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

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Texas Orders Up a New Test to Solve Problems Created by 32 Years of Testing

Texas has been been doing more of the same standardized testing and expecting different results (see Einstein's definition of insanity) for 32 years now, and the children of the Lone Star state are as poor, malnourished, and miseducated as ever.  One in four lives in poverty, just as one in four Texans has no health insurance. Poverty rates jumped by 9 percent in the last U. S. Census, while the national average was a 6 percent rise.

State officials of the Higher Education Commission describe Texas ACT scores as "pathetic," and based on NAEP, the gold standard in the test score derby, Texas continues to languish near the bottom of the state rankings, despite a three decade long testing frenzy that has brought Texas children the TABS (1980), the TEAMS (1986), the TAAS (1990), the TAKS (2003), and, alas, the STARR (2011).

As any sane person would expect from generations of non-stop testing that labels, segregates, and stigmatizes the poor, these same poor students who make it to college get there less prepared to think, write, and read--and more likely to blame themselves for their lack of preparation.  No excuses, remember!

The Texas solution to unprepared teens and college dropouts?  A test, what else, and a big contract for the College Board to get more data to solve the problem that the fixation on "data" created. 

. . . .Debates over lagging performance at community colleges and four-year institutions can devolve into finger-pointing between the higher education and K-12 camps, each blaming the other for students’ poor performance at the postsecondary level.
Because colleges are not good at gauging which remedial courses students need, some experts say, students fall through the cracks or give up because they are not progressing toward a degree. They cite the number who are “underplaced” in remediation — because they did not take the placement exam seriously when they got to campus or they have spent time out of school — and quit out of frustration or boredom.
Others point out that deficiencies in students’ secondary education are often the reason they are in remedial courses.
In an effort to provide better data for the discussion, the state in June approved a contract with the College Board to develop a statewide placement assessment, which all institutions would be required to administer to incoming students who did not meet the benchmark scores on state standardized exams or college admissions tests. The new assessment is intended to provide a uniform view — different colleges offer exams from different vendors — and detailed diagnostics to give a better idea of what postsecondary students are missing. That in turn would allow colleges, if needed, to offer a three-week review of trigonometry instead of a yearlong review of introductory math. And for high schools, the diagnostics could offer a closer analysis of where they are coming up short. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Didn't Texas just recently come out against "critical thinking"? That just about says it all as far as I'm concerned.

    Greater rigor across the board and without prejudice will produce smart and capable individuals. But education (K-12 AND higher ed) needs to use assessment to determine best practices, effective methods, etc. Funding needs to change from a property tax base to something that will stop reproducing class biases.

    Instead, there's corruption and cronyism in the K-12 system via school boards, and higher ed sometimes has its head up its ass so far it sees out its belly button.

    Bottom line--students need to be pushed a lot harder from the start. We don't need to go all Japanese or anything, but definitely put some pressure on them to really learn how to think. School is a joke to a lot of US kids. It's boring or irrelevant.

    But we also have to teach them efficiently and holistically. We need to meet them half way. @laprofe63