Thursday, December 8, 2011

If We Tested School Board Members...

Over the years, finding a Kentucky school board member (or Trustee) who wasn't very smart was a fairly simple task. Well-educated Trustees were apparently the exception. But things have changed over the decades, and today's school board members are generally among the better educated citizens in most communities.

But what would happen if they had to be tested the same way students are - say, by taking the 10th grade exams? Well, that's never going to happen, right?

In Florida, it did.

This from Marion Brady in the Answer Sheet and here:

When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids
A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public.

By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen.

He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t done well, but had to wait for the results.

Turns out the board member was quite a fella.
The man in question is Rick Roach, who is in his fourth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education in Orange County, Fl., a public school system with 180,000 students. Roach took a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly known as the FCAT, earlier this year...

Roach, the father of five children and grandfather of two, was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. He was first elected to the board in 1998 and has been reelected three times. A resident of Orange County for three decades, he has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology. He has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six eastern states over the last 25 years....

Now in his 13th year on the board, he had considered taking the test for a while as he began to increasingly question whether the results really reflected a student’s ability. He was finally pushed to do it earlier this year, he said, after a board meeting at which the chairman listed five goals, and one of them caught his attention for being so unremarkable.

Roach said: ‘He [the chairman] said that by 2013 or 2014, he wanted 50 percent of the 10th graders reading at grade level....I’m thinking, ‘That’s horrible.’ Right now it’s 39 percent of our kids reading at grade level in 10th grade. I have to tell you that I’ve never believed that that many kids can’t read at that level. Never ever believed it. I have five kids of my own. None of them were superstars at school but they could read well, and these kids today can read too.

“So I was thinking, ‘What are they taking that tells them they can’t read? What is this test? Our kids do okay on the eighth grade test and on the fifth grade test and then they get stupid in the 10th grade?”...
Here's his take on the experience.
“I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities....

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actuall y been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

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