High school dropout still has tests

High school dropout still has tests

group of african american university students in lecture hall

group of african american university students in lecture hall

I’ve written previously about how the harm anti-reformers are claiming tests bring to students is more of the grit and character they need. I’ve written about how parents seem to make decisions about testing with little or no regard for that what reality means for the student when they go to school on test day and how prepared they will be for future tests.

A U.S. News article really brings it home for us with a very specific story. It’s titled:  Opting out isn’t an option in the real world. 

The writer talks about how she avoided tests too, actually avoided school all together and dropped out. She talks about how life is one big test and that there are endless tests after you leave high school.

I didn’t want to be reduced to a number or a statistic, a score or a grade, a label or a stereotype. I filled in the bubbles on tests in poetic form, ABABC.And then I dropped out. And that’s when tests got real.

But she couldn’t run away from those tests.

Then I was studying alone for the GED, then the SAT, then the community college placement test on breaks at the coffee shop where I worked. Plowing through a year at a commuter school, where too many went and too few stayed, and fighting my way to university. And then working the next 15 years for a civil rights organization fighting to secure equal educational opportunities for all students.

It took all that for me to finally understand that you actually can’t opt out, walk out or otherwise check out of tests as a permanent strategy. Not if you want to get anywhere. Because, regardless of your feelings about them, tests will never stop. On the way to wherever you want to go lie a series of tests – whatever your direction, whatever your goal. There are the college admissions tests. The Armed Services qualifying tests. The get-a-job tests. The get-a-better job tests. The licensure tests. The promotional tests. Moments where you have to prove yourself – your skills, your knowledge, your merit, your determination.

She brings out a true reality that the real world hits you with. In high school and college if you go, there are known structures and expectations. Once you are out, you’re on your own. And you are going to hope you have the skills to make it on your own.

While they now call the tests you take in school “high stakes,” they are the lowest you will ever encounter. And the only ones where, if you don’t do so well, somebody actually has an obligation to help you do better. Because after you leave the comfortable – or even not-so-comfortable – nest of high school, it is all on you. You alone will be held accountable for what you know and what you don’t. What you were taught and what you weren’t.

Because you can’t walk out of the ACT or the SAT. 
Not the GRE, LSAT or the bar exam. 
Not the cosmetology exam, the Test of Adult Basic Education or any professional exam. 

She makes the point the sometimes the best thing to do is make change from within. While the tests aren’t perfect, they are better. And that some teachers may be more preoccupied with their jobs than student success on tests. I’m glad she said it, because it would be hard for me say it!

What I learned in my own journey through education, and later as an advocate, is that sometimes the most radical thing you can do to change the system is not to secede, but to succeed. That sometimes fighting the system means working from inside it, pressing for the things you and your peers need. To raise hands, raise issues and raise stakes by participating, instead of by withdrawing. To call for attention – and for change – so that all students get the skills and knowledge they need to thrive. Not just some.

And one of the best chances we have to do that right now – as tedious or regimented as they may feel right now – is through these new tests, which finally measure what matters instead of just how many bubbles you can fill in.

Don’t play into anyone’s hand. Or fall for the things you’re told about those tests by adults who may actually be more preoccupied with their job security than your education.

Don’t opt out of testing & life – opt in.


How do you define harmful? Where is the “grit” factor?

Trying to wrap my head around this tweet I saw this week:

lily harmful tweet


How do you define harmful? Here is one example in the article she references:

The pressure placed on students is enormous. Children understand all too well that their test results may be used to label them or their school as a failure.

In Oklahoma the state legislature and governor doubled down on the testing obsession to declare that no third grader could go to fourth grade if they missed the mandated cut score on the reading test by even one point….one point on one test given on one day. Unbelievable.

The arrogance of politicians who voted to give themselves the final say as to whether a small child should be held back regardless of the professional judgment of the teacher or the wishes of the parent is unforgivable. Even after the outrage of parents and teachers helped to overturn the policy, the harm done to the over 8,000 eight-year olds labeled as failures is inexcusable.

