Should students be able to test out of all courses? (no!)

February Newsletter:

**Should hs students be able to test out of any course?
–Citywide Task Force calls for letting students test out of foreign language and math courses, very defined, finite courses
      —But State Ed Agency proposes broad regulation that could allow testing out of any course
      —Big concerns that this will undercut course offerings
**Support TAG increase
**Vote on DCPS academic calendar

Add your Comments at the bottom


Update on Testing Out:

I reported last month that a citywide education Task Force (that I served on) had reached consensus on new ways for high school students to earn credit, including a proposal to allow high school students to test out of math and foreign language requirements. For a summary, see my January newsletter) The thinking–which I agree with–is that these subjects/courses are very sequential, defined, and finite. If you’ve mastered Spanish I or Algebra 2, there’s no need to take these courses in order to graduate! We don’t want to subject kids to boring, redundant coursework.
     But the Task Force did not recommend a testing-out option in other subjects, like U.S. History and World Literature, in which the subject matter is not finite or sequential.
I agree. These course are not “finite” in the way that Algebra 2 is. If a student arrives at high school ready to “test out” of U.S. history, the school should offer a higher level U.S. history course–perhaps an Honors or AP course. It’s hard to imagine a high school student showing up at an academic private school and being told that they already know so much U.S. History that there’s no need to learn more. I don’t think we should ask less of our public schools.
      Unfortunately, the state education agency (OSSE) has rejected the Task Force recommendation and wants full authority to let high schoolers test out of any class. OSSE has proposed a very broad regulation that would provide it with the right to allow testing-out in any high school course, at its discretion (although there is a promise not to do it immediately).
      But testing out sends the wrong message to teens–and undercuts new efforts to expand advanced course options across the city. As parents of teens know, we’re often trying to persuade our kids that they really don’t already know everything. It’s not helpful for the school system to say that they know all that’s worth a high schooler knowing!
      Plus, DC is now taking more seriously its obligation to offer courses that meet the needs of all students. This school year, for the first time, DCPS is requiring all high schools to offer a minimum number of AP courses. The Dual Enrollment program that has enabled students at Walls to attend classes and get college credit at partner college GWU is also available to students at Banneker and McKinley (partnering with Howard), KIPP (Trinity), and is further expanding–as is the HISCIP program that allows students at Wilson and elsewhere the ability to attend and get credit for classes at colleges such as AU.
These programs take resources and commitment. When resources are scarce, will schools find themselves choosing–or under pressure–to let students test out, instead of offering Honors, AP, and other advanced classes and programs?
OSSE has offered no educational rationale for its proposal. When asked to explain the purpose at a State Board meeting, the response was that OSSE might want this authority in the future and getting it now, as part of a broader package, would save time later. If there is a rationale, I’m all ears. Meanwhile, we don’t even know how basic or advanced the test might be–or what impact it could have, even unintentionally, on DC’s new course offerings and advanced course offerings at all schools.
      This is not a good way to make public policy. A big change like this deserves to be the subject of a full airing–with a full discussion of expected benefits and possible consequences–not just popped on us all as an undiscussed regulation.
       I’m eager to hear your views on this: ruth4schools@yahoo.com. If you would like to file formal comments with OSSE by February 2 , click here: http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?noticeid=5833888 . This site also displays the proposed regulations.

Support DC TAG increase
As reported in the last issue, the RAISE DC TAG team had a great success, winning $40 million in federal funding for DC’s TAG program. TAG, the Tuition Assistance Grant, provides DC residents with a $10,000 annual subsidy for their child’s tuition to any public college/university. The purpose was to provide to DC students the same low-cost access to a comprehensive, public land-grant college/university that residents of every state have. As helpful as the grant is, it has not increased since it was first enacted, a time when tuitions weren’t nearly as high as they now are. RAISE DC TAG is working to increase the amount of the grant.
As part of its campaign to show Congress how much support there is, it’s asking everyone to write/email your council member and ask them to support Jack Evans’ resolution introduced last summer…. “to expand the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program to fund the entire difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for DC students at four-year public colleges and universities throughout the US, Guam and Puerto Rico.”
To get on Raise DC TAG’s list, write them at: raise.dc.tag@hotmail.com

Vote on the DCPS Academic Calendar
DCPS is still accepting survey responses. Go to: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1fx-D-Sv5PjGWKg4GBLw6ByaCqAqjMud8W_S5LfkvrzY/viewform?c=0&w=1

Enjoy your holiday weekend. As always, feel free to email me with your comments and concerns. ruth4schools@yahoo.com

Ruth
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