Why Can’t Johnny Read (And Understand Grade Level Terms, Including Prose, Poetry, and International Texts)?


Over at the Washington Post last week, Allison Klein explained how modern report cards work in Washington DC’s elementary schools:

In some cases parents say terms are overbroad to the point where they don’t say anything. A couple of years ago, Montgomery County Public Schools switched to grading elementary students using P for proficient, ES for exceptional work, I for in-progress and N for no progress. Befuddled parents began referring to ES as “elusive secret.”

….D.C. schools takes a similar approach, only the school system supersized it. First-graders are assessed in 86 categories, including their ability to “choose high-quality health information, products and services,” and “promote health and prevent disease.” Second-graders are evaluated on their ability to “analyze data from tests of two objects to compare how each performs to solve a problem.”

Sure, I feel sorry for parents who have to navigate this stuff. But I really feel sorry for the poor teachers who have to fill it all in for a classful of students four times a year. There’s simply no way that teachers can judge students on such fine-grained criteria. They can reasonably judge whether little Sally is reading at grade level, but the DC report card also demands that they provide separate grades for each of the following:

  1. Read and understand grade-level text, including both prose and poetry
  2. Answer questions about text
  3. Retell stories
  4. Identify main subjects
  5. Identify key arguments
  6. Compare character experiences
  7. Understand basic organization of print
  8. Understand spoken words
  9. Sound out new words
  10. Read accurately and fluently

And that’s just reading! Once you randomly fill in grades for all this stuff, you’ve still got dozens more to fill in for writing, speaking, math (three categories), social studies, science, and music. I’d be crabby too if I had to face this kind of nonsense every couple of months on top of 74 days of testing a year—or whatever it is nowadays. Yeesh.

(Via Tyler Cowen.)