Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New York's Planning in Light of Higher Standards

New York State raised the bar this year on their state tests and the results are discussed last week here in the NYTimes. In schools across the state, test scores dropped dramatically, and the reality that half or more of New York's students are below proficient has been exposed.

In light of these results, little has yet been said about what kind of changes will need to take place so that we can actually see the various achievement gaps close: the absolute gaps between the standards and our kids' performance, and the racial and socio-economic gaps in performance between over and under-privileged kids.

What will we do? New York City has put 27,000 kids who scored lowest on their tests into summer school. However, summer school is usually Monday-Thursday, 8AM-1PM, runs only 4-6 weeks, and is usually taught identically (only faster) than the way subjects are taught in the school year. We are going to need to implement much more change for the gap to close.

Education reform has introduced all kinds of new changes in the past decade, from charter schools to merit pay. At last the most successful movement of "accountability" and testing are forcing to the surface information about our students' true lack of achievement. It is now time to look at some more substantive changes to our system's curriculum and pedagogy. Reforms that focus on interdisciplinary, problem-based learning would be one important area to focus on; providing more support for systematic differentiated instruction (ie, diverse course offerings) would be another.

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