7,000 Children Left Behind

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

A couple of weeks back, newspapers across the city reported that around 7,000 students were wrongly sent to summer school because of their ELA or math test scores. I’m almost certain a few of those include my own (former) students.

For those of you who don’t know the inner workings of how these officials make their decisions, the ELA and Math tests have two basic elements: the multiple choice and the extended response. The multiple choice questions are (obviously) given a different weight than the extended response, but, because the test keeps changing on us, it’s hard to determine off-hand whether the student actually passed the whole test based on the multiple choice section.

That’s exactly what the state officials do, much to the chagrin of those of us who have to face the students.

When students get their summer school letters, they’re told on the spot whether the recommendation was based on classroom grades or the test grades. As quickly as teachers from certain districts try to grade their assigned exams, the entire process can take a couple of months to really get the score for these exams. Most teachers I know are OK with students getting the letter based on the grades they’ve gotten in class because a) there’s often accompanying evidence (or lack thereof) and b) we have a few people who can speak to the student’s mastery, including administration and parent coordinators. However, the test is trickier because we often have to follow a company line like: “Sorry your child didn’t pass the test. We don’t have anything to do with that, and it’s up to the city or state to determine if your child has mastered the grade material.”

I’ve always hated the company line, and this news only validated my original thoughts.

Even though this adds to a growing list of defeats and push-backs against the testing-as-accountability argument, it hasn’t gotten the national attention I believe it deserves. Now, the Post reports that the city will roll out make-up ceremonies for 1,200 of those students, but it’s far too late. They not only messed up the crowning achievement for these students, they overemphasized the importance of a three-hour long survey. We ought to continue holding our leaders accountable for letting such a farce pass through, but now we should give pause to some of the complicit behaviors we as teachers took in not working hand-in-hand with parents to disseminate information about the 7,000.

The city might have gotten a No Child Left Behind waiver, but 7,000 children still wouldn’t know that.