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Like Schools Everywhere, The Nation’s Report Card Is Dumbing Down To Hide Racial Disparities
The Federalist ^ | October 21, 2020 | Auguste Meyrat

Posted on 10/21/2020 6:31:40 AM PDT by Kaslin

NAEP's changes might cause better test results, but they fundamentally alter the meaning of reading comprehension, which would hurt students.


Much like the SAT adding an adversity score and the ACT allowing specific subject retakes, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “nation’s report card,” is easing its standards to improve its numbers. As with the SAT and ACT, these changes carry significant implications for the way English is taught in American schools.

This year, the NAEP’s governing board plans to change testing to “optimize the performance of the widest possible population of students in the NAEP Reading Assessment.” To do this, it will first expand the test to include not only reading passages but also applying the reading through creative tasks such as “making a recommendation” or “developing a website.”

Additionally, it will make sure to account “for students’ differential knowledge by providing necessary background knowledge on novel topics and administering short probes to determine test-takers’ knowledge about topics they will read about.” Presumably, this means students will receive an informational video or audio clip on the test that explains a certain topic in each passage.

Finally, the governing board wants to feature “digital forms of text that are dynamic and multimodal and that require navigation as well as comprehension skills.” Thus, in addition to reading texts, students will demonstrate their literacy by clicking on links in a website, opening files, and understanding the basic functions of a web browser.

NAEP Changes Would Destroy Reading Comprehension

While these changes might cause better results, particularly for a generation of students who have grown up in an image-based, computerized environment, they fundamentally change the meaning of reading comprehension. No longer does reading mean translating, imagining, and contextualizing a piece of text. It now means doing other cognitive tasks, such as “navigating,” “developing,” and “recommending” with things that aren’t really text, such as images, videos, and websites.

Furthermore, these additions essentially turn testing into teaching. Mark Bauerlein and David Steiner point this out in their criticism of the NAEP changes. In particular, they believe these efforts remove a key factor in assessing a student’s reading ability: “An effective reading assessment … should reveal the gaps in knowledge among students.” Directly compensating for the differences in background knowledge on the test will prevent the test from revealing the possible deficiencies in English instruction.

Instead of changing the NAEP, Bauerlein and Steiner recommend changing the way reading is taught in class: “Our current mediocre results are a signal that English language arts teachers should focus instruction on the study of content-rich texts.” They argue students in an English class should not only understand and analyze a text, but also learn from it.

They would require teachers to pick texts that broaden their students’ ideas and experiences, which they believe would help students to better connect with any text they might encounter on an assessment. In other words, students need to know more so nothing in a text is so unfamiliar and distant that they cannot even begin to comprehend it.

This is a good suggestion, but on its own, it is incomplete. Asking for an overhaul in the way English is taught by switching from a skill-based model to a content-based model will not happen unless the test changes. Simply, if it isn’t tested, it isn’t taught — and as the San Diego Unified School District demonstrates, if it isn’t taught, it eventually won’t even be graded.

If a test features random texts with random subjects for which teachers cannot really prepare students, there’s little point in trying. It’s much easier and more popular to offer content-light, accessible texts that reinforce student experiences, then blame the standardized tests for being biased and unfair.

Reform the Way We Teach and Test English

Therefore, the tests must also change and start setting a clear goal for English teachers and their students. Instead of end-of-year exams featuring supposedly neutral texts about volcanoes and penguins, they should focus on a set of themes studied that year. As Daniel Willingham points out in his article about how background knowledge plays a role in reading comprehension, “If a child has studied New Zealand, she ought to be good at reading and thinking about passages on New Zealand. Why test her reading with a passage about spiders, or the Titanic?”

Focusing the test on a theme or time-period could better align with traditional or specialized curriculum, which will be a key priority if school choice expands after this year’s election. Students in a classical school could be tested on classic literature, art, traditional math, and history. Students in a STEM academy would be tested on science, technology, engineering, and math. Their background knowledge base wouldn’t hinder their reading comprehension because their curriculum would hone in on this knowledge.

