Archive for November, 2015

SAT or Not 

Monday, November 16th, 2015
high school in southern California

high school in southern California

In spring 2016 a “new” SAT test, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, will be offered to high school juniors. In both the English section and the Math section, there will be more creative thinking, problem solving, and evidence-based answers from which to choose. I answered sample questions for a passage of text from a speech about impeachment by Barbara Jordan (New York Times, Education Life, November 1, 2015, p.10) and, politically interested in the article, I enjoyed thinking through the questions and answers. Most high school students would not appreciate the history of the piece, but as PrepMatters states, the questions are not traps, mysteries, or obscure.

It is still the case that exam results differentiate between high income students, able to take test prep classes, find more books available, attend schools which stress grades and graduation, and students that live in poor neighborhoods and don’t have access to the above.

Which brings us to the trouble for schools that cannot count on well-educated parents and high-achieving students to show off their success. Do we not want poor-performing students to see the value of an education, even if they should go for welding, not philosophy (as Marco Rubio so casually suggests)? The United States Department of Education is going to have a new leader. It is my wish that he concentrate on those schools and districts that need to rebuild themselves so that middle and high school dropout rates are reduced and graduation rates improve.

I continue to advocate for improved university teacher preparation to adequately train student teachers. I advocate for funds to assign teachers willing-to-stay at troubled schools and to provide the support they need to make a change. I advocate for models where the elementary, high school, and community college in a region work together to improve student outcomes from Kindergarten to college graduation.

Unfortunately, this school year 2015-2016 has seen a huge surge in teacher shortages country-wide at all levels, but especially in special education, bilingual education, math and science. Numerous articles show the reasons that stand out: poor salaries and inadequate funding for curricular programs; attacks on tenure; reduced collective bargaining; constant pressure to evaluate teachers based on the once-a-year test mandated by No Child Left Behind legislation and continuing even though teachers, students, and parents have said enough is enough; little time for authentic teaching because of all the tests required by plans for school reform.

Even  the latest attention to the idea that a class led by three or four great teachers in a row, in spite of poor attendance, large classes, weak school leadership, and students impacted by social problems, can raise the academic success of his/her students does not hold up over time.

So, the price for an excellent SAT score still is the student’s educated parents, lots of books, attendance at a high-performing school, and desire to be high-achieving. That doesn’t mean that a student who gets an average score can’t go to college, but choose carefully and hope your school district tackles the stakes at hand so good teachers enter and remain in the field.