Education secretary pushes higher test score standards
September 18, 2015 11:03 PM
From left, Fred Gilman, dean of Mellon College of Science, and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, escort U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan across campus to a town hall meeting Friday. The secretary was in town during a stop on the department's Sixth Annual Back-to-School Bus Tour: "Ready for Success" across the Midwest.
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Pennsylvania won’t be alone in seeing lower standardized test scores after aligning its tests with core standards, and that the lower scores don’t mean students aren’t smart.
Test scores across the country are expected to be lower as they are released in the coming weeks because standards have been raised on the tests that are based on the Common Core. In Pennsylvania, the tests are aligned with Pennsylvania Core.
“Obviously, students aren’t going to be less smart than they were six months ago or a year ago,” Mr. Duncan said. “In far too many states, including Pennsylvania, politicians dummied down standards to make themselves look good.”
Mr. Duncan made his comments during a visit to Carnegie Mellon University, which was the final stop on his seven state, 10-stop tour titled “Ready for Success.”
The secretary said children and parents “were lied to and told they were on the track to be successful” when they weren’t. He called that “one of the most insidious things that happened in education.”
Gov. Tom Wolf announced earlier this month the state had received permission from the U.S. Department of Education to pause for one year in using student scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams for teacher evaluations and for computing School Performance Profile scores.
Mr. Duncan said the one-year pause, which has been granted to other states as well, gives time to set a new baseline for test scores.
Local school officials said preliminary test scores show some significant drops, particularly in seventh- and eighth-grade math, that match statewide trends. Official scores have yet to be released.
“To me, we have to tell the truth. We have to set a new baseline and we will see progress as a nation moving forward. It’s going to be a rocky couple of years,” the secretary said.
He pointed to the high number of students who need to take remedial courses in college — about 30 percent — as proof that the old standards didn’t work.
As for his visit to CMU, Mr. Duncan said he was particularly impressed with the way the research institution reached out to the community, including technology partnerships with local schools.
CMU set up demonstrations of some of the technology projects, including those with the Girls of Steel, a robotics team of middle and high school females sponsored by CMU’s Field Robotics Center.
He called CMU “a fantastic academic research institution.”
“This is the kind of place that could become insular but doesn’t,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s an institution that’s making a real difference in the community.”
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