KIRO Nights: What’s to blame for the drop in Washington student test scores?

Jan 20, 2022, 12:22 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2022, 10:23 am

test scores...

A STOP sign posted to an office doorway is seen while teachers speak in a hallway at a school in Kentucky. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

In the first exams since the COVID-19 pandemic began — comparing percentages from 2019 to 2021 — there was a huge drop off in test scores among Washington students.

The number of passing students in math went from 50% to 33%, as reported by the Seattle Times from an early January press conference with the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Gee & Ursula: Data shows pandemic has impacted learning for Washington students

“Math is already bad as it is, but a third of students are passing?” KIRO Nights’ Tarik Ansari said. “This is cringe, but I have a solution for how we can make it based.”

KIRO Nights host Jack Stine said he wants to hear the solution, but had to get something out first.

“People often ask, why is the public school system failing? I will tell you that you can look to your own place of work to understand why the school system fails,” Jack said. “… In general, the top 15%, 10% of people in a workplace are doing something like 90% of the work. They’re doing almost all of it, and everybody else is just a slacker.”

“The same thing applies to teaching,” he continued. “Out of all the teachers out there, maybe one out of every five, two out of every five really cares about their job, really cares about the kids, really cares about educating the children of the future, teach them well, and help them lead the way. All the other teachers — and no offense to you out there if you’re a teacher, I’m sure you do a great job — are slackers. They don’t care.”

Jack says we can point blame at the curriculum or COVID-19 for low test scores, but he believes that’s not the true issue.

“The fact of the matter is that when you have a teacher who’s excited and enthusiastic about their topic, it’s infectious. When they care about the kids, it’s infectious,” he said. “When you have a bunch of slackers who have a union job, who can’t get fired, that’s when you get kids with a third-grade reading level by the time that they’re in eighth grade, and a second-grade math level by the time they’re a senior in high school.”

“This is a recipe for disaster and we have been eating it for years — decades at this point — wondering why it tastes so bad. Because the recipe is bad,” Jack said.

Tarik agrees with Jack’s point about unions, but disagrees that the majority of teachers don’t care.

“I think the reason we’re seeing this test drop off is the fact that a lot of students are going through a lot — a lot — whether it be mental health, physical health, or just, I mean, it’s a once in a century pandemic,” he said. “They have to go from in person and seeing their teacher all the time to online for a year and half, which is a problem in itself.”

He points to two reasons for the drop off — that Washington was not prepared to go online and is not giving teachers the resources they need, and that “we’re still teaching math like we’re idiots.”

Overall, Tarik thinks there needs to be an overhaul of the way math is taught, better materials for students and teachers, and the ability to fire teachers that are lazy, don’t work, are abusive, and that have “cancelable behavior.”

“If we can have all those things happen, we’re going to be in a much better place. We’re going to see test scores going up,” he said. “That’s a fact.”

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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