Use state reading and math tests as a youth program metric?
Are you kidding?

Spent some time today with earnest friends who really care about measuring their youth programs‘ effectiveness. Academic advancement of at-risk youth is a major goal. They thought they might measure by whether the kids pass their 3rd and 8th grade End of Grade reading and math tests.

And I was way too outspoken, but really I wanted to jump up and down and yell:

Are you crazy?

Set aside for a minute the whole end-of-grade test cheating scandal in Atlanta, where teachers actually changed students papers to make sure enough kids passed. Same thing had already turned up in DC and Chicago, although the Atlanta erasures had apparently gone on for a decade before they were detected.

Think about what you may have seen in your own community: kids who have “passed” end of grade tests on the second try, or with extra time, or by who knows what expedient. And the test says they read like an 8th grader but when you sit with them and a book, you discover they don’t know the word “though.” And a bunch of other 2nd grade words. Which explains how come their Individualized Education Plan requires that someone read their high school tests to them even though they supposedly have 8th grade reading skills — the skill level it takes to read The New York Times, by the way.

So what does it really mean to pass an End of Grade Test? Does it just mean another positive point toward “No Child Left Behind” funding? And if you can get funding for not leaving kids behind when you know you’re leaving kids behind … even on purpose … because it’s the only way to get your money … well, what kind of education policy is that?

Future sidebars will include equally cranky comments about birth to five education, how the bar has been raised to make at-risk kids failures before they even start school, and how we’ve changed our model of education over the last 90 years — since my grandmother began teaching — to make schools less hospitable to different learning styles and even basic learning less accessible to children of limited means.

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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