Archives for category: Testing

Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest writes:

 

More victories for the assessment reform movement this week as activists move into the policy and electoral arenas: the PARCC consortium votes to reduce testing time; Florida suspends high-stakes for end-of-course exams; Colorado’s governor signs compromise legislation, Wisconsin blocks test-based teacher assessment, and New Yorkers elect many allies to school boards.

 

National Keep Grassroots Pressure on U.S. Senate to Roll Back Testing Overkill
http://fairtest.org/roll-back-standardized-testing-send-letter-congres

 

Federal Opt-Out Bill Filed in Congress
http://reed.house.gov/press-release/reed-delauro-testing-%E2%80%9Copt-out%E2%80%9D-proposal-will-empower-parents-help-students-and-protect

 

Alaska Seeks Educators for Test Review
http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/state-seeks-educators-for-test-review/article_cec036d2-0116-11e5-a1cf-b3d6a3492a00.html

 

California Governor Calls for “Balanced” Approach to Testing, Accountability
http://edsource.org/2015/gov-brown-calls-for-balanced-approach-to-testing-and-accountability/79921#.VVs8xUZLUZy

 

Colorado Governor Signs Bill That Modestly Reduces Testing Time
http://gazette.com/hickenlooper-signs-bills-that-reduce-time-colorado-students-spend-testing/article/1552235

 

Connecticut Most Teachers Say New Test is a Waste of Time
http://blog.ctnews.com/education/2015/05/20/most-teachers-say-new-state-test-is-a-waste-of-time/

 

Delaware Legislators Oppose Governor’s Emphasis on Testing
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2015/05/24/lawmakers-fighting-markell-education/27944743/

 

Florida State Testing Turmoil Continues as High Stakes Suspended for End-of-Course Math Exams
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-education/state-testing-turmoil-end-of-course-math-exams-won/nmKS6/

 

Florida Testing Failures: Let Us Count the Ways
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/floridas-testing-failures-let-us-count-the-ways/2230414

 

Illinois Should Let Parents Call the Shots on PARCC Test Opt Outs
http://chicago.suntimes.com/editorials-opinion/7/71/625676/editorial-parental-control-desired-state-tests

 

Maine One Student Testing Battle Won, But the War Continues
http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2015/05/25/right-view-student-testing-battle-won-war-continue/233727

 

Maryland Students Will Take Fewer Tests Next Year
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-parcc-changes-20150521-story.html

 

Massachusetts Teachers Have No Voice in Testing, So Why Should They Support It?
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2015/05/why-would-teachers-support-testing-when-they-have-no-say.html

 

New Hampshire Seeks More Testing Flexibility for School Districts
http://www.unionleader.com/article/20150521/NEWS0621/150529719

 

New Jersey Victory for Testing Reformers Over Testing Time
http://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/education/in-our-schools/2015/05/21/parcc-changes/27716777/

 

New Jersey Should Not Count PARCC Scores While Fixes Unfold
http://www.app.com/story/opinion/editorials/2015/05/26/editorial-count-parcc-fixes-unfold/27951085/

 

New Mexico Teachers Burn Test-Based Evaluations
http://www.abqjournal.com/587949/news/aps-teachers-burn-their-evals.html

 

New York Opt-Out Becomes Statewide Rallying Cry
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/nyregion/opt-out-movement-against-common-core-testing-grows-in-new-york-state.html

 

New York May Back Down on Exam Field Tests After Boycott Spreads
http://libn.com/2015/05/20/after-boycott-spreads-state-may-back-down-on-field-tests/

 

New York Test Refusers Win Many School Board Seats
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/parentsandthepublic/2015/05/test_refusal_proponents_win_seats_in_ny_school_board_elections.html

 

Ohio Teacher to Lawmakers: How Testing Fixation Sucks Life Out of School Day
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/05/22/teacher-to-lawmakers-how-our-testing-fixation-sucks-the-life-out-of-the-school-day/

 

Ohio Advice for Legislature: Testing is Not Teaching
http://highlandcountypress.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=22&ArticleID=27836

