Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Failing Schools? Over 50% of California Schools Meet Testing Targets

Collage based on images by Gilberto Filho and albertopg123

More than half of California's schools met their statewide testing goals in 2012, the highest number ever, according to the education department. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said 53% of schools met or surpassed the Academic Performance Index target score of 800 this year, a 4% increase from last year, according to KTVU. The scores can range from 200 to 1,000, so a target score of 800 is pretty good.

Ten years ago, only 20% of schools met their target score. Over the past decade, schools across the state, at all grade levels, have seen their scores rise dramatically. These gains have occurred despite the fact that funding has been slashed, programs cut, teachers laid off, and course offerings reduced. In other words, teacher productivity and quality have been increasing (assuming you believe that teaching to the test is the hallmark of good teaching).

The sad reality is that schools are now driven more by test scores than almost anything else. Teachers are getting better at getting kids to score higher on these tests. However, they are getting better at it because they have been forced to give up instructional time for test preparation and administration and because they have been threatened with mass layoffs, school closures and privatization of their schools if they did not improve test scores.

Of course, higher test scores do not mean children are learning more. On the contrary, more tests and test preparation translate into less time for critical and creative thinking. It also leads to more stress and anxiety for children and less exploration and fun, which in turn may be helping to turn more kids off to school.

On the other hand, greater testing, accountability, tedium, obedience and regimentation do serve to prepare children for the types of jobs that are available. So maybe we are doing them a service after all.

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