State stupidity makes it hard for schools to implement new educational standards

State+stupidity+makes+it+hard+for+schools+to+implement+new+educational+standards

By Sam Barton, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Ohio high schools,

This is your state legislature. We have voted to raise your students’ graduation standards. We want you to test your freshmen for 17 hours and your sophomores for 14 hours. Of course, sophomores have to take 16 hours of OGT testing, too.

Oh, wait. No, they don’t.

Wait. Yes, they do. This year, sophomores will take the OGTs, so they don’t have to take the other 14 hours we mentioned. Oh, but  we forgot, they do need to take a two-component, Ohio Department of Education test in American government as well.

So that makes 17 hours of testing for sophomores this year. But next year, sophomores are going to be taking English and Math Common Core, PARCC tests and the same Ohio Department of Education in American government test.

Probably.

We are instituting rigorous standards in English, Science and Social Studies and accelerating math by a whole year.

We don’t really know how the logistics of anything are going to go, but you should get ready! We will let you know about the insignificant details like which tests students will have to take, if they’re allowed to remediate, and how you’re supposed to administer testing. We’re gonna play that part by ear, and we’ll let you know sometime this fall or whatever.

By the way, you need to delegate thousands of dollars and man hours to preparing your schools for these changes. Also, there is a bill going through the Ohio legislature to reverse this entire policy, making all of your time and money a complete waste. Fingers crossed!

With love,

Your state legislature

The sad thing is that I’m barely exaggerating. Common Core and the Ohio Department of Education standards are awesome. Their implementation … not so much. We absolutely need to ask more of our students because the American educational system is behind the times. That being said, we should probably go about improving the American educational system in a way that, you know, makes sense.

Let’s start with testing.

Ohio is testing students from 3rd grade to 10th grade on standards that they are implementing this year. Math is being accelerated by an entire year. That means that the math that 3rd graders are learning and being tested on this year is two years ahead of what they learned last year.

As bad as that is, it becomes even less OK when it’s put in the context of this year’s freshmen, who are being tested, for graduation, on standards two years ahead of the math they learned in 8th grade.

The problem is that education is sequential. Everything kids learn is designed to help them learn the next thing. But these new standards are being introduced for all grades all at once. So freshmen are being tested on harder standards, even though they’ve missed out on the 8 years of schooling leading up to, and preparing them for, those standards.

So let’s say you want to teach a 7-year-old girl music. You decide it’s a good idea to teach her the violin. So you teach her the notes on the violin. You teach her how to use the bow. You teach her to read sheet music in treble clef. Slowly, you introduce her to the instrument, and slowly she learns how to play.

After eight years on the violin, you decide she actually needs to know how to play the viola, an instrument very similar to the violin but with different strings, a different clef, and a different role in the orchestra. You tell her that she needs to take two viola tests by the end of the year, and if she fails, she can’t graduate high school.

But she isn’t used to the viola and she doesn’t have the foundation that she would’ve had if she had started learning the viola when she was 7, so she is at a serious disadvantage.

With students being tested on new standards, which are harder than ever, without a foundation leading up to those standards, without the intervention system designed to help them meet those standards, and in a new, confusing format of testing that they’ve never seen before … catch your breath for a minute … this year’s freshmen will almost certainly have the highest percentage of failures ever.”

But don’t worry, only several hundred students are in that situation at Fairmont.

To add insult to injury, one of the great things about the new Common Core/PARCC/ODE/[Insert-acronym-here] testing is something called longitudinal analysis, a data-tracking mechanism. This system is designed to prepare students for these new standards so that they can be successful on state tests and in life. Which is kind of the opposite of what I’ve been saying this whole time. Don’t worry, the state has managed to screw this up, too.

Starting in 3rd grade, the district can track students’ test scores each year and see if they have met that year’s standards. When students fall short, this data tells teachers to intervene and help those students in whatever subject. The next time they test, they will either fall short again and get more intervention, or they will pass, putting them back on track with the rest of their peers.

That way, students get intervention when they need it, not their sophomore year right before the OGT. Also, because of this intervention system, students will theoretically only ever be one year behind their classmates. Which rocks. Right now there are high schoolers who can’t read and can’t learn to read because they are incredibly far behind in all areas. They have no foundation.

This intervention system will seriously improve that problem because a student’s inability to read will be caught and addressed when he is 8 and not when he’s 18.

This would be great if we started the Common Core/PARCC/ODE/[Insert-acronym-here] curriculum on this year’s kindergarteners, waiting for them to be freshmen before we started testing any students on these new standards for graduation. This way, we could use the longitudinal analysis properly for their entire educational career.

Meanwhile, the students already on the old track could be kept on the old graduation standards, so they didn’t have to be tested — with their high school graduation at stake — on curriculum for which they have no foundation. But we aren’t doing that. Because, once again, that would be rational.

But wait, there’s more.

The mediocrity continues with remediation. With students being tested on new standards, which are harder than ever, without a foundation leading up to those standards, without the intervention system designed to help them meet those standards, and in a new, confusing format of testing that they’ve never seen before … catch your breath for a minute … this year’s freshmen will almost certainly have the highest percentage of failures ever. And we didn’t know that we would be allowed to remediate until this past September.

Take that in for a second. We have students who are just three years away from commencement and facing the hardest graduation tests the state has ever seen, and school officials didn’t know until September if the students who failed a test would have any recourse that would give them a chance to become high school graduates … which, you know, is sort of important for life.

But don’t worry, we now know that students can retake a test if they are taking a course that is designed to improve their skills in that subject area. OK … except we don’t know what that means. We still have to design those classes, which Fairmont will probably accomplish, but what about the school districts that aren’t as proactive as we are?

It doesn’t have to be this hard. All the state would’ve had to do is start all of their changes at the beginning of a student’s education, instead of starting them for all students, most of whom are at various stages of an old curriculum that is being completely abandoned. Then intervention would work, students would be prepared for tests, schools would have time to work out the logistics of testing and remediation, and our nation would have better educated youth.

BUT, NO. We aren’t doing that. Did I mention there is a bill in the legislature right now to reverse all of this? Did I mention that Kettering City Schools alone has spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours preparing for an illogical system that has a chance of being aborted?

To summarize all of this, new standards are good. The ideas for these standards are good. Serious problems with our educational system and society can be greatly improved with these changes. We could have a more educated population with far fewer students emerging from high school unprepared for the world.

And the state’s implementation of all of these great things is just so dumb. As dumb as the students who will be left behind once these reforms are repealed.