So which is it? Are we responsible for making sure EVERY SINGLE CHILD is ready to college and career? Or are we responsible for making sure that there aren’t any tears at test time? Should a child be advanced to the next grade simply because the parent or the teacher says the child should be? Teachers have been advancing students for years because of social promotion, ineffective teaching or dislike for a student. Letting a teacher decide should not be the only factor. Having additional information regarding a academic achievement and preparedness for the next grade are important considerations.

In this post I discussed a friend of mine in Massachusetts, a state every loves to talk about as a “such a great education state,” who received excellent grades an graduated top of her class, to find out she was not able to perform college level school work. Top of her class and in remedial classes.

Maybe children wouldn’t be “failing” the test if their parents spent more time with them at home, reading and working on school work, and if teachers were engaging and connecting with their classes.

And if a child needs to stay in a certain grade level to completely learn the material it is going to be better in the long term if the student actually learns the material – no matter how it feels to be kept back. The real world is a tough place and if this is one way that children learn how to accept changes that are best for them, then that’s a good lesson to learn.

By passing students who aren’t ready for the next grade, who didn’t learn everything they needed to learn you are actually harming them. They may continue to be set back because they didn’t fully learn the material in the first place. They may not be properly prepared for college and career and then who’s fault is it if the student isn’t able to support his/herself as a productive member of society?

As we have read in Paul Tough’s book: How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, adversity can be helpful to develop character of individuals who are successful.

Do what is ultimately  best for your child and ensure he/she is learning everything he/she needs to learn to be successful. And if it creates healthy adversity, it might even be more helpful for your child to learn to overcome earlier than later in life.




Are parents REALLY thinking about their child when they opt-out?

I’ve arguably stayed out of the PARCC debate, largely because I don’t just write what people want me to write and I have less personal experience with testing as I don’t have children in school. However, this quote really caught my eye and further proves that parents are not really always thinking in their student’s best interest when they opt-out.

Seen on Facebook here is the quote:

testing quote

This just reminded me that sometimes parents don’t understand the gravity of the situation or the consequences. Teachers are not teaching if testing is going on all day. What did you think your child was going to do? How does it make your child (who probably doesn’t care and doesn’t understand why you are pulling them out of testing) feel to be left out? The parent who makes this decision doesn’t have to sit in the classroom and watch everyone else take a test.

The reality is your child is also probably going to need those test scores at some point….especially to get into their college of choice. The more experience students have with testing (in moderation) the more comfortable they will be overall with testing. You don’t want the first time the experience a standardized test to be when they are taking the SAT.

Same thing with common core. If common core becomes the norm, then states who don’t have it may be looked at differently by college admissions counselors in the future. If I had a a choice between admitting a student that I know has a nationally competitive curriculum or a student from a state who doesn’t have common core (and I have no assurances of the quality), I might choose the safe bet with the student from a state with common core.

Please try to think of the future ramifications before you make choices that could be detrimental to your child. And keep your kids at home if you don’t want them to be tested.

New Tests? Old Tests? What you need to know

This is a great graphic from StanSFC-Academic-infographic-FINAL_0d for Children about how to tell what a good test looks like. I agree with everything they state below, especially that every student needs to be held to the same standard nationwide so we can ensure they are receiving a great education.

I wrote previously about a colleague of mine who thought she was getting a great education at the top of her class, only to find out she had to complete remedial courses.

To all those who are upset that their students aren’t doing well on the “new” tests – I say get to work improving your standards. No one wants to admit that what they have been doing, or teaching or knowing that their kids have been receiving a subpar education. The obvious response is to blame the test. But in reality, their education wasn’t up to par. They should be grateful that their kids are going to be getting a better education because of these tests.

