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

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New Jersey's Middle School Slurry

Take one of the best public elementary state school systems in the nation. Remove its rich curriculum ingredients and double the amounts of math and phonics. Add teachers and children and place in pressure cooker over high heat. Stand back and assure the audience we are going to enjoy something great in five years.

This is the recipe repeated in every state of the Union with the Bush-Paige-Spellings cookbook, and now everyone is wondering why our 8th graders resemble tasteless vanilla paste. What chefs we are.

From the AtlanticCity.com:

TRENTON - The state Department of Education has nine years of test results for eighth-graders - and they're nothing to get excited about.

The test, called the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment, or GEPA, has been administered since 1999, and results over time show little progress. The statewide math passing rate has improved 7 percent, to a still disappointing 68.4 percent. The language arts passing rate actually has dropped a few points from 77.3 percent to 73.7 percent.

The state DOE on Wednesday released the results of the 2007 state tests in grades three through eight and 11. The results show gains are being maintained in elementary school, but passing rates drop off in the middle grades and are holding about even in high school. "We are encouraged by the progress in elementary school," Education Commissioner Lucille Davy said Wednesday. "But there are issues at the high school level. Working with students who are well below grade level is a difficult task, and high school test performance over time is also relatively flat."

Davy was especially pleased with improvements in the elementary level passing rate for special education students, as well as minority children, most of whom live in the state's poorest districts. But they are still passing at a far lower rate than the general student population, and the minimum passing rate required to meet federal No Child Left Behind regulations increases this year. But Davy said a new secondary school-reform initiative will have to begin with the middle school curriculum. Test results show a substantial drop in passing rates starting in sixth grade.

While test results improve a bit in high school, there is concern that many struggling students already have dropped out, mentally if not physically. "You can't go through grades six through eight without continuing to develop, then expect to get to high school and have them fix it all," she said. Deputy Commissioner Willa Spicer said the improvements at the elementary level show that better instruction in the classroom generates better test results, and that improvement now must expand to the middle schools. . . .
Check results. If ingredients are unrecognizable or if a significant portion has cooked away, don't worry. Return remaining mixture to pressure cooker and add four more years of heat. We are going to have something delicious, I assure you.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if testing to the extreme is truly the answer , it was introduced in the UK long after I left school and I have seen my daughter go through high school with the testing , she flourished with it so all was fine but some of her friends suffered badly in tests . The problem was when they did badly over the 3 years or so they HAD DECIDED they were stupid not sure if from what others told them or parents etc. but I can remember talking to one of those kids about politics and a number of other difficult subjects to discuss intelligently and I was blown away at her level of understanding and intellect and was surprised that she had decided she was to dumb to go to college