Re: Chicago Iowa Test Body Count
- Subject: Re: Chicago Iowa Test Body Count
- From: "Gerald W. Bracey" <gbracey@EROLS.COM>
- Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 13:05:41 -0400
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Somebody ought to arrest Vallas. Institutional child abuse would be the
I only said retention doesn't work. I didn't say anything about the
motivational uses of threats of retention, which is something quite
different and something I don't think Alfie has dealt with. That is, if
people are doing something for intrinsic rewards, giving them extrinsic
rewards dampens their ardor. But what about people who are NOT doing
something for an intrinsic reward? How do you get them to do it?
It still seems to me a stunning admission of incompetence, though, if that
threat is the only arrow in your quiver as the letter writer implies. I
mean, no one threatens Danish or Swedish kids with retention because they
don't retain ANYONE. And they do OK on international tests, both as kids
and as adults.
I ca't imagine that fourth grade is so much tougher than third, even knowing
that it is often a considerable transition point, that a kid has to earn
admission with another year of his life.
----- Original Message -----
From: George N. Schmidt <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 1999 9:30 AM
Subject: Chicago Iowa Test Body Count
> August 1, 1999
> Hello Colleagues:
> The following story appeared on page one of the Chicago Tribune for August
> 1999. Recently, Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas got into a disagreement
> Catalyst (www.catalyst-chicago.org) magazine over whether the Iowa test is
> the sole criterion for retention or demotion, and in a five-page letter to
> Catalyst he claimed that there were multiple criteria. Someone should ask
> that of the children, a handful of whom are mentioned in the article
> who "failed" third grade based on their Iowa score. Please also note that
> parent quoted in the article has told the press that she will have her son
> tested for special education.
> Following the article are two recent Tribune Letters to the Editor, both
> testing. The first one allegedly comes from a Chicago school teacher and
> criticizes Gerald Bracey by name. The second one (on passing "swimming")
> sounds like the kinds of things that's being circulated by fax around the
> country. Anybody recognize it?
> Anyone who wants to write to the Tribune about them can hit Chicago
> on the Net or write snail mail to: Chicago Tribune, Voice of the People,
> N. Michigan, Chicago, IL 60611. I'd appreciate it if you'd send me a copy
> anything you send to them.
> George N. Schmidt
> Editor, Substance
> 5132 W. Berteau
> Chicago, IL 60641
> DateLine: Story:
> LAST DAY OF SUMMER SCHOOL NOT SO EASY AS PASS OR FAIL
> By Ray Quintanilla, Tribune Education Writer.
> She arrived for the last day of summer classes at Agassiz Elementary
> School in a cheerful mood, calling it the most important day of her life.
> The night before, the 3rd grader's mom stayed up late to press the
> favorite outfit for the occasion: a sleeveless blue floral-print sun dress
> with delicate white lace around the neckline.
> "I figured since this was the most important day for me, I should look
> best," the 9-year-old girl said. "I want to make the best impression,
> I really want to pass to the 4th grade."
> About 90 minutes later, the girl sat alone in Room 202 with her head in
> her hands--and sweat pouring down her face-- as she contemplated how she
> would break the news to her mother that she must repeat 3rd grade in the
> "I hope Mother understands, and I don't get a whippin,' " she said.
> The outcome was the same for about half of the North Side school's 36
> graders who were told Friday they are being held back because they didn't
> make enough progress in reading and math during the summer to warrant a
> Some children cried out loud when they heard the news; others wept
> A few feet away, the other half of the 3rd graders could be heard
> about their accomplishments and chattering about trips to water parks and
> carnivals their parents had promised them if they passed.
> The contrast was striking to Carrie Lewis, the school's assistant
> principal, who asked students to form two lines before marching them into
> air-conditioned office about 11 a.m. to deliver the news separately to
> "I struggle with a lot of emotions, because I want them all to pass,
> also realize, for some of them, keeping them in 3rd grade might be the
> thing," she said.
> Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas used the last day of summer classes
> 3rd and 6th graders to repeat his mantra about ending the practice of
> "The bottom line is, we have kids who are not ready for the 4th grade.
> would be a lie to tell these children they are ready for the next grade
> when they aren't. It's as simple as that. We don't want to lie to them."
> Still, the day offered a rare glimpse into how students, parents and
> faculty cope with one difficult aspect of the Board of Education's
> controversial decision to end social promotions. The day was especially
> on the faculty, who reviewed each child's scores on the Iowa Tests of
> Skills early Friday, before deciding two hours later which students should
> Teacher James Starzynski said he couldn't help making an emotional
> investment in his 18 students after spending six weeks covering sight
> singing songs and doing math in a stuffy classroom together. Every child
> progress, he lamented, but for many it was not enough.
> For a half dozen kids, who started summer school reading at the
> level, it may have been unrealistic to expect they would raise their
> skills two entire grade levels in 30 days.
> "Those are the ones who had the biggest problems, because they just
> catch on," Starzynski said.
> "Do we expect too much?" he asked. "Maybe we do, maybe we don't. It's a
> very difficult thing to sort out."
> The Board of Education requires 3rd graders who don't score at grade
> in reading and math on the Iowa test to take six weeks of summer school.
> the start of the fifth week, they are given a second exam to see if
> The principal and teacher determine each child's future by evaluating
> tests scores, progress, class participation and attendance. But a child
> read at a 2.8 grade level to be promoted.
> About 40 percent of the system's 3rd graders were required to attend
> summer classes this year. Results for the entire system won't be available
> for another two weeks, Board of Education officials said.