 

Oklahoma Extends Exemptions to Third-Grade Reading Promotion Test
http://kgou.org/post/legislature-approves-extension-reading-test-exemptions

 

Pennsylvania Teacher Stands Tall in Refusing to Administer State Test
http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2015/05/23/Pittsburgh-teacher-stands-alone-by-refusing-to-give-tests/stories/201505250003

 

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/portfolio/2015/05/25/Gary-Rotstein-s-Morning-File-Refusal-to-test-students-deserves-an-A/stories/201505250038

 

Texas STAAR Tests Were Blocking Graduation for 10% of Students
http://keranews.org/post/staar-tests-still-holding-back-10-percent-texas-seniors

 

Virginia Computerized Exams Interrupted Three Times by Pearson Testing System Problems
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/va-testing-interrupted-three-times-because-of-issues-with-pearson-system/2015/05/20/3243a030-ff38-11e4-8b6c-0dcce21e223d_story.html

 

Wisconsin Governor Signs Bill Ensuring This Year’s Test Scores Are Not Used Against Teachers or Schools
http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/f4ab19d2f1a949c790cd9b554a4e96be/WI–School-Report-Cards

 

Global Policy Report: Reduce Emphasis on Testing to Promote Student Success
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/26/global-policy-report-093/

 

Radar Shows Blowback Against Test-Heavy School Policies
http://johnyoungcolumn.blogspot.com/2015/05/radar-shows-blowback-against-test-heavy.html

 

Q & A With Sir Ken Robinson: “If I had a kid in school right now, I think I would be opting out, too.”
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/20/qa-with-sir-ken-robinson.html

 

Accountability From Above Never Works
http://www.salon.com/2015/05/24/education_reformers_have_it_all_wrong_accountability_from_above_never_works_great_teaching_always_does/

 

Poverty, Family Stress Are Thwarting Student Success, Top Teachers Say
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/poverty-family-stress-are-thwarting-student-success-top-teachers-say/2015/05/19/17f2e35a-fe3c-11e4-833c-a2de05b6b2a4_story.html

 

Allegheny College Joins 850+ Other Schools in Dropping ACT/SAT Testing Requirements
http://sites.allegheny.edu/news/2015/05/22/allegheny-college-admissions-to-go-test-optional-starting-with-class-entering-in-fall-2016/

 

 

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Linda McNeil of Rice University has started a new blog that you should read regularly. Linda is a respected scholar of high-stakes testing and its inequitable effects. Read this paper, for example, “Avoidable Losses,” which she co-authored.

She writes:

“I want to personally invite you to visit my new blog, Educating All Our Children. This project is my response to the need I perceive for a place to bring people together around the issues of public schooling, equity and high-stakes testing. I am reaching out to you, a group that feels as passionate about equality in our schools as I do. Many of you have already shown me much support in conceptualizing this blog, for which I am very grateful.

“I have a tag line for my blog: Bringing together research, analysis, advocacy and community on behalf of the public’s schools. I’m writing in part to ask you to help me with this goal by sending me important links, leads, new stories and information that I can use to advance the movement. I would also ask that you forward, share and circulate my posts with people who share our interests. I’m not on Facebook (yet), but you can add me on Blogger and Google+ and subscribe by email to my blog.

“Thanks again for all your support over the years, and I look forward to your participation in my new venture. I hope you will visit regularly and comment often.”

Here is a sample of one of her recent posts.

The Buffalo News reports that MaryEllen Elia will be selected by the New York Board of Regents as the next state commissioner of education, replacing the controversial John King. The news was repeated by a Tampa television station.

 

The vote will occur sometime today, according to reports. When the news leaked, parents began bombarding the Regents with emails and tweets. As one said, “It is not over until the fat lady sings.” So, listen.

 

Elia was fired by the Hillsborough Board of Education last February in a 4-3 vote. The business community was upset. But critics complained about micromanagement, a top-down style, lack of transparency, and complaints from parents of students with special needs. One board member who voted to dismiss her “accused Elia of creating a workplace culture of fear and bullying, and failing to pay enough attention to minorities, including Hispanics.” Others, including parents, said that her disciplinary policies had a disparate impact on African American students.

