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August 30, 2006



Saw this story in my local-ish paper this morning - "Maine lags behind U.S average in seniors' SAT scores."

Members of Maine's high school class of 2006 did worse on the SAT than the previous year's class, and they dropped further behind their peers around the country on the national college entrance exam, according to results released Tuesday.
The article states that SAT scores have been lower this year, and after some searching found similar results in Charlotte, NC, Tampa, Florida, and Massachusetts.

Much of this drop may have to do with the new test, which has added a writing component for the first time, but doesn't explain why students in Illinois, Seattle and others did better this year. Smarter students or statistical outliers?

There is one thing educators in some of the districts with lower scores have in common - an almost complete unwillingness to engage in self-examination. Here's our commissioner of education on why the scores might be lower:

Maine's education commissioner, Susan Gendron, blamed the drop on a newly devised SAT test that required students to write an essay, added higher-level math and eliminated analogies. Gendron also said the drop may have been linked to an increase in the number of Maine students taking the test, which can lower scores.
Here's the Kentucky 'reason:'
Some counselors and admissions officers blamed the drop in test scores on student fatigue from the longer exam. But the College Board said the lower scores are attributable to fewer students re-taking the exam.
In the stories I read, very few educators were willing to acknowledge the possibility that students may be learning less in classrooms. I know that correlation does not imply causation, but it's interesting that right after a writing component was added to the test, scores drop a bit.

I was forced to teach a college class once and made the terrible mistake of assigning a paper. Most of the students in the class were college sophomores or above - people already well on their way to earning a college degree. Out of the 30 papers I received, 10 were excellent, 5 were mediocre and 15 were downright horrible. Spelling that would make Webster cry, and grammar that would send William Safire into fits.

Commenters in this thread have been engaged in a long discussion about, well, almost everything. At one point, the conversation turned to education and commenter Jason had an excellent idea:

However, what about the guy who got a bachelor's degree in math, loves math, is good at math, gets excited about math, and would love to have a $42,000 teaching job, but can't because he doesn't have a degree in education? Or simply someone with a Master's degree in some field or another? Or how about the guy who spent thirty-years working succeessfully in the business world and wants to supplement his retirement income with teaching a few high school business classes?
Why should all teachers be forced into the cookie-cutter education major? Why not have people teach who know more about the subject they teach than about "teaching methods?"


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posted by Slublog at 12:45 PM

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