Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dumbed down tests for "real children"

Honestly, I feel much better now. I thought it was only Israeli educators dumbing down texts, tests and requirements, but according to The New York Times, the same educational "illness" is gripping the states.

If you follow the "Bell Curve," the level adjusts to the test results, so you always get the same percentage of "excellent."

In my small corner of the educators' universe I've seen some unpleasant reduction in the level of English my students know when they enter high school. My students are generally in the lowest English group. I've been teaching English as a Foreign Language for just under ten years. I used to use a book called Going Places, ECB, in the 9th grade. It's an interesting book which takes the students to all parts of Israel. It's totally factual, but it doesn't have the remedial techniques my students need. So after a couple of years I started teaching them from Rescue 2, UPP, which is humorous and more "modern." Some of my classes did very well with it and remembered the stories even in the 12th grade.

Last year, my 9th grade class couldn't handle it at all, and the year was a disaster. Actually, they couldn't handle studying and paying attention either. Since I still like the book, and we barely got through half of it, I decided that we'd use it this year, in the 10th grade. Thank G-d, it's going well, but that still means that this year's 10th grade is on the level the 9th grade was a few years ago.

I didn't want to make the same mistake again, so I ordered a simpler book for this year's 9th grade, Chance, UPP. When I had first seen the book a couple of years ago, I insisted that it was too simple for my kids. Now, the 9th grade is doing well with it.

And what about Going Places? I photocopied some of the stories for my 11th and 12th grade projects. They can handle it, yes, they're on a reading comprehension level like my 9th grade was eight years ago.

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