Monday, August 4, 2008

No child gets ahead, revisited

A teacher at daughter D's school wrote this article for the Progressive.

Teachers like her are what make our school so amazing.

Our standardized test scores are low, so we have a reputation for being a "bad" or "failing" school. The fact that 30% of our school speaks English as a second language skews our test scores low. If I'd taken my 3rd grade language standardized tests in French, I would have gotten a low score.

The test scores are published in the paper each spring. And each spring, I'm amazed by how many parents make school decisions based on the test scores. Of the latest scores that were published, Guess what? Ours were low.

But if you delve into the raw data, you realize that within this particular group of test-takers - a grand total of 8 students - yes EIGHT - were considered "not economically disadvantaged." All it takes is for one of those students to have a bad day and the percentages of "advanced students" go way down.

It's a vicious circle. You need to get the test scores up to get/keep funding and to attract parents to your school. But the minute they start teaching for the test, the teachers become less effective.

I'm not against measuring progress and testing for knowledge. But using the same test at both a school with 100% english-speaking, above-poverty-line students at a school like ours....that doesn't really tell you much. It punishes the schools that are already dealing with huge problems (poverty, immigrants, etc.)

There's got to be a better way.

McCain seems to think that school choice is the answer:

For parents like us (over-educated, with easy access to transportation and flexible schedules), school choice is an attractive option. But really, will it solve anything? Our poor schools will just become more poor. Poverty doesn't go away just because you can't see it. I'm not 100% against the concept of school choice. I just haven't seen an option that wouldn't result in a huge segregation between the "haves" and the "have nots." And McCain almost seems to blame the school for the problem. I don't like that. In our case, at least, the school is doing everything it can with a group of fantastic teachers.

Obama seems, to me, to be hitting on the larger issue:

We need to get to these kids BEFORE they hit elementary school. And expand before/after school care for those in need. That's the only way we are going to get those test scores up, in my humble opinion. I also like what he says about NCLB - about supporting the schools that need help - not punishing them.

It's August. My first of way-too-many school-related meetings is tomorrow. Let the crazy life of a reluctant PTA president at a "left behind" school begin...


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

You send your kids to that school because -- if I'm reading you right -- just being in that environment teaches your kids things you want them to learn, things that won't show up on any test. So maybe that's the problem. Maybe we're testing the wrong things? or not enough things?

Aliki2006 said...

Yes--I'm with you 100% on this. I often write about the kids who fall through the cracks, the ones who don't get ahead, and for whom these tests just aren't designed to measure just how much they do know. My son is one of these kids.

Thanks for your comment on my sleep post, btw. My son does suffer from anxiety--terrible anxiety, and I think this is part of the problem.

LisaS said...

i'm still trying to figure out what to say about this. except, of course, that we resemble this remark.