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A curious thing popped up in Tennessee. I would be interested to follow it across several states because in theory, the same problem should hold true across the board….

In ELA in 2013, schools were, across the board much more likely to receive positive value-added scores for ELA in fourth and eighth grades than in other grades (see Table 1). Simultaneously, districts struggled to yield positive value-added scores for their sixth and seventh grades in the same subject-areas. Fifth grade scores fell consistently in the middle range, while the third-grade scores varied across districts


Table 1. Percent of Schools that had Positive Value-Added Scores in English/language arts by Grade and District (2013) (Districts which had less than 25% of schools indicate positive growth are in bold)
District      Third      Fourth    Fifth     Sixth     Seventh      Eighth
Memphis      41%       43%        45%      19%        14%           76%
Nashville      NA        43%        28%      16%        15%           74%
Knox             72%       79%        47%      14%         7%            73%
Hamilton     38%      64%        48%      33%      29%            81%
Shelby           97%     76%         61%       6%        50%            69%
Sumner         77%     85%         42%       17%      33%            83%
Montgomery NA      71%         62%       0%        0%              71%
Rutherford     83%   92%         63%      15%     23%             85%
Williamson    NA      88%        58%      11%      33%           100%
Murfreesboro NA     90%        50%     30%     NA              NA

SOURCE: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 08, 2015 ID Number: 17987, Date Accessed: 7/27/2015


The premise made in the article (tongue in cheek) was that if a teacher scores bad on their Praxis, they get shoved to either 6th or 7th grade… All schools put all their bad teachers together in 6th and 7th grade?.. But look at those scores. There is something definitely going on at that level. and then, things return to normal as the grow older……

How can all students be great until they get to 6th grade then tube for two years, and bounce back?  Can it truly be as Markell and Murphy insist, the teacher’s fault?

Obviously not.   I don’t think anyone has to defend the scores… There is obviously something wrong here….

To explain, let me refresh how these scores are set…  You have a raw scores and a set score… The raw score is what we think of when we take a test… Oh, we got 550 out of 800.     The set score is where you create a stoplight of categories and label them exceptional, proficient, basic, and below.   Someone has to choose the number above which one gets one category; below which they fall into another.  This is called the cut score… Does your child make the cut and get into the upper two categories?

One can raise the cut levels to fail more people; one can lower the cut levels to pass more people.. Essentially someone actually decides what percentage should be called proficient, and what percentage should be below that level…  Once the raw scores have arrived, they then figure the levels where to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This means, if the raw scores on the test are very good, the percentage still stands… One can do well and get a failing grade because so many others happened to do better than them…  It is arbitrary.   Likewise if the raw scores are very bad, the highest and lowest categories will have the same percentages as before… The test determines rank, but does not determine what a child does or does not know…   That is because this test is not designed for students.  It was designed to fire teachers and close schools.

If you digested all that……. here is what happens. Once you set the scores for the eleventh grade, you go backwards down the grades setting scores that if passed will eventually meet that score you set for the graduating class.  A graph of what you did would look like this…

linear graph

Equal improvement across every grade… So you would set the cut scores along a linear line like this so every grade got improved….

But something systematically fails in 6th Grade and 7th Grade…  Across the board the expectations are set too high, and though children learn a lot in that year, they are not meeting the level of learning that was arbitrarily set for them.

In grown up terms it would be like you did Zumba every day and your trainer expected you to do it for one more hour each day….  Going from one to two, not too bad… Three hours to four… wow, close to your limit… 5 hours?  You needed help but got there… Now… after doing a marathon 5 hour stint… the next day there is no way you can do a 6 hour run.. Nor can you do a 7 hour run the day after… But after rest, you are able to designate a whole day so you do your 8 hours and the 9 and 10 hour days seem like regular days now….

I wondered:  what if there were brain charts of human development that might shed light on this mystery?

brain development

courtesy of docstoc

Notice the major drop in vision, hearing, habitual ways of responding, and language.  (The math dropped less and its standardized scores across the state of Tennessee corresponded likewise).  All the ELA skills have reached bottom of scale around 6th of 7th grade..

So we are testing children at a point when their capacity for brain growth for language is at zero and we are setting benchmarks based on when they were young and capable of growing new neurons and connections at a very rapid rate…

Now these kids learn fine just like you and I learned fine in 6th and 7th grades… The problem with this test, is that they don’t learn exactly up to the level of what someone behind a desk in Washington guesses they should learn; or more likely, doesn’t even care if they learn or not; he just wants his paycheck….

Here is what I saw that was fascinating…. peer social skills was developing at a very high rate compared to everything else.  This makes sense if anyone has children. At 6-7th grade they suddenly realize they need to gain skill at dealing with peer issues.  Unfortunately this huge part of their brains growth and development is not on the test.  Instead, they are being tested as if they were newborns….

Obviously the idea behind Common Core, is that if you force kids to learn more faster they will do it… However all of us would think it would be stupid to force a horse to go 100 mph… Horses simply can’t do that… Likewise, a child in 6th and 7th grade cannot perform faster than his brain will let him… It stands to reason if his brain has stopped growing in that field, his scores will too.

So every child in 6th and 7th grade will be labeled a failure… Their teachers will be fired.  Schools will be prioritized and rolled over to charters…. and it was all for naught…

Nothing was wrong.. They children are doing fine… it is the test that is fvcked up and boy, is it fvcked up royally…….

We did not have this problem with the DCAS…We must all join and scrap the Smarter Balanced Assessment and replace it with the DCAS ……

In Delaware, Common Core IS the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  You remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment, you get rid of Common Core…

Opting-out is nice, but this test’s removal is mandatory if we want educational gains to continue forward…….