Why Arkansas Test Scores Are Lower Now Than in 1984 Educators Explay Why Test Scores ARe Lower Under Government Control

Why Test Scores Are Lower in Arkansas  Now Than in 1984

 (After Increase of  Billions)

 

Many of us educators have been labeled aginners. Perhaps that is because we have experienced the reality of reforms imposed by the ADE rather than what bureaucrats  say publicly.   Following are ten good reasons for our opposition.

 

1.  The first year the nationally normed test was implemented at three grade levels under a statewide  accountability system was 1984-85.(Education Assessment Act of 1979).  Following are the composite scores for that year.   (See end of this article for a chart of  all years under accountability system from 1984 to 2003)

 

1984-85

4th Grade

7th Grade

10th Grade

61%

57%

51%

 

 

            After  the largest tax increase in state history in 1983, school funding increased from1.4 billion in 1995 to 2.8 billion in 2001.  The nationally normed test for 2001 were: 5th Grade – 51%;  7th Grade - 51%; 10th Grade - 49%.  Following are  the averages for nationally normed tests taken from 1995-2003

 

 

Average of  Nationally  Normed Test from 1995 - 2003

5th Grade

7th Grade

10th Grade

51

50%

48%

           

            Due to certain testing anomalies, testing percentages are not normally averaged but these averages definitely indicate  a  consistent pattern.

 

Ninety-five percent of  superintendents and 96% of teachers in two surveys said the educational reforms have  been a top down approach with most or all the significant decisions made  by educational bureaucrats.  Therefore,  ADE should bear the major responsibility for those decreased scores that make the students, teachers, and schools look bad.  The schools still had control of the curriculum and most of  the decision making in 1984-85 when the accountability system was first put  in place.

 

2.  A few years ago the ADE began the transition to a new type test for accountability (anyone wonder why) to the benchmark or “Arkansas only”  tests. The ADE hired an inexperienced  company (Advanced Systems)  to design these tests.  Its  said, “We couldn’t afford to hire anybody who knew anything about tests, so we hired people who were bright and committed.”  This testing company had a 29.5 million contract with Kentucky but was fired after a number of years  because they had failed to deliver a “usable product.”  The Senate voted 35-1 to scrap the test. In a survey of 450 teachers, 83% indicated the Arkansas benchmark tests were poorly designed.

 

            3.  The ADE used  Douglas Reeves as the expert to oversee teacher training for standards and accountability and distributed  his  videos to schools throughout the state. In his 1998 book, Making Standards Work, Reeves states: “Competition is not part of the human spirit, but part of modern-day psychosis,” and that competition perpetuates “the caste  system as it presently exists.” Reeves doesn’t believe in nationally normed tests, or  and in  comparing different schools’ test scores, says retention is not fair for children, and that other forms of assessment are better than letter or number grades. An Arkansas Smart Start pamphlet, Nov. 1999, praised two schools in Arkansas for doing away with grades, reflecting  Reeves’ views but not the views of  most teachers and parents.

 

                4.  Willard Daggett was hired  as part of  Huckabee’s Smart Start program to  oversee Character Education and staff development.  Thick notebooks  of Doggett’s material were sent to counselors all over Arkansas. Daggett  has developed a reputation (reported in several papers) of  making up his own research to support his philosophy  and fabricating other personal success stories like claiming to be a president of a college when he was just a professor.    He gets from 7,000 to $10,000 a day for his “creative” presentations. He also has been advertised in several pamphlets as an "Eminent Outcome -Based Reformer & Implementer" who is "Shaping America's Future Through Outcome-Based Education."   Outcome Based Education (OBE) is that wonderful liberal philosophy that promotes government controlled education, no grades, no grade levels, no competition, no textbooks, no memorization and drills.  Talk about sneaky – using character education as a means to bring in more OBE!

 

Daggett says in his book Preparing Students for  the 1990s and Beyond, [W]we will need to change our testing programs and move towards portfolios. p.29.  The ADE  was at the point of mandating  portfolios several years ago  until former ADE Director Gene Wilhoit pulled the plug on that when a number of  teachers showed him  the ADE intended to substitute portfolios for gradesInterestingly, portfolios are now  required for all students  at  Altheimer, a school  where the superintendent has been replaced with an ADE appointment.

           

            5.  ADE implemented Math Crusades with a $20 million dollar grant which promoted the following “progressive” philosophies.   (1)  “Grading can be detrimental to student willingness to learn and should be replaced.” p. 31  (2) “ In today’s climate, tests are inadequate and misleading as measures of achievement.” p. 5.”,  Assessment Alternatives in Mathematics  used statewide  in Arkansas workshops.  Subjective portfolios are their choice for assessment. p. 9.

 

College course  textbooks used in Arkansas Math Crusades at 13 university sites recommend “decreasing attention to Rote Practice, Memorization, One Answer and One Method, Use of Worksheets, Written Practice and Teaching by Telling.”  This basically does away with traditional education.  Math specialists to supervise teachers  are  now mandatory.  Our ADE director highly  praises math specialists  who are required  to have training in and support the Math Crusades’ philosophies.  He says their  philosophies should be institutionalized in our schools.

 

            6.  ADE mandated staff development has been a waste thousands of dollars and countless hours  teachers could have used wisely for real educational needs.  In these workshops  the ADE pushed  all kinds of  “progressive” and Outcome Based techniques and philosophies like those  promoted by Reeves and Daggett. Teachers and administrators  have traveled all over the state  for staff development (expenses paid by taxpayers) like this one sponsored by ADE: "Are these teachers crazy? They took 170 seventh graders to a city park all day for five days to study the geographic regions of Arkansas from an interdisciplinary viewpoint. Students  heard a blues singer and wrote their own Delta Blues.  …Students took wild turkey feather and experimented with the effect of oil on feathers…Get packets and ideas.”     

