A’s on the rise in U.S. report cards, but SAT scores founder
Statistics are often used by governments to measure whether their policies are succeeding or failing. What the stats reveal will depend greatly on the questions that were asked, and insight into what the numbers actually demonstrate. But that nuance is largely irrelevant when the real reason that statistics are used isn’t to demonstrate educational success, but the success of the government.
In an age which pays deference to science, numbers have a rhetorical effect.
For some time, governments have argued that their education policies are succeeding by pointing to rising grades on report cards. The government’s argument assumes the integrity of the teachers who assign the grades, and the students whose work is being assessed for them.
It would be highly unfair to question the integrity of all teachers and students.
What are we to conclude, however, if it is not only a standard practice but an educational policy that students can’t fail?
At the very least it demonstrates that Boards of Education openly acknowledge their cynicism about what the government is asking from them. The demand for signs of improvement is not unreasonable. The political demand that it be seen in numbers is.
This cynicism must also have an effect that trickles down through the system.
It will demonstrate very clearly to students that doing what you are told is more important than being right and wrong. The moral effect on the teachers that must inculcate this is extraordinary. Teaching shifts from being a nurturing profession towards being a custodial profession. The effect on the students is just as bad. It teaches them that the standard of fairness is dependent on pleasing the government, and that even teachers don’t believe what they are teaching is true. If they did, then they could fail.
In other words, the educational system inculcates moral relativism.
This is already apparent in a policy that students cannot fail. It perhaps requires a bit of insight to see it however.
More obvious to everyone, however, is when a disjuncture appears in two purportedly objective standards of success.
Standardized tests are the objective standard of demonstrating the standard not according to a given year, but over time. There are problems with standardized tests (such as the SAT) in the area of education, not the least of which is that the whole field of education can be skewed towards the taking of tests. Students are taught to pass tests rather than to be able to think.
However, when rising grades stand in inverse correlation to plummeting SAT scores, alarm bells ought to ringing for everyone.
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