Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A thoughtful approach . . .

I am impressed with the message in this Education Week Leaders to Learn from post by Catherine Gewertz where she shares how the state of Massachusetts will phase in the process to use the new common core assessments from PARCC for graduation purposes.  In particular, I like this message from the education commissioner.

Mitchell D. Chester, the commissioner of education who proposed the phase-in approach, told me that it just doesn't make sense to expect his high school students to suddenly meet a "college-ready" bar in order to graduate. Not when four in 10 of Massachusetts students who clear the MCAS hurdle and enroll in state colleges or universities have to take at least one remedial class.

"Our system isn't ready to deliver a college-ready education to all our students off the bat," he told me the other day, before the board voted on the phase-in plan. "I don't want to get there by having students punished by not meeting that bar."

Thank you for recognizing the significant difference between the current state requirements with cut scores identified for minimum high school graduation standards and cut scores designed to measure college and career ready.  And, this is in a state that consistently out performs other states on national and international assessments.  Our state has taken a different approach.  Today's seventh graders will need to meet standard on the ELA and mathematics common core assessments in 2019 in order to graduate.  There is an opening in the legislation, however, that allows the State Board to consider lowering the cut score - in other words if significant numbers of students don't meet the national standard, it can be lowered to survive the backlash similar to that currently being experienced in places like New York where parents and students have received scores.

So, if the cut score is lowered, are students still college and career ready in our state?  Across the nation?  What happens if Massachusetts and other states do the same and arrive at different cut scores?
2019 seems like a long way off, but based on what I currently know I expect that the cut score will be lowered in ours and in other states.  That is if the common core is still a requirement in that year.

Though states seem to still be firmly aligned with their commitment, the push back is growing.  Last Friday it was fueled by a comment from Secretary Duncan that forced a later apology.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,”

Interesting how one test can change the context for success of a student, school, and school system.

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