September 21, 2003

SAT scores and Standards revision in Georgia

Bloggage has been a bit light on this page for the past month. I've been busy with a move from New York to Atlanta, and from New York University to Emory University.

What's up with K-12 education in Georgia? Well, the state came in last on the SAT scores (this is old news; it was all over the Georgia press in late August) and the state Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, knew she had to do something.

As we all know, the SAT (more precisely, the SAT-I, which is the one at issue) primarily measures aptitude, and the formal schooling required for the SAT is concentrated in K-8. It looks as if education in Georgia has a problem with basic skills in middle school and before, and an appropriate response for Ms. Cox would have been to say "thank you, thank you, thank you" to the ETS and College Board for putting the finger on the spot, and then to work very hard to understand what is wrong and what must be done differently in the early grades. Instead, in a press release of August 26 Ms. Cox announced that in order to improve SAT scores statewide the education department would do four things: (1) [we'll get to that]; (2) expand availability of Advanced Placement classes; (3) increase participation on the PSAT; (4) institute professional development on PSAT analysis. This response, with its depressing focus on test preparation, rather misses the mark.

Item (1) in the press release is the following:

1. A Revised and Strengthened State Curriculum

Work on the Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) will be complete this fall, resulting in what Cox calls a "world-class curriculum that will establish high standards, maintain clear expectations, and place our schools and students not just at the top of the southeast, but at the top of the nation and the world."

I'm observing the work on that QCC revision for mathematics, and Ms. Cox's description is hubris of the highest degree. The process is managed, if not manipulated, by the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE), and will result in their kind of "performance standards" that emphasize "authentic work" instead of basic skills. These new standards will do nothing to lift education in Georgia. I'll have more to blog about this in due time, when the new standards are released in draft form. In the mean time I point the interested reader to a posting by Donna Garner and a follow-up by myself on a Georgia teachers email list.

Posted by Bas Braams at September 21, 2003 09:40 AM