The Workgroup Says... Here's a solution that might not solve anything.
The Springfield Sun-News today explained the allowances recommended by the Superintendent's Grad Workgroup for the class of 2018.
"The first recommendation of the group was that Class of 2018 students who passed their required courses and took all seven state tests (regardless of score) could graduate if they met two of these six requirements: 93 percent attendance senior year, 2.5 GPA in senior-year classes, complete a capstone project, have 120 hours work experience or community service, earn three or more College Credit Plus credits, or earn a score of 3 or better on an Advanced Placement exam."
Superintendent DeMaria explained that this is necessary because he's "sensitive" that this has been a "transition" through a variety of tests, so deserves special consideration. He assures the public that he's confident that ALL students will reach these "new levels" set by the state.
I'm not sure where to begin, so I'll translate. You can fill in the hidden meaning and see what you think...
Sensitive = Blind to the Fact
Transition = Train Wreck
Special Consideration = Lip Service
ALL students = Enough Kids to Satisfy the Most Vocal Opposition
These New Levels Set By the State = Compliance with a state system that does nothing to improve education.
Me and My Students.
I spoke individually with dozens of sophomores today. A few are just killing it on these tests. They're bright and test very well. Others are on pace for the 18 points, maybe a point or 2 low on the average. Still others are growing sick with worry, only a couple points on a couple tests, some who took retakes with no improvement. A few mentioned how terrible the scores make them feel. "I feel like a failure," one kid told me. I told them not to feel that way. They're not failures, but the assessments send that message. These are personable kids who work hard, participate in athletics or student council, have jobs. They're the pride of their families. They know how to organize and work as a team. Their success in academic classes is often, predictably, driven by interest. A few may struggle with math. Others don't like language arts, but love numbers. Sometimes one state test score balances another. Most of the time they don't.
I'm looking these kids in the eye and telling them what needs to be done, remediation, retakes. It's a waste of their academic time. They know it and so do I, without saying a word. They also know that they might not graduate unless something changes. I'm promising them fours and fives on the assessment for my class. "You'll make up those points," I tell them. This is a statistically improbable promise, but I will do everything within the rules to help them achieve. This is what teachers do.
Out of Touch
The Grad Workgroup's proposal, released today in a variety of news outlets is completely out of touch. What they're suggesting is that a kid who scored a 1 or 2 on an ELA or Algebra test should just acquire some College Credit Plus hours or score a 3 or better on an AP test. Have these people ever met any of the students to whom their "sensitivity" is being directed? Are they aware of their home lives, the issues they bring to school? Do they understand how learning works, and how abilities differ dramatically from child to child? They also would recommend fitting 120 volunteer hours in with hundreds of hours of remediation for, and retakes of state assessments.
God bless Senator Peggy Lehner for weighing in realistically on the two "easier" options, 93% attendance and a 2.5 GPA...
“For the kids that are really struggling to pass, I think you’re going to find it’s not easy at all,” said Lehner, R-Kettering. “I’m a little bit concerned that it’s not going to capture as many kids as we maybe think it will. 2.5 is a pretty high GPA. And for an amazing number of these kids, that (93 percent) attendance rate is pretty high.”
She's right. As far as I can tell there has been no study to determine what additional percentage of students will graduate with this offering. I hope that she's as good as her promise of a few months ago in which she said legislators would fix this if the board can't. This Workgroup is evidence that the Superintendent, the ODE, and the board acting on their behalf have no intention of coming up with a LONG TERM SOLUTION to this problem.
The ODE powers that be are too busy either patting themselves on the back for their sensitivity, or complaining that this makes it too easy. From the Springfield article...
Tom Zaino of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce argued that the remaining requirements didn’t ask much. “I don’t think they’re that tough,” Zaino said. “I don’t know what it does to lower it, except why don’t we just say everybody graduates?”
With all due respect to Mr. Zaino, who I'm sure wow's them in his career as a corporate tax attorney, even if you eliminate the assessments, everyone doesn't graduate. All he's done with that comment is to illustrate how unbelievably misinformed he is, as well as suggest that he's stealing his lines from Tom Gunlock and Todd Jones, as well as Governor Kasich. Also, if you "don't know what it does," then why the hell are you even weighing in on the issue?
Solutions: This One's for Andy.
Someone tweeted my last post about former state board member Tom Gunlock's irrelevant rambling to House Education Committee Chair Representative Andy Brenner who complained that I offered no solutions. In my defense, had Mr. Brenner read prior posts on the issue or any of the emails that I have sent him, then he would be well aware of my ideas for solutions. In his defense, I'm sure he's a very busy man and doesn't have the time to read all correspondence or the often agitated ramblings of this Ohio teacher. With that said, here you go, Mr. Brenner. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know.
SHORT TERM SOLUTION: (Thanks to my wife, Mandy, for tirelessly championing this solution)
Because of the significant distress and mismanagement associated with the PARCC assessments, subsequent changes of vendor and test construction, as well as the switch between paper/pencil and computer based tests, recognizing the fact that all other groups were given a pass on punitive measures related to those assessments, the Class of 2018 shall have a complete "safe harbor" from the punitive effects of assessment scores related to the Graduation Requirement.
LONG TERM SOLUTION:
While I advocate for the elimination of punitive measures associated with standardized tests, and recognize the fact that assessment scores are NOT federally mandated for graduation, I understand that eliminating all "high stakes" consequences may be politically impossible. With that said, in the interest of increasing instruction time and promoting student academic development and creativity, as well as the development of skills associated with true college and career readiness, I recommend the following...
The Graduation Requirement should be structured to promote opportunities and inclusivity, not prevent graduation.
1) Ohio's assessment system should be brought in line with federal minimums. At the high school level, the state will administer 1 Math test, 1 ELA test, and a test in Science. For what it's worth, I find a Social Studies assessment acceptable as well, even though it is out of line with federal mandates. I am an American History teacher, and I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea that I'm in this out of some self interest.
2) If high stakes are associated with the assessments, they should not be used as a determinant for graduation until 3-5 years of data can be studied to prevent a similar problem.
3) Maintain a points system to graduation where students may acquire additional points completely unrelated to assessments. These should include those currently being championed by the Workgroup, but also include internships, participation in academic clubs and student government, arts education, athletics, and otherwise. College and workplace skills are developed in these venues, so they should be recognized as such if the system is truly designed to promote readiness. Perhaps limit the amount of potential points through these activities.
As a side note, any business taking any form of tax relief from the state or municipalities should be required to establish internships for Ohio students.
4) The ACT should be eliminated as a potential path to graduation. The state of Ohio should offer (not mandate) one free attempt for all Ohio's juniors. Not all of Ohio's students anticipate attending a four year college, nor should they be expected to, which makes this requirement completely inappropriate for sizable portions of Ohio's students.
5) The state shall provide a system to track student progress toward graduation, or provide resources to local districts including, but not limited to additional counselors, and career advisors to manage what has become an unmanageable amount of data. Funding can be drawn from that saved in the elimination and minimization of assessments. Other funding diverted from the assessment system should be returned to Ohio's public schools in the interest of shrinking class sizes, promoting arts education at all levels, and creating programs that encourage students to pursue academic interests.