Failing Our Students, Once Again
It is unequivocally unacceptable that a mere fifth of Rhode Island’s high school students can achieve proficiency on the science version of the NECAP test. I’m especially incensed by the fact that Tiverton was one of only two districts in Rhode Island to lose ground at every grade level. Johnston was the other, and while Johnston’s scores are worse, Tiverton’s declined more severely (PDF).
The question that begs to be asked is whether the result is further evidence that the raises that the Tiverton school committee dished out in January were ill considered or it is an indication of union members’ inability to maintain and improve the quality of their work while they’re agitating for unaffordable increases in pay.
Turning back to the state level, Julia Steiny’s got an interesting column today making the observation that the problem is much deeper than just an inability to lead students to grasp scientific concepts:
In the spring of 2008, Greg Shea, physics teacher at Mt. Hope High School, was proctoring the 11th-grade New England Common Assessment Program science test.
As he wandered among the test-takers, he was blown away by the number of kids leaving the open-ended questions blank. They seemed buffaloed by having to explain their thinking in writing. His heart sank.
Sure enough, when the test results came in, an anemic 19 percent of the kids were “proficient.” (State average: 17 percent.) Shea says, “The biggest driver of the science NECAP scores was the students’ inability to respond to the extended-response questions. We dug into the issue by asking the kids what happened. They told us we hadn’t given them enough opportunity to develop the [needed] skills.”
Steiny presents the story as an ultimately hopeful illustration of what can happen when professional educators work together and try comprehensive approaches. In a darker frame of mind, one could point out that we aren’t merely failing to provide students with a body of basic knowledge, which is bad enough, but are unleashing them into the world unable to learn, think, or express themselves in practical ways, which is nigh upon criminal and brings into doubt the very argument for funding public education at all.