July 18, 2008

Test scores should be more accurate

Despite all the fancy graphics and solid-looking numbers, the state isn't providing the one thing that would really tell us how students are doing: Scores that show whether particular students who remain in one district are improving from year to year.
That's the real test, after all, of education.
Bristol is trying pretty hard to come up with just those sorts of numbers, in part because officials are convinced that by tracking individual students they can prove the schools are doing well by those students who stick around.
What we've seen so far seems to show that they are doing just that.
But the state as a whole ought to be able to provide a far more comprehensive look at test results when it finally gets around to tracking each student, wherever he or she goes.
It would help policy makers and others to know, for instance, whether students who stay in the same home all the way through school do better than those who move frequently (something we know must be true, but can you prove it?).
Is all-day kindergarten worth it? The test results for students years later ought to show it one way or another.
Anyway, there's a ton of stuff we could learn, but can't, because the numbers are too broad. Let's hope that gets fixed soon.

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

6 comments:

chris wilson said...

Steve, you are correct, cohort analysis might give us more tools to evaluate the efficacy of one program vs another. Unfortunately, the flip side is we might start making more short term decisions which might not be as beneficial. I think we need to take a more long term and global view of education. It is not about one student, one grade, one class or one school. I think we need to make rational well thought out change. Cohort analysis certainly should play a role but regardless we must educate all students to be successfull. I think that is the intent of NCLB. The best part of NCLB is that we have started to have discussions about how we label and tract certain students and that is good. Now all students have the opportunity or should have the opportunity without being labelled early on their life.

I recall being told I was not college material by a guidance counselor. Today I have a masters degree and couple of advanced professional certifications. One shouldn't have to fight for the right to be educated.

I know I have drifted far a field however my overriding point is that we cannot micro manage education with over analysis.

look forward to your comments. I enjoy having reasoned arguments but abhor the vitriolic diatribes that go on on many of your blogs. I know you try and control but it is disappointing nonetheless!

chris wilson said...

Steve:

Another thought! Isn't interesting that the fewest responses are to your educational blogs yet isn't education one of the most important roles of government along with security and protection? That I believe in and of itself is the problem. We all must/should get more invested and engaged in education. It needs to become a greater priority in our community. That probably is the biggest difference between the communities we want to compare ourselves against.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Another well thought out and intelligent post. I thank you for your insight. One of the things that I try to emphasis with people on numerous topics, and I believe that education is a perfect topic to apply this thought process to, is to set realistic goals within our community and to have reasonable expectations with our children and our school system. We all have to understand that Bristol is indeed a city with many of the emerging social, divirsity, poverty and educational problems that go along with being a city. Bristol has a very large school system with many interesting dynamics and challenges that are difficult to compartmentalize. Doctors don't save every life, cops don't solve every crime and teachers cannot be expected to educate every single child. This is not a realitic goal or a reasonable expectation. I think that generally, educators do the best they can with what they have to work with. I am not advocating giving up on students, but I think you get my drift. I think that alot of residents still look at Bristol as being a small town and that is simply wrong. When comparisons are made between other cities our size, we are in great shape educationally.

Steve Collins said...

I find it curious, too, that educational issues attract so few comments.

cseguin said...

I too wonder why we don't have more productive discussion of educational issues on the board. I admit I'm still learning a lot about these educational studies, and it helps my own understanding when we have well-reasoned and rational discussion and debate.

I think Chris' argument is correct, and speaks to trends I saw going through the system in the late 80s/early 90s. While there were some great teachers, there also was a system where the students were labeled very early, and that labeling was something the student carried throughout their schooling.

It affected the kind of education the child received, and, in the end, the kinds of opportunities available. The labels tended to be rigid, and it appeared that it was difficult for a student to "break" those labels, so to speak, as he/she went into middle school, and later, high school. I was lucky enough to be labeled as "gifted" early on, which opened a lot of doors. There are many more students who could have, and should have, had access to those opportunities.

If there is going to be any classification, it should be such as to opening doors, not closing them.

A broader view would be beneficial in a number of ways. It's a lot easier to adjust when there's a comprehensive plan in place, rather than trying to create a plan piece by piece. It would make the system less reactive, capable of anticipating trends and setting up students for success from the get-go. Whatever you think about the legislation, NCLB has at least started some of these important discussions and gotten us all thinking.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad statement of our community that people are more concerned about whether a volunteer gathering signatures for a petition should have their signature notarized than being concerned about the educational future of the city's youth.

Priorities are in the wrong place. Until more Bristol residents recognize the value of education very little will be accomplished in bringing the solid middle class families that the city wishes to attract to our city.

Whether you want to accept it our not, other communities are very much aware that test scores, educational programs, and the quality of the schools are key factors in deciding which community a family chooses to live in.

Realtors know this very well and market it buyers as do communities with high test scores such as Farmington, Avon, Canton, Glastonbury, Simsbury, Granby, etc.
Their schools are a sense of community pride and it translates into higher than average real estate values.

If you don't have children or your children have already gone through school it doesn't matter. Education is still important to the community's strength and good schools will translate into a higher standard of living, lower crime, and higher real estate values.

Speak up, ask questions, and get involved!