President Obama Is Looking To Extend The School Year

Carrie M.'s avatar

Perhaps the problem with proficiency tests is that they currently are only looking at the basics. :)

But I thought you were talking about testing seniors. Seniors should be beyond the basics in all of those subjects. That's why they take the SATs. Actually juniors take the SATs, too.

Regardless, at what point do students move beyond the basics? When do they need to begin demonstrating the ability to integrate everything they learn into an entire learning experience? And when do they need to apply it to "real life?" Seems to me that would also make it more interesting for the students, too.

I think that true learning should constantly be building on itself and integrating across subjects and previous year's lessons.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

OhioStater's avatar

The public education system in the United States was once viewed as "the great equalizer"; it is supposed to be free and equal...like Jeff pointed out, the system in Ohio is unconstitutional (and has in fact been ruled so by the Ohio Supreme Court 4 times since the early 1990's).

No Child Left Behind has had countless ramifications on an already decaying system. Good schools in the burbs have gotten more money to keep their buildings gleeming symbols of pride for those lucky enough to be able to be born and live in the correct school district, and symbols of great inequality to those born on the outside. Meanwhile, there are public schools in such a horrific state that even school-board members (such as those in Columbus) will not let their children attend there, instead choosing to send them off to private instiutions.

Not to mention that to any of you over the age of 30, you would not recognize elementary schools today; most "homerooms" are gone, and many teachers have been raped of their creativity, forced to "teach the test" to meet arbitrary standards.

The core of the problem was that during the Reagan 80's, we started to slowly pull funding away from schools, and when Bush applied NCLB, it made as much sense as keeping kids in school longer does today.

In Ohio, growing up in a poor neighborhood means (most likely) your public school is going to be pathetic...not to mention you are growing up surrounded by poverty, crime, and violence.

There is a phenomenon amongst new teachers in urban schools that takes place within 2 years: burnout. Many young teachers think they are going to be the "difference" (a la Dangerous Minds), only to be so disenchanted with the system after their first 2 years that they are either asking to move or switching careers.

It's nice to point out that more time means better results, but that only takes place in a good school....not a bad one.

Last edited by OhioStater,

But the proficiency tests (at least in Ohio) set forth the requirement for getting a diploma. And we have a lot of kids who cannot pass (and even more who struggle to pass) the proficiency tests which cover the basics (and I haven't looked at an Ohio proficiency test in several years (and I never had to take one) but I remember thinking at that if my kid couldn't pass the final proficiency test in the 7th grade, I would be ticked--but maybe they cover more than the basics now). I think making the tests cover than just the basics will result in more kids failing (and even more struggling to pass them).

And for the most part, I think everything you learn in those subjects in high school is pretty much the basics. And the ACT/SAT test those things very well.

And I think its very important for kids (and adults too) to apply what they learn across other areas in life. To me, I think that is the true purpose in learning something. I talk with my own kids all the time about applying what they have learned in other contexts. So that way, when they come across something they learned in say history class that is relevant outside of history class, I want them to bring that to the problem.

Starndarized test can test a lot beyond the basics. Some of the most difficult tests I ever took in college were multiple choice tests.

ridemcoaster's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
ridemcoaster -- I think your point goes more to interpretation of the tests than it does to whether the tests produce meaningful results.

Not necessairly. My point is you cannot easily group Standards of Learning tests (the govt mandated testing) with SAT/ACTs. Sure they both are "supposed" to measure what the student knows (barring the actualities), but one test can determine whether a school stays open (and it has in Virginia) vs another be a determining factor whether a student can go to Harvard or Harvard on the Road (community college). This is where I have a problem with comparison.

I think they both could yield meaningful results, but in my high school days I dont remember my teacher teaching me what questions will be on the SAT.. I was taught core components. It was up to me to apply it.

For the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, teachers are almost going line by line what you would expect on the test. Personally I call that method less meaningful because you aren't pulling your knowledge about the subject together on your own to solve a question, it now becomes total rote learning. Which isnt a measure of knowledge in any capacity.

