The Class of 2009, who were in 5th grade when No Child Left Behind became the law of the land, and were not yet born when A Nation at Risk ushered in the era of education reform, have posted SAT scores that summon to mind a flatlined EKG. Math unchanged at 515. Writing down a point to 493. Critical reading, down a point to 494. The results are of a piece with last week’s ACT scores, which showed only one of four high school graduates are prepared to do C level college work in English, math, reading and science.
“Completing a core curriculum remains strongly related to SAT scores,” the College Board notes in a news release. ”Students in the class of 2009 who took core curricula scored an average of 46 points higher on the critical reading section, 44 points higher on the mathematics section, and 45 points higher on the writing section than those who did not.”
“The College Board, as always, hung a smiley face on it, but the latest SAT results are a real bummer,” writes Checker Finn at Fordham’s Flypaper blog. Looking at years of stagnant NAEP results, last week’s dispiriting ACT scores and flat high school graduation rates, Finn says “please sing out if you’ve spotted any good news regarding the readiness of American adolescents to face successfully the challenges of higher education, the workforce, adulthood and citizenship. I can’t find it.”
Let me add a few verses to Checker’s refrain: Please sing out if you see elementary schools creating a path to college readiness by favoring a rich, robust curriculum over of the deadening pabulum of test prep and ineffective reading strategies. Please sing out too, if you can explain how changing the operative definition of well educated to “reads on or near grade level” has done anything other than cement in place this march of mediocrity.
There’s no guarantee that a patient buildup of knowledge and language proficiency that pays dividends over time will show up in a single year’s standardized testing snapshot, so please explain too how any school or teacher can afford to take the necessary long view, when we have essentially declared that a little bit of success every year is more important–and measurable–than great success over time.
Please sing out if you see something–anything–that is going to change this dispiriting trend in the foreseeable future. I can’t find it.