Originally posted at the National Journal's Education Experts blog, in response to the questions: What should the nation be doing differently to ensure high school seniors are ready for college? How can the upcoming reauthorization of No Child Left Behind help promote greater college preparedness?
Monty Neill makes a case that, so far, the NCLB regimen of standards and assessments has not produced major gains on NAEP. I agree with that assessment.
Clearly, more work is needed. “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing him more often.”
When it comes to actually working on the problem, I think the Obama Administration has a pretty good list of priorities.
First, let’s make the standards “fewer, clearer and higher” and then let’s improve the tests that measure student achievement relative to those standards. Second, let’s give educators good data so they know where their students stand. Third, let’s put a major focus on improving teacher quality, since we know that teachers matter so much. And finally, let’s try a variety of innovative and aggressive ways to turn around our lowest-performing schools – a task that has been shown to be really hard, especially at the high school level.
The ACT data, interestingly, showed significant differences in college readiness by subject. More than two-thirds of test takers are ready for college-level English composition, but only 28% are ready for college biology and only 42% are ready for college algebra.
In a blog posting the other day, Scott Biddle over at Public Agenda pointed out a big obstacle for improvement in the realm of math and science: Parents think their children are getting the preparation they need to be ready for college. “Public Agenda's Reality Check surveys have found that most parents believe their child is doing all right in school. Nearly seven in 10 say they believe their child will have the skills needed to succeed in college,” he wrote.
This is a big problem. Someone has to figure out how to convince American parents that their children are NOT doing “alright” in math and science. Any ideas out there?
And finally, a question for Monty: If standardized tests like NAEP are so meaningless, why do we care about NAEP results anyway? Why would we look to them to assess whether NCLB was “working” or not?