Friday, July 13, 2018

Congratulations Graduates, Don’t Listen to the Naysayers.

First of all, congratulations to Ohio’s high school graduates in the class of 2018, especially those who were able to use the additional pathways to obtain your diploma.You are the first group of young Ohioans in several decades who’ve not been wrongly prevented from graduating due to a meaningless and obtuse assessment system.

According to an article from the Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell more than a third of students in the urban areas he surveyed would not have graduated if the assessments alone were used as the measure for graduation. I realize that the Ohio Department of Education & other advocates of the system would argue that there were three pathways to graduation beyond the state tests, prior to the additional pathway. To which I would retort, one is a remediation free score on the ACT/SAT, an assessment, and the other is an Industry Recognized Credential, also requiring assessments.

So... good for you young people, but if you decide to read the article, beware there are a couple of naysayers who would attempt to diminish your accomplishment. They are advocates of the “rigor” (bullshit meaningless word they like to use) of the new assessment system & grad requirements.

Representative Andrew Brenner, Chair of the House Education Committee, is quoted in the article asking, "What's going on here that they're not able to get kids up to being college and career-ready?" He is completely off base here on several levels.

First, he is referring to teachers in urban districts where more students were unable to meet the points on the assessments in order to graduate. What Mr. Brenner fails to recognize is that students in these districts have a greater likelihood of being economically disadvantaged, which is widely recognized as having a negative impact on a student’s education  After all, an individual will be more concerned about their next meal, caring for siblings, a lack of health care, housing or transportation instability, & other related issues than they will be about the remote details of Algebra, American History, or Biology.

At the heart of Brenner’s nonsense, however, is his terribly dubious claim that the state’s requirement of 18 points on 7 assessments equals college & career readiness. There has, to my knowledge, never been a data driven analysis to indicate that this is true. We are simply expected to believe it because Mr. Brenner, and others of his ilk, repeat the phrase so often. As a matter of fact, the other assessment advocate & naysayer referenced in the article, Chad Aldis of the Fordham Institute, has often made this claim. When I questioned him about his claim of readiness after Fordham penned an attack on Akron Superintendent David James this week, he admitted that he has no idea whether or not the requirement actually measures college & career readiness.

Mr. Aldis does not make the CCR claim in this most recent article, but calls the additional pathways “absurdly easy” and the diplomas “meaningless.” He also suggests that if teachers like me simply worked harder, then students would perform better on the tests. With due respect to Mr. Aldis, (whose employer is an advocate for, & sponsor of charter schools who benefit from public schools being labeled as failures by state testing systems) we teachers could work ourselves to madness or death, but that would not make this assessment system any more meaningful. You and Mr. Brenner would still not be able to find a single college that refers to score from Ohio’s assessment system for use as a predictor of college success. Furthermore, you will be unable to find an employer whose hiring policy is dependent upon scores on Ohio’s state tests.

As for the difficulty of the additional pathways, we know that more students graduated under this system. I find this to be a fantastic development. The idea of “too many kids graduating” is beyond my comprehension.

If we are legitimately interested in assuring that students are ready for life after high school, then wouldn’t the components of the additional pathways... work experience, volunteer work, maintenance of a Grade Point Average (the greatest predictor of college success), and other items of the sort be vital to that end? Sure working 120 hours might be “absurdly easy” in the mind of Mr. Aldis, but I’ve had some jobs where I’d classify that time as nightmarish, but where I learned some important lessons about work ethic, collaboration and communication, if not the necessity of staying in school in order to avoid shitty jobs. These experiences were sometimes more valuable than those in the classroom, and certainly more validating than a score on an assessment.

The Graduation Requirement does not have to be impossible, or even terribly difficult, in order to be meaningful.

What Rep Brenner, Mr. Aldis, & other pro-assessment shills like them are attempting to do is to infuse meaning into a meaningless assessment system, and because the media repeats their unfounded opinions as fact, people believe them. They would have us believe that the only thing of value accomplished by students in their educational career is a collection of test scores.

They are wrong.

Perhaps instead of giving Brenner & Aldis the opportunity to trot out their same tired, unfounded line of bullshit the next time an article is written about graduation in Ohio, the reporter will give me a call. I’ll congratulate ALL of the graduates on their meaningful accomplishment despite an utterly meaningless assessment system.