Saturday, December 08, 2007

What are we Testing?

This is a must read for every teacher. A research study done by the Educational Testing Service (the people who make the test) admits that schools have little to do with the test results. If this is the case, and home life has such a traumatic impact on school success, why rate schools based on exams?

From today's NYTimes:

THE federal No Child Left Behind law of 2002 rates schools based on how students perform on state standardized tests, and if too many children score poorly, the school is judged as failing.

But how much is really the school’s fault?

A new study by the Educational Testing Service — which develops and administers more than 50 million standardized tests annually, including the SAT — concludes that an awful lot of those low scores can be explained by factors that have nothing to do with schools. The study, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” suggests that a lot of the failure has to do with what takes place in the home, the level of poverty and government’s inadequate support for programs that could make a difference, like high-quality day care and paid maternity leave.

The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV a day. Using just those four variables, the researchers were able to predict each state’s results on the federal eighth-grade reading test with impressive accuracy.

“Together, these four factors account for about two-thirds of the large differences among states,” the report said. In other words, the states that had the lowest test scores tended to be those that had the highest percentages of children from single-parent families, eighth graders watching lots of TV and eighth graders absent a lot, and the lowest percentages of young children being read to regularly, regardless of what was going on in their schools.

Which gets to the heart of the report: by the time these children start school at age 5, they are far behind, and tend to stay behind all through high school. There is no evidence that the gap is being closed.


A QHST grad has this to say!


Anonymous said...

Wow...what a surprise!

It's funny that you posted this now. When I read the PIS, and saw that one of our partners is collecting data on how well our kids perform in college so that we can see how well we did with them, the first thing that came to mind was that we're one small part in a much bigger picture. It's hard to take too much credit or blame for what happens down the road.

Don't we see that play out in our own kids? And in society?


Anonymous said...

And another thing…In the last post, about the laptops, I mentioned the laptops given to students in Maine. Another gem from Rich Kent’s email was one where Rich said “we have very small class sizes in Maine. 20 is a big class.” I sat in a session at the National Writing Project Conference, and listened to teachers from all over the country complain about how hard it is to teach writing in classes of 24. And I imagine that the number of languages other than English spoken in the homes of our students is a bit higher than in, say, Maine. So…until all children are afforded the same opportunities in school, how can we even have a national agenda that says that no child will be left behind? Even if we disregard the economic disparities, race and class issues, etc. (which is ludicrous), we can’t even count on schools as the great equalizer because the inequity in schools mirrors the inequity in society.