ONTD Political

Virginia to Have Low Expectations for Minority Students :-/

2:43 pm - 08/26/2012
Virginia New Achievement Standards Based On Race And Background



Virginia's new achievement standards have raised eyebrows.

Part of the state's new standards dictate a specific percentage of racial group that should pass school exams, a move that has angered the Virginia Black Caucus. The caucus' chairwoman, Democratic state Sen. Mamie Locke, says the new standards marginalize students by creating different goals for students of various backgrounds.

"Nothing is going to work for me if there is a differentiation being established for different groups of students," Locke told the Daily Press. "Whether that's race, socio-economic status or intellectual ability. If there is a differentiation, I have a problem with it."

Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash disagrees with Virginia Black Caucus' assertions.

"Please be assured that the McDonnell administration does not hold a student of a particular race or income level, or those of any other subgroup, to a different standard," Fornash wrote in a three-page letter explaining the changed standards.

The standards do not pose different pass rates for different groups: regardless of race, each student has to correctly answer the same number of test questions in order to pass. The difference lies in the expectation of passing from groups of different backgrounds. The new rules were designed as part of Virginia's waiver from No Child Left Behind, along with 31 other states and Washington, D.C.

For instance, only 45 percent of black students are required to pass the math state test while 82 percent for Asian Americans, 68 percent for whites and 52 percent for Hispanics are required to pass. In reading, 92 percent of Asian students, 90 percent of white students, 80 percent of hispanic students, 76 percent of black students, and 59 percent of students with disabilities are required to pass the state exam.

The state says these percentages are based on previous pass rates for the various groups, but many school officials aren't satisfied, saying that if the state expects less performance from a particular group of students, they will lose the motivation to perform better.

Educator Carolyn J. Smith told Pilot Online that the focus should be on boosting performance in underperforming racial groups rather than expecting less.

"The ones in the lower grades, if they don't feel like they can do math, they'll give up," Smith told Virginian-Pilot columnist Roger Chelsey, "And some parents say, 'I can't do math, either.'"

This belief then becomes a legacy, according to Smith, a cycle that one has to break as early as the child's first year in school.

The issue of black and Hispanic students underperforming their Asian and white counterparts might have more to do with segregation and expectations than ability.

According to author and presidential professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Jeannie Oakes eliminating traditional tracking methods that measure performance based on race is particularly important to guaranteeing equal success among different races.

“Once we put students in groups, we give them very different opportunities to learn -- with strong patterns of inequality across teachers, experience, and competence," Oakes says. "There was this pervasive view that Latino and African American kids can’t measure up in a way that more affluent or white kids can and we can’t do anything about it.”

If the standards are set this way, students as well as teachers begin believing and fulfilling the prophesy, according to author andfreelance writer Julie Halpert.

"...With little motive to succeed academically, the children didn’t get high grades or score well on standardized tests," Halpert says. "In other words, they performed exactly as the teachers predicted, in response to the climate of low expectations."

Instead, many educators believe "detracking" or "heterogeneous or mixed-ability grouping" ensures success across racial lines. Though the practice of detracking is still contested, some educators believe lowering expectations should simply not be an option.

Mary T. Christian, a career educator and member of the Hampton NAACP's education committee, said she's shocked at the low pass rates for some groups.

"Lower expectations are detrimental to students' growth," said Mary Christian, career educator as well as former state legislator. When you lower expectations, there is no challenge. Students and teachers will do the minimum."

The Source seems to have a video that has been region-blocked, so I didn't watch it.
thenakedcat 26th-Aug-2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
....The fuck did I just read.

WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ.

