Thursday, May 8, 2014

Did We Fail Again?

Last night, one of the main segments on CBS Evening News was "Nation's High School Seniors Lagging in Reading/Math." The online article states, "America's high school seniors got a report card Wednesday that no parent wants to see. The Department of Education found, nationwide, only 26 percent are proficient in math and 38 percent are proficient in reading." 

This data is from the Nation's Report Card which informs us every four years about the academic achievement (or lack of achievement) of 12th grade students in the US. The information, supplied by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is from the 2013 seniors in several states. 

Once again, my teacher ego took a plunge, thinking that this is just one more time teachers will be blamed for poor test scores. On closer inspection, however, I found that the percentages reported, although not great, were relatively unchanged from 2009. So we aren’t worse, but we aren’t better either. It's like settling for a C average.

I have a hate/hate relationship with standardized tests. I hate taking them, and I hate giving them. In my opinion, these tests are the least expensive way to find out who fits in the "normal" category or who is best at taking tests. My complaints about these tests are many, but I'm sure you have heard them: they don't test the whole child, they don't account for outside factors, they force teachers to teach the test, and on and on. 

I'm not going to rant about standardized testing; it won't do any good. Those-who-know-more-than-I have ruled that these tests are the best way to measure whatever those-who-know-more-than-I are looking for.

I remember during one faculty meeting, the teachers were given sample questions from the state assessment test. I took one look at the math questions and knew I was doomed -- all those letters and numbers mixed up with math symbols. I teach English because I can't do math. However, the reading test was just as difficult to me. The reading passages were from a science textbook about some topic I didn't care to learn. Several questions called for the best answer to a question. Isn't the best answer the right answer? Why didn't they simply say the right answer? Is my best answer your best answer? My anxiety level was sky high. If I felt this way for a pretend test, I could only imagine what 17-year-old kids must think.

You can see how well you can do on these practice items on the NAEP test: 
Practice Math and Reading Test Questions

Please let me know your results -- advanced, proficient, or basic.

Tomorrow the state assessment scores for re-takers (that's juniors and seniors who have failed it before) will be divulged. I have a couple of these seniors who are hoping to graduate in three weeks. I received an email giving suggested ways to handle this delicate situation for those who fail. 

I wish that one of those-who-know-more-than-I could be in my classroom tomorrow to witness the reactions of these kids I care about. I hope there are no tears.