remediation (and the PASS test)

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.
De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was discussing again today why many universities will not accept anything that would allow a student to skip their introductory writing class.  I mentioned that this practice makes a lot of money for schools.  So many bad readers, so many ill-educated kids and so many families to blame. I guess it will just mean ... more school and more payments to schools. Funny how that works.

Why are strong readers being labeled remedial? - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post
I woke up three or four days ago remembering that procedure and asking myself a question probably triggered by conversations I’m having with Rick Roach, an Orange County, Florida, school board member. You may remember Rick. I wrote about him in my December 5 Answer Sheet blog post how he took a version of the state’s 10th grade high-stakes standardized reading test and got 62, a score that would have landed him in a remedial reading class. It would also have kept him from taking a class that led to his joining the swim team, becoming its captain, and being named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
It is unethical to limit participation in extracurricular activities based on grading. If grades are given, and they shouldn't be, expanding their use as gatekeepers is clearly wrong. It is not only unethical and penalizes students already penalized by the grade itself but it greatly narrows the social bandwidth within schools as well.

Grading is a punitive method of ranking that relies on disproved behavioral theories and dysfunctional social schemes. Teachers can stop grading as Joe Bower has done.

There is also no check on remediation, a system-defined problem that requires more time in the system and makes more jobs within the system. Note that remediation usually means entire separate classes and services that only prolong schooling; rarely is it support alongside the normal path. There is big money in remediation and no way to see what caused the problem and change that within the system.
There are three high schools in the part of Orange County that Rick represents. In those three schools, 30 remedial reading teachers are teaching about 3,000 students! 
What’s going on here? What’s changed? Why, a few years ago, was there was no apparent need for remedial reading programs for high school students, and now about one out of three are enrolled in them? Have ability levels dropped that far that fast?.... 
It’s easy. Make the passages to be read boring. Ask questions that have more than one right answer but count only one answer as correct. Throw in a few unfamiliar words or references. Increase the length of sentences. Make the test so long that fatigue or impatience set in. Add a few trick questions. Increase stress levels by setting a too-short completion time. Or, easiest of all, just arbitrarily raise the passing score.
Tests can be designed to yield any failure rate from zero to a hundred percent. Publishers just have to be careful not to make the failure rate so high that test buyers get suspicious.
The PASS Test 
Marion Brady ends the piece with this:
And there’s not one shred of evidence that standardized tests are a more accurate and useful measure of learner performance than teacher judgment. Indeed, I’d argue that they’re far less accurate and useful, and therefore a harmful, expensive distraction. 
I asked a bunch of nationally known reading experts to explain why standardized tests are timed. Here’s one’s response: “It has to do with the absurd notion of standardizing the testing situation in an attempt to get ‘valid’ results. If everyone takes the test under the exact same conditions, the results are valid information....Yeah, right. And so what we actually do is assess how well a population performs under testing conditions rather than testing what they actually know.”
Distraction? Grading siphons out children, changes the focus of learning, often makes kids feel like failures or they incorrectly assess their capabilities which leads many to vocational choices that are not optimum. Grades falsely alter learning by not allowing mistakes, and schools routinely use grades to discipline students. Grading is one of the principal ways children are filtered and class status is preserved. Grading alters talented students motivation and interests as well even if they benefit more from the game, it remains a pernicious practice at all levels.

There is an untimed standardized test created by homeschoolers and used by them and others.  The remarkable PASS test was created in the early 1960s by Carl Hewitt and Raymond Moore, the home education pioneer and concern for test stress was implicit in the design:
The PASS Test was developed specifically for home schoolers. It has certain similarities to other achievement tests in that it measures student achievement in the subjects of reading, language, and math. But is has important differences:It was designed for parents to administer at home. This can greatly reduce the stress level of testing. We do not require that a certified teacher administer it.
  • It is untimed, which helps students relax.
  • It consists of many test levels instead of one per grade. As a result, students take a shorter test and find most questions challenging but not frustrating. By contrast, tests for an entire grade must cover a broad range of abilities and therefore many items are either too hard or too easy. A brief placement test is included with the PASS to help choose a test level of appropriate difficulty.
There is no need for standardized testing or grades to assess students and we can offer students paths to college without them. But for parents within the system opting out of standardized testing is important activism and the PASS test is another option some may choose.

compulsory hours of instruction

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