I can understand giving a FAIL to a school that passes as a whole but has its poor scores concentrated among minority students, because that could indicate systematic neglect of their needs. BUT SAYING THAT IT'S OKAY IF LESS THAN HALF THE BLACK STUDENTS CAN DO MATH AT GRADE LEVEL BECAUSE THAT'S HOW IT'S ALWAYS BEEN? FUCK YOURSELVES WITH A PINECONE, VIRGINIA BOARD OF ED.
layweed 26th-Aug-2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
IKR? Setting low expectations and goals as a student is bad enough, but for legislators (or educators) to do this for an entire state education system? WTF????? Lowering standards as opposed to raising/improving the quality of education might be easier but it sure as hell doesn't solve the problem.
thenakedcat 27th-Aug-2012 12:12 am (UTC)
This isn't even, like, telling schools with existing achievement gaps that they have to show SOME kind of progress towards closing that each year. It's defining AN ACCEPTABLE ACHIEVEMENT GAP. Sweet mother of WTF....
tiddlywinks103 27th-Aug-2012 12:50 am (UTC)
SO. RACIST.
pleasure_past 27th-Aug-2012 12:59 am (UTC)
Ugh. This is such bullshit. Study after study after study has shown that kids will perform to expectations. If you expect only 45% of Black kids to pass this test, only 45% of Black kids are going to pass this test. Because, you know, it's hard to find the motivation to even try when everyone from your teacher to your goddamn government is saying that you can't do it anyway.

Incidentally, how the fuck does this work for kids with a mixed racial background? Are kids that are half-Black and half-Asian expected to pass the math test 45%, 82%, or 63% of the time? Or is refusing to believe that mixed-race people exist just another fail here?
etherealtsuki 27th-Aug-2012 02:06 am (UTC)
Incidentally, how the fuck does this work for kids with a mixed racial background? Are kids that are half-Black and half-Asian expected to pass the math test 45%, 82%, or 63% of the time? Or is refusing to believe that mixed-race people exist just another fail here?

No, they will based it on how they look really.

A lot of biracial or multiracial kids with Black ancestry and look Black will tell you that they will be treated no differently than a Black person who have no or distant multiracial ties. Look at Obama or even Tiger Woods. Both have multiracial background but never treated anything other than a Black man (and why Obama refers himself as a Black man because a vast majority will never acknowledge he is biracial.)

It's sad, but that's the truth.
pleasure_past 27th-Aug-2012 02:51 am (UTC)
There also seems to be an effect at play where how "Black" a mixed-race person is depends on how much we like them at the moment. When Obama first got elected racists seemed to be shouting "HALF WHITE HALF WHITE HALF WHITE DON'T CALL HIM THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT" from the rooftops, but now he's a Black man who doesn't "understand our Anglo-Saxon heritage." Wanda Sykes (I believe it was her, though I can't find it now and I might be wrong) did a skit once on how the more tournaments Tiger Woods won, the smaller the percent of Black he was got and the more it got played down, and then as soon as was back in the spot-light in a negative way, he was just "Black." It says a lot about how fucking racist our society is.

Kids usually self-identify on these tests, though (or at least we definitely did in Colorado in 2008 when I took my last CSAP) so I'm thinking one of two things will happen:

1. There won't be a box for "mixed" and if they check more than one box it will invalidate their test. This is sadly a common problem.

or

2. Kids will be allowed to check more than one box, but what they're actually counted as for the purposes will of this test will be determined by whether they pass or fail.

Both of these possibilities are incredibly fucked up.

Edited at 2012-08-27 03:40 am (UTC)
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
Now that I slept on it, I thought of another example of different treatment between multiracial people. A common complain of African American women is that the celebrities that get upheld as the standard for the African American woman are multi-racials actresses, like Halle Barry, Mariah Carey, etc. So while they do tend to get lumped in as the "black" celebrities, the complaint is that it is their features, which are atypical for a lot of the black female population in the US without significant mixed ancestry, is what allows them to be successful. I personally agree with this complaint; it's ridiculous to epitomize people as paragons of a group when most members of that group are actually quite different from them.


My thought though is that it really isn't looks that make people who are multiracial different from racial group A or B. I think their greatest advantage is the mindset and values that they're likely to adopt from growing up with two or more cultural influences in the household. This makes it easier for them to wield those intangible advantages that allow people to work easily with different groups of people. One observation I've had is that while people from mono-racial backgrounds seem to naturally gravitate towards people who are from similar backgrounds, most people from multiracial backgrounds are very good at easily striking up friendships with people from different backgrounds which expands their social capital.


As for the standardized test stuff, which is a different issue, I recall hearing that if you don't have someone check boxes that include their sex or other identifying information that reminds them they're not supposed to do well on a test, they'll actually perform better. It's an interesting thought. The CSAPs were implemented exactly one class behind me, so I was in the last class that graduated without ever having to take the CSAPs. :-/
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 06:06 am (UTC)
I think it depends on the person. The city I live in has a mixed race population that is higher than the national average, and I can't really peg the race on many people with multiracial backgrounds. Many of my bi-racial friends also note that it's more common for people to not have a clue what race they are or to just completely get it wrong than to automatically assume that they're one thing or the other.