I appreciate that the tests are going to be more critically engaging and less hunt and peck for one answer. The tests should also be designed to assist teachers in their ability to assess student weaknesses and provide appropriate support. Parents should have a clear idea of what the results mean for their child.

Go to these pages to see more of these infographics:

Parents! How to identify a “good test”. http://bit.ly/1kqLkUs

What does a good test look like? Decide for yourself: http://bit.ly/1j4tW8Z

A school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work?

Prior posts:

This sounds like pontificating on your part…

You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education

Here is the next in my series of refuting this post of Anthony Cody’s:

He writes:

New and Improved Standards and Tests: Since 2010 we have heard that the answer to the terrible impact of No Child Left Behind was to create better tests, aligned with the new Common Core standards. Modern technology would allow the tests to be taken on computers, which would cleverly adjust themselves to students’ ability levels. These would be tests worth teaching to. Now the tests have arrived, and there are three huge problems. First, the tests themselves are confusing and unworkable, leading a growing number of states to reject them. Second, the tests require a huge investment in technology, since they must be taken online on computers. Third, when students take these tests, proficiency rates are plummeting, leading many to question their legitimacy. How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights? And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating. When a fourth grader can deliver a devastating statement like this, the Common Core tests cannot long survive.

If the tests and the class room material is mismatched then work on fixing it. Whats the alternative, no tests? I agree there is some sort of bizarre conspiracy among test makers and publishers but we need some kind of test. Why? Same reason we need some kind of standards. Because we are graduating students all over the country with varying levels of actual education. Case in point:

One of my coworkers in Massachusetts (yes I know the “education state”) said that where she grew up in MA, she was in the top of her class. But when she graduated and went to college, she couldn’t do the work and had to take remedial classes. Why would any student who was in the top of her class in high school expect to be in remedial classes in college? That would have to mean that the educational standards in her school district were awfully low. Is that what she deserves?

Maybe that’s why students don’t finish college, because perhaps they went to a school where they thought they were doing their best, where they thought they were getting the “American Dream” education and they did not. Worst of all, you won’t even notice that you are not getting a top quality education until it’s way past too late.

Huge investment in technology. I get that it is expensive and alot of smaller rural districts have trouble funding it. Even normal sized districts with the money still have to decide between big lease contracts or purchasing and software is expensive….but it has to be done and we just have to figure out how to do it. Students need access to computers and the internet to stay on par with the generational changes and to continue to engage students in ways that they expect to. School without computers is boring and kids know it.

Proficiency rates are plummeting because the tests are new and there may need to be some adjustments. But maybe, the kids WEREN’T learning as much as they should have the the tests are point that out. Blame the school district, the curriculum department for that problem. Classic defensive move to deflect from taking responsibility for poor educational standards – is to say that the tests are bad, our kids aren’t underperforming by that much! Maybe, they are. Best to get them on track NOW, ASAP. We’ve already wasted too much of their education.

He writes:

How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights?

Well, Anthony, I’m not going to speak for the folks whom you’ve taken this reference, but in my opinion, it demonstrates in concrete evidence that we are teaching those students curriculum that is NOT rigorous enough to expect them to compete with every other child. It proves we need to be doing more to properly educate those children. They have not been afforded their civil right to an excellent education.

And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating

This is true, but the heart of the argument doesn’t have anything to do with the tests themselves. It has to do with whether or not tests should be used to determine a diploma. However, if these students may not fare well in college because of their subpar education in their district, maybe one more year will help them achieve that. Or maybe not, maybe their best bet is to….I don’t even know – go back to a school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work? What would you choose?

That’s great that the child was brave enough to speak to the Board of Ed. More students should do it. But her case simply states that the curriculum and tests need to be better aligned, they don’t say anything about the basic use of tests in general.

It’s interesting Anthony, that you offer no solutions, simply hand picked situations that you think are going to sway some of your readers, who hopefully can do their own research after reading your work. However, you seem to strive to keep the “status quo” of course the educational establishment is doing just fine as it is.