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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Knoxville Parent Vows to Fight Use of State Test Scores to Determine Student Grades and Placements

Looks like Jim McIntyre has started something he might not be able to finish!   From a Knoxville parent:
            Grades are important. I impress it upon my kids, but I don’t allow it to define them. Unfortunately, this is what the school is doing; in the state of TN, our children are being severely limited by a simple standardized test. Let me explain:
            I have a 7th grader who has always achieved academically. She was placed in the gifted programs in elementary school and proceeded into honors classes when she moved into the middle school last year. She’s a strong A/B student without really even applying herself, as is the case with many kids. This year, however, she has not been allowed to continue in the honors program based solely on last year’s TCAP scores.
            After numerous phone calls and lengthy holds, I was apprised that not only was her class placement determined by this one score, but that these TCAP scores will figure into the grades of all TN students beginning this year. After a call to Nashville, I was told that the state set the grade percentage limit between 15% and 25%; the counties are able to choose any number in between. I also questioned the practice of using the TCAP to determine class placement and hypothetically inquired as to whether a child could be pulled from an honors class and placed into a regular class, or if a remedial student would be moved from her class into a regular class based solely on a single test score. I was told that they were not aware of this happening, but that each county can interpret the scores and use them at their discretion.
            As a parent, I don’t hold much stock in these types of tests to paint an accurate picture about any child, her aptitude, or even her knowledge, except in a purely superficial standardized test kind of way. BUT, when my child is being pulled from an honors class, despite the fact that she’s already passed the class with A’s and B’s, and is being forced to RE-DO an entire year of math because she didn’t score high enough on a standardized test, I’m going to fight it! This is the epitome of dumbing down education and teaching to the test. Although this fight began with me challenging my own child’s class placement, the repercussions of this decision are far-reaching. I’m not only going to fight for my children, I’m taking up this cause for every child in the state. 
            Throughout the entire state there are kids who are going to be hurt by this policy change. As much as they tout that this test is fair and equal to every student, what they fail to recognize is that all students are not equal. My child and many others have already been directly impacted. Those most harshly affected will be kids who are already socioeconomically disadvantaged. In addition to the student population, policy changes like these can have a direct impact on the community. There are non-profit organizations whose successful operations depend on grants based on student achievement. If the inclusion of the TCAP scores in the second semester grades makes it seem as though grades have gone down, it will appear that last year’s grant was ineffective and shouldn’t be renewed.
            Most parents try to raise children in a positive, supportive environment. Why is it that we practice this in our own homes yet we allow our schools to do things with which we completely disagree in practice and principle? Using a negative reinforcer like pulling a child from a class in which they were completely capable, or adding a standardized test as a portion of a grade, will not be successful in motivating a child to do well. A study printed in the International Journal of Academic Research entitled Use of Reinforcement Practices in the Educational Institutions and its Impact on Student Motivations concludes: “Negative reinforcers affect the student’s motivation for [a] short time. If... used frequently students become habitual and sermon proof. Hence... a balance between positive and negative reinforcers transform students into intrinsically motivated [individuals]. In this way they ultimately become lifelong learners.”  I want all of our children to enjoy school and thirst to learn. Policy changes like the one passed in TN for the 2011-2012 school year will only dampen attitudes toward school in general. We should not be training students to do well on this test to better overall state TCAP scores, but instead teaching our children the importance of education and instilling the foundation of intrinsic learning.
 Kari Hancock

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:52 PM

    Evidently, this issue did not get resolved. It happened to my child this school year, as well. One test can and set the limit for your child's education. Sad, but true.