Saturday, January 12, 2008

DUMBING DOWN THE HOUSE

Read The Trib's Exam Grades Going Higher.

Here is what jumped out at me.

Just 62 percent correct on the physics semester exam equals an A, for example.

"I can guarantee you no student is going to get a worse grade," said David Steele, the Hillsborough County School District's general director for secondary education. "Our goal is to ensure the grade on the semester exam mirrors the class grades for the nine weeks."

Hillsborough was first in the state to have a merit pay plan approved because it could use its semester exams to gauge student performance for other subject area teachers. But teachers are evaluated on actual scores, not on letter grades.

The district is paying $3.1 million during five years for the software was used to scale the semester exams, said John Hilderbrand, Hillsborough's testing and accountability chief. But it is also used by teachers to create their own tests and improve exams.
Scam-tron anyone? Do you think the curved grades are automatically entered on the grade gathering documents OR into the report card program?

Hillsborough is changing the grading of its semester exams at the same time high school teachers have added one class period to their day. They now teach six out of seven periods, a move by the district to save money that drew fire from teachers. The district has agreed with the teachers union to evaluate the effect on students and teachers of the heavier workload.

Steele confirmed he has heard from principals that some teachers suspect the timing of the new grading scale was done to ensure student performance would improve.

"We will not compare semester grades," Steele said. "We will be comparing raw scores on tests that are new or have changed."

Get ready.

Is it any wonder this grade manipulation/inflation continues to undermine the value of our diplomas in high school and college?

Teach to the test: be it FCAT or HiCcuPS.

16 comments:

Tom Encheek said...

Dear Maryellen,

THANK YOU for making my life easier and more organized.

Really, I worried about having enough energy to teach six out of seven periods. Then I worried about being found out if I paced myself too slow and my students got low grades on their semester exam. I have found that pacing myself has allowed me to return parent phone calls. They were very appreciative. Explaining that I have taken a break from grading, preparing, researching and disciplining in order to communicate with them certainly boosts their self-esteem. Making sure that I let them know I need to make 4 more calls helps keep the call to the bare minimum. (OK, sometimes I just say that.)

Now I find out just how much you are allowing the exams to be curved (50 is passing!) and all my concerns have evaporated. My AP for Curriculum would never let me curve an exam.

I'm thinking about joining CTA.

2 multiple choice tests and 4 quizzes per grading period, no essays or homework to grade, nothing to take home: what a county!

Can I get a no-bid contract to present this strategy at an in-service?

Thanks again,
XOXO
Tom Encheek

twinkobie said...

When I was at HCC, there was a racket of these testing outfits being buddies of some administrator. I wonder if there is a connection between this testing outfit (a perfect cul-de-sac for former administrators) and the administration or board members?

I revel in being paranoid. My worst suspicions about the brigands in the administration and the potted plants on the board are usually true. lee drury de cesare

Anonymous said...

Who was it that said it was only paranoia if they REALLY WERE out to get ya ? Why do I feel there is a target on my back--or forehead--or both?

Why am I teaching my heart out, working 7 days a week, pushing my kids 'til they hate me, to just manage it all, only to find out that a 47% effort by a student will pass the semester exam ? What if I, the teacher, only gave 47% effort? Yes, some exams were newly written by the county--but why presume failing student grades before the first exam was graded and send out a curve? Doesn't this speak of a failing EXAM ? NOT a failing student? I had only TWO F grades of 170+ students--never before has this happened in TWENTY years of teaching!!!! What happens NEXT semester when the students only give 47% effort to studying?

I'm sure parents and students alike will be joyful with grades, but what happens when the universities figure this mess out and "curve" their acceptance criteria for Hillsborough county grads? No joy, then.

Elia and the SB made a serious errorwhen deciding to force teachers into an impossible teaching situation--and there have been other serious errors, since. We haven't started our students down a slippery slope, but have thrown them into a crevasse. Decision making of this poor calibre is not only irresponsible, but will be prosecutable.

Goader said...

Anyone?

F451herewecome said...

Hey, next year it won't matter in English. We'll have the almighty Springboard campaign to replace all our pesky teaching along with whatever actual learning the kids have been doing.

Anonymous said...

It was great to see the defense of this policy at the board meeting. Why these people think that exam grades should match with exam grades is beyond me. There are a great many teachers who inflate grades or pad them with extra credit and class participation. The exams are the one chance for the students to demonstrate what they have learned in the curriculum.

