FCAT not an accurate measure of academic improvement

 

Thank you for publishing Jeremy Glazer’s June 15 Other Views article, FCAT can’t capture teachers’ influence, effectiveness, about the ludicrous emphasis placed on the FCAT by our public-school system.

I was a school principal for 23 years, and Glazer confirms my belief that teachers are the ones with the clearest understanding of educational issues. The problem lies in the fact that the public education establishment is dominated by mythologies generated by both the political left and right.

From the left we get canards such as self-esteem, multiple intelligences, multi-culturalism and all the other myths that Rousseau and Dewey have bequeathed us. From the right we get the equally fallacious and misguided No Child Left Behind and its cousin, accountability.

Glazer knows a truth that most other educators don’t know or are afraid to express: There is a high correlation between standardized test scores and intellectual ability. A student’s standardized test scores can improve over time, but only to a certain point; that point being the limit of his intellectual capacity.

Standardized tests compare the individual to the group. They are not a good way to assess academic improvement, as the individual’s relationship to the group will vary little over time. If each member of a kindergarten class is given an I.Q. test at age 5, and then again when they graduate from high school, the results are going to be, by and large, the same. Schooling does not increase innate academic ability, and standardized tests measure, mostly, the academic ability of the individual when compared to other students like him or her.

When you combine the scientism of the right with the romanticism of the left you have a recipe for disaster. Add to this the vested interests of unions and political parties, and it is not hard to understand Glazer’s point. Hopefully, school districts will develop criterion-referenced, as opposed to standardized, tests that will more accurately measure student progress, because they will compare the student against his/her own base line.

I hope that the development of these tests is left to thoughtful teachers like Glazer, and not to ivory-tower academic types who haven’t seen the inside of a public-school classroom since they themselves were in high school. And I still hope and pray that, one day, we can gear our schools to start producing students who, upon reaching maturity, will want to learn on their own for the rest of their lives. This, not test scores, is the purpose of education.

Joe Carbia, Miami

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