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AYP's Grade: Incomplete

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One thing is almost certain about NCLB's future: The way AYP is calculated will change. Most, including the chairman of the House's education committee, would use students' test-score growth as the key indicator.

In the new issue of Education Next, Harvard researcher Paul E. Peterson is the latest to outline ideas for a growth model. Under his plan, schools would be given letter grades, from 'A' through 'F,' based on the amount of progress their students are making toward the goal of universal proficiency by the end of 2013-14 school year. He compares the current "you made it or you didn't" AYP structure to "pass/fail" grades.

"I have learned from bitter experience that such a grading system both gives students license to do nothing and, ultimately, provides less information to those who rely on grades as a way of ascertaining whether students have learned something," writes Peterson, who is a professor of government at Harvard University.

Peterson also believes that NCLB should hold people (students, teachers, and administrators) accountable for results. Students should not be promoted to the next grade if they don't perform well on tests, he says. Teachers should be rewarded if their students perform well, given help if their students fail, and "dismissed if they remain consistently ineffective classroom teachers," he writes. Likewise, he adds, principals and superintendents should be held accountable for student test results in their schools and districts.

Peterson's ideas are at the crux of two of the most significant issues in NCLB reauthorization. How will the law track student progress: through a statewide test or multiple measures? And what constitutes a highly qualified teacher: someone with credentials or someone whose students perform well on tests?

P.S. Peterson's essay is part of package asking the question: Will NCLB Hit the Wall? You can read the articles here.

6 Comments

As a begin preparing to student teach this spring and I also have two grade school aged children. I think that relying just on scores from standardized test alone is a mistake. I would like the evaluation process be a two way street. I would like to see the student be allowed to covey what they have learned through a short essay along with the standardized test during the proficiency tests. I believe that it is important to evaluate the student, but as I have learned in my education classes multiple choice test is one of the most inaccurate test formats to measure what the student has learned. It is also important for the student to be able to relate to the teacher what he/she has learned during the unit being presented. A student needs to be given every opportunity to prove that they have learned something and every chance to be successful.

It seems to me that the most accurate form of student assessment is the student portfolio. It contains not only writing samples but also benchmark tests, midyear and final exams, reading inventories and multiple choice tests. The portfolio follows the student through the grades from kindergarten to twelfth. How you could work that into NCLB is unclear at the moment. However, if it is in a picture of the student's progress that we are truly interested, some study should give us a direction.

I find it interesting that Mr. Peterson leaves out parents from the accountability equation. If teachers, students, principals, districts, and states are held accountable, I think that a student's first and best teacher should be held accountable - the parent.

I have two children, and take the job of preparing them for school and life in general very seriously. If other parents don't send their children to school prepared, should the teacher be held accountable? I think a growth model is a great modification to the way that NCLB's AYP is calculated.

Thanks - jason.

The use of standardized test scores to measure "proficiency" has been shown to be a very poor indicator of achievement in study after study. While it is the simplest, and to some, most efficient means for obtaining performance data, all that is actually obtained is performance levels on the particular test given. Learning is not accurately measured, nor is school or teacher quality. Grading schools in any fashion is misleading. It is not the school, a building or complex of buildings, that is being measured. It is the teachers at the schools that are being graded. The teachers are not being graded on their own performance, but on the performance of their students. This is a topsey turvey, misguided and inaccurate means of creating the accountability that is desired.

I agree with Melissa that ALL students should have every opportunity to be successful. In the 11 years I have been teaching, I have yet to see real reform come from the federal level. It's wonderful that educators are becoming involved in analyzing this legislation and making recommendations, but Peterson's ideas seem like more of the same. Teachers are tired of working extremely hard and having their students' success measured by one single assessment. We are "held accountable" every day by every single one of the bodies that walks through our classroom door each morning. Basing rewards on whether or not a teacher's students do well on a standardized test makes no sense when students come to school at varying levels of preparedness from varied backgrounds. At my school, all of our students receive free lunch and about 70% are English language learners. These students make progress every year, just not enough to satisfy the government.

As pointed out by Jennifer, one major problem with the single standardized assessment is that it is an output only measure. There is no quality control, no measure of what goes in. There is no actual guarantee that the test will include the curricula taught at any given school.
No measure is made of where individual children start. It is similar to two people attempting to jump over a bar set at three feet. One jumps at level 0, while the other jumps out of a two foot hole. Both jump three feet, but only one clears the bar. The effort is the same, the achievement is the same. The measure of the achievement is flawed because it does not take into account the starting point.

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