Test Scores Measure Skills 

Closed education gaps. Test Scores Measure Skills

by Greg Cunningham

Grade-level skills help students raise achievement, close gaps. No cost to schools.

There has been much discussion of standardized testing lately with opponents and proponents making their cases loudly online, in print, and in person at the State House.  The discussion has been going on in Massachusetts ever since the MCAS was introduced in 1998, but the testy subject goes back much farther.

Standardized testing began in the US with the College Board tests in 1901. The SAT dates back to 1926 and the PSAT to 1955.  China began administrating the Gaokao in 1952. The oldest test is the French baccalauréat, introduced by Napoleon in 1808. All these tests were intended to level the competitive playing field in education and employment and counteract social and economic inequities. They attempted to measure merit, as distinct from privilege.

There was a time when students could beat the house on a standardized test.  You could learn which types of questions to answer and which to skip, or when to guess and when to leave the box  blank. The  test prep companies showed how to squeeze out higher scores than the actual skills deserved.

But the new standardized tests are getting too smart for those tricks. As artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated and infiltrates the evaluation algorithms, it’s getting to the point that the only way to ace a standardized test is to actually have the grade level skills required. At JFY, that has always been our approach to test prep: mastering grade-level skills.

Our just-released Whitepaper—Raising Achievement/Closing Gaps—reports on skill levels and resulting test scores in two large schools that work with JFY’s blended learning program, JFYNet. On last year’s MCAS every sub-group, from low-income students to students with disabilities to English Learners, posted gains. Not only did they gain, they re-gained their pre-pandemic skill levels. The schools recovered their 2019 achievement levels, and the subgroups—all of them—closed achievement gaps. The across-the-board gains were the result of our year-long focus on the grade-level state standards  from which MCAS questions are derived. Grade-level standards are the foundation of JFYNet.

Proficient language and math skills are essential for students graduating from high school into a labor market that demands reading comprehension, computation, logical reasoning for problem-solving and a litany of other high-level skills.  JFY’s AIMS methodology – Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support–  helps teachers build those skills not just for ‘A’ students but for all students.

Thanks to a generous state grant, JFY is able to offer the proven methods of JFYNet Blended Learning free of charge to all Massachusetts public middle and high schools.

Greg Cunningham is a JFYNetWorks Blended Learning Specialist. 

Other posts authored by Greg can be found here.

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