Assessment, Equity, and Science Education Reform
Peter, a Russian child adopted by American parents, was having a hard time in third grade. After 2 years of special ESL instruction, he had been moved out of his ESL classes, more by reason of longevity than accom-plishment. In the mainstream, he was having difficulties understanding and communicating in English and with all of his schoolwork, save the playground, where he excelled. His parents and teachers were beginning to suspect learning disabilities. Then, one day, Peter mysteriously found himself back in an ESL classroom. When his parents asked about the reason for this strange turn of events, Peter’s teacher explained that the ESL placement was only temporary, about
2 weeks, during the state performance assessments in science (and other subjects). The teacher said that Peter would experience a loss of self-esteem and be frustrated if he participated in the tests. Peter wondered what he had done so wrong that he was sent back to ESL. His parents inferred that the school wanted to keep its test scores as high as possible, in order to avoid sanctions. As Peter was not likely to boost the group mean, he was excused. In their minds, given all of Peter’s problems, this was not worth a fight with the school system. Yet, no one learned anything about Peter’s progress toward achieving science standards or the school’s role in his accomplishments or lack thereof, although he had been in the school since kindergarten.