We recently received his PSSA test score results for this past year and were surprised to learn that they are much higher than his report card grades. He really hit the ball out of the park on this test! He scored "advanced" in every subject area. Part of the reason for his big improvement is that he received extra tutoring in math right before the PSSA test was given. I questioned this, since his grades showed that he was not struggling in math, but his teacher told me that there were certain benchmarks that he did not meet on the 4Sight tests. (The 4Sight tests are given three times during the year to assess where students need to improve, and to prepare kids for the big PSSA). His teachers and the principal told me the tutoring was for his benefit, and had nothing to do with testing. I wasn't buying that, but I went along with the 7:30 am tutoring anyway.
Since I have spoken with other parents I have learned that the tutoring was not offered to all students. It was not offered to some students who were really struggling in math. I am glad my son was able to improve (and he really moved up a lot) but it looks like the tutoring was only offered to the students who would help move the school's scores up, because those students chosen were already proficient, but had the potential to do even better. The lower students, who really needed the tutoring, were left out because it would have been less likely that they would have made enough gains to even reach proficient, so why bother with them? This is how it looks to me. It's fishy, but I am sure they can justify their reasons for only offering tutoring to certain students. And since there are now plans for teachers to be evaluated based on test scores (ASD superintendent Dr. Zahorchak's value added, Bill Gates endorsed, highly flawed system) then it sure looks like some teachers might be focusing more on the kids who can help them get a better evaluation. (The A$D has partnered with the Bill Gate$ Foundation.)
Question: Since our son's PSSA test scores don't align with his grades, then how do I know if he is really learning and improving? Should he be receiving enrichment classes? According to superintendent Dr. Zahorchak, "alignment is the essence of great teaching." All the test scores I have received throughout the year ( 3 rounds of 4Sights, and the mighty PSSA) are confusing to me, and so is the report card. According to scores from his final round of 4Sights, which were given after the PSSA and are supposed to be used to place him for next year, he showed no improvement in reading all year. This does not align with his PSSA score of advanced in reading, nor does it align with his report card which shows steady growth in reading level during the school year. And how are teachers supposed to use such unreliable data to place students? 4Sights are supposed to show growth. Maybe he had a bad testing day and was tired, hungry, or distracted? How are parents supposed to understand all this data if I can't, and I am a teacher. I think the endless drilling, pre-testing, tutoring, and teaching to the test has sharpened our son's test taking skills. Test scores at the elementary level across the district have improved this past year. Teaching to the test at the elementary level seems to be working. But at the middle school and high school levels scores have dropped. This makes me wonder if the older kids are retaining what they have learned. How much actual learning is taking place when the curriculum is narrowed and geared around one high stakes test? And with plans to cut the arts and other electives, students will care even less about school and much less about testing.
I believe that parents in the ASD should opt their children out of testing. You can do this! In PA it has to be for religious reasons, but you do not have to disclose those specific reasons. You can say it goes against your morals and values. There are parents in Colorado and other states starting to opt their children out of state testing. If the masses had the courage to stand up and do this, then the testing would end. It would have to.
ASD school board members should investigate an unethical superintendent who tried to co-erce the union president. See story: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-allentown-schools-teacher-cuts-20110623,0,4717588.story They have not researched his experimental programs (value added models) which are based on highly flawed research. They are duped. Parents need to get informed about corporate ed reform. There are plans for even more testing next school year. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (no teaching experience) and The Dept. of Ed is focusing on improving the tests, and testing even more subjects. Standardization and testing is big business for Bill Gates and textbook corporations like Pearson. Follow the money. In order to qualify for federal Race to the Top money, districts will have to comply with a new standardized curriculum written by Bill Gates. Don't let money and politics dictate education policy. Speak out, get informed.
Read the new Dissent Article, Dissent Magazine - Online Features -
Firing Line: - it is a great summary of the ed reform movement. And then attend the SOS (Save our Schools) Rally in Washington July 30th. Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action
The Grand Coalition Against Teachers
The Grand Coalition Against Teachers