 

Hillsborough County received about $100 million from the Gates Foundation to design and implement a value-added measurement system for evaluating its teachers. Its plan apparently included a promise to fire the 5% lowest performing teachers every year. Florida has a harsh style of accountability, launched by Jeb Bush and carried forward by Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature and state board of education.

 

Her official biography on the district’s website says that the Florida State Board of Education named her the Dr. Carlo Rodriguez Champion of School Choice in 2008. She is a strong supporter of the Common Core (see the video on this website, where Elia is interviewed about Common Core).

 

So, New York, once a bastion of liberalism, is getting a state commissioner who supports value-added testing and school choice, like John King. This aligns with Governor Cuomo’s agenda of “breaking up the public school monopoly” and using test scores to evaluate teachers.

The biggest news in the state in the past year was the historic success of the Opt Out movement. Last year, 60,000 students refused the state tests. This year, nearly 200,000 did. If MaryEllen Elia is state commissioner, will she raise the stakes on testing? If so, don’t be surprised if 400,000 students refuse the tests next year.

The odd theory of the Common Core standards is that if everyone has exactly the same curriculum and the same standards, everyone will learn the same “stuff” and progress at the same rate; and as a result, everyone will have the same results, and the achievement gap will close. If this were true, every child who had the same teachers and the same classes in the same school would have identical outcomes, but they don’t.

 

In 2012, Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution wrote an analysis of the Common Core standards and concluded that they would have little effect on achievement. Not because the standards are good or bad, but because standards alone don’t raise achievement, nor, I might add, do tests, which measure achievement, as thermometers measure body temperature without changing it.

 

Loveless summarizes his 2012 findings here.

He writes:

“The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education includes a study of the Common Core State Standards project. It attempts to predict the effect of the common core on student achievement. The study focuses on three arguments: that the quality of the common core is superior to that of existing standards, that the tests tied to the common core will be rigorous, and that having common standards will reduce differences across the United States by “putting all states on the same page.” It summarizes the current debate on the common core, but takes no stand on the merits of the arguments.

 

“For example, the study does not attempt to determine whether the common-core standards are of high or low quality, only whether the quality of state standards has mattered to student achievement in the past. The finding is clear: The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.”

 

What about states that have common standards? “Test-score differences within states are about four to five times greater than differences in state means. We all know of the huge difference between Massachusetts and Mississippi on NAEP. What often goes unnoticed is that every state in the nation has a mini-Massachusetts-Mississippi contrast within its own borders. Common state standards might reduce variation between states, but it is difficult to imagine how they will reduce variation within states. After all, districts and schools within the same state have been operating under common standards for several years and, in some states, for decades.”

 

He concludes:

 

“Effectiveness, not alignment, should be the primary criterion for selecting curricula, disseminating promising instructional strategies, and pursuing all of the other implementation strategies on which common-core advocates are betting so much. They steadfastly believe that “effectiveness” and “alignment with standards” are synonymous. The empirical evidence indicates that they are not.

 

“On the basis of past experience with standards, the most reasonable prediction is that the common core will have little to no effect on student achievement.”

 

In his 2014 analysis of states that did and did not implement Common Core standards, Loveless found no reason to change his initial conclusion.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley writes about a veteran teacher who refused to bow to the Great Data God.

Lisa Elliott is a champion of public education. She says in the accompanying video, which you must watch, “This is my home. These are the children I teach.” Her refusal to resign after 18 years of exemplary service, her going public with her courageous resistance, is exemplary. I am happy to place her on the blog honor roll.

Lisa Elliott, a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) and 18-year veteran teacher who has devoted her 18-year professional career to the Alhambra Elementary School District — a Title I school district (i.e., having at least 40% of the student population from low-income families) located in the Phoenix/Glendale area — expresses in this video how she refuses to be bullied by her district’s misuse of standardized test scores.