So I think my response crosses both boundaries.


Ridem, if I may distill what you're trying to say:

They (the school admins) want the teachers to teach the test in order to keep their test scores up. Thus, the school gets funding so they can supposedly keep the doors open to start the whole process all over again.


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

Jeff's avatar

I don't think that bringing the ACT/SAT into the discussion justifies the proficiency testing. Some would argue that the ACT/SAT is harder to "game" and teach specifically for it, which is the opposite of the proficiency testing. But more to the point, ACT/SAT isn't tied to the amount of funding you get from the feds. If the money is tied to testing, and that testing doesn't even test the right things, it's automatically broken because it takes the teaching process out of the hands of the people on the front lines. It's like giving the military a bunch of bows and arrows because you believe the enemy will be unarmed wearing a bullseye.

And for the record, I might be a fringe case, but despite a mediocre 2.9 GPA in high school, my ACT score put me in the top 2% of kids nationwide that year (1990). There are countless things you could interpret about the brokenness of education by that.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

I didn't understand anyone to be saying that you should group the state proficiency tests with the ACT/SAT (other than the fact that all are standardized tests). The point was made that many people criticize standardized tests used for proficiency purposes in high schools. But we use standardized tests as major/sole factors in determining college admissions, graduate school admissions, issuances of professional licenses and admission to civil service programs. So there is nothing inherently wrong with standardized tests.

With respect to schools, at some point we determined that there should be some standard against which schools should be measured. You can argue what standard should be used (and I think thats totally fair) but it seems to me that there should be some standard. And when you craft a method to measure various schools against the standard, you need to take into account that you need to test millions of kids (at least once as you will likely need to give kids a chance to retake whatever test you give) and you want the test to be as objective as possible to reduce disputes about its subjectivity. At this point, the reality of all of that points to standardized tests.

And I wouldn't expect a high school to teach to the SAT/ACT. All of its students won't be taking one of those tests. And back when I was in school 25+ years ago, I can recall an occassional remark about a certain type of problem or twist being on one or both of those tests. I suspect that is discussed more often because more students will take those tests. But every high school student will take the required proficiency test for that district/state.

I can't belive this. I quickly posted something yesterday and here we are...3 pages later. I have never had such a response in like....EVER! Usually nobody listens to me and I have closed more threads than a profrofessional seamstress.

Here are a few thoughts:

I am a school teacher. (You wouldn't know it from my typos and terrible spelling). I teach the gifted and talented population in an elementary school setting.

What a lot of people don't realize is that when money is added to the budget...it is usually used to bring the lower end of the scores up and not to enrich the children who are already getting the top scores. That is because the state is not "worried" about those kids. They are worried about the children who aren't making it. Very little is done in our country to advance those who "get it."

I started this post to see how the coster folks would react to a longer school year, possibly shorter August hours in our parks, and how the parks might counter sauing things like, "If we close down 3 weeks earlier that's less revenue for our state, city, town, etc. It would also add to unemplyment.

I agree with the posts that say more industrial arts, trade school education is needed. We will need mechanics, electricians, carpenters, etc...who do not need to know the facts of the Pelopenesian War.

I also wanted to comment on the young man who already knows what he wants to do in his adult life. The truth is you may be able to and the statistics also show that you might want to change your mind. A good education will allow you to make transitions easier.

When I left school, I thought I would never step into a classroom again. Now I can't picture doing anything else...other than camp work...which is aother industry that would suffer a lot if theschool year were elongated.

I was in radio (local and network) for about ten years before I made the switch. I'm glad I had my education to fall back on in order to make the transition.

My only regret is not valuing my education when I was in jr. high school, senior high school and the first parts of college experience.

Thank you for reading this and for responding!


Here's To Shorter Lines & Longer Trip Reports!

Is the system in Ohio unconstitutional? Last I heard the OH supreme court washed its hands of the issue, as one of the 4 (I would say rogue members!) claiming it unconstitutional was about to be replaced by a judge who would push it the other way. I don't believe the case in question is active anymore, so saying it's unconstitutional in any case gets you nowhere--no court is currently backing that statement.

