Friday, June 19, 2015

What Would Happen if You Gave Tests Like NYSED Does?

I've been reading that the Common Core math tests will be a rousing success, because their passing percentages will be the same as the Regents math tests were. That way, no one will say, "Gee, Common Core is failing everyone, and therefore it sucks." Thus, there will be no torches and pitchforks over at the gubernatorial palace, or wherever  Andrew Cuomo keeps his coffin, or his oversized ego, or whatever it is that motivates him to behave as he does.

On the other hand, imagine if you were to give tests on such a basis. You'd have to say to your students, "I can't tell you now how much each question is worth. I'll have to see how many people get it right or wrong first. What I can tell you is this--70% of you will pass, and 30% will fail." What would your students say to that? And what if your plan, as was John King's, was to pass 30% and fail 70? Would Arne Duncan give you an award and make some idiotic remark about how wrong the soccer moms are? Would he say this proves the kids aren't as smart as the moms think they are?

Because if he didn't, you'd be facing a world of problems, especially if some parent called to complain about your grading policies. I don't know about you, but one of the things my AP looks for on tests is point values for questions. In my school, it's unacceptable to write a test, decide which percentage of kids I want to pass, and then grade accordingly. After all, were I to do that, I wouldn't actually be writing a test. A test is supposed to measure what my students have learned, not memorialize a decision I'd made beforehand.

In fact, if I just want 70% of kids to pass my test, why does it even need to cover the subject I teach? Maybe I won't bother to write an English test. I'll photocopy an old Earth Science Regents exam and make everyone take that. What the difference? 70% of the kids will pass, just like I wanted. Who cares if the overall scores are low? When I give tests like those, I'm not actually measuring anything. I'm just using a useless document as quasi-tangible evidence that my prediction, which will come true regardless, is actually based on something.

Since it doesn't matter what the test covers, and since 70% are going to pass no matter what, why should we even bother with this school stuff at all? Isn't it expensive to send kids to school, even those charter schools I keep reading about? Couldn't we convert all that unprofitable public school real estate into condos for gazillionaires? Since everything is based on tests, and since the tests are basically meaningless, why don't we stop making kids wake up early in the morning and just let them take tests on their home computers? Who cares if they cheat? It doesn't matter because 70% of them are still gonna pass.

That's the NYSED model and Andrew Cuomo wants half of teacher ratings to depend on it. And our union leader thanked the Heavy Hearts in the Assembly for passing it. There's a Chinese saying, "I've eaten more salt than you've eaten rice." It kind of means you have a whole lot more experience than another person. You don't need to have eaten much salt to assess the quality of program Andrew Cuomo and his Heavy Hearts Club envision for our public school students. 
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