Re: commentary by diane ravitch
- Subject: Re: commentary by diane ravitch
- From: William Cala <Wcala@SERVTECH.COM>
- Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 07:27:16 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Another keeper! Goes in the Rising Test Scores = Lesser Learning File
----- Original Message -----
From: Mickey VanDerwerker
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 11:44 PM
Subject: Re: commentary by diane ravitch
Okay, I got on a tear today (that and there was a ton of laundry to avoid) so I wrote a response to Ravitch. I have no idea where to find her article on the web but here is the response I sent in.
Diane Ravitch knows reform is working because pass rates are rising. We are urged to stay the course on school reform. But pass rates rising don't necessarily mean that schools are getting better or that kids are learning more.
Rising pass rates could mean that teachers now know what the state considers "the right stuff" to teach. So, they teach this right stuff, whether they want to or not, whether it is the right stuff or not, and leave out that which the government doesn't consider the "real" right stuff. Thus, we have more of "this" and less of "that." And over time, when we leave out "that," and just do "this," the pass rates rise. Too bad when "this" isn't the most important thing. Or when "this" is information that is superficial and easily tested in multiple choice format. Too bad when kids really like learning "that."
When kids who are struggling drop out, pass rates rise. When kids are retained in non-testing grades, pass rates rise. When kids are classified as special education and rexempted from testing, pass rates rise. When pass rates are artificially inflated by state retesting plans, pass rates rise. Rising pass rates don't mean schools are doing better or that kids are learning more.
Here's how arbitrary pass rates can be. Oh, and come to think of it, this is another way for pass rates to rise.
Recently, Virginia's Board of Education decided to lower the history passing score. The cut (or passing) scores were lowered on several social studies tests.
If we applied those changes to the 2000 tests (this is the most current information available from the state and the report, they want me to tell you, is just a draft), here is how the pass rates would have been affected.
For World History from 1000, the 2000 pass rate was 60%. Had the lowered cut score been applied to the 2000 tests, the pass rate would have been about 75% and about 7731 kids who failed would have instead, passed. That's about 15% of the kids who took the WH II test that year.
For US History, the 2000 pass rate was 47%. Had the lowered cut score been applied to those tests, the pass rate would have been about 67% and about 16,339 kids who failed would have, instead, passed. That's about 28% of the kids who took the US History test this year.
For fifth grade, the cut score was reduced only one point. But had that been applied to kids in 2000, then there would have been about 7,215 kids who would have passed instead of failed. The pass rate was 51%; with the change, it would have risen to about 70%.
For eighth grade, the 2000 pass rate was 50%. It rises to about 70% with the new cut scores with 7,842 kids who would have passed instead of failing.
The total number of kids affected in 2000 would have been about 39,000. Remember that this number doesn't include kids who took the tests in 2001, 1999, and 1998. Now, when we give those tests in 2001, the pass rates will rise. Will the state and Ms. Ravitch try to tell us that those higher pass rates mean schools have improved and that kids have learned more?
When we decide to "stay the course" because pass rates go up - without taking a look at what the over-emphasis and misuse of test results are doing in our kids' classrooms, then let's call it what it is. Not better education, not equity in educational outcomes, not lifelong learning, not critical thinking. Just increased pass rates. That's not reforming, that's deforming. And our kids will pay a mighty high price.
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