It’s testing that flunks! Testing is a static snap shot of a timed selection of multiple choice answers. The questions are developed by those far removed from the classroom and communities where “measure” learning and educational achievement. And when the scores rise, as reported for NYC, the working assumption is that the tests have somehow mystically became “easier”–not that students made real gains in knowledge or test-taking skills! Educational officials seem to be chasing their tails. Comparing eighth grade outcomes to those for seniors who take the Regents exams is so obviously flawed that one wonders about the educators and officials who think these comparisons are valid methodology.
Another question: what will “harder” tests mean? Currently, do the national test emphasize skill sets different than those assessed by the local exams? Do the nationals require more questions answered in the same time period? Are the exams scored by different methods? Are the tests constructed in the same way? How will students who do not meet the new standards be given additional instruction? How will support be funded to improve individual performance for all students, even those who currently excell?
My own measure of NYC’s educational progress is informal and antecdotal, but as telling as a test score. Visiting New York last spring for a cousin’s funeral (her son is Big Chief in HBO’s “Treme”), while standing in line waiting for coffee at a fast food shop near 3rd Ave. & 110th St, I dropped my change by accident. A young student, maybe five or six, escorted by her mother, immediately bent down to helped me pick it up and returned what she gathered. I was deeply impressed by her courtesy and politeness to a stranger, her spontaneous willingness to help, and her sincere kindness and geniune thoughtfulness. Whatever her scores, I bet she goes far in life.