Comment Of The Day: “…Oregon High School Grads No Longer Have To Know How To Read, Write, Or Do Math…”

Here’s the third of a run of three impressive Comments of the Day from two days ago: a dissenting take on the pandemic-linked Oregon law allowing students to receive a high school diploma despite not possessing documented proof of basic academic skills at the high school level. Since the author, the much esteemed Curmie, is a professional educator (and not in Oregon) his analysis carries due weight, and is worth pondering.

Below is his Comment of the Day on my post, It’s A “Ripley”! Oregon High School Grads No Longer Have To Know How To Read, Write, Or Do Math At High School Levels.” And I apologize for the inexcusably clichéd musical accompaniment. At least it isn’t the Art Garfunkle version…

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I’ll stipulate that the argumentation is stupid. That said, the actual change in policy is at the very least far less laughable than you suggest; indeed, I’d argue it’s a net positive.

What has actually happened is that Oregon has decided not to put all its faith in a standardized test run by a for-profit corporation. I don’t think that’s a bad call. Even the most professionally run of these exams have histories of major problems. Numerous math questions aren’t age-appropriate. (The people who write the exams aren’t educators–they’re often education majors who couldn’t get a job as a teacher.) There was a case few years ago where a reading comprehension problem was leaked, and a poet got two out of five questions “wrong” about his own work!

But the writing sections are the worst. Even the testing companies aren’t brash enough to argue that computers can score writing (although some are experimenting with the idea). So they hire graders. These jobs generally pay less than $12 an hour and require only a college degree… in anything! For that kind of money, you’re not going to get someone who can tell the difference between a sonnet and a laundry list.

So the company makes it easy for them: there’s a formula. Five paragraphs. First one says what you’re going to say. Next three, you say it (actually saying anything is more or less optional). Last paragraph: say what you just said. Follow this, without any enormous grammatical errors, and you’ll be fine. But woe betide the student who writes a coherent and persuasive essay… but wraps it up in four paragraphs. (The sonnet/laundry list line is an exaggeration; the five paragraphs or you fail part is not.)

The serious decline in writing skills I see in today’s students relative to their peers of even two decades ago (in the same courses at the same university) has occurred not despite the Great God Accountability (worshiped by both political parties, albeit in different ways), but because of it. I’ve seldom had students question their grades on essays, but when they do, I almost always have to control my urge to scream at them, “you got a bad grade because you didn’t freaking say anything.” But… but… it was five paragraphs, and…

Continue reading

‘Thank God It’s Friday!’ Ethics Warm-Up, 8/24/2018: Tests…

Good morning!

It’s good that this week is finally ending.

1. Case dismissed! Today I learned that motion to dismiss the $100,000 defamation suit against me by a banned Ethics Alarms commenter had been granted. I wish I could claim that my brilliant massing of precedent and irrefutable legal advocacy carried the day, but I’m pretty sure it was because the complaint was absurd and frivolous on its face. The plaintiff’s spot-on Captain Queeg impression at the hearing didn’t hurt.

I’m pretty sure he’ll appeal. They always do.

2. Wisdom from Althouse. I’ve been a bit worried about blogger Ann Althouse, who has been increasingly going off on trivial tangents in posts about important topics. She still is capable of perceptive analysis that cuts through the crap, however. Recalling her response when a friend asked her what her views were on “the constitutional crisis” as a former professor in the field, Ann wrote in part,

What “constitutional crisis”? It seems to me the Constitution is in place, working as usual. There are some legal issues in play, but what’s constitutional other than that some of the various actors in the drama have positions defined in the Constitution and obtained by normal constitutional procedures? It was assumed that I would excitedly spring into action because of this assumed “constitutional crisis,” but my response was that I felt distanced from all the ugly divisions, though I thought some good might ultimately come from the crumbling of the 2 political parties….as I walked on, I thought, What constitutional crisis? It isn’t a constitutional crisis. It’s emotional politics, a national nervous breakdown.

Bingo!

Your friends on social media breathlessly blathering on about a constitutional crisis a) want there to be a constitutional crisis and b) don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

You can tell them I said so. Continue reading

This Is How Officials Like Mayor De Blasio Think: Unethically, But They Mean Well

Never mind that the always dubious logic behind educational quotas and affirmative action is finally being exposed and discredited: New York’s socialist-in-all-but-name Mayor de Blasio is determined to have the city’s elite public schools “look like New York City,” which is code for “quotas.”

“The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City,” he has said. So he has announced a proposal that would change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, the crown jewels of NYC’s school system, the equivalents of private schools in quality of teachers and challenging curriculum where students gain entry based on their performance on a single test, taken by all applicants. That seems fair…but since it doesn’t yield a perfect demographic match to the city as a whole, de Blasio’s social justice sensibilities are offended.

Black and Hispanic students make up 67 % of the public school population, but the specialized high schools, which include Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, have just 10 % of students from these groups occupying the 500  available slots, with no improvement in that percentage for years.

Ah! The test must be the problem! This has been the accepted, conventional wisdom and cant that has been repeated by Democrats and affirmative action activists for decades, despite little but blind faith to bolster it. The Mayor, of course, is a believer. Continue reading

From The “Is We Getting Dummer?” Files: The College Board Thinks History Is Too Old…

 

The College Board, which makes the Advanced Placement tests, announced that it wants to stop including questions that cover events before 1450 on its history tests.

No wonder the nation is becoming more historically ignorant every generation. The educational establishment doesn’t comprehend the most basic of principle governing the study of history: everything can only be understood in the context of what occurred before.

1450? What about Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, the Mongol invasion, the Pharaohs,  Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great? What about Hastings, the Magna Carta, Marathon, and Christianity?

Whatever.

The eternal question here, since Ethics Alarms was launched in 2009, has been, “Which profession’s ethics are declining more quickly, journalism, or education? A case can be made that education is priming the decline of journalism, since increasingly journalists appear to be narrow, under-informed,and limited in their reasoning and analytical skills.

A Harsh Lesson We Must Learn From Atlanta’s Teachers

There isn’t much enlightening to say about the unfolding Atlanta teacher cheating scandal, but its implications must be faced, as difficult as that is.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal revealed this week that award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by teachers and principals. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom have confessed – in the biggest cheating scandal in US history. Not the first one, however; there have been a lot of them recently, across the country. The media is pointing to the U.S. education system’s increasing dependence on standardized tests as “the problem.”

I see: the testing made them do it. Continue reading