Those "lucky enough to be born in the right district" have their parents to blame for that. Good parents who believe in a good education tend to live in better areas, with like minded parents, which leads to better schools. As has been pointed out, parents are the best indicator of how good an education a kid gets. A good set of parents will beat a poor school most of the time.

Fix the parents, and the schools will fix themselves! (And many, many other social issues of our day)

OhioStater's avatar

^
Yes, it remains unconstitutional. The new governer campaigned heavily on this issue, but has since renigged on some of his promises (big shock). To his credit, he did hold several "town meetings" attempting to engage the public with his ideas and theirs on how to fix the system.

I don't what a court or judge says, it is unconstitutional, whether it is an active case or not.

The unconstitutionality of the system hinges on the fact that the quality of our public schools are based on property taxes. Low property taxes, no books or air conditioning; good property taxes, and you get a brick football stadium and smartboards in the classrooms. This has not changed.

If you want a standardized test that is one thing, but to have a standardized test when there is no such thing as standardized schools is completely another.

This problem is a sociological one, and has its root in many levels; the government supports an unconstitutional system that leads to unfair public schools; the poor public schools do nothing to help disadvantaged youth or their families change their social status by denying them the major vehicle for that change; education, the schools also help maintain the image and culture of poverty that is entangled in poor neighborhoods.

rollergator's avatar

The real problem is that the students aren't standardized...or is that the solution?

Wait, didn't someone mention Godwin's Law already? The bottom line is we're all different, and attempting to pigeon-hole learning and academic progress serves no purpose. When students vary so widely, and "teaching to the tests" supplants real instruction...the stakes are just too high.

Last edited by rollergator,
Jeff's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
I didn't understand anyone to be saying that you should group the state proficiency tests with the ACT/SAT (other than the fact that all are standardized tests). The point was made that many people criticize standardized tests used for proficiency purposes in high schools. But we use standardized tests as major/sole factors in determining college admissions, graduate school admissions, issuances of professional licenses and admission to civil service programs. So there is nothing inherently wrong with standardized tests.

If no one was saying it, then why bring it up? My point stands that what I've seen of proficiency testing is not the same as the college entrance testing, and furthermore, more importantly, the link between the testing and the funding causes an inherent problem in what a school teaches. Schools don't "teach" the ACT or SAT. Even if they did, it wouldn't matter, since those tests score students on the percentile relative to the other kids who take it. A 600 one year isn't the same as a 600 another year.

But the proficiency testing uses hard numbers to measure performance, and some may consider that arbitrary. It also means that since its contents are well known, you can teach its specific contents and blow off a more broad range of teaching. And because of the financial incentive to get high scores, so goes the incentive to narrowly focus on the test matter, instead of a more broad and diverse curriculum. Then add in that the really smart kids get held back with this crap instead of a more rich curriculum. No child left behind? How about no child ever gets ahead!

Again, the problem is the dollars, and incentivised testing tied to it.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

SMART boards are overrated. I have a SMART board in one room and SMART Podium devices in three others, and I don't think any of them ever really gets used. At least, they don't get used to their full potential.

But then, I took a walk across campus recently and saw four different classrooms where the professors were showing PowerPoint shows off the edit screen.

The reason I brought up the SAT/ACT was merely to point out that those are also high-stakes standardized tests, in fact they are more standardized than the Statewide tests. At issue for me is that much of the discussion centered around the evil of standardized tests. The evil is not the standardized test, the evil is the manner in which the test is implemented and the way that the results are interpreted.

Personally, I think the "next" proficiency test ought to be given at the beginning of each academic year until the student passes, with the results then used to shape that student's educational program. That is to say, in high school, the 12th grade test should be given at the beginning of each year to all students in 9-12, with the expectation of failure (because it's the graduation test...you're not supposed to be able to pass it in the 9th grade!), with the results used as a diagnostic to fine-tune the curriculum for each student. Teaching to the test? Well, sure. But if you're going to do it anyway, do it right. You can improve the odds of getting that 100% pass rate at the end of the 12th year because you've been able to spend the effort on the stuff that was necessary.

