Re: Equity in Educational Assessment

Date: Thu Mar 02 2000 - 17:17:50 EST

  • Next message: "RE: Equity in Educational Assessment"

    You wrote:
    "More importantly, hidden in all these standards is the reality that
    many children are being left behind in American schools and those children
    are NOT white, upper/middle class on average. Is the real issue that the
    standard is the problem or is it that we have to stop being willing to
    leave kids behind, to stop accepting that some kids "just can't read"
    "aren't as good in math" etc. I suppose in this light, if the standards
    reflect on the school and not the individual child, might they be somewhat
    useful to those of us interested in equity?"

    I think your comment is a great way to think about standards in assessment.
    At their best, they promote rigorous curriculum and high expectations for
    all students. At their worst, they act as yet another filter, sifting
    certain groups of kids out of the educational pipeline. For the latter I'm
    thinking particularly of high stakes testing such as the MCAS that we have
    here in Massachusetts. The number of students of color who, based on the
    current test results, will not be allowed to graduate from high school is
    absolutely disheartening. Yet these results could be used to the benefit
    of students. The assessments show that many of our schools, particularly
    those in communities with few resources, are not doing all they can to
    teach every student. For example, the highest scoring community in
    Massachusetts was the suburb Harvard (which is pretty affluent and mostly
    White). In grade 4 on the mathematics MCAS, 33 percent of Harvard district
    students scored at the advanced (highest level). The state average was 12
    percent - and the average for Boston Public Schools was 4 percent. That's
    a 29 point difference between Boston and Harvard!

    In her book _Multiplying Inequalities_ Jeannie Oakes spends a lot of time
    comparing how students in different ability tracks receive different kinds
    of instruction. Students in high-ability tracks (which is largely White,
    Asian, and middle- and high-income students) are pushed to develop higher
    level thinking and problem solving skills, spend more time with hands-on
    activities, spend less time on "math facts," and have fewer quizzes and
    tests. Low-ability tracks, on the other hand, have more drill and
    practice, more worksheets, and more tests. These are students from the
    same school using the same curriculum. While she is talking mostly about
    students within the same school or district, I think her analysis also
    works for urban versus suburban schools, poor verus non-poor schools.
    Students in economically disadvantaged schools tend to miss out on the same
    kind of rigorous curriculum that students in more affluent schools receive.
    That is not to say this is true for every school in every city, nor is it
    to say that the teachers in those schools are doing a poor job. The point
    is more to recognize that students in those two settings receive VERY
    different kinds of educations and have very different school experiences.
    This difference is highlighted by assessments such as the MCAS which tests
    students on higher level thinking and problem solving (the kind of
    curriculum that higher tracked students receive). So that test, and others
    similar to it in other states, send off screaming red bells that we need to
    work harder to provide a rigorous education to all students. In the
    meantime though, until real changes are implemented they will simply be
    filtering many non-White students out of the educational pipeline. In
    Boston, some of those changes are beginning to happen. But they will
    probably not happen soon enough to stop massive numbers of urban students
    from not graduating.

    "Christina Perez" <>

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