Re: Is "Grade Level" A Load of Hooey?
Jerry - I looked up the Gene Glass article you mentioned and saw that
it has been updated and can be found here:
I remembered the La Griffe du Lion piece on this topic, here:
So back to "grade level." Passing rate = proficient, yes? So is the
passing rate for the state test the same as "grade level"? As La
Griffe makes clear, changing the passing rate only slightly means --
voila -- that more kids pass the test. So does that mean that more
kids are at grade level through the same statistical sleight of hand?
Back to one more point I was trying to make. Let's assume that "grade
level" is a useful measure (it isn't) and were not subject to
statistical sleight of hand (it is). Not being "at grade level" is
not an inherently bad thing if we look at it in the same way we look
at norm-based measures of height, length, and weight for newborns (as
you mentioned). So, assuming they are useful measures, the fact that
low-income minorities are disproportionately "behind" in these fuzzy
measures comes as little surprise, given what we know about the
effects of race, class, and poverty. (Interestingly, low-income
minorities are also "behind" in norm-based empirical measures like
lower birth-weight, etc.)
But as Nancy mentioned (and as Linda Perlstein also makes clear), low-
income kids get punished for being "behind" by having their
educational experiences choked down. The rationale is always
something like this: (1) "These kids need the basics because they are
so far behind," or (2) "Poor kids don't have time to play -- they're
too far behind." Their "being behind" is understood to be both
empirically verifiable and unquestioned. It's also pathologized to
the extent that it justifies the treatment they receive: dumbed-down
instruction, elimination of recess and other non-tested subjects, etc.
So instead of punishing kids for being "behind," why not accept where
they are without pathologizing them? Give them recess and art and all
the other things that contribute meaningfully to their development.
Use a wide range of assessments that measure their growth over time.
Give them all the support they need, and help them achieve their full
One last thing on kids and their potential. The irony of this is that
pre-NCLB, schools were said to have lower expectations for low-income
kids. So NCLB comes out and legislates higher expectations. So now
with our higher expectations, we're not helping these kids reach
their potential. We give these kids scraps. Is this what "the soft
bigotry of low expectations" has come to?
On Apr 8, 2009, at 10:23 AM, gerald bracey wrote:
Well, it doesn't relate to "grade level," it relates to standards,
does bring us back to normative considerations. Somone recently
sent me a
cite where Jim Popham was talking about setting standards for 4th
and said something to the effect that you'd need to take into
the typical fourth grader can do--thus we're back to norms.
In my example, what is a reasonable time to expect for a mile? We
don't know. And we have a hard time saying what's "good." What
said in the article I mentioned--and highly recommend--is that
while we can
t easily say what's good, we can say what's better. So you figure
you are and try make improvements. Not quite the same as measuring
for individuals, but similar. But, of course, you can't lock
arbitrarily to a fixed attainment such as 100% proficient in NCLB.
there is a tendency--and Arne exhibits it--to use test scores from
nations as benchmarks to get an idea of what is "good.
industry is a way of comparing yourself to the best practice in your
industry. Of course, you'd have to look at how the benchmark was
If Japan or Singapore were the benchmarks, we'd probably not (I
hope) try to
get there the way they did. If Finland is the benchmark, we might
adapt some of their much more humane methods.
So many things are norm-referenced in the world because it does
happen that things fall out in a normal curve. When our grand kids
born, we learned that they were at the xth and yth percentiles in
weight, but no judgment was applied about that being good or bad.
get blood tests done, if some indicator is high or low, it often
that it is plus-or-minus two standard deviations from the norm--
some are alleged to have clinical implications as well.
From: Peter Campbell
Date: 4/8/2009 4:02:06 AM
Subject: Re: [arn-l] Is "Grade Level" A Load of Hooey?
Jerry - thanks for this. I've been meaning to read your "Snookered"
book for a while and will now order it from Amazon.
One more question on this: how does all this -- cut scores, etc. --
relate to "grade level"? What is the relationship between them? In
your running a mile in 10 minutes example, the ability to run a mile
in 10 minutes is the standard; is it also the cut score? And, if you
know that most kids can run a mile in 10 minutes and, lo and behold,
they do, that means you have very low standards, yes? But you'd be
able to say that all kids in your state are at grade level for the
mile. Conversely, in another state, they set the mile time at 6
minutes, something most kids cannot do. The state prides itself on
high standards, but only a few kids are at grade level.
Accurate paraphrase/extension of your argument?
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