Friday, April 10, 2009

Frankfort to Aim at Illusion

A couple of weeks ago Frankfort Superintendent Rich Crowe said of the lack of accountability for writing under Senate ill 1, “If they’re not going to score it, and if it’s not going to count for anything, I don’t know why we should waste our time.”

Now liberated from state imposed accountability system he is building his own; and he's pointing his teachers toward a target that doesn't quite exist. Crowe told the Frankfort Independent Board of Education in March that he’s inclined to focus on curriculum areas that actually count toward the ratings. Then he chose the ACT.

KSN&C contributor Skip Kifer recently noted,

ACT produces results presumed to help students learn and school personnel make better decisions. Does it? What is the evidence that the information is used? What is the evidence that using the evidence makes a difference? On what?

The problem is that there is no fixed curriculum underlying the ACT that teachers can be assured will be on the test. If students are taught a skill, and perform well on items that test that skill, the ACT throws the test items out in favor of something the teachers haven't taught so well.

This from the State Journal:

New curriculum will center on ACT success

Frankfort Independent teachers will stay in the classroom a week longer than their students this summer, building a new curriculum aimed at success on the ACT college entrance exam.

Teachers will spend June 15 to 19 in subject-related “professional learning communities,” Superintendent Rich Crowe said Thursday at a meeting of the Board of Education.

The goal is to base a kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum on the concepts students must know to reach national benchmark ACT scores – the minimum score required to avoid remediation courses in college...

So despite broad objections from teachers and parents about schools wasting time teaching for the test, Frankfort Independent is getting ready to teach to a different test - one with an elusive target.

One wonders what curriculum the teachers will focus on?

Evidence suggests that the best preparation for doing well on the ACT includes having ones students come from a family that has resources and values education. I'm not sure how the faculty is going to work that out.

Will Frankfort teachers be held accountable if students don't "measure up?" What does it mean to measure up on a benchmark test like the ACT? ...score at the 50th percentile? ...60th? ...40th?

As Kifer notes,

Benchmark tests may or may not be related to what students have been taught. Alignment studies have to be conducted to determine if they are and to what extent.

Since the questions are not released, a teacher does not know what has been done well or poorly. Students have no idea how well they are doing because the questions and the right answers are never discussed. There is no way to tie the results to what a teacher has been teaching because the test, at that time, does not necessarily reflect what has been covered in the curriculum.

Ben Oldham recently wrote that the promoters of the ACT have been over-interpreting its results - making claims that just haven't been shown to be true. But when pressed to prove their points, the promoters go away. Such misuse has even led The National Association for College Admission Counseling Commission to question the test's use by colleges. To the extent that colleges quit using the ACT, its only utility goes away.

Kifer warned folks not to get snookered by ACT officials new claims that without having changed the nature of the test, their scores now tell whether a student "meets expectations" or is "ready" to attend college.

Crowe doesn't seem to be listening.

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