But I guess that how different racial groups are perceived depends on the location one lives in. The thing with Obama/Tiger Woods is that they're celebrities, so everyone on the planet knows who their parents are when they're categorizing those two.
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
Hey, I thought that I'd also throw in this news story. It basically reports a study that suggests that mixed race people tend to be more successful:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/8618606.stm

So if you know any multiracial kids who are feeling bad about their experiences (I'm assuming that's where you've obtained your views), you should pass this along to cheer them up. :-)
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 01:06 am (UTC)
This story is interesting and gave me a lot to think about. I think that this is just another real consequence of standardized testing. These schools don't have the ability to address racial disparities in performance because a great deal of the problem starts out at home. If you're holding a school accountable for problems they can't fix, they probably are going to get desperate and pull stunts like this.

This is a blatant case where a desperate district is lowering standards to accommodate for racial disparities. But it happens on a subtle level across the country. One recent example would be the rampant cheating in Atlanta. In my own states, school administrators were caught fudging with the scores of inner-city schools. They're pretty much sending the same message that they don't have what it takes to improve the performance of minority students at the level that is expected.

Given the political climate in this country and the fiscal realities faced by most school districts, I don't really see any good fixes for the gaps in achievement. The only solution I have when it comes to public school is to send your kids to private school so they don't go down with the ship. :-/

amyura 27th-Aug-2012 01:42 am (UTC)
If you're holding a school accountable for problems they can't fix, they probably are going to get desperate and pull stunts like this.

The SCHOOLS are NOT the ones pulling this stunt. It's the state government. The state board of education is not a school, it's part of the state government. The schools generally have to do what the state board of ed tells them.
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
What do you think motivates the board of education to play around with test scores in this manner? I assume that it must be under some sort of unrealistic pressure for performance that it can't live up to. Do you think that's the case?
amyura 27th-Aug-2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
I think it's racism.

What pressures a state board of education are subject to are fairly well-documented and generally limited to the threat of decreased federal funding. State boards are almost universally (as far as I know, completely universally) appointed rather than elected, and while there's a perpetual political pressure for governors to "do something" about the schools, it never extends to election day.

Federal education laws can be found in these basic groups:

1) The Education Amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, passed in 1972. Most people have passing familiarity with some of these, because they include Title I, Title IV, and Title IX. These are so old and so much a part of educational culture that at this point public K-12 schools easily meet these standards.

2) The IDEA, which governs education for students with disabilities at the federal level. Education for students with learning disabilities is handled predominantly, though not exclusively, through state laws which govern the writing and execution of IEPs and record-keeping, but the federal government has a law called 504, which provides accommodation plans for students with intellectual and medical disabilities.

3) No Child Left Behind, the big law to come out of the Bush administration. This has been wildly unpopular and taken most of the blame for the current emphasis on teaching to the test that is rampant in public schools nationwide. It requires each state, on an individual basis, to develop and implement standardized testing in English/Reading and Mathematics annually in grades 3-8 and at least once in each subject in high school. Schools must show improvement in passing rates annually, with the original idea being to have 100% of students nationwide passing these tests by, I think 2013. Additionally, schools need to break up their statistics by student demographics, including racial background, English language fluency, gender, special education status, and qualification for free or reduced lunch; each sub-group ALSO has to show steady progress. Consequences for non-compliance and not meeting goals include loss of all federal funding; states that don't punish schools not meeting their goals also risk losing funding. Additionally, schools that fail to show "adequate yearly progress" two years in a row are required to send letters home to all families and allow students to transfer to another school within the district, which is a bit hollow considering many smaller districts have only one school for a particular grade level.

4) Race to the Top, not a law but a grant program that basically bribes states into passing laws that Obama couldn't get passed at the federal level. Individual states compete for funds provided they make changes in their education laws. The perks include getting a waiver from the NCLB requirements and getting up to $250 million in additional funding. IME, this initiative is basically shit, because ALL of the $250 million has to go into developing new curriculum and training in order to meet the requirements.

