Saying Rhode Island’s graduation exam is unfair, the Providence Students Union persuaded 50 professionals to take a condensed version of the math portion on “take the test” day. Sixty percent scored “substantially below proficient,” which would put them at risk of not graduating from high school if they weren’t already college graduates. Eight percent scored “proficient with distinction, 14 percent were “proficient” and 18 percent were “partially proficient.”
Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core Standards and the first to align its state test to the new standards. Not surprisingly, scores are way down on the new core-aligned tests, reports Ed Week.
The share of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given.
“What you’re seeing in Kentucky is a predictor of what you’re going to see in the other states, as the assessments roll out next year and the year after,” said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Scores typically drop when any new test is introduced. Kentucky’s K-PREP is more rigorous than its predecessor.
Most Common Core Standards states are expected to use tests being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Japanese researchers are working on a robot that could ace university entrance exams, reports AFP. By 2021, the robot would be ready to tackle Tokyo University’s “notoriously tough exam,” hopes Hidenao Iwane from Fujitsu Laboratories.
The ultimate goal is to develop technology that would “enable anyone to easily use sophisticated mathematical analysis tools,” Fujitsu said.
If the robot passes the test — just leave it to HAL — does that mean the humans don’t have to?
New York’s eighth-grade writing exam is A Test You Need to Fail, writes teacher Ruth Ann Dandrea at Rethinking Schools. The exam, which is meant to predict who’ll pass the Regents exam in 11th grade, gives full credit only to students who cite two facts from the reading material in each answer, she complains.
In your constructed response—no matter how well written, correct, intelligent, noble, beautiful, and meaningful it is—if you’ve not collected any specific facts from the provided readings (even if you happen to know more information about the chosen topic than the readings provide), then you will get a zero.
Don’t go for a good score, Dandrea advises students.
I applaud you, sample writer: When asked the either/or question, you began your response, “Honestly, I think it is both.” You were right, and you were brave, and the test you were taking was neither. And I applaud you, wildest 8th grader of my own, who—when asked how a quote applied to the two characters from the two passages provided—wrote, “I don’t think it applies to either one of them.” Wear your zeroes proudly, kids. This is a test you need to fail.
It’s possible to argue for “both” or “neither,” citing facts from the reading and beyond to support that opinion. If her students are good writers, as she believes, it should be easy. Yet Dandrea thinks the exam is not just too narrow. She calls it “criminal.”
As an aside, Dandrea also mentions she gives students 10 minutes in every class period to read books of their own choosing. Is this a good use of class time?
Failure is almost guaranteed for four- and five-year-olds who take California’s test to identify “English Learners,” I write on Pajamas Media. Only 12 percent of entering kindergartners who take the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) are deemed fluent in English, even though 85 percent were born in the U.S., concludes a new study by Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. Outside of Los Angeles, the CELDT pass rate is 6 percent.
One in three California elementary students is classified as an English Learner. That’s because schools are misidentifying large numbers of children, conclude Berkeley Education Professor Lisa García Bedolla and researcher Rosaisela Rodriguez. As a result, teaching and tutoring resources are spread thin: Some kids are taught skills they already know, while others don’t get enough help.
It all starts with the home language survey, which asks about the child’s first language, the language he or she speaks most often at home, the languages the adults speak at home, and what language the parents speak most often with their child.
If Mom mentions a language other than English — or in addition to English — the child will be given the nearly unpassable CELDT, the researchers find.
Maybe Grandma lives with the family and speaks Spanish? A five-year-old will be given a two-hour test which requires him to talk to a stranger with no parent in the room.
Children that young can’t handle a two-hour test, the researchers say. Observers report children crying and hiding under chairs or tables. CELDT, which keeps getting longer, has added reading and writing questions for children who haven’t started kindergarten.
Schools get more money for English Learners, which provides an incentive to identify as many children as possible and keep them in the program, even when they test as proficient on CELDT. Few children are in bilingual classes these days, but some schools hire aides who provide help in children’s native language — or what’s supposed to be their native language. Many are pulled out of class for instruction in basic English.
Grading AP Comparative Government tests is educational, writes Coach Brown, who graded with “awesome” colleagues. Every AP teacher should know how readers analyze answers, he suggests.
Some AP test takers don’t even try: They wrote that they weren’t prepared and already had been admitted to college. Quite a few wrote that they’d been required to take the test.
