Sunday, February 25, 2007

U.S. Test Scores at Odds With Rising High School Grades

High school seniors are performing worse overall on some national tests than they did in the previous decade, even though they are receiving significantly higher grades and taking what seem to be more rigorous courses, according to government data released yesterday.

The mismatch between stronger transcripts and weak test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation's report card, resonated in the Washington area and elsewhere. Some seized upon the findings as evidence of grade inflation and the dumbing-down of courses. The findings also prompted renewed calls for tough national standards and the expansion of the federal No Child Left Behind law. "We have our work cut out for us," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement. "If, in fact, our high school students are taking more challenging courses and earning higher grades, we should be seeing greater gains in test scores."

About 35 percent of 12th-graders tested in 2005 scored proficient or better in reading -- the lowest percentage since the test was launched in 1992, the new data showed. And less than a quarter of seniors scored at least proficient on a new version of the math test; officials called those results disappointing but said they could not be compared to past scores. In addition, a previous report found that 18 percent of seniors in 2005 scored at least proficient in science, down from 21 percent in 1996.

At the same time, the average high school grade-point average rose from 2.68 in 1990 (about a B-minus) to 2.98 in 2005 (about a B), according to a study of transcripts from graduating seniors. The study also found that the percentage of graduating seniors who completed a standard or mid-level course of study rose from 35 to 58 percent in that time; meanwhile, the percentage who took the highest-level curriculum doubled, to 10 percent. "The core problem is that course titles don't really signal what is taught in the course and grades don't signal what a kid has learned," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a D.C.-based nonprofit group that supports No Child Left Behind. She added hyperbolically, "What we're going to end up with is the high school valedictorian who can't write three paragraphs."

Some experts say these educational mirages, which obscure low student achievement with inflated grades and tough-sounding class titles, disproportionately harm poor and minority students......

The potential for grade and course-title inflation is not confined to low-performing schools. Julie Greenberg, a math teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, said she was under such pressure to raise grades that she used to keep two sets of books in her statistics class: one for the grades students deserved and one for the grades that appeared on report cards. "If a teacher were to really grade students on their true level of mastery, there would be such extraordinary levels of failure that it would not be tolerated, so most teachers don't do that," she said.

At a news conference yesterday near Capitol Hill, education experts expressed concern that white and Asian students continue to score consistently higher than black and Hispanic students in all subjects. They also said the overall discrepancy between the test scores and transcripts deserves close examination. Darvin M. Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversaw the exams and the transcript study, called the gap "very suspicious."

"For all of our talk of the achievement gap amongst subgroups of students, a larger problem may be an instructional gap or a rigor gap," said David W. Gordon, superintendent of Sacramento County schools in California. "There's a disconnect between what we want and expect our 12th-grade students to know and do and what our schools are actually delivering through instruction in the classroom."

Lawmakers said the low test scores would reinvigorate the debate over high school reform as Congress considers the renewal of No Child Left Behind. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said "disappointing" results underscore the need to recruit first-rate teachers to low-performing schools.


California Teacher Upsets Muslims

Post lifted from Interested Participant. See original for links

As reported last week, a sixth-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary School, Randy Ingram, made comments in class about Muslims and Iranians which have produced a firesquall of controversy. The situation is quite troubling since I've seen statements made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that were similar to, and more strident than, Ingram's remarks. If anything, Ingram was merely being candid in his discussion.

From Fresno Bee:

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said that the teacher, during a lesson about the ancient Israelites, said Iranians are America's enemy because they want to destroy Israel. He also said that extreme Muslims and Iranians want to take over the United States, kill the teachers and hire their own teachers, Abu-Shamsieh said.

Students from Ingram's class were questioned by school officials with one recalling, "He said you don't have to be afraid of Muslims. It's the super-extreme Muslims who would want to hurt the United States."

However, one sixth-grade student's parents, Mashalah Boroujerdi and Rezvan Jamshidy, both Muslims from Iran, were upset by Ingram's comments, saying that their child was treated differently and distracted by the anti-Islamic remarks.

As a result, Boroujerdi called for the teacher to be disciplined, "... so this won't happen again." Also, Seyed Ali Ghazvini, a leader at the Islamic Cultural Center, weighed in and called for the installation of a discrimination hotline to allow families and students to report bigotry. Ingram faces possible reprimand as the investigation continues.

Extensive special treatment demanded for British Muslim pupils

Schools in Britain should allow girls to wear the headscarf in all lessons, including PE, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has recommended. Its guidance aims to ensure state schools meet Muslim pupils' needs. The 72-page document covers such topics as sex education, Ramadan and halal meals. It says schools should respect the decision of boys to grow a beard.

But head teachers warned that meeting any list of "demands" would pose major practical difficulties for schools. It says schools have an important part to play in fostering social cohesion. "Schools can play a vital role in facilitating the positive integration of Muslim pupils within the wider community and thereby preventing or at least beginning the process of tackling some of the problems of marginalisation."

In its examples of good practice, the MCB says the concept of "haya" or modesty must be respected by teachers and school staff. "In principle the dress for both boys and girls should be modest and neither tight-fitting nor transparent and not accentuate the body shape." Schools should allow girls to wear full-length skirts and boys and girls should be able to wear tracksuits in PE lessons.

The guidance criticises the "vast majority" of primary schools for asking boys and girls to change in mixed groups. "Muslim children are likely to exhibit resistance to this sort of compromising and immodest exposure, but are often pressurised to conform to institutional norms which do not take account of their own or their parents' beliefs and values," it says. Communal showering involves "profound indignity".

Muslim pupils should be allowed to sit out dance lessons, which are on the national curriculum for PE. "Muslims consider that most dance activities, as practised in the curriculum, are not consistent with the Islamic requirements for modesty as they may involve sexual connotations and messages." Headscarves for girls should be allowed, but the MCB guidelines stop short of endorsing the niqab or full-face veil.

Schools are urged to be particularly aware of the needs of Muslim pupils during Ramadan, the month of fasting. They should avoid scheduling exams during Ramadan and should refrain from sex education, as Muslims should avoid sexual thoughts and discourse at this time. Swimming lessons may also be problematic for some Muslim pupils, as there is a risk of swallowing water which they may believe breaks the fast.

MCB secretary general Muhammad Abdul Bari said: "Many of our schools have a cherished tradition of fostering an inclusive ethos which values and addresses the differences and needs of the communities they serve. "We are convinced that with a reasonable degree of mutual understanding and goodwill, even more progress can be made."

But the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Mick Brookes, said: "Schools are trying to create societies within their walls which are tolerant and celebratory. "I just worry that if the list of demands - if it is a list of demands - is too much, that it will simply create a backlash.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "This is not official guidance and is not endorsed by the government, nor does it have any binding power whatsoever on schools as some hysterical headlines claim today. "The Department for Education and Skills has no involvement with the document produced by the MCB."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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