"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

The news is out. SAT scores for reading are the lowest they have ever been. The College Board claims that the drop in average scores (3 points in reading, 2 points in writing and 1 point in math) is due to the increased diversity in students taking the test.
...about 27 percent of the nearly 1.65 million test-takers last year came from a home where English was not the only language, up from 19 percent a decade ago.

But Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit group critical of much standardized testing, said the declines were an indictment of the nation’s increasing emphasis on high-stakes testing programs and of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law that has driven it.
So the College Board says it's increased diversity, but FairTest says it's the fault of NCLB.

Former Education Secretary William Bennett, on the other hand, claims that it's the fault of the teachers unions and bad teachers. He reports on Steven Brill's new book "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools."
...lamenting obvious long-standing barriers to educational improvement such as the "last in, first out" policy that requires teachers to be laid off based purely on seniority rather than performance...

...fossilized teacher union contracts, lax or nonexistent teacher evaluations, and unmovable wages and benefits have straitjacketed any hope of real reform. The solution, Brill says, is to overhaul the public school education system in order to motivate and inspire better teachers. Rewriting union contracts and paying teachers based on performance, not seniority, are among the first steps Brill advises.
Again it's the bad teachers...3.5 million teachers in the United States and there are so many bad ones that the SAT scores have gone down. How is that possible? The PDK-Gallup Poll on the condition of education found that most Americans (71%) "have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools." Most people who have children in schools are satisfied with the quality of the school their oldest child attends...79% of Americans who have children in public schools gave the school their oldest child attends an A or a B. These are the members of the public who know the schools best...and only 4% gave them a grade of D or F.

So, I ask Secretary Bennett, where are all these bad teachers? I'd also suggest he check out the research showing that using test scores to evaluate teachers doesn't work as well as the research showing that paying teachers based on test scores is inaccurate.

Here's something which the corporate "reformers" don't like to talk about. The higher the family income, the better the children do on SAT tests. Take a look at this...

As family income increases so do test scores. Beginning at a annual family income of $20,000 and progressing in $20,000 increments, the fact is that the more money a child's family makes the better they do on the SAT. This is true for most standardized tests.

It's clear to me, as Robert Schaeffer said above, that NCLB has not improved education in this country. NCLB was, and is, a plan to crush the public schools and privatize education. There's no real interest in improving learning.

In fact, Schaeffer and FairTest let us know that,
"...many colleges have recognized the folly of fixating on the narrow, often inaccurate, information provided by standardized tests and moved toward test-optional admissions.” According to a free web database maintained by FairTest (http:www.fairtest.org/university/optional), more than 860 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions make admissions decisions about all or many applicants without regard to SAT or ACT scores. The list includes 35 of the nation’s 100 top-ranked liberal arts colleges.
Maybe the SAT and other standardized tests are just not that important.

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