Nation’s Report Card Implies Students Are in Trouble Come 2014

I read this article today and what jumped out at me immediately was this passage:

However, the percentage of eighth-grade students rated as proficient declined significantly. In 2007, the last time the writing test was administered, 35 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient or above, compared with 27 percent in 2011. However, the proportion of 12th-graders proficient and above rose slightly, from 25 to 27 percent.

That looks like a significant drop in eighth grade writing proficiency. The article goes on to explain:

NAEP moved from the traditional handwritten tests — still administered to its youngest group, fourth-graders — to computers because of the significant role they play in writing and the prevalence of computers in students’ lives.

I wonder if a lack of access to technology classes and computers might have something to do with the drop off in eighth grade scores. High School’s have historically offered students computer classes and it is common for writing to take place in computer labs at the secondary level verses with pen and paper in the lower grades so it makes sense that we wouldn’t see a drop off at the 12th grade level.

Now throw the Common Core assessments into the mix when we start testing all students using adaptive computer based tests in 2014. What’s going to happen to writing scores in the lower grades then? How about math scores? Do our elementary students know how to test on a computer? How much computer time do they experience during the school day? Do elementary schools even have computer labs? I know many of mine do not. Even my middle schools are challenged with providing computer access to students.

We should be coming up with plans to address student technology access now. We need to be redesigning curriculum and classroom instruction practices to provide students the skills they need to successfully navigate these computer based tests. We cannot continue to treat technology as a bolted on afterthought. It must be fully integrated into classroom instruction. Yes budgets are bad but we can’t just put our heads in the sand and hope 2014 comes and goes without computerized testing. Common Core is coming. Adaptive Computer Based testing is coming. Whether it’s 2 years from now or 4, it’s going to happen.

Regardless of what you think about the common core standards and state testing, we owe it to our kids to start preparing them for this now while there is still time. Otherwise, come testing time they’ll be sitting down to type an essay and navigate math problems in front of a computer potentially for the very first time. And that’s just not fair.