March 19, 2013

Students Get at least 4 cracks at Passing the NECAP Requirement

Marc Comtois

In light of the recent outcry over the NECAP graduation requirements, here are the actual requirements as published on the RI Dep't of Ed. website:

First Chance: Score 2 on first attempt (2 out of 4, 2 is partial proficiency) in 11th grade.

If they fail the first try, the student and his parents are then given a school-developed progress plan to follow and students are told exactly what score they must get in subsequent tests to show adequate progress (i.e. they don't actually have to even get a "2").

Second Chance: Re-take test in Fall of 12th grade. Score 2 OR SHOW PROGRESS TOWARDS PROFICIENCY (which means most students who scored a "1" on first try need to answer an additional 5-8 questions correctly).

Third Chance: Re-take a shortened test in Spring of 12th grade. Same requirements as 2nd chance (score a 2 or show progress).

Fourth Chance: After the second failure (ie; between the 2nd and 3rd re-takes), students can substitute scores from an approved list of tests (such as AT tests, AP tests, Accuplacer test, and others).

All of this occurs over a year following the first failure. I'm sure school departments will have remediation classes and other programs in place to help students satisfy the requirement. And parents could even take matters in their own hands and get their kid some extra help like a tutor or (for free) something like Khan Academy.

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Excellent, Marc. I was wondering about that.

Posted by: Monique at March 19, 2013 9:46 PM

"I'm sure school departments will have remediation classes and other programs in place to help students satisfy the requirement."

Noooo, we won't be teaching to the test. What could possibly go wrong?! See Campbell's Law...

"The more any quantitative social indicator is use for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Posted by: Russ at March 20, 2013 10:44 AM

I'm not one the anti-testing zealots (some level of inspection and testing is necessary in any process), but I think Tom Sgouros raises some valid concerns about the test itself and whether it was properly designed for the purpose. Sgouros, like a used car salesman or real estate agent, thrives when he has an informational advantage over the listener, which is why we should be VERY wary of his analyses, and I have criticized him many times in the past. But if his assertions about the origin of the test and its scoring are true, it raises significant questions about the test's value in doing what it is supposed to do: evaluating indnvidual students' understanding of the material.

The LSAT is an example of testing done well. It examines in a straightforward manner whether the testee can 1) read a passage, 2) understand the content, and 3) draw logical conclusions based on the content. It has proven to be highly predictive of success both in law school and in practice, so testing can be done responsibly.

Having said this, the adult-testing "stunt" doesn't really prove anything because the adults weren't taking the full test as designed. Presumably, a few "hard" questions were picked to prove a political point. It is entirely possible that the test was designed expecting most to miss these questions but still allowing students to pass.

Posted by: Dan at March 20, 2013 11:38 AM

"...some level of inspection and testing is necessary in any process."

That's not the conclusion of process improvement experts. See Deming's 3rd Point.

"Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place."

Posted by: Russ at March 20, 2013 12:07 PM

Russ - If you honestly can't see the difference between "dependence on inspection" or "the need for inspection on a mass basis" and the and the qualified point I made, then this conversation is hopeless. To suggest that there should be no inspection or testing of a product whatsoever is totally absurd and flies in the face of the limited and reasoned testing that Deming actually advocated. Please don't trot out your canned "don't measure" line - he was using a rhetorical device to make a point; he wasn't actually against any and all measurement - (unless he went totally senile in his old age and forgot his earlier writings).

Posted by: Dan at March 20, 2013 1:14 PM

Fair enough, but testing every student as a graduation requirement certainly qualifies as inspection on a mass basis. I'm not suggesting teachers should eliminate pop quizes. Only that high-stakes testing is an ineffective way to seek improvement in education.

Posted by: Russ at March 20, 2013 1:23 PM

I don't think graduation should be based on a single test performance, but that doesn't seem to be what's happening here, as Marc explained. A good evaluation system uses metrics as guidelines but is flexible enough to accomodate special circumstances. I have no problem with testing per se as long as it is done responsibly and the test has been proven accurate. On the related topic, teacher evaluations should be informed by student test scores but that shouldn't be the only metric.

Posted by: Dan at March 20, 2013 1:40 PM

So what of Campbell's Law? Here's more about the effects of high-stakes tests from "Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change" (you'd probably like this one, Dan).

"...achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways."

Posted by: Russ at March 20, 2013 2:09 PM

" teacher evaluations should be informed by student test scores but that shouldn't be the only metric."

And they are not.

Marc makes a very good point that you would never glean from all of the negative commentary and griping about this test: that the student gets four tries at it and help along the way.

Let me also do something I thought would never happen: that is, agree with Eva Mancuso, Chair of the new combined state ed board. Having adults take this test was a non-productive stunt.

By the way, what questions were given to the adults? If they were actual NECAP questions, how did the students who set up the test obtain them? If they were not, all the more so was this a completely valueless stunt.

One more point: shame, shame on the Providence Journal for making that the lead story of this past Sunday's paper. Talk about condoning low standards and discouragement. This is exactly what our students DON'T need.

Posted by: Monique at March 20, 2013 4:59 PM

They need to do away with these tests. I understand we needed them because we stopped having quality teachers. We can solve that by doing away with unions and paying teachers based on merit alone. You know, the way most DECENT HARD WORKING people EARN a living!

Posted by: Jenn at March 20, 2013 7:05 PM

I have always had a bone to pick with these school districts, or as I call them “factories.” When a district has a dropout rate approaching over 20% of a class, there is something very wrong here. Where are the teachers and the guidance counselors, but better still, where the hell are the parents? They bring these young people into this world, they are not pets! They deserve a decent education so they won’t end up on the welfare rolls or worst yet, in prison.

I have seen first hand a sampling of the lower 1/3 of a graduating class in one of my tech classes. These young adults could not figure out the symbol of a fraction on the blackboard!! What does that tell you about our public school system? Reading and Math skills were NILL. The districts are complacent in just passing these students through the system and letting them fall through the cracks. The high school diploma is worthless today - it has no value other than getting you into a community college or four year college or university. The real crime is seeing close to 40% of a freshman class at CCRI bomb out in the first year indicates a real problem with the system.

Students are not being driven to learn the lessons. Where is the homework? Where is the parent involvement in helping their children with their lessons? Oh, their too busy working to make ends meet! So much for that liberal agenda......

Government is not answering the call by creating more commissions, merging more boards, executing more studies and so forth. They need to get into the trenches, visit these schools, monitor these classes and see first hand just what is going on with these factories of learning!

The NECAP tests, for what it is, only evaluates the student for that one day. It is a benchmark to see what the student has retained over the years. If the sponge is still dry, then perhaps there has been no guidance and who’s fault is that.

The publicity stunt with adults taking this test is a joke. Adults that are working have not retained most of what was taught in their high school years, unless you are a high school teacher. Even the college professors have acknowledged that. Quoting the President of Rodger Williams College, “ For students who are college-bound, failing to become proficient with the high-school math curriculum is a prelude to a very short college career!” He is absolutely correct. I ask the question “how long will private industry continue to provide remedial courses just to get these potential employees up to speed to hire them?

The product is defective and we can blame those in government for letting the bar hit the ground!

Posted by: Govstench at March 21, 2013 1:01 PM
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