principal apologizes for school’s Excellent test results

from The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer:

Students pass state test, but at what cost to their education?

by Regina Brett
Regina Brett
Tuesday July 22, 2008, 3:10 PM

The school report cards came out in June.

Rocky River Middle School passed the 2008 Ohio Achievement Tests, earned an Excellent rating from the state and met the requirements for Annual Yearly Progress.

For all of those accomplishments, Principal David Root has only one thing to say to the students, staff and citizens of Rocky River:

He’s sorry.

Root wants to issue an apology. He sent it to me typed out in two pages, single spaced.

Click here to read (at cleveland.com) all the things that he’s apologizing for — all the educationally unsound trade-offs that were made for the sake of achieving those test scores.

2 Comments

  1. Kevin Currie
    Posted July 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Whitson,

    Thanks for calling attention to this article.

    I generally have no real qualms about ‘teaching to the test’ under the assumption that a properly designed test and a properly designed curriculum will have significant overlap.

    The difficulty, as far as I am concerned as a special educator, was well noted in this particular piece of the article:

    >>>”Sorry that he has to give a test where he can’t clarify any questions, make any comments to help in understanding or share the results so students can actually learn from their mistakes.”

    I will tell you that if you ever get a chance to look at the Maryland HSA tests, you will be in for a lesson in how not to write test questions. They are ALL in the passive voice and, as most sentences in this voice are, twice as long as they need to be.

    From the best of my memory, here is a doozy: “How do the protests of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s serve as an example of American democracy?”

    as opposed to…

    “How are the civil rights protests of the 1960’s an example of American democracy?”

    A lot of students get tripped up on the language piece, and we are not allowed to rephrase for students.

    Also, ALL of the questions focus on synthesizing information, raather than focusing on one part recall of facts and one part synthesis. (As a special educator, I have many, many students that are good at recalling facts that cannot synthesize or reason abstractly from those facts. It would be good if we tested BOTH.)

    Like the principal in the article, I am certainly not against statewide standardized testing (as long as the state is the prime mover of education by our system, it is only fair!). But some of these tests are monstrous – particularly to our special ed populations who are already having difficulty with the whole “inclusion” dream.

  2. Posted July 26, 2008 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I think it was about 2003 when a question on the WRITING test for Delaware asked students to write an essay on what they thought was the most important event in the 20th century.

    Of course, since it was a writing test, they were to be scored on the quality of their writing, not on their historical judgment in choosing the event to write about.

    The event chosen more often than any other was the September 11 attacks on US targets. Students writing about that got their answers scored as wrong, because 9/11 did not happen in the 20th Century.

    When high stakes are attached to testing, emphasis gets shifted to test-taking skills.


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