Making tests theme-based would also bring much-needed focus to English curricula, which tend to be a vague mess. As such, these tests would create an equal opportunity for students of different backgrounds and make English more interesting. Besides improving their reading and writing skills, students could learn something identifiable and concrete in their English class.

A move to emphasize content as a means of teaching skills would also transform the role of English teachers. They wouldn’t be the “guide on the side,” helping students condition themselves for the state test. They would instead be a “sage on the stage,” conveying their expertise and directly cultivating their students’ intellectual growth. Instead of helplessly hoping for a set of students who are already good, they would finally have the resources and position to make their students good.

In most schools, reading comprehension is neither taught nor tested properly. Reading well seems mysterious and arbitrary, depending more on students’ background and personal habits than on anything they learn in class. The only way to effectively address the disparity resulting from the NAEP is to dispense with the catch-all reading comprehension tests and curricula. Instead, the NAEP board should pick a theme and assess it, and English teachers should respond by doing the same in their classrooms.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: achievementgap; disparities; education; english; englishclass; naep; readingcmpr; school; standardizedtests; testing; tests
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1 posted on 10/21/2020 6:31:40 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Watering down the tests actually hurts blacks in the long run.


2 posted on 10/21/2020 6:37:32 AM PDT by libertylover (Election 2020: Make America Great Again or Burn it to the Ground. Choose one.)
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To: Kaslin

NAEP

N****s Ain’t Educated Properly?


3 posted on 10/21/2020 6:44:38 AM PDT by bk1000 (Banned from Breitbart)
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To: Kaslin

School choice, competition, merit pay. Otherwise we keep getting lousy results that cost too much.


4 posted on 10/21/2020 6:45:58 AM PDT by 1Old Pro (FILL THE SEAT)
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To: bk1000

Attendance diplomas are next.


5 posted on 10/21/2020 6:46:51 AM PDT by ActresponsiblyinVA
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To: libertylover

Gotta keep the plantation populated somehow.


6 posted on 10/21/2020 6:47:42 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Kaslin

Two ways to make people equal: Lift people up, or take people down. It’s clear the approach our education system is taking.


7 posted on 10/21/2020 6:48:02 AM PDT by dfwgator (Endut! Hoch Hech!)
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To: libertylover

“...Watering down the tests actually hurts blacks in the long run....”

That it does, but really it hurts everybody.
When I had my HVAC business, I would normally hire summer help out of the local trade school with the understanding that it was on a 2-week temporary basis based on performance. I didn’t care what race they were, and/or what their grades were in school. IF they couldn’t correctly wire a thermostat after two weeks of being shown/explained with direct on-the-job training by a seasoned tech and understand how it functioned, they were of no use to my business, and I’d cut em loose and go get another one. The ones that understood it were my future potential candidates for permanent employment once they were out of school.
FWIW, many of em would just quit after the first or second day on the job as they couldn’t take working outside in the heat all day. Seems they all wanted computer desk jobs. This was not the industry for them...LOL


8 posted on 10/21/2020 6:55:55 AM PDT by lgjhn23 (Libs are a virus.....the DemoVirus!!)
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To: ActresponsiblyinVA

No, breathing diplomas.


9 posted on 10/21/2020 7:02:11 AM PDT by DownInFlames (Gals)
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To: Kaslin
Reading well seems mysterious and arbitrary, depending more on students’ background and personal habits than on anything they learn in class.

That's hardly mysterious and arbitrary - do the parents make the kids read books or do they let them watch modern Leftist-themed cartoons all day?