Approximately nine months ago she was asked to resign her teaching position by the district’s interim superintendent – Dr. Michael Rivera – due to her students’ low test scores for the 2013-2014 school year, and despite her students exceeding expectations on other indicators of learning and achievement. She “respectfully declined” submitting her resignation letter because, for a number of reasons, including that her “children are more than a test score.”

The post includes a video of Lisa Elliott, standing up to the VAMinsanity.

A comment posted on the blog:

 

“Thank-you. I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I currently teach kindergarten. You should see the SLO (Student Learning Objective) test that I have to give my kindergarteners next week. The state of Georgia, in its infinite wisdom, came up with the term Student Learning Objective, realizing too late that it spells SLO. How appropriate.

 

“Anyway, next week’s test is hilarious when you read it, knowing what I know about five year olds & seeing it from their point of view. It is also ridiculous and sad. I so wish Bill Gates would come and administer that test for me next week so he could get a taste of what he & others are causing our students to go through. Testing isn’t educating, but it’s all we seem to do anymore. Even in primary school.

 

“To make matters worse, our new “teacher evaluation instrument” is convoluted and makes little sense. We are observed 6 times a year and downgraded if our lesson plans aren’t done just so, no matter that they are MY lesson plans. Here’s the real kicker: we must have our “I can” statements clearly posted, taking up valuable wall space, and we must refer to them and chant “I can….. ” do whatever ridiculous, age inappropriate objective set aside for us to “teach them.” I said the “I can” statements with my students a couple of times, realized how utterly useless they are, and haven’t done it since. It’s bad enough that I have to have them posted. My principal has told me that I live in a world of “butterflies, birds, and rainbows” and that I “do my own thing.” I’m glad she’s finally figured that out.”

Fred Smith, a veteran testing expert who used to work for the New York City Board of Education, warns parents that Pearson will be administering field tests in the schools in June. He provides a list of schools where the field tests will be given.

He urges parents to opt their children out of the field tests.

The opt out movement is proving to be the most powerful tool that parents have against the whole agenda of test-and-punish “reform” that is being foisted on children and schools, benefiting no one but the testing industry.

Stuart Egan, a teacher of English at West Forsyth High School, wrote an article in the Winston-Salem, N.C., Journal explaining to readers why the reformster narrative about “failing schools” and “bad teachers” is wrong. He did it North Carolina-style, by comparing teaching to farming.

 

He wrote:

 

Last August, Business Insider published a report from the Brookings Institute highlighting the 15 cities where poverty is growing fastest in the nation. Greensboro-High Point tied for 10th, Winston-Salem tied for 8th, and Raleigh tied for 3rd with Charlotte.

 
Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a study by the Southern Education Foundation that found an incredibly high number of students in public schools live in poverty. And in April, the journal Nature Neuroscience published a study that linked poverty to brain structure. All three publications confirm what educators have known for years: Poverty is the biggest obstacle in public education….

 

North Carolinians know agriculture. We understand that any crop requires an optimum environment to produce the best harvest. Farmers must consider weather, resources, and time to work with the land. Since many factors which affect the harvest are beyond their control, farmers make the best of what they have; they must marry discipline with a craft. Teachers do the same.

 
But if the environment suffers and resources are limited, then agriculture suffers. Is that the fault of farmers? If variables surrounding the environment of public education are constantly being changed by governing bodies, then are teachers at fault?

 
Another fallacy with the rotten apple analogy is that the end product (singular test scores) is a total reflection of the teacher. Just like with farming, much is out of the hands of the education system. One in five children in North Carolina lives in poverty and many more have other pressing needs that affect the ability to learn. Some students come to school just to be safe and have a meal. But imagine if students came to school physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to learn.

 
In some instances, resources vital to public education are siphoned off to other “factory farms” and for-profit entities. Just this past December, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that Rockingham County schools did not have enough money and were having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep public schools open and equipped with the basic supplies, even toilet paper. But at the same time, Sen. Phil Berger’s own son was slated to open up Providence Charter High School with taxpayer money in Rockingham County. Luckily, that endeavor never materialized, but the state’s Charter School Advisory Board just recommended that 16-18 new charter schools be financed by taxpayers.

