Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Individual tracking comes to NCLB

On this blog, I've complained that No Child Left Behind testing doesn't track progress for gifted kids. For starters, NCLB compares groups of students over time -- say, African American fourth graders in 2004 vs. African American fourth graders in 2005. Since these aren't the same kids, the test results can show broad changes in a school, but don't show whether individual kids are learning. Second, the use of grade level tests means that children who score at the 99th percentile for their grade don't register a change one way or the other -- so you don't know if they're in a holding pattern or growing.

At least NCLB is now addressing the first problem. The federal Department of Education recently chose two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, to participate in a pilot program that tracks individual student progress. A kid in fourth grade in 2006 will be compared against his own test scores from 2005. If he doesn't show adequate yearly progress, the school can be held accountable.

If the pilot program produces usable data, then the program could spread to other states. That's a start. Then we need NCLB to ask schools to use above grade-level tests for gifted kids. A fourth grader who scores at the 75th percentile on a 7th grade test, and then at the 88th percentile on an 8th grade test a year later, is making progress. We don't know if that's true if she just takes the fourth grade, then fifth grade test.


NM Mom said...

My son takes benchmark tests 3 times per year (beginning, middle, end) and then a standardized test in the spring. I have asked my child's teachers to test him at grade level (3rd)and higher levels (4th & 5th) at each benchmark interval as time permits. I think these may be comparable one year to the next. Originally he received 100% across the board at the beginning of the year and I was a little concerned that they weren't planning to go to the next level automatically (how will they track progress?). Once I suggested a higher level test, they thought that was a good idea and proceeded. Unfortunately, it's almost a penalty for my son because he has to do additional testing while the rest of the class engages in fun activities that fill in on testing days. Plus, he may be exhausted for higher level tests and won't perform as well NOT because he doesn't know the material, but just because he's tired of testing. Since these tests are a bureaucratic requirement more than valuable for individuals, I'm not too concerned with it. However, perhaps districts should start paying for, offering, and encouraging the valuable above-level testing for gifted students like EXPLORE, PLUS, SCAT, SATs, ACTs. Three of my 4 kids took some of these tests this year and loved the experience and clearly benefitted from it. It cost over $300, without including overnight trip expenses to go to the city where the PLUS and SCAT tests were offered. Still, my kids would like to test again next year and I'll support it. The district testing should include some of these more meaningful tests for gifted and highly gifted kids to track their progress year-to-year, instead of/in addition to NCLB tests.

The Princess Mom said...

We just got the (form letter) report on my son's standardized reading tests (DRP) for 6th grade. The letter said an increase in "instructional level of comprehension" of 4 units was average. My son's level dropped three units between fifth and sixth grade. And apparently alarms bells are only going off in my head--I've had no communication from the school. So I wonder how accountable the schools will really be for individual student growth.

Suzanne said...

Could someone please tell me how to analyze the results of a SCAT test? My 3rd Grade daughter recently took the SCAT test. She did not qualify for her school's young scholar program. She scored in the 75th percentile for English and 88th percentile for Math. Since these questions on these tests are above-grade level, is there a way to figure out where she stands within her own grade level. That is, since only the top 15% or so of kids even take this test (at least at our school), I assume that she is above the 75th percentile for her own grade in English. We got raw scores (XX/50) and percentiles but not the three-digit numbers I've seen elsewhere. Is there a way to figure that out?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am in the same boat as Suzanne. We received his "at grade level" and "in comparison to students four grade levels above" percentages. The raw scores were stated as X/50 as opposed to the three digit SAT type scores that CTY uses.