Personally, I think this can be traced partially to the subgrouping in NCLB. That was initially passed to keep schools from "hiding" groups that weren't doing as well behind their overall numbers. I think it can also be traced to the alternative means of showing improvement in Race to the Top.

But ultimately, it's racist. It's racist because it sets a benchmark that can be met and then the school board can sit on their asses and congratulate themselves on their schools having met the racist goals they set. If the government sets a lower target for Black and Latino students, and then the students meet that target, where's the official motivation and support for schools to do more for those students?
etherealtsuki 27th-Aug-2012 02:12 am (UTC)
The only solution I have when it comes to public school is to send your kids to private school so they don't go down with the ship. :-/

This what happened to me and my sister. We lived in one of the worst school districts (of not the worst) in NYC. My mother did everything she can (even asking my aunt to help pay for our private schooling in the beginning when she couldn't afford it on her own then again when we went to Catholic schools) to put us in private schools because the public schools were so shit. And it even got worse since I left for colleges. The NY Regents dropped their passing score from a 65 to a 55 and made the tests EASIER in the span of 10-11 years because kids from inadequate schools kept failing the tests...

Now where I live, when I first moved back in 2000, there were three public high schools within walking distance/short bus ride from my house. Now in 2012? All of them were shut down by Bloomberg :/....

Edited for grammar and addition of a couple of sentences

Edited at 2012-08-27 02:14 am (UTC)
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 02:29 am (UTC)
That sounds similar to the arrangement that my father's family has. My dad grew up in Philadelphia, and went to a private Catholic schools on scholarship. All of my family members on my dad's side of the family who live in Philadelphia go to private school because the public schools in Philadelphia are generally a wreck.

I've been out of the K-12 system for 10 years, but I remember that while I was attending, everyone complained about how horrible public schools were. It seems that beyond small-scale reforms, like the addition of a magnet program here and there for the gifted kids, things have actually gotten worse in my state. And if the main solution is funding, which it doesn't seem districts are going to get at the level they need, then I have no idea how things will improve anytime soon. :-/
flcadam 27th-Aug-2012 02:30 am (UTC)
That sounds similar to the arrangement that my father's family has. My dad grew up in Philadelphia, and went to a private Catholic schools on scholarship. All of my family members on my dad's side of the family who live in Philadelphia go to private school because the public schools in Philadelphia are generally a wreck.

I've been out of the K-12 system for 10 years, but I remember that while I was attending, everyone complained about how horrible public schools were. It seems that beyond small-scale reforms, like the addition of a magnet program here and there for the gifted kids, things have actually gotten worse in my state. And if the main solution is funding, which it doesn't seem districts are going to get at the level they need, then I have no idea how things will improve anytime soon. :-/
85redberries 27th-Aug-2012 07:07 am (UTC)
These schools don't have the ability to address racial disparities in performance because a great deal of the problem starts out at home.

Cite your source. Are you from a black household? I see the education problem as a problem the government and schools have to shoulder a lot of blame for. Kids are sent to school for 6 hours for 5 days a week and do not learn and yet it's mostly the fault of black households? K.


The only solution I have when it comes to public school is to send your kids to private school so they don't go down with the ship.

That's nice but that costs a lot of money that people don't have.

Edited at 2012-08-27 07:08 am (UTC)
keeni84 27th-Aug-2012 11:48 am (UTC)
These schools don't have the ability to address racial disparities in performance because a great deal of the problem starts out at home.



What do you mean?
ellenel13 27th-Aug-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
Something dumb
amyura 27th-Aug-2012 01:43 am (UTC)
OMG this is disgusting. Fucking disgusting. That's all I've got right now.
missingalphabet 27th-Aug-2012 02:00 am (UTC)
...how is this even legal? I mean, just, what?

My sister is still in school in Virginia and she has to go through this disaster of SOL (Virgnia's name for their standardized test) mess every year. I absolutely hate the school she is in now, although the school system is in her area has gotten so bad (they're closing two schools due to budget mismanagement), I don't think she'd be better off in one of the other two middle schools.

None of her classes have textbooks. None of them. The teachers have handouts and notes tailored specifically to the SOL. It makes it difficult for my parents to help her with her homework because if she misses something while she's taking her notes, they don't have a textbook to look in to supplement what she missed. It's even worse for math, because let's face it, as parents get older they forget the details when it comes to math. Lowest common denominators, reciprocals, scientific notation, etc, they forget. Since she has no math textbook, they don't have anything to read to refresh their memory and try to teach her what she didn't pick up in class, so they end up calling me (not that I mind, but teaching math over the phone is not ideal).