 

7.   The three R’s have been replaced by the ADE  with the three T’s,  Teach The Test. Seventy percent of the respondents in a  superintendent survey (113 superintendents) said they had experienced ADE training that encouraged teachers to give enrichment work (busy work) to the brighter students while they concentrated on those students that could be pulled up a point or two to improve the school’s scores, and to essentially  forget about students who could not improve the school’s score anyway.

 

            8.  Almost every educator says  discipline is the number one problem in schools.  However, in the late 80’s the ADE implemented 38 new guidelines, gutting most of the disciplinary authority of educators.  Interestingly, this time period coincides with the student decline in test scores.  Not one of  the ADE’s educational reforms address that issue and many of  their recommended methods actually create chaos in the classroom.

 

9. Numerous ADE unfunded mandates for school districts have usurped money as and time that could have been used for teachers’ raises or  for real education. Superintendents are required to file  74 major  reports.  That could be equivalent to  filing 75 extensive tax returns.  To see how the ADE micromanages the schools, view these required reports (16 pages listing more than 200 required reports) at http://aredustate.ar.us; under Director’s Memos IT-04-001,  7/14/2003.

 

  Extensive, unnecessary  paper work has also been  piled upon teachers and principals – to the point  that teachers have  to leave off some of  their teaching to meet these demands.    For example, The ADE forced   required teachers to develop detailed  curriculum frameworks for all  classes, again taking numerous hours.  After  teachers finished them,  the ADE  simply shelved  them  and gave the teachers their own  vague  standards saying the teachers formulated them.  These standards  earned an F by the prestigious  Fordham Foundation.

 

             Similarly, ADE requires the entire school staff to work on school improvement plans (ASCIP)  each year, requiring hours and hours of  staff development. When these plans are submitted to ADE, they refuse them until they echo or parrot what the ADE requires.  The ADE then claims the plans are the school’s own work.  In a teachers’ survey  86% of  teachers said this staff development was of little value in improving achievement and an ineffective use of  teachers’ time.

 

            10.  Finally, our ADE Director passionately  promoted Act 1467of 2003 which bases all sanctions on the experimental benchmark “homegrown” tests and flawed  standards.  Act 1467  gives the ADE power to take over half the schools in Arkansas for failing to measure up to this Omnibus bill. Our vague standards and benchmark tests  allow and encourage defective curriculum.  Everyone wants and  is demanding measurable higher standards, but accountability based on a flawed test which measures a faulty curriculum is and will continue to be destructive to education rather than productive.  

             

            From our perspective as teachers,  we would  indeed be foolish  to support educational reform unless some real accountability is imposed at the top level where the real power and responsibility rest.  Most of  the same people who supervised all these problematic reforms are still in the ADE.    If  schools can have their management replaced when they don’t improve, shouldn’t the State Department function under the same rules  even if  it takes legislation to do so.

 

 Since  the State Board allowed all these problems happen,  by representing  the ADE rather  than the students and the schools,  electing the state school board would be a good choice for holding them accountable.

 

 Educators  don’t dislike accountability and educational reform. We  just don’t like deceptive techniques and methods that are destructive to real education and to our students, teachers, and parents.

 

 

Nationally Normed Test Scores

From Beginning of  Accountability Law  1979 in Table Form

(It was  somewhere around 1984 before they fully implemented them statewide in three grades.)

You probably won’t see a table like this unless you compile it yourself.  It is unbelievable that Arkansas set up an accountability system, and these scores have never been posted in a full picture or printed in a newspaper in full.  To get the scores  for 1988-1995 we had to go to Little Rock to get them.  They literally refused to send them to us by fax or mail.  In 1995 the ADE wouldn’t even give us that year’s scores by phone or mail.   Their excuse was that the report generated about 900 pages and they could not send all of  that. I  have noted this in my files  and that I talked to a Janie Welch and to Ernie Huff and both refused to send them to me, Dec. 28, 1995.

I was told by Donna Wolfe in Testing that the 2003 scores could not be compared to other scores unless they were equated because they were compared to a different sampling.   The NCE mean for  5th Grade in 03 was 53.5 (3.5 points below the percent score.  And the Mean NCE for 7th grade was 53.8 (3.2 points below the percent score.) In most cases the Mean NCE scores and the percent scores have no more difference than 1 to 1.5..  I don’t know what this means statistically, but it is unusual. 

This is true transparency!

Year

5th Grade

7th Grade

10th Grade

2003 SAT-9  Spring

57%

57%

48%

2002  No Test

No Test This Year

No Test This Year

No Test This Year

 2001 SAT-9 Fall

51%

51%

49%

2000 SAT-9 Fall

50%

50%

48

1999 SAT-9 Fall

48%

49%

47%

1998  SAT-9Fall

47%

48%

47%

1997 SAT-9 Fall

47%

48%

47%

1996 SAT-9 Fall

46%

47%

46%

1995 SAT-9 ? Fall

55%

54%

52%

1995  Spring SAT-8

50%

50%

49%

1994 Spring SAT-8

52%

51%

50%

1993  Spring SAT-8

51%

49%

52%

1992 SAT-8 Spring

52

51

49

1991 MAT 6 Spring

65

60

57

1990 MAT 6 Spring

67

61

58

1989 MAT 6 Spring

67

60

56

1988 MAT-6 Spring

66

59

55

1987 MAT 6 Spring

66

58

54

1986 MAT6 Spring

66

58

54

1985 MAT 6 Spring

64

54

53

1984 SRA Spring

61

57

51

 

Note:  No nationally normed test was given in 2002 because they were transitioning to spring test again.  Note though in 1995 when they were in transition stage to fall test they gave two tests, one in fall and one in spring. ?

 

 

 

 

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