Litercy vs Proficiency

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To be literate is to be able to read and write in the everyday language. The key is defining everyday language. Two hundred years ago, reading the story "Pilgrims Progress" was considered literate and 3rd-graders were literate. In fact, 80% of the US was literate, the highest literacy rate in the world. They were able to read the Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine's "Common Sense". The US and North Dakota Constitutions are written in what was then everyday English. Article 8, section 2 of the North Dakota constitution says the government will maintain literate citizens. But our Englisah proficiency is less than 50%. Article 8, section 3 of the North Dakota constitution says educators will teach temperance. I am finding many high school and even college graduates do not know what temperance means. Today our high school graduates and even many college graduates cannot read and understand many of these works. Why?
Today educators no longer claim graduates are literate, but say they are "proficient". What does proficient mean? I have no idea and neither does anyone else in education. It is an education word that sounds good and means nothing. Tests are graded in "scaled scores" like 233 being proficient. What is 233? Is a 233 one question right or one question wrong or somewhere in between. One time a student takes the test, 233 is 70% correct. Then if not enough students "passed proficient", maybe 30% correct will become proficient and SCORES IMPROVE! DUH!
So if the writers of the test want to make teachers look bad so they can sell more remedial materials, they raise the percentage correct to be "proficient". If they want to stop the backlash from parents, they lower the percentage needed to be proficient and proficiency rates increase. But they hide what they are doing behind "scaled scores".
Let's consider a more concrete example. We know literate meant citizens could read works like Common Sense. However a few years ago, proficient may have been lowered to being able to read and write a simple sentence, like "See Jane Run." But if this is not a high enough proficiency, maybe if the student can identify and hold a pencil, that will be considered "proficient". Proficient can mean ANYTHING or nothing!
Please do NOT take my word for any of this. Ask teachers and education administrators how many correct is "proficient" on state or national tests. No one will know.
Here is a suggestion. Legislators can make laws that all scores are in percentage of problems correct and all the hiding of truth from citizens ends. Then when test makers say a student has a 233, we will know if that is 30% correct or 70% correct.
As a teacher, proficient scores mean nothing to me. I am more interested in WHY a student got the score they got than what the score was. If a student cannot add or subtract fractions, is it because they cannot add or subtract whole numbers? Is it because they do not know what an LCD is? Is it because they do not know how to find an LCD? Is it because they do not know how to change the numerator? Is it because the problem was expressed as a mixed number and they do not know what to do with the whole number portion? Just a note that a student is haveing trouble with fractions tells me nothing. Finally, if a teacher needs a state test to tell them a student needs help with fractions, then that teacher needs to be fired and replaced.
So the purpose of state and national testing is solely for the purpose of legislators and control over education. It has NOTHING to do with helping students learn. In fact, 80% of the US was literate, a century ago, the highest literacy rate in the world. Now our citizens are illiterate by those standards.


Billy Roper Added Apr 18, 2017 - 1:15pm
All academic standards, including literacy, are being dumbed down to accommodate a declining average IQ and government run schools which are no more than glorified babysitters and Marxist indoctrination centers.
Joe Chiang Added Apr 18, 2017 - 5:44pm
Billy, which came first, the chicken or the egg?  LOL  Are schools being dumbed down because of lowering IQs or because of lowering IQs we have to lower standards.  
I do not believe the problem is dumber kids.  I think the problem is lower standards.  Lack of reading challenging materials results in less analytic thinking as does lower mathematical analysis.  It is the lowered thinking skills that causes the appearance of lower IQs.
I believe if we taught our children as we did a century ago, we would have IQs a triple level with more information to analyze.
wsucram15 Added Apr 18, 2017 - 10:09pm
Joe..being in college which used to be the place where you were challenged the most, most classes are done via computer (at least testing and assignments).   Exceptions are Law, Writing (although you can submit your portfolio via a college website) and Art, even a good bit of IT stuff had to be done in class.
But many of my classes were online or the assignments and tests were and you were just given points for coming into class. 
Standards are definitely lower and while I had some anlytical thinkers in groups I was in, many were very lazy.  Math is an issue..I even had to have a tutor but she was an applied mathematics person so it helped.
For college, math, algebra, trig, geometry..everything like that is online.  No book. You have 7 sections and 10-12 weeks to do them in.  The test is the only thing not open book, but with attendance and homework, you can score a 56% on the test and pass that section.  So you can literally attend every class, do every assignment, score 56% on every test and pass the class.  IN COLLEGE!
This is a 4 year university for business and law, then onto law school.  The math, except accounting and economics is not the big ordeal.
So I agree with you, kids need to understand math..not to be trained in how to get by..
Joe Chiang Added Apr 19, 2017 - 10:00am
Thank you W15.  I was in business for 30+ years before I learned I could get rich as a teacher.  I went back to college and got my degree through distance learning, not necessarily Internet. 
I took a lot of math because math was fun, like doing puzzles.  I am a history major.  I hated history in high school and only learned that history has patterns once in college.  History had always been taught, or so it seemed to me, as a series of random events that had to be memorized.  BORING!  But history, if properly taught and learned is a flow of events, one causing the next and therefore very predictable, a puzzle of sorts.  But then puzzles take analytical thinking.
I have an invention that uses the drag in windmill blades to create energy.  I tried to figure out why this worked.  It seems that the mathematics and physics of drag is still being studied and not yet fully understood.  I believe studying my invention will help explain what is not yet understood about drag.  There is a name for this, but I can't recall it right off.  Perhaps one of our physics people here can identify it.  :)
Billy Roper Added Apr 19, 2017 - 11:09am
This is a very good article. It's a shame that participation in Writer Beat has plummeted after it was announced that it was going to be shut down. It deserves more discussion.
Joe Chiang Added Apr 19, 2017 - 11:19am
This evening I will be posting it on my FB page, Joe Chiang 4 ND Education
It is one of the "tricks" used to fool the public into thinking education is fine when it is not.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Apr 19, 2017 - 1:08pm
Litercy? Really? 
Sorry Joe, I couldn't resist. 
Joe Chiang Added Apr 19, 2017 - 1:39pm
When I'm typing fast, the a and/or s does not print.  LOL  So I try and do spell check and proof, but sometimes I don't.
My areas are math and history.  I'm taking the science Praxis to be certified to teach all sciences, too.  But please note English is NOT one of my main subjects.  I have to work hard to write coherently.  LOL
Autumn Cote Added Apr 19, 2017 - 2:16pm
Please note, it's not permitted to upload two articles within 48 hours of each other.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat.  Also note, the best way to draw more attention to your work is to comment on the work of others.  
Joe Chiang Added Apr 19, 2017 - 6:39pm
Sorry Autum, I was not aware.  Normally I try and keep to the no two in the top 20, but this was timely so I posted it.