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

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

ASD in TN Makes State Test the Only Grade that Counts

We have known for a long time that school grades are better indicators of later student success than standardized test scores, and we have known, too, that many parents have complained and continue to complain when their children get passing marks and are held back for failing the state test.

Well, both of those possibilities have just been eliminated in Memphis schools under the control of Supt. Chris Barbic (TFAer, BA in English) and the Achievement School District in Tennessee.  Without consulting parents or anyone else, Barbic and his data expert, the former TFAer and KIPP teacher, Josh Czupryk (BS in public relations and BA in Political Science), have come up with, "after research," a new grading scheme that is pegged to cut scores on the state test, known as the TCAP.  Gone: grades for participation, effort, homework completion, or even attendance.  Details from the ASD website:

. . . standards based grading separates evidence of learning from motivational indicators.

•  Evidence of learning: test, quiz, project, assignment, paper, conversations between students-teachers, student modeling a concept or skill

•  Motivational indicators: homework completion, class participation, attendance

Standards based grading seeks to communicate where a student is performing against grade level standards for learning to the student and parent/guardian 

Standards based grading can help teachers, students, and parents hone in on areas for growth where a student is not demonstrating mastery of a grade level skill or concept and accelerate areas where the student is performing at or above grade level expectations. 

Ultimately, meeting grade level expectation is determined by each student's performance on the TCAP assessment and not grades provided by the ASD.  The grades are a way for us to inform parents/guardians, students, and instructors about each student's progress towards standards.

Let me see if I can translate this for those unfamiliar with school as year-round test prep. The TCAP is the only thing now that counts, no matter how much you participate and no matter how hard you try or how much homework you do or how often you come to school.  If pre-tests show you deficient, then you will practice those elements until you are proficient.  If you don't get there, or if you have language issues or disabilities, then you don't pass--or perhaps you would be interested in finding one of those other schools to attend, where the reputation of the ASD empire does not depend upon getting the bottom five percent into the top 25 percent in five years.

This new grading policy is headed toward Gates' ultimate "competency-based" efficiency model for educating the poor, whereby students will be hooked up to a laptop to do the same kind of mindless remediation that the efficiency zealots of previous decades had children doing, minus the fast computers and web access.

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