Colorado’s high stakes testing scores (CSAP) are out this week, and the Denver Post weighs in with an editorial on p. 12B. (Yes, I still read the print edition. It’s much easier to scan for what interests me.) CSAP scores are basically flat, with a slight improvement in a few districts. The Post states, “It’s also exhibit A in the argument against maintaining the status quo in Colorado’s K-12 education system.”
It is mind-boggling that the Post thinks there is a status quo in education. For over a decade they have been covering the extensive efforts at educational reform in Denver Public Schools and other Colorado districts. Classroom teaching today is very different from what it used to be: major standardized assessments several times a year, constant progress monitoring, RTI (Response to Intervention) programs that use data to drive instruction, a literacy program based on research and best practices, and a math program that approaches math in a way so different from traditional programs that parents need programs to learn how to help their students. Teachers have been working twice as hard as they did in the traditional classroom to understand and implement new programs and practices, often radically changing their teaching styles. What few seem to realize is that test scores are like Olympic records. Just because an athlete only beats an old record by a hundredth of a second doesn’t mean that they have been sitting around doing nothing. It takes a tremendous amount of work to gain that fraction of a second, and it takes the same amount of work to raise test scores across a district or a state by a few points. The big difference is that athletes are lauded for their gains, and teachers are blamed for not making more progress and accused of being recalcitrant whenever they express skepticism about a suggested reform. If the Post truly believes the slight gains aren’t enough, couldn’t they at least acknowledge that maybe some of the skeptics about the reforms we have been trying might have been at least partly right?