I can't fault her for missing things in class because the teachers have targets for what they must cover by a certain date. They don't teach for understanding, they teach to put a checkmark saying they covered it. I can't necessarily blame them that much for it, since two weeks before the SOLs, rather than reviewing what's going to be on the tests, she's still having new material crammed down her throat everyday for things that are going to be on the SOL.

Further, by lowering the number required to pass for black and latino students, all it does is give schools more incentive to track white and asian students into academically gifted programs and give up on the other students, leaving them in overcrowded and poorly taught classrooms while they rely on the scores of the students in the gifted programs to maintain the school's accreditation rating.

Edited at 2012-08-27 02:05 am (UTC)
zinnia_rose 27th-Aug-2012 02:03 am (UTC)
What the everloving FUCK. This is NOT the way to go about closing the achievement gap, for god's sakes.
ajremix 27th-Aug-2012 02:09 am (UTC)
Holy fucking Model Minority bullshit, Batman!

82% passing for math and 92% passing for reading just for Asians? That's not going to give those kids a fucking complex if they don't do well in one or both subjects. Can you imagine the pressure teachers worried about their precious percentiles would be putting on them? On top of those that get it from their parents?

I'm so glad I no longer have family going to school in Virginia, especially my cousin with the distant father that got overbearing about dumb shit like this.
pleasure_past 27th-Aug-2012 03:48 am (UTC)
God help you if you're one of eleven or fewer Asian kids in your school. "The entire school will be held accountable if even one of you underpreforms on this reading test! But, you know, try not to stress yourselves out over it..."
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 02:22 am (UTC)
No Child Left Behind was such a terrible failure of a program.
pleasure_past 27th-Aug-2012 03:50 am (UTC)
Why do we still have it? Like, are there actually people out there who are willfully ignorant enough to think even that it's not doing any harm, let alone that it's actually working?
pepsquad 27th-Aug-2012 05:02 am (UTC)
the problem now is the waivers being given out to states who cannot meet the long term AYP goals. those are a cluster fuck in what they allow the government to just walk in and do.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
like, I definitely think that education needs to be standardized, and I'm in favour of yearly standardized testing, but I don't think funding should be contingent on results. And I think there needs to be more input from educators on reform. And a lot more funding for innovative programs for the lowest performing schools.

Cutting funding to schools based on how students perform is stupid and unfair and counter-productive. But I am in favour of teachers needing to pass a test every few years in their subject area to keep their job, because I had some math teachers in public school who legit couldn't do math.
one_hoopy_frood 27th-Aug-2012 05:18 am (UTC)
And Race to the Top seems just as bad or worse. Sososo disappointed in President Obama for that.
amyura 27th-Aug-2012 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yes to all of this. It does allow waivers for the AYP, but it increases the amount of curriculum writing, standardized testing, and documentation.

Half my job is now devoted to paperwork. HALF. And I'm a regular classroom teacher, not an administrator. I have to document every last thing I do, and this year, with zero PD time, I had to make a day-by-day "pacing guide" of how I would be teaching the new curriculum standards. God help me and my students if they need a little extra time to master one of the concepts.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
like, I definitely think that education needs to be standardized, and I'm in favour of yearly standardized testing, but I don't think funding should be contingent on results. And I think there needs to be more input from educators on reform. And a lot more funding for innovative programs for the lowest performing schools.

Cutting funding to schools based on how students perform is stupid and unfair and counter-productive. But I am in favour of teachers needing to pass a test every few years in their subject area to keep their job, because I had some math teachers in public school who legit couldn't do math.
amyura 27th-Aug-2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
FYI, in most states in the US, teachers already have to pass licensing exams in their subject areas, and/or have a bachelor's degree or higher in that subject. In my state, you can't teach more than five years without at least twelve graduate credits in your subject area (that is, not just the fluff education grad courses, but actual content).

