November 16, 2004

Report Card

Marc Comtois
I attended a meeting last night at my local elementary school in which data was presented detailing where the school stood with regards to standardized testing for school accountability as mandated by the State and Federal governments. While I may find the specific numbers for my children's school more germane, I realize that there is more general interest in the statewide numbers. These have yet to be publicized, so I guess you could call this a bit of a scoop. (For a more comprehensive breakdown, please go to the Ocean State Blogger where some of the analysis below has been repeated).

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all students must meet the achievement standards by 2014. The test results I have are only for 4th graders statewide and cover Math and English Language Arts (ELA). There is an established standard that all students are supposed to meet. The levels of achievement are measured against that standard for each student and then the percentage of students meeting that standard are calculated. In total, 89% achieved the overall standard for READING, 81% achieved the overall standard for WRITING, and 56% achieved the overall standard for MATH. (There are further gradations of achievement, and, again, if you're interested, go to my OSB site).

A closer look at the internals reveal specific problem areas. Obviously, progress needs to be made in Math, particularly in the areas of Problem Solving and Concepts. Overall, the ELA numbers are better, but it seems as if there is a deficiency in the area of Writing Conventions and Reading Analysis. The latter is not surprising, giving the suspicion we all have regarding the short attention spans of today's video-centric kids. The deficit in Writing Conventions is also not entirely surprising, as teaching and learning the mechanics of writing (remember diagramming sentences?) is generally not classified as "fun." Besides, I suspect that, as we are just coming off of a decade in which it was OK for 2+2 to = 5, strict adherence to punctuation and sentence structure have been subordinated to teaching a child how to better express their thoughts and feelings in writing. Content over structure, if you will. The recognition that writing conventions are important will hopefully remind that it's not just the content but also the structure of what was written that earns serious consideration of one's work. (This never changes, content is nothing in the world of scholarly publication if you can't get the format correct).

Overall, it seems as if progress is being made, and that the education establishment is taking this seriously. However, they can't do it alone and it is up to us as parents to make sure that our kids are putting the effort into their schoolwork and that we encourage them along the way. Remember, the responsibility for educating our children is not only held by our children's teachers. The lessons learned behind the school walls are forgotten unless they are reaffirmed at home. The teachers need our help, our encouragement and our support. It may sound hokey, but the school my kids attend have a little acronym that encapsulates what parents, teachers, kids, and the community need to do. They need to be a T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More).

I have written in the past about my disagreement with teachers when it comes to contracts and such. I will continue to do so. However, I will give them all the support they need to educate my child to the best of their ability. We all need to be able to separate the political from the educational, at least on a personal basis. After all, it really is about the kids, not about the desire to extract every penny from the taxpayers and the reciprocal resentment derived from such demands.