 
The soil in which the public school system is rooted has been altered so much in the past decade that the orchard where teachers “grow” their crops has been stripped of much of its vitality. Look at the number of standardized tests, curriculum models and teacher evaluation protocols thrown at public schools. And those will change again with Race to the Top money running out.

 
We are treating the symptoms, not the malady. We are trying to put a shine on the apples by “raising” graduation rates with new grading scales. It is analogous to constructing a new white picket fence around an orchard and thinking that the crop will automatically improve.
But our elected officials can help or at least remove the obstacles for those who can.

 
The General Assembly can invest more in pre-K programs. They can stop funding for-profit charter and corporate-run virtual schools. They can expand Medicaid so more kids come to school healthy. They can reinstitute the Teaching Fellows program to keep our bright future teachers here in North Carolina. Then they can give decent raises to veteran teachers so they finish their careers here.

 

 

Joanne Yatvin was a teacher, principal, superintendent, and president of the National Council of Trachers of English.

She writes:

A few days ago the New York Times published an OP-Ed by Richard Atkinson and Saul Geiser about the new SAT that the College Board will implement in 1916. Although the writers approve of the direction of the new test, they argue that it does not go far enough. It will focus on students’ mastery of the subjects studied in high school, but still be norm-referenced rather than a strict measure of their performance against a fixed standard. Also, in the test a written essay is optional, not required, which allows students t o by-pass proving their competence in a skill that Atkinson and Geiser consider the “single most important one for success in college.”

In my view both the writers and the College Board are on the wrong track. Primarily, they have forgotten that the A in SAT stands for “aptitude.” Originally, the test was intended to identify students with native intelligence and rich personal learning, regardless of the quality of their schools or their own home backgrounds. In tough economic times the SAT sought to give bright and dedicated young people a chance at college that they would not have otherwise. In many states scholarships went to students with high-test scores.

Another problem I see is the strong emphasis that the Common Core State Standards will have on test results in the future. Considering that several states have decided to go with their own standards and that many schools in states still dedicated to the CCSS are not up to speed, countless numbers of students will not be prepared to do well on the new SAT.

About the New SAT’s stance on a written essay I have mixed emotions. I agree with Atkinson and Geiser about the importance of being able to write well, but I also recognize
that it’s very difficult to do that on demand in short time frame and with no opportunity to revise. Maybe requiring an essay written separately from taking the test would be a better option.

Finally, my own personal objection to both the CCSS and the new SAT is that they misconstrue the true nature of learning. Learning is not a detailed memory of school-selected knowledge and skills, but the ability to choose what is important for your personal life, career aspirations, and the societal roles you hope to play. Learners build their knowledge and skills on that foundation and can demonstrate them on a test that honors good thinking and problem solving.

……………………………..

P.S. Many years ago I created a proverbial saying that expressed my belief about the true nature of learning. Although I’ve often recited it to friends and colleagues, and edited over time, I’ve never made it public. Here it is: Learning is not climbing someone else’s ladder, but weaving your own web from the scraps of meaning you find along your way.

Parents in Texas rose up to fight the over testing of their children and to send a message to the Legislature. Testing is not teaching, but the Legislature seemed to think that the way to fix the schools was to add more tests while slashing billions in funding.

Reacting to parent groups like TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessmentt), the Legislature dropped a proposal to require students to pass 15 tests to graduate (it remains five). Almost every school board in the state passed a resolution ahAinst high-stakes testing.

And now the State Education Department (headed by a non-educator) has acted: it switched testing vendors, taking most of the state testing away from Pearson and giving it to ETS.

Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning Mews asks the key question:

“Whether students, teachers or school officials will notice the change is a question state officials declined to answer Monday.”

Does it really matter which vendor administers too many tests? Does it matter who writes theultople-choice question? Will the stakes change?

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