Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beyond Gap-Closing: Some Thoughts

Does the overwhelming focus on closing the "achievement gap" channel our energy in the wrong places?

Say we are able to eventually "close" the gap, eliminate it. What would the purpose of education be then? How would our schools, testing, and/or curricula change? Would education look or feel different?

When we focus on "gap-zapping," as EdTrust refers to it, do we change the way in which we practice education? Should we seek to close the test-score gap at all costs? Does the end justify the means? 

Are we short-changing our students?

Paying Students for Performance

NPR airs a discussion of D.C.'s initiative to pay students for their performance and test scores. (a.k.a. bribing students, rather than changing teaching methods and curriculum so that they will actually find learning exciting...)

College Board to Offer Pre-Pre-Pre SAT

The College Board will offer another standardized test for students, reports The NY Times. The test will "help prepare eighth grade graders for rigorous high school courses and college." I'm not sure how a test helps students prepare for high school.
“This is not at all a pre-pre-pre SAT,” Lee Jones, a College Board vice president, said at a news conference. “It’s a diagnostic tool to provide information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.”

The College Board, which owns the SAT and PSAT, made its announcement when an increasing percentage of high school students are taking the rival ACT and amid mounting concern over what critics call the misuses of the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests in college admissions.

Those critics dismissed the new test for eighth graders as just what Dr. Jones said it was not: “a pre-pre-pre SAT.”

“Who needs yet another pre-college standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” said Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group that has called for colleges and universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions. “The new test will only accelerate the college admissions arms race and push it down onto ever younger children.”
Do we really need yet another test? Especially when the SAT is not even a reliable tool?