How about asking some Reading, English, and Math professors at HCC to look at our exams in the respetive subjects and let us know if the grade that the curve considers passing is acceptable to them.

When 80% of our students graduate from high school (well, actually 80% OF THOSE who actually graduate) aren't ready to take college-level courses, accountability and assessment in core subjects needs to be tightened and NOT fluffed.

Perhaps the quality of the core teachers needs to be looked at as well. And while you're at it, use your "ScanTron Magic" to determine which teachers consistently have students who cannot pass an exam. Because those kids are not being taught what they need to know. [Not that there are any options to replace those teachers right now...]

Hurry! All this data will only be relevant until the kids start sharing the keys to the exams, now that there is no way for department heads to change the exams on-site (by rearranging questions) to help nab cheaters.

Go Team Elia!!!!

cableguy said...

With respect To David Byrne/Talking Heads.

Time out,
you could be found out later
Cool stoolies
Board that has no borders
It’s no or-din-ar-y try
Dumbing down the House

Hang loose
Wait 'till the tests are over
Hang loose
we got the Papers snookered
Its much ea-si-er to-day
Dumbing down the House

That’s the ticket spin the phrase time to get the stooge on board
temper dictates with fear
Close enough will get you by,
maybe you don’t have to try
Fix the data with data

Get set
They have no need to worry
Downtown
Schemes simmer in broad daylight
One hun-dred eight-y days a year
Dumbing down the House

I will try it with straight face award a bonus to myself
never show any grace
Board will rubber stamp my work, public what did you expect
potted plant, smiling face

(solo)
Dumbing Down The HOUSE!

My class
Is less than ordinary
That’s right
Don’t want to flunk nobody
Some things sure can in-sure your defeat
Dumbing down the House

No visible means of support
and we have seen no data yet
Every thing's smoke and mirrors
You don’t know what to expect
not sure what you are gonna get
Fight your fires with liars

Anonymous said...

I listened to "Burning Down The House" and read this. Nice job.

We need a video for the community access channel.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if there is a connection between this testing outfit (a perfect cul-de-sac for former administrators) and the administration or board members?"

Of course there is a rumor that a high ranking official is married to a Scantron official. Not sure if the connection is still there. I'm out of the loop.

Anonymous said...

How do they scan for extra credit when the student receives bonus points for bringing in a roll of paper towels or a ream of paper?

Anonymous said...

If teachers did not have to use their own money to supply the classrooms with Kleenex, hand sanitizer, paper towels, copy paper, colored pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. then no extra credit would have to be offered. Before you get overly critical about those types of bonus points, in most of the classes, the value of the points is negligible. Students will not pass or fail on bonus points. Zeros on classwork and homework (i.e. doing nothing) and lousy attendance is what causes kids to fail. I'd find it hard to believe that there are hardly any teachers who award enough bonus points to make up for zeros. And remember, in college, we had professors who dropped low scores on tests and did legitimate curves based on whole class performance, not a whole school curve like the conspirators who are running this district have put in place....now when students' grades do not drop as predicted, they will have more "evidence" that the 6/7 schedule has not hurt student performance.

Anonymous said...

from anon 6:06 to anon 8:14

Interesting that a concern about a student's grade, based on bonus points derived from bringing in a paper product, elicited such a response.

I will assume that the thought that a teacher may be unqualified and inept never crossed your mind.

I will assume that you bust your ass to honor your profession.

I will assume that your choice to personalize the comment obstructed your ability to deal with statistical facts.

There are some teachers who are inept, unprofessional, derelict in their profession and simply provide a disservice to the public. If you deny that, then you are woefully arrogant and self absorbed, if not in denial.

What do you say to the students who have to put up with a teacher or constant stream of substitutes who lack skills and competence?

What do you say to the students who have high goals and have to suffer through mundane class presentations, dummied down content and unchallenging assignments?

So, before you get your lesson plan in an uproar, analyze a comment to see if it fits to someone other than you.

Suzie Creamcheese said...

Stand Up and take a bow "cableguy"!

Nice to see Jeff @ The Gradebook enjoys these things as much as we do.

Thanks for putting it here first.

KUDOS!

Anonymous said...

Try this New Elementary School Teacher Test?

Anonymous said...

There is no way in hell I will ever send my future child to a public school in Hillsborough county. Guess I better start saving my cardboard boxes so I can live under I-4! I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who was thinking of transferring their daughter next year from a private middle school to a public high school. After she read the postings on the wall she quickly changed her mind!

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