Get their license, sure, but KEEP their job, every few years? I got a perfect score on my licensing exam-- pretty ironclad proof I can do math. And I've been teaching calculus for eight years. I don't just stop knowing how to do calculus one day. Frequent retesting would be a huge waste of time and money. About the only subject that'd be appropriate is technology/computer science.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
Ah, okay, things are different where I live (Canada). You don't have to have a bachelor's in the subject that you teach. I went to a party once where a bunch of teachers were talking about how they hope they don't get assigned to teach math because they hate math and can't do even do basic algebra. My heart wept for their poor students. :(

It's the same thing with foreign languages. I know teachers who have been assigned to teach french who only know the french that they were taught in high school, and definitely don't even know enough to be able to speak it with their students.

I don't think re-testing needs to be frequent in all subjects, but I do think there should be some kind of continuing education or re-licensing. Obviously the schedule would be different based on the subject. I think in foreign languages it should be more frequent (every year), because people forget languages if they're not practising it. Computer science and biology (and other fields that are rapidly changing) should also be more frequent. English and math could be less frequent (maybe every 5 or 10 years).

Now, I think they should implement such testing on a small scale first (only a few districts) and see if it actually makes a difference. If they see that all the teachers pass with flying colours and it's a huge waste of money, then obviously they should cancel the testing and just forget about it altogether. They should only implement it on a wide scale if they see that a significant number of teachers are actually failing the tests. Or only keep it for certain subjects or grade levels (like foreign languages, for example, or only for high school grade levels). I think all reforms should be tested on a small scale first for validation, and only rolled out on a wider-scale if the evidence says that it makes sense.

But I think teacher licensing/testing is only a tiny, tiny part of the solution to the education mess. The main reforms I would like to see:

- federal curriculum standards
- aggressively recruiting the best teachers to the lowest performing schools through incentives (high salaries and amazing benefits)
- expanding after-school and weekend programs at inner-city schools and eliminating drug-testing and grade requirements to participate
- implementing a program whereby education researchers and teachers can compete for big government grants to move to low performing schools and implement innovative teaching strategies and programs
- awarding kids from disadvantaged neighbourhoods university scholarships for improvements in their standardized testing scores.

One strategy I thought of, but I'm not sure if it would work:
We all know that some kids, even from a very early age, naturally excel at math, while others naturally excel at reading/writing. I thought maybe if we start really early (like grade 1) and separate kids into two groups (math-excellers and verbal-excellers), we could put the math-excellers in a program that gives them extra reading/writing instruction, and put the verbal-excellers in a program that gives them extra math instruction. The hope is that this strategy would, over time, close the gap and make all the students more well-rounded and confident in their abilities. I think starting as early as possible with this strategy is important, because hopefully by the time the kids get to high school, the class will be well-rounded in their abilities.
amyura 27th-Aug-2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
This is going to come off as dismissive, and I have to apologize, because you've clearly put a lot of thought into what you believe, but.....

This comment pretty much nails why I have such a problem with non-educators making educational policy. A lot of what you complain that doesn't happen already does, and has for years. Some of it has been proven to work, and has stayed in practice; some of it has been shown to be absolutely abysmal policy (particularly the whole tracking thing in your last paragraph).

I know Canada is different (I went to McGill, and saw firsthand how each province kind of does its own thing), but in the US, while every state is slightly different, there are some commonalities. Teachers have to pass licensing exams-- general tests as well as subject specific. There is no shortage of innovation-- the issue is that nobody (read: policy makers) gives teachers and administrators enough time to figure out which strategies work best for which students and school communities, and that there is a body of "educators" (not teachers, but people who are "in education" and work as consultants and program developers) with a vested interest in promoting the Next Big Innovation, one that a district has to adopt whole-hog in order for it to work.

Schools are a reflection of their larger societies. The US as a culture pays a lot of lip service to wanting good schools, but education isn't valued at all. Teachers are paid crap and constantly told that if we really cared about children, we'd do more work for the same or even less money. All of the reform measures are based on punishing schools, teachers, and administrators for low test scores. Parental involvement and what kids come in already knowing are the big elephants that nobody wants to talk about, unless it's to blame the kids for low test scores.

Another issue is people can't agree on the purpose of education. Is it to produce intellectually curious lifelong learners? Is it to produce literate, numerate citizens who can make informed voting decisions? Is it to train good workers for corporations?

