Monday, September 29, 2014

It's not news until it happens in Newton

Or Andover. Or Milton.
A front page story in the Boston Globe this morning points out that there are fewer schools in Massachusetts that are in the Level 1 accountability level this year; moreover, some of the schools that are now Level 2 are in THE SUBURBS.
Much like how the No Child Left Behind 100% proficiency level didn't become problematic until it hit the suburbs, it appears that the fickle nature of MCAS levels isn't front page news until it also hits the suburbs.
At least James Vaznis does us the favor of explaining something of how the levels are calculated:
Schools must cut in half gaps in achievement among students of different racial, academic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by 2017. Schools must demonstrate progress each year in reaching that goal to attain the top rating. The requirement applies to both MCAS scores and high school dropout rates.
In the super-competitive suburbs, the rating drops are raising wide-ranging questions, from what the declines say about educational quality to whether the state is relying too heavily on test scores — and splicing it too many ways — to accurately judge school performance.
Relying too heavily on test scores? Where have we heard that before?

As I said last week, to be at Level 1, you have to have met EVERY goal, including closing the gaps with EVERY subgroup. Miss one? It's Level 2 for you. And for every school that claws its way up from Level 3, a different school must necessarily fall into Level 3.
 If among those goals is cutting gaps to half, and half again, there is a point, perhaps, at which Zeno's paradox kicks in: you can approach zero, but you're never going to get there. Or if you get there, you're not going to stay there every year.
So, can we agree that this is a silly system? And start hearing about new ones? It's past time.

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