The Magical AYP Score

Hello all, this is Sofia.  I am co-facilitating the first & second chapters of Adolescent Literacy for our next meeting.  I pose the following question for all of us to mull over before we join together for group discussion:

In Kylene Beers’ discussion of NCLB, she uses an email she received from a principal in Florida in order to raise a controversal point on the perception of Adequate Yearly Progress scores of students in our country.  Please read this email on page 6; it is worth two minutes of your time!  The principal who composes this email to Beers definitely sounds desperate to get his school up to AYP standards.  Over the telephone, he tells Beers, “Do whatever you need to do to get those scores in place.”  Beers replies, “How does making a certain score help your students with the twenty-first-century literacy demands they face?” 

For the sake of discussion, let us pretend that Beers is actually asking this question to all of us as future teachers and school administrators.  How will SAT scores, Regents scores, and other state exams prepare our students for modern literacy demands?  By using standardized tests, are we actually preparing students for the literacy demands of a world that no longer exists, as Beers suggests?  Or should tests and AYP scores be hailed for their ability to “ensure” that all children are taught at the same standard?  I’m looking forward to your feedback!  -Sofia Penna

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6 responses to “The Magical AYP Score

  1. mandygrl101

    Sofia, I just finished the first two chapters of Adolescent Literacy, and I wanted to take the time to respond to your post, which was a good guide for me as I was reading. In response to Beers and your question regarding literacy and testing, I have to argue that making a certain score does very little, if anything, to help students with the literacy demands that they face today.
    I increasingly feel that standardized tests are an ineffective way to assess any students’ strengths and weaknesses, and I will use an example from my mom, a high school English teacher. She was explaining the scoring procedures of the NYS English Regents to me, and I am baffled at what I learned. She told me that in terms of grading, a student can get a score of 3 on all of the essays, (which is borderline), but they can get all the multiple choice questions right, and pass the exam. Further, if a student gets a score of 4 on each essay, (a passing score) but gets each question in the multiple choice section wrong, they will fail the exam. Not only was I doubting standardized testing before I learned about this, but what exactly is being achieved with such an absurd scoring methodology? Nothing, in my opinion. This reminded me of Derek, who was simply judged on what the administration and state deemed an acceptable academic performance through the state exams, yet nobody knew or valued his literacy outside the classroom, which I think would have exceeded most people’s expectations. He was not only technologically literate, but he was blogging on environmental issues. So, I wonder, who is the school or the state to deem him incompetent?
    I experienced a domino effect of thoughts while reading this, because Derek reminded me of a family friend who told me recently that she would enjoy English class more if she could write about something that she actually cared about. Any why can’t she or Derek? I truly don’t know. This reminded me of my first college English class, with a professor I was fortunate to encounter. The first activity on the first day of class was very interesting. He had us each write down the three richest people in the world, the three highest paid athletes, among other examples of things and people that most of the class didn’t care or know about. Then he had us write down our favorite high school teacher. A best friend. Our parents. A life changing experience. A hobby. To wrap up the activity, he explained that the things and people that were most important to us, were going to be the things that we would write about in his class. We wouldn’t be writing about obscure issues or people, who were irrelevant to our lives. If Derek and other could encounter teachers with similar philosophies, I think their academic experiences would be vastly different and better.
    So in closing, I guess that I don’t think that students should be taught to and tested on the same standards. (It seems absurd, but by the same token, I can’t present a viable solution to this problem.) As Jerry wrote in another post, I think there are other ways for students to demonstrate what they have learned, achieved, and absorbed over the course of their academic careers. Since they are from a generation which is evolving with technology, and has access to a wealth of information, they probably understand more about the world than we give them credit for, and I think their literacies would far surpass expectations, if people could only step back, and stop judging them by certain outdated standards.
    -Mandy

  2. sunyprof

    Sofia, you ask an excellent question and Mandy you respond w/great insight and intelligence.

    There is nothing that makes sense about applying a single standard of what constitutes literacy to any student in any context.

    Of course, Zhao says this as well, doesn’t he, in the article you are reading in 506.

    The question for us–since you will begin your careers in this testing climate–is, ok, then what do we do? What is our responsibility in this climate?

    I didn’t realize your mom taught h.s. English! How wonderful. Is she teaching? And if so, where? KES

  3. Hello! My mom is at East Syracuse-Minoa and I think this year she is teaching grades 9 and 11. It has been particularly interesting to hear about her experiences and advice, and then to give her some of my thoughts as well. We had a lengthy discussion about the Regents last week, which was eye opening for me, and I also asked her about her teaching pedagogy. She is very interested in the tech class, and she can’t wait until I am savvy enough to teach her a thing or two. I am also going to suggest that she advocate for a tech seminar for teachers at her school in the near future. I know they did some very basic training last year(Microsoft Word), but she is a prime example of an educator who wants to keep up with the changing times and needs the appropriate support to do so. I think in the future we will both continue to learn quite a bit from each other. Today I also encouraged her to watch the You-Tube video for 506, and I think it struck a cord with her. For those who are not in 506, still check it out. It is only 5 minutes, but well worth your time as it is very pertinent to issues we discuss in class. Click on the website link!

  4. Mandy McKenney

    My name in the former post is the link to the very interesting video. Sorry for the confusion! Click on my name! And also, does anyone know how to fix the time settings for the blogs? It is 11:33 pm, but my last blog says I posted at 3:33am?! Hmmmm… Ray??

  5. allison

    Mandy,
    I agree that the story of Derek was a sad one. It’s too bad that his teacher couldn’t engage him and didn’t seem to care enough to try. I would hope that we will all become better teachers than that.

    Sofia asks us “How will SAT scores, Regents scores, and other state exams prepare our students for modern literacy demands? By using standardized tests, are we actually preparing students for the literacy demands of a world that no longer exists, as Beers suggests? Or should tests and AYP scores be hailed for their ability to “ensure” that all children are taught at the same standard? ”

    I think the SAT is a terrible test because it tests way above student’s abilities. Most students have no clue what they are being asked and how to answer. The words on the verbal part would rarely, if ever, be used in everyday life.

    The regents on the other hand, seems a little more practical. It has always surprised me that students cannot pass these tests. I thought the regents exams were extremely easy, for the most part. I can understand how a student like Derek, would not pass, though. He barely cares to try.

    I would like to explore this issue further with everyone. Why aren’t students passing the regents? The exam that professor Stearn gave us was easy enough. Maybe someone can help me understand this.

  6. jmdegan

    We’re graduate students in English. We went to college. We’re intelligent or motivated or both. We had goals in high school that included at least some of these things, so we passed the Regents exams in order to meet those goals. Students aren’t passing the Regents exam for a few reasons. Apathy, disability, SES, and quality of education are all factors. Students who perform round-robin readings of Hamlet just because its on the curriculum aren’t going to be familiar with textual strategies that are being tested. However, students dialoging (and writing) about Hamlet and his problems will be modeling and processing these strategies. That’s not what is done at every school. Many schools, as Dr. Stearns has suggested, don’t teach; they contain. How is a student who has never done any significant textual inquiry going to have success even on a basic skills exam like the Regents?

    J. Degan

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