Monday, April 18, 2005

Minority students and testing in Virginia

The Washington Post has an article about a recent study undertaken at the request of the Virginia Department of Education on the affect the state testing program has had on graduation and dropout rates there.

It seems (surprise, surprise) that there is no change in graduation rates for white students. There is, however, a drop for African-Americans and Hispanics. The state vows to continue to work to close that gap.

The study also discovered that the rate of "special" and "modified standard" diplomas for African-Americans and Hispanics went up. These displomas are supposedly reserved for Special Education students. My first reaction to this is to wonder whether some of those students were placed in special ed to make the numbers look better. I have known schools to put limited English proficient students in special ed because it's easier than teaching them. Now, I have absolutley nothing to back up that suspicion in this case, but it is curious that the graduation rates went down for Hispanics and African-Americans in regular classes but went up for those in special ed. And, yes, I have been called cynical before!

What really intrigued me, though, was this:
Department officials had contested several major components of the report, rejecting two previous drafts. They accepted the final version, submitted April 8, but attached a letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary explaining some areas of continued concern.
I didn't know you were allowed to have them write the report the way you wanted it to be. Either you trust the people you hire to do the study or you don't. If you trust them, you let them do it the way they see it fall. If you don't trust them, why did you hire them in the first place?

Now, another disclaimer. I know very little about such studies. I know even less about education in Virginia. But nothing here makes me very eager to know more. It seems like just another example of the government doing whatever they can to justify what they are doing and going to keep doing anyway.

Regardless, this is a study that shows that these high-stakes tests do not help minority students. Now all we have to do is get people in charge to care about that fact.

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