Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's All About the Money

I was not surprised - at all - to learn that the Legislature is cutting back on the number of questions (most of them open-ended) on the WASL. This was outlined in an article in the PI. And why? Because of the costs of grading those open-ended questions (it has to be done by humans). The changes in WASL questions bill is ESHB 3166.

The cost of the WASL, per pupil, is estimated at between $52 and $72 depending on grade level. It has always been unbelievable to me that we would need to spend that much and I guess it finally dawned on the Legislature that they could assess kids for less money and maybe put that money back into the classroom.

From the article:

"The Legislature budgeted $22 million to administer the statewide test in 2009, but testing companies now estimate the cost could increase by $15 to $25 million when a new contract begins this fall.

Reducing the number of open-ended questions would cut the cost of grading and administering the test by about $10 million, said Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, the Senate education committee chairwoman."

Reasoning?

"McAuliffe added that a less open-ended questions will allow students who don't have a full grasp of English to show they meet standards through other types of questions. Showing work in math problems would be cut under the plan."

This is good news for ESL kids who may actually be good in math and not in writing. I'm not sure I agree with not showing math work because when a teacher looks at a student's WASL booklet, he or she might not be able to discern where a student went wrong in their thinking.

The changes would also shorten the test-taking time for elementary and middle school students. Because it is a high school requirement, the WASL would remain the same length for high school students. (One interesting side note; as I have mentioned before, freshman can take the 10th grade WASL and have the results count. Last year Roosevelt had maybe 2 students do this and this year there's about 200. As a result, we have a huge number of students taking the WASL with the sophomores and then juniors who may have failed a portion and freshman taking it for the first time.)

In other money news, NYC is paying students and teachers for results. Kids can earn up to $50 for good test scores. (So far this is being paid through private funds.) The teachers union was against individual awards so they put it all in a pot.

This article appeared this week in the NY Times.

From the article:

"Changing the attitudes of seventh graders seems to be more complicated. At J.H.S. 123 in the Bronx, for example, a seventh-grade English class was asked one morning if there were too many standardized tests. Every hand in the room shot up to answer with a defiant yes. But at the same time, the students all agreed that receiving money for doing well on a test was a good idea, saying it made school more exciting, and made doing well more socially acceptable.

“This is the hardest grade to pass,” said Adonis Flores, a 13-year-old who has struggled in his classes at times. “This motivates us better. Everybody wants some money, and nobody wants to get left behind.”

Would it be better to get the money as college scholarships? Shouts of “No way!” echoed through the room. “We might not all go to college,” one student protested.

So is doing well in school cool? A few hands slowly inched up. But when their principal, Ms. Connelly, asked what could be done to make being the A-plus student seem as important as being the star basketball player, she was met with silence."

So you could get the highest score on the assessment (and make the most money) and yet, the jock still rules.

Still more money flowing in NYC. This story was on the CBS evening news.

"It was a first for Tonia Jones' four children. None has ever had a library card.

"We'll go to the table and fill them out," Jones said.

What did it take to get them to the library?

Fifty dollars ... each, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

"I'm a single parent," Jones said. "It's hard out here."

A pilot program called Opportunity NYC pays low-income families cash incentives to do what many say they should be doing anyway.

  • $25 dollars for attending parent teacher conferences;
  • $600 for kids passing a standardized test;
  • $200 for getting a yearly physical;
  • All told, up to $6,000 a year in cash rewards per family.

    "I don't think it's a bribe," Jones said.

    So-called "Learn & Earn" payment programs are spreading.

    Private or publicly funded programs exist now in at least 11 states, including Georgia, which pays kids $8 an hour to be tutored after school."

  • I can see setting up babysitting for parents so they can come to a parent-teacher conference but this is sad and depressing. Is this the ticket to getting more students with challenges on-board with learning? Is this the ticket to getting parents on-board with education being a priority?

    Is this any worse than parents who pay their students for As? Is there a difference between paying for a specific grade per class and rewarding your child with a treat for a good report card?

    What does this tell kids about hard work and education? They might end up believing if you work hard you will always be rewarded. Sadly, there are many adults who work long and hard and don't get paid much. Does paying kids for good grades set them up to be better students or disappointed adults?

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for posting this, Melissa. I saw this this morning, and I had the same thought as the title of your post, "it's all about the money." If, after substantive thought and consideration of best practice I heard them say, yes, the test needs tweaking, no more essay or short answer because it's not best practice" I'd rest a little easier. But it seems that it's just the cost, and any justifications are tacked on as an afterthought.
    Given that these tests lead (or not) to graduation, you'd figure that cost would not be a factor, that whatever we need to do to graduate them, we do. But to save a few million by shortening the tests seems cheap, given the gravity and t he stakes. What DOES it say to the students about the value of the test? This important test is just what we feel like paying for and no more?