> Officials at Agassiz, 2851 N. Seminary Ave., said none of the children
> had already repeated the 3rd grade were retained for a second time. It
> wouldn't be right to put an 11-year-old in the same class with children
> are 8 or 9 years old, they said.
> Lewis said she plans to meet with her two 3rd-grade teachers in the
> days to evaluate whether the courses could have been taught any better.
> She also wants to determine whether any changes should be made for next
> "Evaluation is an important part of what we do," Lewis said. "I like to
> think our teachers are doing very good work, and they have the materials
> need. But we will sit down and go over it all."
> Sandra Butler, 35, said her son Arthur Frierson worked hard during
> school, often reading by himself into the evening hours and doing his
> homework upon arriving home from school. She can't imagine what more he
> have done, she said.
> "It's strange to me that he didn't make it," Butler said, adding that
> took off from work because she wanted to be there when her son got the
> "But I told him, `I love you' and that this is just a small setback. He's
> going to be the smartest kid in the 3rd grade."
> For his part, Arthur, 9, said his greatest disappointment was "letting
> mom down."
> In his hand was a brief form letter from Vallas that was given to each
> student who was held back.
> Arthur's letter read:
> Dear Parent/Guardian of ------ Based upon the criteria in the Chicago
> Public Schools' Promotion Policy . . . your son/daughter has not
> completed the Summer Bridge program, and will not be promoted at this
> Butler said that she plans to have her son tested in September to
> determine whether he has a learning disability.
> Another parent said she disapproved of the "harsh and cold" method the
> schools use to determine which students pass, suggesting the schools rely
> much on the standardized tests.
> "There's no reason why teachers can't make those decisions," she said.
> "Maybe they just don't want to make those decisions."
> One of two U.S. Military Academy cadets who tutored at the school said
> intentionally didn't get too close to any of the students--fearing he
> become overwhelmed by emotion at the conclusion of school.
> "When I found myself spending too much time with one of the kids, I
> stopped and went to the other side of the classroom," he said. "It's
> that it be that way."
> Martha Hermosillo, 9, said she and her mom held hands and prayed
> at their home before Martha took the Iowa test.
> Her scores were so good, school officials said, they knew immediately
> had earned a promotion.
> Martha, and Krizia Juarez, 9, immediately turned to each other and
> embraced when Lewis told them, "You've worked hard and done well. You've
> earned the right to be promoted."
> "I feel like shaking everyone and shouting about how happy I am,"
> ,But she added, "I know 4th grade is going to be hard, so I don't want
> get too happy."
> Copyright Chicago Tribune
> POSSIBLE RETENTION MOTIVATES PUPILS
> Letter published in the Chicago Tribune by "Brad Stone".
> I teach 7th and 8th grade in the Chicago Public Schools, and I've also
> taught in both the 8th-grade and 6th-grade summer school "bridge" programs
> for the last three years. I feel the need to comment on statements made by
> Gerald W. Bracey, an education researcher, quoted in the Page 1, July 20,
> article about summer school. Mr. Bracey makes the same point that others
> the field have made ad infinitum concerning retention of failing
> students--that the jury is still out on whether or not holding these
> back, or forcing them to attend summer school, benefits them in the long
> Although this is a valid concern, it, and other comments like it, miss a
> vital point in considering the efficacy of retention: its effects on the
> other students in a given classroom.
> Speaking from my own experience, having come into the CPS three years
> before social promotion was abolished, the change in students' attitudes
> been, in general, quite pronounced. There will always be students who are
> highly motivated achievers, and there will always be students who will not
> achieve, for whatever reason; it is the students in between these poles
> compose the majority of a typical classroom. These students, before
> retention, could make the choice to do as little as possible with no
> repercussions whatsoever, and many did. Why wouldn't they? They stood to
> nothing, as they saw it. Thankfully this is no longer the case.
> These "fence-sitters" now must ante up with some real effort if they
> to pass. Because the great majority of them do, indeed, want to be
> they find that strength within themselves and they learn how to take care
> business. In so doing they learn that hard work does have a tangible,
> realistic and reasonable result (as opposed to the
> of ineffectual motivational attempts).
> Just as important they learn that a lack of hard work has a tangible,
> realistic and reasonable result--failure, as they see it happen to their
> classmates. Although they may feel sympathy for those left behind, they
> invariably know who deserves to move on and who doesn't, and are therefore
> able to take justifiable pride in their accomplishments.
> This is real-life learning for a world in which the average employer is
> not going to inquire about your wounded self-esteem, as you continually
> to do your job properly, before firing you. Our kids need, and deserve, to
> learn that this is how life works. Anything less is a disservice to all
> segments of the classroom, from pole to pole.
> Copyright Chicago Tribune
> MERITS OF FLUNKING
> John and Sandra Shepherd.
> HILLSBORO, Ore.
> Our daughter recently flunked a swimming class at the local aquatic
> center, and we, her parents, are thrilled. At the end of two weeks, she
> received her "report card" showing she passed seven of the 10 skills
> necessary for Preschool Level 1 certification. But because she didn't
> everything, she flunked.
> Why are we thrilled? Because we know that swimming is a serious
> and to skip ahead unprepared is to court disaster. We're happy the
> instructors are serious enough to see to it that our daughter gets a real
> swimming education.
> Of course this leads us to wonder: Why don't more children flunk
> or arithmetic or history? Why don't more instructors in these educational
> areas see to it that children get a real education in these equally
> If the aquatic center passed every child regardless of mastery,
> would drown. When public schools pass every child regardless of mastery,
> are letting children drown in a sea of confusion, and still more in their
> later lives.
> Tell us which is more compassionate: to flunk a child until she can
> or let her pass, unprepared?
> Copyright Chicago Tribune
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