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Asking Arne a Question

Ohanian Comment: Kudos are in order to Rick Roach. He not only has served on the Orange County Florida School Board for fifteen year, currently in his fourth term, but he speaks up for public schools. You will remember that this is the man who took as close a facsimile to the FCAT as he could locate (the public is not allowed to see the actual test). Marion Brady reported on this in Washington Post Answer Sheet . Here's what Rick Roach had to say about his experience:

"I won't beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that̢۪s a "D", and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

"It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.

"I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.

"I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I've detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession."

by Rick Roach

March 11, I was in Washington attending the annual Policy and Legislative Conference of the Council for Great City Schools. It's attended by representatives--school board members, superintendents, and school officials--from America's largest urban school districts.

Duncan [Arne] was the luncheon speaker. When he finished, he asked for questions, and I, of course, got my hand up first. I said "With the projected pass rate for the PARCC [Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] test being set at 38% for the first few years, how does that match up with what teachers do every day? Most want ALL their students to pass. No teacher I know would project a pass rate as low as that. In the system I represent, I have students who make A's and B's in AP, IB, and honors classes who can't pass my state's high-stakes tests. How do I tell them their good grades don't mean anything?

His response (and I think I got it right in my notes) was that over the years we haven't been honest with our kids and parents. Those good grades don't mean what they think they mean, and if the US is going to keep up with the rest of the world in academic competitiveness, we have to accept that fact about their grades, "work together, and be courageous."

I thought about my own kids. Lorena was high school valedictorian, cum laude graduate at Davidson, and she was just accepted into graduate programs at NYU, Columbia, and San Diego State University. My son, a B student in high school, now has an MBA and is successful in the field of marketing. Another son, a recent graduate at UCF also a B student, was offered a position in Atlanta with a major restaurant firm as part of the travel team to open new restaurants in America. My urban school district will send thousands of kids into America's finest universities where they'll do well. What do I tell them? That their K-12 records were meaningless?

As I've told you, I have 183,000 kids in my school district. With the new CCSS pass rate, 114,000 are projected to fail, this in spite of a full 180-day school year with passing grades. I'm now bumping into former students who are about 50+ years old, and they are successful lawyers, doctors, engineers, college professors, business owners, law enforcement officers and yes, even teachers. These are the kids we've been lying to?

Oh, by the way. Next day I was in the audience as Congressional legislative aides bragged about their commitment to education research, so I asked them tell me where to find the research for the Common Core State Standards. There was what's usually called "a pregnant pause," followed by some jargon.

— Rick Roach




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