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DFL K-12 Education Agenda   |   J. Erickson -Testing, inputs, and outcomes   |   Erickson on Ability-grouping / curriculum tracking   |   Re: Mr. Mann's Statements

J. Erickson -Testing, inputs, and outcomes
Subj:      [Mpls] J Erickson - Testing, inputs, and outcomes
Date:     6/16/2002 4:13:08 PM Central Daylight Time

On testing-

I agree that "high stakes" testing is a bad idea.  However, I think the state
should mandate basic skills and / or academic aptitude tests that measure
differences academic achievement between students and which allow
for comparisons between schools and school districts.

I think that the prime directive of the Minneapolis Public Schools should be
to improve education-related outcomes and "close the [academic achievement]
gap."  You can't determine whether you are making any progress toward closing the
gap without the kind of testing that those awful conservatives use to bash
the schools.  

Please note. The academic achievement gap between high and low achievers
narrowed considerably without adversely affecting the high achievers during
the 1970s and early 1980s, according to data from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress.  For example, most of the difference in NAEP reading
scores between white and black 13 year-olds that existed in 1971 was
eliminated by 1986.  Most of the progress in this area has since been wiped

The "academic achievement gap" has steadily grown wider since the late 1980s
due to changes in K-12 educational policy along the lines proposed in the
1983 report, "A Nation at Risk," which was prepared by a blue ribbon panel of
conservative K-12 education experts appointed by the Reagan-Bush
administration.  "A Nation at Risk" falsely claimed that the academic
achievement gap was being closed at the expense of the high achievers.

Since the late 1980s the gap has widened because of the promotion of
ability-grouping as a means to put students on nonacademic curriculum
tracks and increasingly unequal distribution of the most critical educational
resources between schools that serve poor and wealthier neighborhoods.

It should be noted that most of the students who do not pass all of the
sections of the Minnesota Basic Standards Test on the first try in the 8th
grade will never pass the MBST and will not finish high school.  That's why I
would say that an elementary school where 90% of the students are not on
track to passing the MBST on the first try is a "failing school."  Yet, the
MPS administration gives such schools passing grades in its measuring up
report cards.

There is evidence that disparities in education-related outcomes between
students are strongly effected by school characteristics, such as class size,
"teacher efficacy," and curriculum tracking. For example, according to a
study done by the Research Dept. at the Minneapolis Public schools, about 40%
of the variability in test scores can be attributed to "teacher efficacy."  
The measure for "teacher efficacy" is usually based on years of relevant
training, teaching experience and ranking on teacher licensure exams.
Much of the difference in MBST pass rates and graduation rates between
high-poverty schools on the North side and low poverty schools in SW
Minneapolis can be explained as a consequence to the high concentration of
inexperienced teachers at the high poverty schools.

-Doug Mann