Why do parents have such unrealistically high assessments of their students’ academic performance?
That’s a question Michael J. Petrilli asks at EducationNext in a blog post titled Common Confusion.
The Common Core was supposed to be associated with tests that showed more accurately the relationship between stated standards and student performance. As those tests have been used, student test scores have gone done—way down, in many cases—but parent’s reports of how their students are doing remains high.
A study released in May reported 90 percent of parents believe their children are performing at “grade level” or higher in their schoolwork.
In New York State, where I live, about a quarter of students fail to graduate on time. Of those that graduate and go on to college, about a third end up taking at least one remedial course in college. I can tell you from my college teaching experience, if a student can’t pass the test to escape remedial English, that student hasn’t been at grade level for about eight years.
Petrilli suggests giving parents more direct information about their kids’ performance on the report results, possibly even offering resources for concerned parents to use.
Peter Greene on his blog Curmudgucation takes issue with Petrilli’s comments, which Greene reads as being about Grade Inflation. Greene argues that if grade inflation exists in K-12 education, it’s allowed to happen because there’s no objective standard for what students should really be getting as a grade.
I find myself in agreement with both men on certain points: in particular with Petrilli on the need to report test results in ways that will make sense to parents, with Greene on the deleterious effects of the commodification of education.
That said, however, I think there is another factor that could be the causing parents’ assessment of their kids’ achievement to be way off: The teachers could be accurately assessing what students have learned in their class, and the tests could be accurately assessing how well the students’ learning matched the standards but the material being taught and the material being tested may be very different.
I don’t have any hard data as to whether that is the case, but my observation of such things as topics for Twitter chats and for professional development workshops for teachers lead me to believe a great many teachers are focused on teaching such things as a growth mindset and grit, which can be acquired while engaged in activities that require developing those dispositions.
I think today’s educators spend way to much time attempting to teach things that they wouldn’t have to teach if they did a really good job teaching their academic content.
I don’t mean stuffing students with facts.
I mean teaching students to read, write, compute, listen, speak, and think in each of their academic subjects and giving students work that gives them the opportunity to exercise creativity, to be innovative and entrepreneurial, to treat others with respect, to make the world a better place.
To that end, it might not be bad if parents did ask their local school boards what they are doing to make sure teachers are teaching the right things.