From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
When you’re gauging the effectiveness of new teaching methods, you need a lot of data collected over the long term.
We’ve learned to be skeptical of fads and quick fixes. I still remember “new math,” which was such a fiasco in classrooms across America.
Longitudinal studies measure student achievement over the course of many years. For example, you test every child in a first grade class, then follow up with further testing when the same students are in fifth grade, seventh grade and on through high school.
Longitudinal testing is expensive, but it’s essential for staying on top of long term trends.
Many standardized tests are cross sections that only provide a comparison of students at a given point in time. For example, they tell us how third graders in Arkansas are doing in mathematics, compared to all the other third graders in the country.
Other tests are tests based on a fixed set of standards, rather than on a curve. When you grade on a curve, some students are going to get good scores simply because they did better than all the rest.
The legislature mandates that common standardized tests in math, reading, English and science be based on set standards, rather than a curve. They’re more difficult, but they give a better indication of how much our students know.
Another positive trend in Arkansas education is the increase in the number of young people who have chosen a career in teaching.
The Education Department reports that about 4,400 people are enrolled in teacher preparation courses in college. That’s up by 400 over last year, and up by 850 over the year before.
It’s encouraging that more people are choosing a career in teaching, whether you look at it in the short term or over the long run.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.