10 posted on 10/21/2020 7:05:32 AM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ([CTRL]-[GALT]-[DELETE])
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To: Kaslin

For reasons I cannot fathom half the time, at 50 I have decided to go back to school and get a masters in elementary education (my undergrad degree is in international finance and I was a practicing corporate mergers and acquisitions attorney for 8 years prior to having kids). The main goal in every class I have taken so far is diversity and cultural sensitivity. Between that and the emphasis on “social constructivist learning” and “it isn’t the answer that matters but the process by which a student got there” I am thoroughly disgusted.


11 posted on 10/21/2020 7:51:48 AM PDT by pinkandgreenmom
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To: pinkandgreenmom
American universities need to be “defunded” and “reimagined”.
12 posted on 10/21/2020 7:55:15 AM PDT by Chgogal (ALL lives matter. If you disagree with me, YOU are the racist.)
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To: Kaslin

This is why the good private schools have very long waiting lists of children, whose parents will pay anything to get them into those private schools. Those good private schools can basically charge whatever they want to charge.

Our California Grand kids had excellent k-8 public schools.

Their 9-12 public schools went to hell by allowing anyone with a pulse and a minority status to come to that school.

One of their mother’s relatives had been through this B$ in the east coast with his kids. So, he footed a large part of the cost, and we helped.

That enabled those kids to basically get into good colleges.
One had to go to an out of state school as a white kid who made a single b in her entire life. She got a 25$K per year scholarship at an excellent STEM school back east. Her bro was offered to attend several out of state and instate engineering schools. I told him to make up a binder of his offers to show the Cali interviewers. He was then accepted by the school he want to go to.

He has several friends from the local public school taking online basic courses from the local community colleges.


13 posted on 10/21/2020 8:13:58 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (The line that separated Satire, Democrats and Stupidity has vanished. (thanks to jonascord)!)
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To: ActresponsiblyinVA

Attendance diplomas are next.


In some school systems that ship sailed long ago, except now some don’t even require much in the way of attendance.


14 posted on 10/21/2020 8:28:45 AM PDT by hanamizu
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To: Grampa Dave
The Kansas City MO Public School district went almost a decade without being able to meet minimum state requirements, and have had "provisional accreditation."

They did finally meet full accreditation in 2016, but last year it came out that the school district had been falsifying their records, and as of 2019, they lost their accreditation AGAIN!

You may remember that 60 Minutes did a story on a school desegregation case in KC, that included a federal judge imposing taxes on the taxpayers (eventually reversed by the SCOTUS, but the judge then threatened to hold the members of the city council in contempt if they didn't re-enact the tax.) More than One BILLION dollars were spent over the next decade or so, and the desegregation goals, let alone the hope of improving education for students were never met.

Mark

15 posted on 10/21/2020 8:40:05 AM PDT by MarkL (Do I really look like a guy with a plan?)
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To: Kaslin

The schools in Newark NJ are staying remote until Jan 23, 2021.


16 posted on 10/21/2020 8:42:24 AM PDT by mware (RETIRED)
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To: MarkL

I was not aware of KC’s public school problems.

Your story can probably be replicated in most public schools across the nation.


17 posted on 10/21/2020 8:52:06 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (The line that separated Satire, Democrats and Stupidity has vanished. (thanks to jonascord)!)
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To: Kaslin
this won't stop till a certain segment of the population is reduced to slapping it's forehead and grunting while it points to things they want...
18 posted on 10/21/2020 9:50:16 AM PDT by Chode (Send bachelors and come heavily armed.)
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To: Kaslin

Parents, avoid Child Abuse, Homeschool your children!!


19 posted on 10/21/2020 9:55:13 AM PDT by Deplorable American1776 (Proud to be a DeplorableAmerican with a Deplorable family...even the dog is, too. :-) Trump 2020t)
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To: pinkandgreenmom
and “it isn’t the answer that matters but the process by which a student got there” I am thoroughly disgusted.

Well, when learning the process is pretty important - without it, there is no answer. That said, if the answer isn't correct, that would lead me to say there's a 99% chance something in their process was wrong too!
20 posted on 10/21/2020 9:42:00 PM PDT by Svartalfiar
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