Sunday, February 12, 2012

Raising standards will do what, again?

Here's the bad news:
This is a four-state test given to all juniors in RI, ME, NH, and Vermont. 6,000 in Vermont. The 4 point scale is
  1. Not proficient
  2. Nearly Proficient
  3. Proficient
  4. Proficient with distinction
Our 11th grade students do pretty well in English, not so much in math: 36% passed, i.e. got a 3 or 4. If we look into those numbers,though, a weird thing shows up. Only 3% got the top score. Only 33% of the students got more than half of the questions correct for a passing score.

That's right. 3% got the high score (2/3 correct or better, appr. 70%). (edited 2/13: 800) 180 kids out of 6000, spread out across the state. Three year totals of 600 out of 20,000. The passing score is roughly 50% and only a third of the kids got that.

Either every single math teacher in Vermont is screwing up and not doing their jobs or we have a test that isn't appropriate. (and after missing that number in the previous paragraph, maybe it's me.)

If it were just one or two schools, or a single county, you might have a point to make about teachers or demographics but not if the problem is statewide ... and the numbers for Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine are exactly in line with Vermont's.

If I were to write that test with that kind of passing rate, I'd be excoriated for making it too difficult. Instead, our Commissioner says that we should make the test harder:

"Commissioner Vilaseca stated: "We are gathering more information about what Math courses all students are required to take, and will carefully consider whether it is time for Vermont to increase our graduation requirements in mathematics."

Uh, dude, they don't pass the test now. What exactly do you figure raising the cutoff will do?


  1. Hmm ... Raising the cutoff might demonstrate a "crisis" in education. Now since this crisis is not isolated to one state, the solution must be federal...

  2. 3% of 6000 kids is 180, not 800 :)

  3. You are absolutely right, and I should have caught that. What I misremembered was a three-year total of 600 out of 20,000 reaching the level 4 mark.

    Somehow that became 800. I'm more frazzled than I thought.

  4. I got smacked in the face for making this same argument in my district... (I'd tell you which one, but I am no fool, and very, very close to where you write from).