But, seriously, as I said, half the things you would like to see already ARE happening in American schools, and the rest are either impossible to implement nationwide or rely too heavily on standardized test scores, which are a terrible way of measuring actual learning or higher-order thinking.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
I get that standardized testing has limitations, but I don't understand how you can get a remotely accurate picture of how students are doing across the country without some form of standardized testing. Standardized testing should NOT be used to penalize teachers or principals or students in any way. But it IS an invaluable tool for tracking trends, recognizing which schools are in trouble, and funnelling extra money and resources to those schools. I don't understand how you can possible evaluate how students are doing on a state or national level without standardized testing. You need standardized testing, even to make comparisons between schools within the same district, or between classes within the same school. It's essential, IMO. And what's more, I think parents absolutely have a right to know how their child's scores compare against a national standard, and the national average.

The problem with NCLB is that they cut funding to schools that do poorly on tests, when they should be doing the opposite -- they should be INCREASING funding to schools that do poorly, so that these schools can hire more teachers, increase teachers' salaries (thereby attracting the best teachers to the schools that most need them), and fund after-school and weekend programs to tackle the multitude of social issues that these kids often face.
amyura 28th-Aug-2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
Okay, point by point:

1) Standardized tests existed prior to NCLB. There were national standardized tests, but they used to take up a few days every 2-3 years in elementary school. In high school, there are the AP and IB programs, and SATs, ACTs, and SAT subject tests in just about every subject. The AP tests take two weeks in May, when students miss three hours of school per test. The other tests are held on Saturdays and don't disrupt the academic schedule at all. I'm not advocating getting rid of any of that. The point is that there's now more than enough standardized testing.

The mandatory testing done under NCLB eats up 5-10 school days per year. In my state, it's an average of six days a year in grades 3-10-- that's 48 days, or over two months of school. Add the time spent explicitly preparing for the tests, and the average kid is losing out on months of education.

You're in Canada. Ontario has the OAC program, which I believe comes with standardized exams. Not sure if the CEGEP program in Québec has similarly standardized courses.

2) Recognizing which schools are in trouble? There are DOZENS of measures that don't rely on standardized testing. Look at the four-year graduation rate. Look at the percentage of students accepted by four-year universities, and the percentage who STAY in university. Look at the percentage of students who enroll in AP or IB classes, and take those exams. Look at the pregnancy, STI, and crime rates.

In lower grades, look at the percentage of students reading at or above grade level. Look at participation in competitions like spelling bees and science fairs. Track how students do as they progress from elementary to middle to high school.

Better yet, look at some of the factors that affect school functionality, like student turnover and communication between the school and home. VERY easy to measure when so much takes place online.

3) NCLB doesn't cut funding-- it increases it, though not nearly enough. It also increases oversight and creates a paperwork nightmare. It's bad across the board; I teach in a high-performing school and the number of reports we have to submit to the government is so high that the district hired a full-time "compliance specialist." It also creates impossible hurdles-- no school, not even the "best," will ever get to 100% if they're committed to teaching every student, because not all students will be ready to meet that hurdle exactly when the test is administered. Some of the highest-performing schools nationwide, schools that do well on all the measures I mentioned above, aren't meeting AYP because they're at 99% one year and then 98.5% the next, which is considered failure.

Schools don't lose funding, they face takeover by the state, and being forced to fire at least 50% of the staff.

4) You keep mentioning "best" teachers. How do we determine who is "best"? How do we do this in a way that doesn't foster competition among teachers? When teachers are competing against each other, the students lose out. If I develop a kickass lesson plan, with interesting activities that make the subject matter meaningful, and I don't want another teacher to steal the title of "best" from me, I'm not going to share it. What HAS been proven to work is collaboration. If "best" is measured by my students' standardized test scores, you're going to see teachers in less-troubled schools rated better, and brought into the troubled schools, where their students' test scores will be lower, and then they'll be replaced themselves with teachers from less-troubled schools. This is already happening in places.


As I said, every single thing you've mentioned has already been tried, or is currently being tried. Schools are a reflection of the overall society. Teachers and administrators need support to do our jobs, on that I think we both agree. But the solutions require long-term commitment, stable school communities (not firing half the staff every year, and certainly not bringing in these "superman" administrators who did their two years in Teach For America and think they know everything), and building connections with the families of the students served.
tabaqui 27th-Aug-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
As if the fuckery of standard testing couldn't get worse, now it's standardized failure, and if a certain percentage of kids fail, it *won't even matter*, they're just meeting the expected goal.

