Need to rethink education assessments

Interesting article about Mark Jacobs forming an organization to help Iowa education. Unfortunately, he makes a false presumption that is holding back significant progress: that Iowa education used to be good. Iowa education cheated for decades to artificially appear good rather than actually being good.

Around 1900, U.S. education began using the theory of behaviorism, based on the false belief eugenics was a science and certain demographic groups needed to be changed, which set the course for blaming students for poor performance rather than educators taking responsibility for curriculum content and teaching methods. The early 1950s ushered in cognitive psychology, along with computers and the belief minds should just memorize facts and repeat them back. Other theories followed, but they were ignored. When the Iowa Assessments had to periodically lower their standards (about every three years) because 50 percent of students passed, Iowa educators failed to question their presumptions. Iowa artificially looked good on national NAEP assessments until the mid-1990s because only the best students took them (since low-performing students were not tested).

In 2002, NCLB said memorization was out and concepts were back in, standards had to be raised to a set national grade level of 65th NPR (which Iowa cannot meet), and all students had to be tested. Iowa educators fought this, setting their beginning grade level standards at the 40th NPR, where they remain, and continued blaming students.

In 2015, ESSA put a stop to blaming students because it was denying their civil right to access education free of prejudice. Iowa educators, now denied all of their excuses to avoid accountability, are lost in identifying what is wrong so improvements can be made. Other states are improving, pushing Iowa lower in national rankings on NAEP, and the Iowa Assessments have no idea how to write tests to determine knowledge of concepts and their applications.

I have explained to educators that phonics rules need to cover all letters and combination of letters (as they used to do), but educators use bad phonics that lack such rules. When I show them Microsoft Word (under the command “symbol”) has phonics rules for all letters, they cannot figure out what they need to do to change. Even Deborah Reed, director of the Reading Research Center, insists phonics rules do not cover all letters and combination of letters. Is it any wonder Iowa has dropped to 24th in the country in fourth-grade reading?