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When All Else Fails...

A few years ago in Massachusetts, the people got fed up with kids graduating from school without really knowing what they should. So they decided on a series of tests would be given to students that they would need to pass to be promoted -- and, eventually, graduate.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) had its critics, who feared that it would lead to teachers "teaching to the test." (Personally, I didn't see the problem there. Since it seemed that the teachers weren't really teaching very much before, teaching something -- ANYTHING -- seemed like an improvement.) But it passed, and for several years now students have been taking -- and, largely, passing -- the exam.

Well, some schools found themselves in a bit of trouble over the test. You see, MCAS doesn't just rate the students, but their schools, as well. If too many students at a school flunk, the school runs the risk of bringing down the wrath of the state Department of Education.

It seems that Roslindale was one of the school districts that was in trouble. The principal had ben warned that if his students didn't start shaping up, he might as well get ready to ship out. So he did the only reasonable thing to improve performance:

He is accused of giving the test to teachers so they could "help" the students prepare better.

If this is true, then he needs to be out on his ass yesterday. The teachers need to start teaching. And the students need to start learning.

But anyone who tries to blame this mess on MCAS needs to be smacked. It merely sets the expectation. If the principal can't meet that expectation, then he needs to find a new line of work -- one where lying and fraud and taking the easy way out is more tolerated.

Such as, say, Massachusetts state legislator.


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Comments (14)

It puts a whole new meaning... (Below threshold)

It puts a whole new meaning to "teaching to the test," doesn't it?

My as teacher in PA, my on... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

My as teacher in PA, my only caveat is that the scores of one test taken in isolation can be very misleading. The scores should be indexed to attendance, ability level, and class grade.

One would expect kids with poor attendance and grades to do poorly--they haven't been there to learn or they haven't done the work, not matter how brilliant the teacher may have been.

Conversely, if a student with an average to high ability index and good grades does poorly on the test, that's a big red flag that the teacher or at least the curriculum is weak.

If these four categories are listed, it's easier to target the area where solutions are most needed. Unsatisfactory test scores are not enough.

Goddess, generally I unders... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Goddess, generally I understand what you are saying, but you are assuming all teachers are doing their jobs effectively. I think on average the abilities of teachers to instruct are wanting. I place this whole mess at the feet of social engineering liberals and the unions. ww

While goddess makes a good ... (Below threshold)
Bob:

While goddess makes a good point, it seems to me that anything that tends to make teachers and schools accountable will be attacked. Just as grades are far from a perfect measure of educational attainment, I'm sure the MCAS has its shortcomings. But in a country where public education is compulsory and only a small percentage of parents can afford to opt out, we must make our educators more accountable for their performance. What gets measured gets done. If we throw out MCAS and similar testing, only the students lose.

"scores of one test taken i... (Below threshold)
tyree:

"scores of one test taken in isolation can be very misleading"

Goddess, we all know that. What we need is more honesty about why teachers fail to teach. Can we start to say out loud that have having dozens of illegal immigrants in the classroom who don't speak English just might be a problem, some of the time? Liberal feel good political correctness keeps us from helping the very children that it's proponents so strenuously insisit it is helping. We need to dump the unions in some schools and let the hardest working, best teachers make more money. Then see what happens after a few years. None of the metrics I have seen track the progress children make over their careers. My sons best grades in math were from the teacher who taught him the least. The next year his grade fell from B+ to C-. That man is still teaching in the school system because the union wants him there. The standardized test showed a drop also, the teacher still teaches and the children suffer. My twins went to a charter school where a large number of teachers decided that they were too popular and pretty to be smart. They were there for three years, and their grades dropped every year. I asked my daughter, who is now three years out of high school whether the kids were more petty and abusive or the teachers. She said the teachers were, by far. But the unions refuse to even think about getting rid of people who should not be in the classroom. Teachers unions at least in California, are all about keeping Democrats in power and getting money, lots of other peoples money. I have five children, and we raised them well, in spite of the teachers unions. A friend asked me about putting her daughter in a private school. She is a huge liberal but I said to her, "Would you take your car to a mechanic who cannot be fired?" Her daughter is in a private school now and her parents are very happy to pay the tuition.

As someone who works in an ... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

As someone who works in an industry where my performance is judged every single day, and if I don't stack up I'm out on the street I have ZERO sympathy for holding teachers accountable. Welcome to how the rest of the world operates.

I went online and checked o... (Below threshold)
tyree:

I went online and checked out Roslindale's ethnic makeup. Surprise, the Hispanic population is way over the average for the area.
Children who can't speak English drag down the educational process. All of the children in the class suffer due to this forced diversity program. It happened in my children's classroom, and it will happen to yours. Classes should be taught in English only, and children should not be allowed in the classroom until they can speak English. Those were the regulations when my ancestors immigrated from overseas and the whole family learned English in one year. Immigrants learn the language of their new land. Colonists do not.

This is what I had said in ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

This is what I had said in another post and thread: Our fear of not being politically correct causes most of the problems. We have to learn to speak the unvarnished truth again. ww

The problem is secondary sc... (Below threshold)
superdestroyer:

The problem is secondary schools is that were want everyone to perform at an acceptable level while we also want everyone to graduate. Those two goals are opposed to each other. The higher standards are set, then more students will fail. If everyone has to graduate, then there can be no minimum level of achievement.

Schools get into a no win situation when we expect them to teach to a high standard and to teach everyone.

I think most Americans would settle for schools being judged on the ability of their graduates and would tolerate a high failure rate to maintain high performance. Yet, no politican is brave enough to propose it.

Superdestroyer..True... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Superdestroyer..
True. If there is no failure then success means nothing. Let children flunk out if they want. They can take the jobs the Mexicans won't do. Suddenly, grades will go up. Those high school drop outs will be back in school after a few years, and many of them will eventually make up for the time they lost.

Does the MCAS test for self... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

Does the MCAS test for self esteem? Because the most important think we can teach kids in school isn't math or science or English or facts - first and foremost kids need to be taught how to feel better about themselves.

No idexing, no curves ...</... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

No idexing, no curves ...

A students score is a students score ... Thats why its called a standard ... life doesn't grade on a curve (unless you are in a victim group, then some)

If the student doesn't come to class, then send the truant officer after him/her ...

And yes, teach to the test ... at least teach to something ...

Jay Tea: You misunderstand... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Jay Tea: You misunderstand. The purpose of education today is to 'level the playing field'. Can't have Johnny feeling bad about himself. Mediocrity is to be the norm. Start giving tests and the next thing you know, someone will start RAISING THE BAR. Can't have that. Next thing you know, people like you will insist that teachers grade student papers with RED INK.

bwahahaSo you wanna ... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

bwahaha
So you wanna talk about "FEELINGS" vs "FAILINGS"..
I hope I did this right..check it out..


http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/03/22/seeking_a_kinder_word_for_failure/




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