Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Redefining Ready - The Difference Between "Or" and "And"

At the October 18, 2016 USD116 Board Meeting, I presented information about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - formerly No Child Left Behind (NCLB), now Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  A major component of the legislation deals with redefining NCLB's rigid, test-based accountability system.  ESSA provides states the flexibility of creating an accountability system that uses multiple measures to define student and school success.  This is long overdue.

At a recent LUDA (Large Unit District Association) meeting, I saw a very compelling presentation about the research behind the National College and Career Readiness Indicators - published at www.redefiningready.org.  I will confess that the mission of Redefining Ready resonates with my personal belief that students, schools and communities are/should/can not be defined by a single test score.  For far too long, educators, parents, and policy makers have relied on a single test score to rank and label students, schools, and communities.

The Redefining Ready recommendations are well researched and compelling.  In short, "students are college ready if they meet either the academic indicators OR standardized testing benchmarks listed below:

Academic Indicators
GPA 2.8 out of 4.0 and one or more of the following academic indicators:
  • Advanced Placement Exam (3+)
  • Advanced Placement Course (A, B or C)
  • Dual Credit College English and/or Math (A, B or C)
  • College Developmental/Remedial English and/or Math (A, B or C)
  • Algebra II (A, B or C)
  • International Baccalaureate Exam (4+)
Standardized Testing Benchmarks (minimum score)
  • SAT Exam: Math (530) | Reading and Writing (480)
  • ACT Exam: English (18) | Reading (22) | Science (23) | Math (22)
  • College Readiness Placement Assessment (determined by post-secondary institution)" 

I was pleased to see the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopt a very similar definition for college ready; however, please note that there are subtle differences.  ISBE's proposed definition for College Readiness requires:

"GPA 2.8 out of 4.0 and Readiness college entrance score on the SAT 
AND two or more Academic Benchmarks Or Industry Credential: 
  • Industry Credential 
  • Dual Credit Career Pathway Course 
  • Advanced Placement Exam (3+) 
  • Advanced Placement Course (A, B or C) 
  • Dual Credit College English and/or Math (A, B or C) 
  • College Developmental/Remedial English and/or Math (A, B or C) 
  • Algebra II (A, B or C) 
  • International Baccalaureate Exam (4+) 

AND two or more Behavioral and Experiential Benchmarks 
  • 90% Attendance 
  • 25 hours of Community Service (or military service) 
  • Workplace Learning Experience 
  • Two or more organized Co-Curricular Activities (including language and fine arts)"

The difference between "AND" and "OR"

ISBE’s proposed accountability system will guarantee that fewer students will be labeled “ready for college” than our current single test system.  By changing the word "or" to "and" in their proposed accountability rules, ISBE is creating a host of new inequities and inequalities in how they label students.  I am all for setting high expectations for students; however, those expectations should be based on evidence.  There is no evidence that says a student has to have a high GPA, and an "entrance score on the SAT," and...  ISBE's system will reinforce the narrative that our schools and our students are failing.  This is not an accurate portrayal of our our students or or education system.  In the USA, we have more students graduating from high school than at any other time in history (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-high-school-graduation-rate-hits-new-record-high-0).

The research is clear that standardized test scores are not the best predictor of college success (http://www.redefiningready.org/research-college-ready/ or better yet, use Google Scholar and do your own research about this topic).  Our students really are more than a score.

There will be many school districts in Illinois that will not be able to have any student reach the ISBE “college ready” benchmark, because the district doesn’t offer AP, IB, or Dual Credit options.  Does that mean that the valedictorian of a school district that doesn't offer these advanced classes is not ready for college? That is ridiculous.  

I encourage all of you to read the Redefining Ready proposals for logical and evidence-based accountability solutions for ESSA.  I then encourage all of you to ask ISBE, why they changed the "or" to an "and."