Monday, July 18, 2016

Here's An Idea: Change The Federal Definition Of Student Achievement : NPR Ed : NPR

Here's An Idea: Change The Federal Definition Of Student Achievement : NPR Ed : NPR:

Here's An Idea: Change The Federal Definition Of Student Achievement 



Morgan Polikoff has a modest proposal.
The associate professor at the USC's Rossier School of Education has been looking over the new federal education law. He thinks the Department of Education should abandon what has been the central principle of school accountability for the last decade and a half.
He's submitted a public letter during the feds' open comment period for rulemaking, and asked other researchers and education figures to sign on. So far, dozens have joined him.
What Polikoff wants the government to ditch is a reliance on the "proficiency rate."
The tests have changed over the years and from state to state. So have the cutoff scores, which usually fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. But the magic word — proficiency — has not.
Under the old law, proficiency rates were supposed to rise over time until they reached 100 percent, which never came close to happening.
Right now, the Department of Education is making rules to flesh out the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced NCLB. The new law abandons the 100-percent rule, but still refers to "proficiency" more than 60 times.
Judging schools on the percent of students deemed proficient, Polikoff argues, has a lot of problems.
"The most obvious is that systems that rely on percent-proficient only care about students right on the margin," he tells NPR Ed.
In other words, there's no incentive to worry about students who are years behind and unlikely to catch up. Nor are there reasons to fuss over the students who score well ahead of average.
Instead, schools are encouraged to focus heavily on those students who are just below the proficiency line.
Some researchers have termed this problem "educational triage," and shown that it actually affects how teachers in classrooms are allocating their time.
A second major problem arises from comparing achievement gaps among groups, such as high- and low-income students, using percent-proficient.
For complicated statistical reasons, analyses that look only at the percent-proficient, Here's An Idea: Change The Federal Definition Of Student Achievement : NPR Ed : NPR:

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