Stanford Univ. Report Questions CAHSEE Bias

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by shawnehamilton, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. shawnehamilton

    shawnehamilton New Member

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    Apr 21, 2009

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm a former high school teacher (still credentialed) and current capitol reporter in California. Speaker Karen Bass today issued a press release about a Stanford University report that questions the bias of the California High School Exit Exam. I'd appreciate your noting any inaccuracies in the history of the CAHSEE and would appreciate your comments on the topic.

    "Stanford University report calls into question California High School Exit Exam"

    Google: Stanford Bass Examiner

    I appreciate your interest.

    Shawn Hamilton
     
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  3. SSA

    SSA Companion

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    Apr 22, 2009

    I looked at Karen Bass's press release, but it didn't link to any more detailed report of the findings of the study or really say virtually anything about the report, which is rather typical for politicians.

    I did read several stories that actually cited the study in question and most of the stories emphasize a decline in the graduation rates amongst females and students of color. The data is supposedly based upon information from "four large California school districts, those in Fresno, Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco." In the LA Times story, researcher Sean Reardon, suggests that the "conclusions had broad application for all California schools."

    Honestly, if their data set is based upon these four districts I think that Reardon is making a broad generalization with limited data. First, those districts aren't perfectly representative of CA. Furthermore, the CDE's data for 2007-08 shows that female 10th graders actually did better than males in both Math AND ELA.

    There is definitely a gap in acheivement between white students and various minority groups, but doesn't come as any surprise because other lower stakes assessments give the same result. I don't think anybody is surprised that a statewide test shows that minorities aren't as proficient as whites. A look at the various metrics of the schools (eg. average experience/education of instructors, quantity and quality of instructional materials, etc.) that the average minority student attends vs. the average school a white student attends shouldn't make that a surprise. Those proposing to can the exam because it gives results we don't like seem like they simply want to shoot the messenger.

    The study claims that as many as 22,500 students may be denied a diploma on the grounds of failing the exit exam alone. While this number may sound huge even if we take there number at face value it makes up less than 5% of 12th grade enrollment (ie. potential HS graduates) nevermind considering that some students drop out before 12th grade, which would make the percentage even lower still. According the CDE the adjusted dropout rate statewide is ~20%. The vast majority of dropouts had other barriers other from the exit exam, but nobody is talking about dropping any of those requirements.

    That brings up a point of what good does it do to give students a diploma if they don't had the requisite skills of a HS grad? Ultimately employers will fire an employee they see as incompetent regardless of whether a piece of paper says he is competent and that presumes that the hiring manager doesn't get tipped off at the employees poor reading and writing skills from their application or interview.

    I agree with Jack O'Connell who responded to this by saying that the "biggest mistake we could make is to view this report as a reason to lower our expectations for any student, but especially for our students of color and females." Instead of shooting the messenger we should be seeking steps to close the achievement gap.

    The LA Times article is linked below for those who want to read more on this topic:

    LA Times story
     
  4. octeacher

    octeacher New Member

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    Apr 22, 2009

    CAHSEE Concerns

    I am an experienced high school English and ELD teacher, former ESL community college instructor, also taught abroad for a few months anyway, heard the CAHSEE news on my computer, then tried to look into it briefly. I did not find much information, then noted your postings on several sites. I have a few quick comments, when I realize these issues are complex.

    Most teachers understand a need for accountability, so we understand Jack O'Connell's comments generally. We want our students to have AT LEAST minimal English language skills. We have noticed that the exam writing prompt has actually become easier over the years, when once there was a great deal of reading and analysis, now students are generally writing open ended narratives, to illustrate one way it is an easier exam today than 8 years ago. What I believe is our overall concern is a continual focus on these assessments being used against teachers for a variety of reasons, when they are inappropriate ways to measure the progress of our students, or at best, only one indicator, and yet we are continually put down for the tremendous work we do.

    I teach five periods of ELD this year. I teach ELD standards. The CAHSEE measures ELA, or English Language Arts standards, and there is some overlap, but mainly at the higher levels, and not so much at middle level English Learners. So, we need to make decisions on whether to teach to our state standards for our content areas of ELD or to help our students to graduate and receive diplomas by doing test prep. We do not speak these decisions publicly in this manner, but that is the general feeling of what happens.

    Our students often come unprepared to take and pass this exam, nor sometimes do they see the purpose since they do not need a high school diploma to begin community college classes. They take and pass those entrance exams in math and English so they do not need a high school diploma and begin at the same point as students who passed the exam, in their minds.

    It is not as simple as white students perform higher than students of all backgrounds, if you examine Asian students and how they are also perform well on this and other exams. If you look at a high school's Advanced Placement exams, boys generally score higher than girls and students who come from white/European backgrounds are scoring higher than other backgrounds on the whole.

    Rather than some people spending so much time blaming teachers for students who struggle, which I am not including you, but maybe trying to share why teachers hesitate to respond to blogs yet are intrigued, for so many reasons, the conversation should be to examine reasons some cultures perform better on the CAHSEE and other formalized assessments, and if there are steps to take to help all of our students to do well on this exam, if this indeed is our goal. Watching some money be thrown at some districts who then hire test prep companies who have theories but not an understanding of each local district challenges is discouraging, or when I see a college student trying to teach CAHSEE test prep with so little understanding of even basic learning theories.

    There is also some spin happening with the CAHSEE, so if a student is not expected to graduate, they are not taking the CAHSEE, in many school districts anyway. They can then go to an adult education program who gives them a diploma, in a loophole, because students do not need to pass the CAHSEE to earn a high school diploma from a community college, for example.

    We may need a better testing instrument, and I am doubtful that this will happen. All change and formalized assessment is so slow, and many people believe some assessment is better than no assessment, if taken as one indicator of growth.

    And if the pressure becomes too high, maybe I will switch to teaching highly motivated in all ways to succeed students who receive high CAHSEE scores, so I do not again need to sit in my principal's office and explain why my students fail this exam, when some of them have been in the US so short of a time period, is it even reasonable to expect them to pass? I believe we have at least 12 days of formalized testing, and it is not on the whole preparing students to do much other than to pass this test, when sometimes I would prefer that they can begin to even evaluate information on the Internet, not take Wikipedia as truth, or to not take the credit card offers they receive, and so many skills that will aid them if life that are generally untested.

    Thank you for asking an opinion, but if you do not recieve many, know that it is not you as a reporter, but a variety of factors that make us keep quiet.

    OC Teacher
     
  5. Voice

    Voice New Member

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    Jun 10, 2009

    A high school newspaper interviewed the head researcher of the study that shows the CAHSEE is biased. The article containing the interview, as well as discussion of the study, can be found at:
    v o i c e.p a l y. n e t/ view_ s t o r y . p h p ? id= 8602
     

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