The expectations gap

Common Core Standards won’t mean much if some states ask students to learn 30 percent of the material while others demand 80 percent mastery, writes Sarah Garland on HechingerEd. The expectations gap is huge, twice the size of the achievement gap between white and black students, reports an American Institutes for Research study.

Tennessee’s eighth-graders are expected to perform at the level of Massachusetts’ fourth-graders.

Using a common performance standard,  the 2007 state results for No Child Left Behind accountability look very different, the report found.

For example, in Grade 8 mathematics, Tennessee dropped from 88 percent proficient to 21 percent, and Massachusetts went from being one of the lowest performing states to the highest achieving state in the nation. (Note: Since 2007, Tennessee has substantially raised its performance standards)

Another example shows Alabama reporting 78 percent of its fourth graders proficient in math in 2007, but on an internationally-benchmarked common performance standard, just 26 percent were proficient.

AIR recommends using national and international benchmarks to calibrate how high the state performance standard should be.

Are American students learning?

How Well Are American Students Learning?, the Brown Center report, criticizes proposals to model a national U.S. exam on Europe’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Some PISA questions are ideologically biased, the report argues.

PISA wants to assess whether students are capable of applying science to public policy. Fair enough. That capacity can be evaluated, however, without making a judgment about students’ political beliefs. PISA asks students whether they support several environmental policies and then creates an index of “responsibility for sustainable development” from the responses. Responses in favor of the policies are responsible; those opposed are not. That kind of questioning is inappropriate on a science assessment. Without serious reform, PISA is inappropriate for benchmarking.

The report also argues against requiring all eighth graders to take algebra, as California and Minnesota plan to do.  Too many students already are “misplaced” in math courses they can’t handle, the report concludes:  Until they’ve learned to deal with fractions, decimals or percentages, they can’t do algebra.

Via Education Gadfly.