Thursday, August 8, 2013

A response to the recently released NYS elementary test scores


Yesterday, NYS Ed released the 2013 test results for 3rd through 8th grade math and ELA. As predicted, the scores were much lower than what we have seen in the past. And when I say much lower, I mean just that... As in a 30% decrease in students scoring at the proficient level on both math and ELA.  And it happened in every district across the state. Commissioner John King responded to the scores with this statement:



“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college- and career-readiness in the 21st century,” King said. “It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration,” he added, calling the dismal scores a “new starting point on a road map to future success.”

Read more: NY Daily News


This statement, while attempting to remain positive at a time when most are in damage-control mode from the dismal results, inadvertently points to some very concerning issues. The first is the assumption that tests can measure a student's readiness for college and/or a career. While there have been studies that have shown that students with better assessment scores have had higher success rates in college, I do not believe that they can accurately measure a student's readiness for success in the 21st century. In the test-focused educational environment that the new common core has created, educators feel they have little time to focus on the critical skills of a 21st century learner (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication). Instead, they focus primarily on preparing their students for the tests. And this practice is not just for the benefit of the students... Most teachers are also doing it for their own survival, with APPR relying heavily on test scores to evaluate teachers.

Please don't get me wrong... I'm all for raising standards, and assessing students' learning is a critical part of education, but standardized testing and evaluating schools and teachers based on results is not the way to do this. We need the opportunity to create authentic learning experiences for all learners, and assessments that reflect these experiences. We need to give students the chance to showcase their learning, their goals, and the path they intend to take to achieve those goals. Finally, education leaders must give teachers the freedom and support to teach 21st century skills to all students.


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