Tag Archives: State Testing
State Board of Education approves exit exams
Thursday, August 13, 2009
By Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG — A divided state Board of Education this morning approved a controversial proposal requiring students to take exit exams in core subject areas to receive high school diplomas.
The 14-2 vote sets the stage for the first exams to be given in 2010-11. Students in the Class of 2015 and beyond would be required to take them at the end of courses in core subject areas. Their scores would count for a least one-third of their course grades.
Those voting no were state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks,and Mollie O’Connell Phillips, a former school counselor who lives in Luzerne County. Pittsburgh resident Jim Agras, president of Triangle Tech Group, abstained without explanation.
Opponents of the proposal are concerned that testing is expensive and that it would hold students back from graduating.
“A high school diploma is a gatekeeper to a job,” said Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of the Media Area Unit of the NAACP, which opposes the testing. She asked board members not to let the new testing system deprive students of one.
Supporters, meanwhile, say the new Keystone exams ensure that diplomas are meaningful and that academic standards are equitable.
The advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has been one of the strongest proponents.
“This demonstrates our commitment to an equitable system of education,” said Joan Benso, its president. The best part of the regulation, she said, is that it guarantees remedial help for students who have trouble on the test.
Those who fail would have multiple chances to retake the test. The ones who still can’t would have the option instead to demonstrate proficiency through individual projects.
The plan now heads to the House and Senate Education Committees. If the committees approve or take no action, the plan heads to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which ensures it does not conflict with other regulations or statutes. If the committees vote no, the Legislature would have an opportunity to block implementation with majority votes in both chambers.
Education officials say that’s unlikely because the Senate Education Committee already passed a resolution in support of the exit exams.
“There are still hurdles, but the biggest hurdle was today,” said Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella.
What does it take to turnaround a low performing high school? See for yourself at:
Orie renews fight against high school exit exams. Check it out at the following link:
GOOD NEWS! Thanks to the hard work of all you educational leaders and your staffs! 🙂
NCLB Found to Raise Scores Across Spectrum
By Sean Cavanagh
Since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, critics have questioned whether the law’s mandate to bring students to “proficiency” has resulted in schools ignoring the needs of the nation’s highest- and lowest-achieving students.
A new study, released today, suggests those fears have not become reality.
The 50-state analysis found that test scores for both “advanced” and “basic” students rose in nearly three-quarters of assessments studied across states and grade levels, a level of progress only slightly lower than that of students reaching proficiency.
The study sought to examine a story line put forward in recent years—namely, that schools are not focusing on the highest- or lowest-scoring students, but rather on middle achievers, said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, which produced the report.
While the progress of high and low achievers could be stagnating in individual instances or schools, the study indicates that on average, those students are advancing, said Mr. Jennings, of the center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
“We found no strong evidence that NCLB’S focus on proficiency is shortchanging students at the advanced or basic levels,” the report says. Test scores “provide little evidence that NCLB is having such an effect.”
The study examines trend lines in state reading and math scores at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, beginning in 2002, the year former President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law. It requires states to make yearly progress in moving students toward a specific target: proficiency. All students are to reach that mark by 2014.
Of 300 possible test-score trend lines in reading and math on state exams, the center had data to evaluate 243 of them. Students showed gains in reaching proficiency 83 percent of the time, while 15 percent declined, and the rest did not change significantly.
State scores of students at the basic level, meanwhile, rose 73 percent of the time, and declined in 18 percent of cases. And at the advanced level, 71 percent of the trend lines showed an increase, while 23 percent declined.
Math Progress More Modest
While the gains were “more numerous and larger” at the proficient than at the basic and advanced levels, those differences are attributable partly to a statistical phenomenon caused by more students being included within the proficient group, the CEP says. The study is one of several to be released by the center in the coming months that will examine trends in student performance the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect.
States set their proficiency standards all over the map, research shows, raising questions about the legitimacy of their claims of student progress. States have similarly divergent policies in setting basic and advanced targets, Mr. Jennings said. (“States Tests, NAEP, Often a Mismatch,” June 13, 2007.)
Joann P. DiGennaro, of the president of the Center for Excellence in Education, in McLean, Va., said she doubted whether many state tests could adequately gauge the progress of top-performing students. As a result, she questioned whether the study could provide much information on whether high-achievers are making progress or being challenged in math and language arts classes.
At the same time, Ms. DiGennaro, whose organization advocates increased opportunities for high achievers, said she agreed with the report’s conclusion that the landmark federal law has not measurably affected elite students.
“Before No Child Left Behind, we weren’t doing anything for high achievers,” Ms. DiGennaro said. “It’s not the causal issue in [their] stagnation.”
The CEP study also shows trends that mirror recent results on the prominent federally administered test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress: Math scores rose more than reading results, and elementary and middle schoolers’ progress in math and reading was greater than that at the high school level.
While the report offers no definite explanation for those trends, it says that math skills tend to be “more discrete” and based on rules that can be “systematically taught to students” and may be easier to test than reading. In addition, the proportion of proficient students was lower in math, leaving more room for growth in that subject, the authors explain.
At the high school level, some students may not be motivated to take high school tests if they do not count toward graduation requirements—as is the case in many states, the report says. Yet the results also point to the need to focus more on the academic needs of older students, Mr. Jennings said.
Congress has begun preliminary work on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind law. Mr. Jennings said the results are in one sense encouraging in that they suggest the federal government and state officials can work cooperatively to demand more of students of different abilities.
“Teachers have responded” to NCLB’s mandates, Mr. Jennings said. “They have raised test scores. It clearly shows, as a nation, we can improve the schools, when we agree on what we want to get out of them.”