F is a Georgia pass

Georgia’s high-stakes tests for third, fifth and eighth graders are aren’t really high stakes, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The law says students will be retained if they can’t pass the third-grade reading test and the fifth- and eighth-grade reading and math tests in two tries. But nearly all are passed anyhow, even if they flunk or the retest or don’t bother to take it.

State Superintendent Kathy Cox defended schools’ use of the appeal process, which allows promotion if the principal, parent and teacher agree. When she worked on the bill as a state representative, she said, she believed it would be used mainly to identify and help struggling students — not to retain large numbers of them.

She said retention “should be a last resort.”

“I don’t think that just holding a kid back and putting them back through the same content, the same grade … with in many cases the same set of teachers, is necessarily in the best interest of the child,” Cox said. “They don’t necessarily need to repeat the entire year.”

Why not design an alternative program — different teaching strategies, different teachers — for students who have fallen behind?

Some 38 percent of Georgia’s eighth graders failed the math test on their first try.

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  1. I’m distressed by the message school districts are sending by passing nearly every student who failed these tests.

    Most of us are aware there is a nontrivial subset of students who do not take standardized tests seriously. This mentality has been allowed to fester as most “high-stakes” testing exclusively affected the school and not the students. By finally having a set of statewide criterion-referenced tests that students were responsible for passing, this set of apathetic students needed to put forth effort for their own self-interest (in not attending summer school). Yet, ignoring the results tells these students once again that “bad tests hurt the schools but not you” once again.

    If you make a genuine attempt to set relevant and appropriate standards, at some point you have to enforce the results of testing those standards.

  2. I’m disturbed by how public school officials feel free to flout the law. Even if you think this policy is misguided, there is no chance for education reform if educators have remarkable latitude to decide which policies they will follow and which they will not.

    I have a post on this issue here: http://jaypgreene.com/2008/06/30/anti-social-promotion/