Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where's the Middle Ground and Outrage?

Do you ever get the feeling that we're missing the middle ground when we have educational debates? I do sometimes. It seems like two camps stake out diametrically opposed positions and miss the fact that there's probably a significant amount of common ground in between.

Take promotional requirements for example. In Memphis, the city schools have banned flunking (and then retaining) students in pre-kindergarten through third grade. (If you really read the article it's not quite as touchy feely as it sounds.) Then, in New York City, the Mayor (with his recently renewed control of the schools) is looking to end - unspeak alert! - social promotion in fourth and sixth grade.

It seems like there should be a middle ground here between never retaining a child and always retaining children if they don't meet standardized test score cut offs. What about looking at each child on a case by case basis and determining what's best for that child? Sometimes it may be retention. Other times it may be promotion with heavy interventions and extra help. This all or nothing, black and white stuff just wears a little thin.

Of course, if a child can't pass the standardized tests in New York, maybe they do deserve to be retained. As reported by Gotham Schools last week, the scoring of the ELA test is done in such a way that a student who knew nothing and guessed randomly would likely (57%) pass the test with a level two.

Have I mentioned before that "accountability" definitely falls into that unspeak buzzword bin?

Let's just stop a moment and consider this information, though, because I think it's really stunning. We're basing a whole system - promotional criteria, curriculum, data systems, school report cards, mayoral campaigns, etc - around test scores that are supposed to measure what students know and how much they're learning. But the tests may be beaten by a student who randomly guesses all their answers! I know I've been out of town for the last two weeks, so maybe I missed it, but shouldn't there be outrage about this?

Oy. It's good to be back.

No comments: