer to imagine a world in which educational reformers set children up for success, rather than failure and help all children, rather than only those who seem quite able to help themselves.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  Instead, so many of the children pictured racing to the top of those Common Core State steps have been pushed down the up staircase yet another year!

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