September 25th, 2008

What Wall Street and education have in common

Like many of you, I watch and listen to the news with great anxiety… and am aghast at developments on Wall Street. Why did we get no warnings. Real warnings. Why did this come upon us as such a bolt seemingly out of the blue. But did it? Or did people know and not tell.

And that got me thinking–what do we know in education, and specifically, in special education that needs to be told to a wider audience. So we can bring about necessary changes before a jolt hits all of us.

I’m writing some of my ideas on that… and would love to hear yours.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

September 18th, 2008

My Ed Week letter about SAT and ACT scores!

Published online on September 16, 2008
Published in print on September 17, 2008

Education Week

Letter

A Dearth of Standardization in College-Entrance Exams

To the Editor:

As reported in your recent articles “SAT Scores for Class of 2008 Halt Slide of Recent Years” (Sept. 3, 2008) and “ACT Scores Dip Slightly as Participation Soars” (Aug. 27, 2008), scores on the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams remain flat or trend slightly downward, while score gaps between groups of students remain wide. Are these numbers reliable? Unfortunately, no.

We assume that scores reflect a standardized norm, but this is not the case. While attention turns to the ACT’s one-tenth of a point decline (on a 36-point scale), where is the mention of the approximately 2 percent of SAT test-takers who take the exam under nonstandard conditions? The latter is a far more significant number.

In 2002, when the College Board, the owner of the SAT, faced a threatened lawsuit by disability-rights advocates who argued against flagging scores of exams administered with extended time, it blinked. Rather than defend its appropriate and legal reporting, the College Board settled. ACT Inc., the owner of the ACT, followed suit. Since 2003, test scores are no longer marked, and no one knows what scores mean because some (how many?) are not normed, not standardized. In short, there are apples and oranges aplenty. On the SAT, time can be extended by 50 percent or even 100 percent, thus modifying the test.

As an attorney who represents schools and writes and speaks nationally about testing and standards issues, I see the widespread confusion and cynicism this flawed policy causes. Who, if anyone, benefits from results whose very validity is questionable?

Rather than continue down this path, the College Board should consider three better options: (a) Flag scores again; (b) give all students the choice to take tests with nonstandard accommodations that would be flagged; or, (c) if time really does not matter, simply remove the time restriction from everyones tests. These steps could return trust, fairness, and validity.

Public reporting is overdue, even as we ponder flat scores, wide gaps, and slight dips.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman
Attorney
Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP
Boston, Mass.

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September 7th, 2008

Education Week: The Elevator Theory Of Special Education

Back in 1995, I wrote the attached piece which appeared in Education Week. Briefly, it speaks about the fact that we spend too much time, money, and effort on evaluating children and putting them into various categories–and that we should spend more time, money, and effort on teaching ALL students.

The article received LOTS of responses at the time. As a school attorney, I visited many schools back then. Often I saw the piece on school bulletin boards. Fun! I’d love to know what you think of the message. I believe it still rings true. Enjoy the read!

Education Week: The Elevator Theory Of Special Education

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

September 5th, 2008

Ah, SAT and ACT scores–what do they mean now?

Have you been following news of the SAT and ACT scores?

Education Week, August 27 and September 3, 2008 reported that SAT scores are flat. Gaps among groups remain wide. ACT scores “dip slightly.” Are these numbers the meaningful gold standard we need? Unfortunately not. We assume reported scores reflect a standardized norm. But, alas, they no longer do. While Ed Week headlines SAT scores and the ACT’s one tenth of a point (on a 36 point scale) decline as a “slight dip,” where is mention of the approximately 2% of ALL students who take the SAT with extended time? A far higher number!CAVEAT: Unfortunately, I was unable to find current percentages for either test.

Since 2003, when the College Board (BC) faced a threatened lawsuit by disability advocates who argued against “flagging” scores that were administered with extended time, it blinked. Rather than defending its appropriate and legal reporting, the CB, owner of the SAT, settled. ACT Inc., owner of the ACT, followed suit. Test scores are no longer “flagged.” No one knows what scores mean because some (how many?) are not normed, not standardized. Apples and oranges aplenty. On the SAT, time can be extended by 50% or 100%, modifying the very test!

As an attorney who represents schools and writes and speaks nationally about testing and standards issues, I see the widespread confusion and cynicism this flawed policy causes. Who, if anyone, benefits from results whose very validity is questionable?

Rather than continuing down this path, consider three better options: (a) “Flag” scores again. (b) Give all students the choice to take tests with non standard accommodations that will be flagged. Or, (c) if time really does not matter, simply untime everyone’s tests. These steps can return trust, fairness, and validity.

Public reporting is overdue, even as we ponder flat scores, wide gaps, and slight dips.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments