In the wake of a scoring mess on Florida’s state test for third graders. St. Petersburg Times columnist Ron Matus defends the need for tests, not just grades, to show which students aren’t learning what they need to be successful. He points out that surveys show grades are up by a third for high school seniors in the last 15 years, while reading scores are down on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Not long ago, a Pinellas County teacher I like and respect was telling me about a student in his remedial reading class, a well-mannered 17-year-old who had failed ninth grade twice but came back for a third try. The kid was reading at an elementary-school level and not making progress. And yet, he was on the honor roll.
The teacher gave the kid a B for trying. He said he didn’t want to discourage him.
“It’s complicated, ” he said.
For many kids – especially poor and minority kids – the consequences of inaccurate grades are much more dire. Doesn’t it mean, ultimately, that they won’t get the help they need and deserve?
At many high schools in Florida, it’s not uncommon for two-thirds of all ninth- and 10th-graders to flunk the FCAT in reading. Remember: This is a basic skills test. And yet, only a small percentage of those students are flunked by their teachers. In other words, they can’t read on a high school level, yet they continue to pass their classes on a steady track to a high school diploma.
But it must be the FCAT that’s wrong, right?
Via Education Gadfly.
Matus mentions columns by Bill Maxwell, a fellow columnist who spent two years trying to start a journalism program at Stillman College, a “historically black” college in Alabama. In his first and second year, Maxwell found all but a few of his students had graduated from high school without basic reading and writing skills. With a few exceptions, they also lacked the work habits and motivation. Maxwell, who grew up in a migrant farmworker family, remembers how much he and his classmates at a small black college in Texas valued the chance to get an education. That culture is kept alive by a few Stillman students, he writes. But not many.