Experienced graders say that every year the students who aren’t trying seem to gravitate to a theme. This year, it was “swag,” referring to confidence and demeanor.
Some people wrote about how President Putin had major swag while Prime Minister Cameron had little swag. Others wrote how their life was full of swag, from chillin with homies to getting the ladies and playing hoop. Still others would actually write rap lyrics dedicated to swag.
But the ultimate was when one reader suddenly stated “Look! It’s a complete treatise on swag!” Sure enough, a student had taken the time to write what could be considered the definitive Wikipedia post on swag. It really had us rolling with laughter.
I ran across a different definition of swag when I volunteered as a copy editor for Mosaic, a high school student journalism workshop at San Jose State. A story on fixed-gear bicycling – a hip trend I’d never heard of — reported that cool “fixies” score free promotional products or “swag.” Copy editing can be educational too. The Urban Dictionary accepts both definitions.
Illinois won’t test high school juniors’ writing skills, reports the Chicago Tribune. The change will save about $2.4 million. The writing assessments for elementary and middle school students were dropped last year.
Oregon lawmakers last month suspended the writing test for fourth- and seventh-graders, but retained the high school assessment. “Proficient” writing will be a high school graduation requirement by 2013.
In a cost-cutting effort last fall, Missouri education officials eliminated for at least two years the detailed, written response questions that had been hand-graded in science and math. Writing prompts in language arts also were suspended. Students still write some short answers as part of state testing.
It will be a shame if schools spend less time on writing because it’s not going to be on the test, leaving students unprepared to communicate clearly in college or on the job.
After years of rising test scores, New York education leaders concluded the state has been defining proficiency down. It takes a higher score this year for a student to qualify as proficient, which equates to doing grade-level work. This year’s lower pass rates have been a shock to schools, reports the New York Times.
In New York City, the proficiency rate in English fell from 69 percent to 42 percent; math proficiency fell from 82 percent to 54 percent. Principals have been earning bonuses for raising scores; teacher evaluations are based partially on test scores. To adjust for the sharp drop in scores, schools will be graded on a curve this year, with 25 percent to receive A’s, 35 percent B’s, 25 percent C’s, 10 percent D’s and 5 percent F’s.
At some schools, the drop was breathtaking. At Public School 85 in the Bronx, known as the Great Expectations School, there was a literal reversal in fortune, with proficiency on the third-grade math test flipping from 81 percent to 18 percent. At the main campus of the Harlem Promise Academy, one of the city’s top-ranked, proficiency in third-grade math dropped from 100 percent to 56 percent.
. . . The charter school run by the local teachers’ union, the UFT Charter School, showed one of the most severe declines, to 13 percent of eighth graders proficient in math, from 79 percent.
The racial achievement gap widened as many black and Hispanic students, just passing under the old system, now fall below proficient.
Many more third through eighth graders will have to attend summer school in 2011 to be promoted to the next grade.
In schools where children were scoring well above grade level, though, the passing rate did not change much. At Public School 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for example, last year’s 100 percent on the third-grade math test inched down to 99 percent, and the fourth-grade English passing rate slipped to 96 percent, from 99 percent.
Students answered about the same number of questions correctly this year, but the score required for a passing grade went up.
Top-ranked P.S. 155 will try harder, the principal, Linda Singer, told the Times. “We are ordering a grammar book ASAP; that was a weakness,” she added. “We are going to push in professional development for teaching that is different for each child.”
In short, the bad news could be good news for students who aren’t working at grade level but could be.
Illinois high schools have found a way to look good on the Prairie State exam given to juniors, reports Education Week. Juniors who are behind on credits are defined as sophomores. That means the low achievers don’t take the test. But most move on the next year to 12th grade, where their test scores aren’t counted for federal or state accountability purposes.
Rich East High School has seen state test scores for its 11th-graders improve by a stunning 37 percent during the last two years — a gain so impressive that regional education officials asked the Park Forest school to host a seminar to help others emulate its success.
There’s only one problem: Rich East did not give the Prairie State Achievement Exam to about 40 percent of its juniors last school year. And it excluded the ones furthest behind academically.
A Chicago Tribune analysis found that 20 percent of Illinois sophomores weren’t counted as juniors the following year and didn’t take the Prairie State Exam, which includes ACT questions.