Does Congress Now Believe that Self-Government Is No Longer Possible?
Sandra Stotsky – Two recent phenomena suggest that we have become a nation of uninformed voters led by unquestioning reporters and education officials. The first phenomenon is the reason offered by many in the media for parents opting their children out of a Common Core-based test. The movement is growing to unprecedented numbers http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/seattle/2015/04/23/sbac-standardized-testing-nathan-hale-high-school/26267407/.
The second is the lack of inquiry in the reporting on the decision by an increasing number of colleges and universities to accept SBAC’s cutoff score for its grade 11 “college readiness” test as an indication that students who pass are ready for college and don’t need any remediation.
Many in the media, it seems, have bought into the idea that the growth of the opt-out movement reflects a fear by parents of increased academic demands on their children. For example, in an Associated Press story on April 18, 2015, Christina Cassidy, says: “Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/17/common-core-opt-out-testi_n_7090910.html. Although no parents are quoted saying that they want their children to avoid more academically rigorous state tests, that doesn’t deter our judgmental reporter.
NPR also agrees that “the new Common Core-aligned tests are harder,” although NPR did not interview an academic expert who had actually examined them and pronounced them as academically rigorous. Maybe it no longer knows what an academic expert is. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/04/20/400396254/anti-test-opt-out-movement-makes-a-wave-in-new-york-state
A Boston Globe op-ed writer, Joanna Weiss, offered the same diagnosis in the April 24, 2015 morning edition (“the [tests] are tough”), using incredibly, the expert judgment of her grade 5 daughter and classmates as the basis for her judgment (“PARCC was harder than MCAS). And Weiss is sure that Common Core-based tests “encourage critical thinking.” Why, readers have no idea.
Indeed, by now one wonders why the media has raised no questions about the absence of an independent, test-secure analysis of the tests that are driving a “resistance” movement of parents from coast to coast, as well as a baffling “acceptance” movement in higher education institutions of their “college readiness” cutoff scores. As reported by Catherine Gewertz in her blog for Education Week on April 21, 2015 <http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/04/22/more-universities-take-up-sbac-college-ready-cutoffs.html>, apparently 600 colleges and universities have decided to use the cutoff scores for the grade 11 Smarter Balanced Assessments without looking at the tests themselves. At least, readers are not told of any analyses of these tests.
Nor has any college or university tried to find out (and then report on) the differences between the cutoff on their own placement tests in mathematics for entering college freshmen and the cutoff for SBAC’s grade 11 test for students taking both tests. Not one question in the reporter’s blog about any of this. Not even a nod to the acid criticism of SBAC’s grade 11 math test by Steven Rasmussen, a publisher of mathematics curriculum materials and software, as widely reported in March (for example, https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-03-11-why-the-smarter-balanced-common-core-math-test-is-fatally-flawed)
Education officials are a major part of this ask-no-questions/see-no-analysis act. This past week, Susan Keene Haberstroh, Chief of Policy and External Affairs at the Delaware Department of Education, issued a press release saying that four major Delaware universities/colleges would accept students’ scores on the state’s new 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessments as an indication of college readiness and in lieu of scores on a separate placement test. What is astonishing is that these institutions came to this decision before testing has been completed (we are told that June 4 is the final date in Delaware), results analyzed, and results compared to results on these institutions’ own placement tests. https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/breaking-news-delaware-colleges-universities-to-use-smarter-balanced-scores-for-acceptance-credentials/
After reading this blog, I immediately contacted Dr. Haberstroh for the names of the teaching faculty at these institutions who had examined SBAC’s college readiness test. After all, one would expect institutions of higher education to base such important decisions on something. After a week’s silence she wrote back, in response to a second inquiry from me, suggesting I contact the institutions themselves for the names.
Delaware is not alone in ignoring the advice of mathematicians in its own higher education institutions. Massachusetts is already blazing a path toward “dumbing down” its college math courses, ostensibly to ensure higher college graduation rates: http://commonwealthmagazine.org/education/lowering-math-standards-not-the-answer/
Can no independent academic experts be located to vet Common Core’s “college readiness” tests? Is it really the case that college mathematics professors don’t understand how to use placement tests appropriately? Congress is now hastily moving to vote on a re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that places all policy making on matters of education standards, assessments, curriculum, and instruction in a state’s department of education. Does Congress really believe that we would be better off being governed by the staff in state departments of education or the US Department of Education than by locally elected school boards, even if they are all informed by the same uninformed reporters and college administrators?