But of course to do that it would require a much more individualized instruction plan than our system is capable of delivering at the moment...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


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RideMan said:
Personally, I think the "next" proficiency test ought to be given at the beginning of each academic year until the student passes, with the results then used to shape that student's educational program. That is to say, in high school, the 12th grade test should be given at the beginning of each year to all students in 9-12, with the expectation of failure (because it's the graduation test...you're not supposed to be able to pass it in the 9th grade!), with the results used as a diagnostic to fine-tune the curriculum for each student. Teaching to the test? Well, sure. But if you're going to do it anyway, do it right. You can improve the odds of getting that 100% pass rate at the end of the 12th year because you've been able to spend the effort on the stuff that was necessary.

But of course to do that it would require a much more individualized instruction plan than our system is capable of delivering at the moment...

Well put Dave. Plus, now I know you're a teacher, we actually get a good perspective.

It kinda reminds me of lyrics from a .38 Special song: "Am I ready for the real world? Will I pass the test? Can you teach me all I need to know?"


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

I think that educators should be held accountable for performance. You need some type of method to test performance. You also need incentives. Continually tossing money into a system with no accountability or incentives for performance makes no sense to me. Arguing about how you test performance and what incentives are used is fine.

Kids and schools are different. But there are standards. And you can say you don't want to be pigeon-holed, there are no standard kids/schools, etc. but there are basic standards when it comes to reading, writing, math and science. And you do not need smartboards, air conditioning or brick football stadiums to teach those things. And when we look at the tests, we are talking about those basics. Kids are struggling now to pass the tests. What would happen if we tested beyond the basics?

One thing that should be implemented across the nation is mandatory finance/economics education. It should start in kindergarten and run all the way up through senior year of high school. I am amazed at how totally clueless so many folks are about basic economics/finance concepts. And part of that education should include discussions about how stupid decisions increase your chances significantly of being poor for the rest of your life (the three biggest dumb decisions being dropping out of school, doing drugs and getting pregnant too young/before being married). Hopefully we could also talk about why credit cards and home equity loans are not income.

I think "stupid decisions" is very much a subjective thing. Painting with that wide a brush has got to be tiring your arm out.


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Actually, Hopman, I'm not *really* a teacher. I'm the A/V support staff at a private University, which puts me in a classroom support role. The teaching I do is informal. :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Jeff's avatar

GoBucks89 said:
I think that educators should be held accountable for performance. You need some type of method to test performance. You also need incentives. Continually tossing money into a system with no accountability or incentives for performance makes no sense to me. Arguing about how you test performance and what incentives are used is fine.

Tossing money at a broken system is exactly what happens now, because the accountability and incentives are associated with the wrong things.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

So do you want to remove the tests we have now (and go with nothing in terms of accountability/incentives) or propose something else?

OhioStater's avatar

The first change that would make a big difference in the long run is one of the "cornerstones", if you will, of the bigger problems; the way schools are currently funded.

Instead of a caste system or a feudal system, we live in a class-based society; poverty, lower-class, middle-class, high-class. One reason this system has sustained itself is that many people have bought, hook line and sinker, the notion that the "American Dream" is totally within your control, and all you have to do is work hard enough and smart enough and you will get there. We believe that a person can "jump" classes through their own power.

This takes education; constitutionally, we offer this, free and equal, to all citizens...so far the dream is looking pretty good, because if this second part is true, then it really is just up to the individual.

In reality, we have no equality in education. It is not the fault (or choice) of the student born on the wrong side of the tracks that his local public school, which is supposed to be just as good as anyone else's, is a ticket to nowhere fast.

I'll just repeat myself; if you want a standardized test thats fine, but there are many students starting a lap behind the starting line, and they are expected to finish in the same time as the priveleged.

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