James Ahearn takes on the Special Review Assessment in The Record, reviewing how students would take the SRA after failing the traditional high school proficiency exam several times and then be coached through the alternative sham. It’s a good piece and makes the salient point that the SRA has allowed students (mostly poor and urban) to receive high school diplomas while effectively cheating them out of a thorough and efficient education while artificially inflating our high school graduation rate. Here’s a couple of quibbles:
- William Librera, Commissioner of Education under Gov. Jim Mcgreevey didn’t “acknowledge” two years ago that the SRA should be phased out. He positively pleaded with the State Board of Education five years ago to toss the meaningless evaluation, writing in a May 13th 2005 memo, “The SRA hurts the very students we seek to help, and it must be replaced.”
- The State Board of Education accommodatingly passed a resolution that same year eliminating the SRA, but after a campaign by the Education Law Center and the New Jersey Education Association the resolution was rescinded in 2007 in order to leave time to develop a replacement test.
- Mr. Ahearn describes the resistance of the Education Law Center to the replacement of the SRA with the Alternative High School Assessment, which is graded mostly by an outside vendor. (See this 2007 white paper, “SRA: Loophole of Lifeline.”) The ELC, in fact, was joined in full voice by the leadership of the New Jersey Education Association. Here’s President Barbara Keshishian at a February 2008 State Board of Education meeting:
"The SRA has served New Jersey's students well. It is based upon educationally sound practices and offers students who cannot pass standardized tests a legitimate alternative to receive a diploma. Unfortunately, many in the media and business community have mislabeled the SRA as a back-door to graduation. On the contrary, the SRA has provided students with a viable path to a diploma."Always thought-provoking to ponder the ways in which one organization truly devoted to kids (ELC) and another truly devoted to grown-ups (NJEA) find common cause. (We’re not being snarky. Just pondering.)
- Finally, what’s up with The Record’s headline writer? “Retooled Graduation Test Procedures are Working.” Sure, if the goal was to verify that, in fact, a substantial number of high school seniors in poor urban district can’t pass a middle-school-level test, and that the SRA served as a form of anabolic steriods, pumping up our high school graduation rate like The Incredible Hulk while enervating academic achievement in our poorest towns. NJEA’s website still boasts that “High school graduation rate as the best in the nation.” Guess they haven't gotten the memo yet.
Labels: AHSA, Education Law Center, NJEA, SRA