kid-taking-a-test2.jpg
Is it me or is it the test?
Ever since high-stakes testing came into being in this state a dozen years ago, we've been in

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New Federal Study Proves: Your Kids Don't Actually Suck at Math

kid-taking-a-test2.jpg
Is it me or is it the test?
Ever since high-stakes testing came into being in this state a dozen years ago, we've been in a collective depression about our kids' math scores. Year after year, WASL scores have tanked. Last spring, for instance, only 45 percent of 10th graders passed the math WASL.

"Math continues to be our problem," lamented state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, announcing the scores last August.

Some, like University of Washington weather guru and math traditionalist Cliff Mass, blame the fuzzy teaching methods of so-called "reform math."

But a new federal study released yesterday provides a counterweight to the doomsayers. Turns out there's a reason that math WASL scores are embarrassingly low. The test is hard--harder than the math tests used by most states, according to the study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The analysis--done by comparing students' scores on state tests with those on a national standardized test called the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)--underscore once again the faulty premise of No Child Left Behind. The federal act threatens states with sanctions if their students do not meet certain benchmarks on assessments. But since states are left to design their own assessments, there's no consistent standard. (There's no consistent sanction either, as the lack of penalties for failing scores at Seattle's Aki Kurose Middle School has shown, but that's another matter.)

No Child also sets a deadline of 2014 for states to have all their students performing at a "proficient" level. So guess what else the new study found? Many states are lowering the bar by which students can be judged proficient. That's one way of bringing people up to standard. The study provides ammunition for a new push for national education standards.

Will Washington state make its test easier? "On the high school test, you could certainly argue that proficiency on the test is too difficult too achieve," says Chris Barron, spokesperson for Dorn. Only 45 percent of all 10th graders--and 21 percent of black 10th graders-- passed the math WASL last spring. That's something Barron says the Superintendent will keep in mind as his office designs the new, shorter tests that he has ordered to replace the WASL. Sounds like students could be in for a reprieve.

 
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