Proficient Yesterday, Failing Today, Trust Us, All is OK!?!

The State Board of Education met yesterday and was asked by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to approve the final academic achievement standards (cut scores) for the new assessments given in the 2012-2013 school year.  These assessments  were aligned to the Common Core Standards, and everyone expected lower proficiency rates.  Of course, Common Core is so much more rigorous; a “cure all” for what ails public education.

Dr. Angela Quick, Deputy Chief Academic Officer, Academic Services and Instructional Support, presented a power point that showed an assessment history, and how these proficiency levels were determined. No worries, everyone just needs to remember the drop in scores back in 2005-06, when math cut scores became more rigorous and proficiency dropped 18.4%; or in 2007-08, when the reading cut scores were changed and proficiency dropped 13.2%.

Also, we just need to realize that these drops in proficiency percentages happened in New York and in Kentucky this past year.  Again  – NO WORRIES, be happy! We have NEW, RIGOROUS standards, and it will just take a while to get back on track!

So, what exactly are we talking about, how much of a drop in proficiency percentages in one year? Looking at the “Impact Table” makes one wonder what IS happening.

Let’s take 8th grade reading. In 2011-12, 65.2% were proficient, but in 2012-13 only 42.74% – a 22.46% drop. What about 8th grade math? In 2011-12, 79.8% were proficient, but in 2012-13, only 35.45% – a 44.35% drop.

What is wrong with this picture? Especially since our state just celebrated a  graduation rate of 82.5%, which is a new high.

Does this mean that our diplomas really mean nothing? The students in North Carolina have suddenly become ignorant, and all teachers inadequate?

DPI stated they began working on a “communication plan” earlier this year to explain the drastic drop in percentages.  Talking points will be sent to all systems, superintendents, principals, and teachers. In fact, a new website will come on line in October to disseminate scores, and try to explain the situation.  Dr. Atkinson even stated there would be a “crosswalk” to what scores would be if we used the old assessment system, comparing them side-by-side.

There is something fundamentally WRONG.  Even the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has 75% of 8th grade students above basic level in 2011.

These assessments are flawed!  While I am the first to admit standards in North Carolina have been low, I don’t believe they are THAT low! We can only imagine the outcome when the scores are disaggregated by race and economic condition.  Some folks think there is a conspiracy by conservatives to “destroy” public education.  Could it be the Federal Government, who enticed states with money to adopt these “higher” standards and assessments, is simply waiting to become MORE invasive so they can “solve” this education crises?  “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Why doesn’t North Carolina go back to a national recognized achievement test, and stop making this so entirely unbelievable? It is time for a testing revolt!