This is so fucking sick. WTH are we doing to our kids.
pepsquad 27th-Aug-2012 05:00 am (UTC)
at my most recent safe zone/cultural proficiency panel meeting, we read an academic paper, the process of the paper was that testing = academic eugenics, especially high stakes graduation requirement tests at the high school level. i'll see if i can find the paper it was super well done.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
I'd be really interested in that. If you can't find the paper, can you at least explain the gist of it?

Personally, I'm hugely in favour of standardized testing, although I don't think that school funding should be contingent on how students score (actually I think it should be the opposite...schools that score badly on standardized tests should be allocated MORE funds and resources, because clearly they need it...)
maenads_dance 27th-Aug-2012 08:52 am (UTC)
Extraordinary. What an extraordinary way to justify, and then solidify, the status quo.

I'm speechless.
msdevin92 27th-Aug-2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
only 45 percent of black students are required to pass the math state test while 82 percent for Asian Americans, 68 percent for whites and 52 percent for Hispanics are required to pass. In reading, 92 percent of Asian students, 90 percent of white students, 80 percent of hispanic students, 76 percent of black students, and 59 percent of students with disabilities are required to pass the state exam

Not to give a cookie-cutter response or anything, but what the fuck is this?
poopanna 27th-Aug-2012 02:05 pm (UTC)
My dad went to being a teacher in Camden, NJ (for 30 years) to a teacher in southern VA. He talked about corruption when he was in Jersey and he's talking about corruption and stupidity down in VA.
kitanabychoice 27th-Aug-2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
So basically it reads to me like this:

We expect blacks and Latinos to fail, by slightly different margins, so let's set their expectations at the failure line. Whites are pretty average, so let's set the expectation at average. We expect Asians to generally excel at everything, so let's set their expectation bar to 1 million.

And frankly, that's fucking racist against practically everybody involved. What we should be doing is fostering the same expectations of everyone and then improving our curriculum to teach concepts, critical thinking, and fact-finding skills rather than teaching details and formulas by rote and hoping people remember it after cramming for a multiple-choice scantron test. Bring back the essay questions, at least. -_-

Edited at 2012-08-27 04:28 pm (UTC)
wonderland386 27th-Aug-2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
As a teacher, the only part of this I can support is the change in percentage of students with disabilities. The state test here has only one accommodation: larger text. It's essentially yelling at someone who speaks a different language so they can understand you better.

Other than that, this is ridiculous and the state needs to reevaluate EVERYTHING (from their curriculum to their teachers) to see why this "needed" to be put in place. How can we expect a change in the racial attitudes of our country, when we encourage teachers to openly, in front of children, profile and stereotype students? The more often you experience something, the better you internalize it.

Also, WHEN YOU EXPECT LESS, YOU GET LESS. It may seem mean to have teachers consistently fail at their achievement goals, but the high standards help so much! There's a story practically every professor I had told me: A new teacher had to take over a classroom. In the binder she was given, there was a piece of paper with every student's name and their IQ scores. Every child's IQ was between 120 and 140, so she thought, "Man, I really have to keep these kids interested!" So she planned awesome field trips, had amazing speakers come to the class, and just really enriched her students' learning. At the end of the year the principal called her in to her office. She was amazed at the improvement in their test scores and wondered how she did it. The teacher said, "With such smart kids, it was no trouble." The principal asked how she knew how smart the kids were from the very beginning, so the teacher told her about he IQ list. The principal laughed to herself and said, "Those are their locker numbers."
TL;DR - Expect more, get more.

Lowering expectations is only providing an incredible disservice to the students, which is only made worse by the fact it's decided on race. If you don't believe every student can be taught, can learn, and can be successful, you should get your ass out of the education system.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
What about middle easterners? Why are we left out again???
thenakedcat 27th-Aug-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
Just to be clear, I don't think this excuses the blatant racism involved--or that this is even a decent definition of race--but I assume that the Board of Ed is working off the US Census definition of racial background, which includes "any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa" in the "White" category.
metatrix 27th-Aug-2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
oh, ok. I didn't realize all middle easterners were considered white according to the U.S. government. I thought only non-Arab middle easterners were. Thanks for the info!
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