Monday, July 02, 2012

State schools score better -- like magic

When states change assessment systems it typically means that scores will drop - precipitously at first - until teachers become familiar with the new standards with higher cut scores, and change the way they deliver instruction. This is what I expect to see in Kentucky next fall when the first round of K-Prep (Am I the only one who can't help thinking, "Preparation K?") results hit the news. Although the numbers will not be comparable to the old CATS/interim CATS numbers, the emotional feel will be just the same. When those numbers are published and schools are rated, the lower numbers will feel like a retreat from progress.

But apparently that's not always the way it these magical numbers from Minnesota.

This from the StarTribune:

Actually, it is a bit of magic, or at least sleight-of-hand, in terms of standards.

"Poof" isn't normally the sound you hear when a state agency uploads a new database to its website. But if you listened closely as the Minnesota Department of Education uploaded its new school rankings database last month, that's exactly what you heard. Why is that?

Because with the release of the state's new Multiple Measurements Rating system (MMR), the number of schools that are red-flagged because their students aren't making adequate yearly progress in reading and math suddenly dropped from the 1,056 identified in 2011 under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law to an astonishing 127 in 2012. Poof!

Either a thousand elementary, middle and high schools suddenly and collectively erased stubborn achievement gaps and radically upped test scores in the last 12 months, or someone is getting cute with the numbers.

One of the key goals of NCLB was the expectation that all students would be able to read and do math at grade level. These rigorous standards -- developed by Minnesota educators -- were coupled with measures to ensure that schools where students failed to meet that goal were held accountable. While NCLB was not without flaws, the law was doing its part to highlight where changes needed to be made.

Sadly, the new MMR system represents a retreat from accountability that was neither sudden nor surprising. Last summer, as department officials were in the initial stages of requesting an NCLB waiver from the federal Department of Education, I warned on these pages ("Is education measuring up?" Aug. 23, 2011) that "all too often, when the needs of the student come into conflict with the needs of the education system, the system wins." ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TO me that is why the system really needs to be dismantled or at least significantly deminished to an advisory status. Take all the funds and divide them among the schools and stop wasting so much of our tax money on testing contracts to out of state companies and wasting our time with unfunded initiative after unfunded expectation. Spend your money where it counts - in the classroom.