"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, May 28, 2006

FCAT Reading Scores for 10th Grade Plummet

Yesterday I called attention to Hazel Haley's observation that today's high schoolers cannot appreciate the possibility of learning something in school for the sake of learning it--because it may be fun to know or to understand. Brought up as the first generation of high-stakes guinea pigs, these children are conditioned to have a "learning response" when threat levels are appropriately high to trigger a reaction. Is the understanding of Hamlet's ironic speeches required for the exam to get you out of high school or into college? No? Well, forget it.

Thus, the stupidification of America continues, as would seem to be indicated by Florida's 10th FCAT scores. While Jeb's staff try to focus reporters on a single year record increase for middle school, all the happy talk cannot hide the inconvenient truth that is bleeding through the keep-on-the-sunny-side press release:
. . . .the governor’s office was silent about the continuing deterioration of 10th-grade reading scores.

Since 2001, the number of 10th-graders reading at grade level or above on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has dropped from an already dismal 37 percent to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the number of 10th-graders reading at Level 1 — the lowest level on a scale of 1 to 5 — has jumped from 31 to 38 percent.

That means fewer than one in three Florida students who were in third grade when Bush’s high-stakes accountability program began in 1999 are meeting state standards.

I have never seen so many scientifically-based reading experts with so few answers to explain how the Children of the Code could have become so de-coded in such a short span of time. They were all such good readers five years ago. Since no one of the many head-scratching experts seems at all interested in asking the students or their teachers about their reading or their test-taking (that would not be scientifically-based), Florida school boards pour more money in the bottomless money sumps of Kaplan, Inc. and listen to their armchair scientists cluck about the results. In the old days, we called this kind of scientist a philosopher. My favorite expert response comes from Paul Reville:

Paul Reville, a lecturer on educational policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said the downward trend in Florida’s 10th-grade scores may not reflect an academic shortcoming as much as an attitude problem.

“It’s always crucial to see how students perceive the stakes,” Reville said. “If they’re motivated to take the test, it will increase their performance.”
What is clear is that these high schoolers in Florida need some more motivation, i. e., to be threatened with more failure, if we are going to get these scores to where the Governor wants them. Just think what the future will be, without the threat of failure? Do you think anyone will show up for work?

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