Alternatives to Virginia’s state exam, such as assessing portfolios of students’ work, are proliferating, reports the Washington Post. The pass rate is soaring. Are the alternative assessments too easy?
The Virginia Grade Level Alternative, like the multiple-choice test, assesses students’ understanding of the state academic standards. Teachers document learning throughout the year in a binder of class work, including worksheets, quizzes and writing samples. Some special education students and non-native speakers in early stages of learning English are eligible for the portfolio, but final decisions are made by committees of educators and often parents.
Lynbrook Elementary was a low-performing school when all students took Virginia’s challenging Standards of Learning exam. No more.
Since 2007, Lynbrook’s reading passing rate for students learning English shot from 52 to 94 percent. Among special education students, the rate went from 34 to 100 percent. At the same time, the number of portfolios increased from a handful to more than 100, including nearly half of the English learners and 78 percent of students with disabilities. All passed. The school had more than 460 students last year.
In Fairfax County last year, “students tested with portfolios outperformed classmates who took multiple-choice tests.” In more than a dozen schools, students with disabilities outscored non-disabled students. Students with poor English fluency outscored native-language speakers in reading.
Last year, 100 percent of the portfolios at Weyanoke received passing scores. That does not mean the students who took them are the school’s top performers, (teacher Candy) Kwiecinski said; it means they all learned the curriculum.
Apparently, the weaker students learned more than the strong students. So much for accountability.