Today, the State of Michigan released a new list of “focus” schools meant to punish those schools whose top 30% of students greatly outperform their lowest 30% of students on the official state standardized test.
Let’s think about the absurdity of that for a moment:
- Schools with diverse student populations, especially socioeconomically, will be overrepresented in this list.
- Schools that do a great job of teaching gifted/talented students will be punished for their efforts, as those inordinately high scores will increase the gap between the top 30% and bottom 30%.
- Schools will be rewarded for getting their high-scoring students to do WORSE, thus decreasing the gap.
Let’s simplify this down to a pool of just 10 students and their respective percentile scores on a standardized test:
School A’s students are in the 99th, 99th, 99th, 98th, 97th, 97th, 91st, 64th, 57th, and 56th percentile on the state test.
School B’s students are in the 21st, 20th, 19th, 19th, 18th, 16th, 16th, 14th, 13th, and 12th percentile on the state test.
The “gap” for school A is 40 points — that is, the average of the top 30% of its students (99) is 40 points higher than the average of its bottom 30% (59). The “gap” for school B just 7 points (20 to 13). But does that really mean school B is doing a better job? To which school would you prefer to send your child?
This is one of the fundamental flaws of the standardized teaching movement: that it seeks as its ultimate goal having all students be the same. Having students who excel has never been celebrated in the past by the powers that be; now, it will no longer even be tolerated.