Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Harsh High Stakes Testing for NJ High Schools
It's difficult to discern real news from fake news these days. But thanks to the great work of Education Law Center and Stan Karp, here's some news for NJ high schools:
This policy makes sense, spend more money on tests, cause more poor, disadvantaged students to leave high school. Besides making more profits for testing outfits and private or public companies while class sizes are imploding, teacher salaries and benefits are being cut and teachers are held accountable for student test scores, how exactly does this help students learn? Oh, I forgot, the goal isn't to help students learn, grow and succeed, it's to close schools, fire staff and replace with privately run charters who can run the schools like a fast food chain. Cha ching!!!!!!
State officials have put in place new education requirements designed to make it more difficult for high school students to graduate.
That’s not exactly how they describe the changes, of course. The goal, they say, is to make a diploma mean more, so that it is truly representative of sufficient learning as graduates go on to college or enter the workforce.
That’s an admirable goal — higher standards can lead to higher achievement. But if that’s all the state is doing — setting higher benchmarks with no attention given to improving students’ chances of reaching them — then the new requirements could do more harm than good.
There is also a political undercurrent to these reforms we find troubling. It is telling that in announcing the more rigorous graduation requirements last week, Gov. Chris Christie also emphasized the significant drop in New Jersey’s graduation rate for the Class of 2011 — down to 83 percent, compared with 95 percent for the previous class.
That reduction is largely the result of new federally mandated methods of calculating the graduation rates more accurately. Fair or not, however, this gives the governor another arrow in his public education-bashing quiver.
The current plan is to eventually replace the High School Proficiency Assessment taken in the 11th grade with end-of-course exams in math and English in the ninth, 10th and 11th grades. The changes will be phased in, set to take full effect for current fourth-graders once they reach high school.
Proof of the administration’s real intent may come in what types of peripheral programs — or the lack thereof — emerge to accompany the new requirements in boosting student performance. For example, additional resources should be devoted to tutoring, summer-school programs and other remedial measures to assist struggling students.
Without such an effort, schools still facing pressure to improve graduation rates will be left to the old standby of encouraging teachers to “teach to the test” in shaping their classroom instruction. And there will be more tests, which is among the concerns that have already been raised.