Evaluating Competency

Today the State of Florida released the test scores for the 4th grade writing test.  Results were to say the least, disappointing.  The number of students with a passing score (which means a 4 or higher on a 6 point scale) fell from 81 percent last year to 27 percent this year.  Everyone has their thoughts on why this number fell so low and I will not add or subtract from those theories.  However, reading the local Sentinel newspaper, I found several groups who did offer suggestions and so I turned to my Magic 8 Ball to evaluate them.

The state made the scoring harder this year.  Fourth grade students are expected to use correct spelling and grammar and to present logical arguments backed with evidence from the reading.   Others might ask how many professional writers today could create books or even simple articles without the help of built-in spell checkers and grammar checkers in programs like Microsoft Word and other similar computer based word processors.  I admit that I depend on their help.  On the other hand, how important is it to think critically, analyze a situation, and answer questions backed with the details from the story.  Since the state has not indicated at this time how much of the grade is based on spelling, grammar, or logical presentation, I asked the Magic 8 Ball how important these changes were and it said, “Ask again later.”

Some suggest that the state may have evaluated the writing too harshly considering they were grading fourth graders, not high school students.  One write-in reader offers the opinion that “parents don’t want to admit their kid can’t spell, or string a sentence together with any kind of cohesive thought.” I rolled the Magic 8 Ball across my desk and when it stopped, I read, “Reply hazy, try again.”

Another reader wrote in to suggest that maybe if students spent more time with their studies rather than texting or going out to Facebook, they would have done better.  If texting and Facebook had just been introduced in the past year, he might have a point, but both have been around for several years.  Does that mean that spending time on texting and Facebook is not a factor or it is that the effect is only kicking in now?  Again, turning to the Magic 8 Ball, it hesitated before saying, “Cannot predict now.”

Will these results add more fuel to the fire for groups like FairTest who oppose standardized testing and will they call for a further investigation into the value of these testing methods?  I tossed the Magic 8 Ball into the air and when I caught it, it said, “Most likely.”

Finally, will the state somehow amend these test results so as to not skew the overall school results too much lowering the school ratings leading to more ‘F’ schools and fewer ‘A’ schools.  I spun the Magic 8 Ball like a top, and when it finally stopped spinning, I saw the answer, “Outlook not so good.”

All kidding aside, this is a serious issue that will affect the future of these students.  Will they feel like failures or will it encourage them to try harder.  With one last shake of the Magic 8 ball, it replied in a hushed tone, “Better not tell you now.”

C’ya Saturday for a technical blog on building cubes in SSAS.

For those who want to read the Orlando Sentinel article, you can find it at: http://bit.ly/JXR1G7.


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