Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Problem FOR Public Schools

In previous posts I've talked about reading, the standardized test, teachers' incentives (to address the test), the difficulties schools have with Johnny's reading, and so on.

Another angle on all that....

As we are measured by how many students 'meet standard' on the test, we do try to identify students who were close last year, but need a little extra push in the time just before the test in May. We use the 3rd quarter of the year for an intervention course (smaller, more focused, extra repetitions, etc.). Every year, we identify 10 or 12 students who might benefit from that little bit extra and ask their parents about moving their student into this class. And every year, several say no. They opt to keep their child in what students typically call 'fun' classes--band, PE, computers, etc.

As I write this, I know it might sound strange. Why don't we 'just' get those kids to standard with the regular classes? That hasn't typically worked for this group in previous years. Why are we so instrumental about the test? Because that is the incentive structure we're faced with. Get better scores or be put in what's called AYP (or, more rightly, failure to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. In a strange twist of the vernacular, a school "makes" AYP when they are doing fine, but they're "in" AYP when they're not.)

Again, good education is something of a sloppy and slow business. We wish it to be tight, so we measure outcomes on one battery of tests only.

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