Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Testing, Testing, Testing: Tale #2

2. What's Wrong With This Picture?

This morning, this tweet showed up in my twitter feed. [Side note and reminder: you can follow me as @schoolsmuse. I kind of tweet in fits and starts--and not only about schools, but also about Ann Arbor, politics, Jewish stuff, the Middle East, and whatever else catches my fancy...]

Can you read the text on the poster? It reads,
 "J.E.S. worked hard to improve Scores. We are no longer a Focus School!"

What is a focus school? A focus school is a school where, according to the Michigan Department of Education, "Focus Schools consist of the ten percent of schools on the Top-to-Bottom list with the largest achievement gaps between its top 30 percent of students and its bottom 30 percent, based on average scale score."  And guess what? Focus schools tend to be schools with heterogeneous groupings of students. A school that is homogeneous--whether all rich, or all poor, is not likely to be a focus school because the gap between students is not likely to be in the top 10% of gaps. A school could perform very well on standardized testing (overall have a high average) but if there is a wide range in the test scores, it will be a focus school while a school where everybody performs poorly will not be a focus school. And guess what? Twenty-seven of Ann Arbor's schools got designated as "focus schools, even though some of them also performed well above the average for the state.

But that's not why I'm writing about this tweet, which I found exceedingly irritating. No, I'm writing about some key words here.

Do you want to understand the insidious nature of high stakes testing? Look no further than the picture in this tweet. 

"J.E.S. worked hard to improve Scores." And yes, they capitalized Scores.

Did they work hard to improve their students' knowledge?
Did they work hard to educate their students?
Did they work hard to become better teachers?

No. They "worked hard to improve Scores." High stakes testing is not about students learning. It's about how the "Scores" make a district, or school, look. 

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