Monday, March 21, 2011

Feel Strongly about the Benefits of Testing?

A group is organizing a forum on parent perspectives about standardized testing.  They are looking for a couple of people (teachers and parents) who support standardized testing in SPS, namely MAP and HSPE.  They are looking for authentic dialog on this important issue. 

What benefits have you seen for your child?  How has it guided your thinking as a parent in how your child is doing in school?  Happy about the feedback from your child's teacher?

If you might be interested in being part of a panel that is supportive of the testing currently offered (thanks but they have plenty of the other side of the coin), please contact Chris Stewart, (stewcc@hotmail.com).

Also, if you have opted your child out of testing, that would be an interesting experience to share as well.  (I did opt my sons out of most of the WASL but that is years back now.)

21 comments:

Peon said...

I'll contact Chris. While I am not thrilled about standardized testing being used to judge teacher performance, I do recognize the benefits of testing to evaluate students. Before standardized testing we really had no clue how schools, or more appropriately, their groups of students were doing academically? At least not based on any normed standards.

Standardized tests give us some insight, and can help identify which students are right on track, which need intervention, and which need more challenge.

I think standardized tests definitely have their place, and when used appropriately can provide invaluable data.

MAPsucks said...

I think we can all agree that posting teachers' "growth" scores for all to see is NOT the purpose of standardized testing...?

kprugman said...

You guys crack me up.

Parents/teachers should not ascribe importance to any test that does not wield a logical consequence - Why waste money and time on testing unless 'Students that fail core subjects should stop getting promoted.'

Unfortunately, I can think of a few reasons, but I'm just throwing this out into bloggerland, since I know that in many countries, students have to pass a set of comprehensives in order to get promoted.

I asked an exchange student today what she thought of Americans (her opinion is based on shadowing one student for several weeks in a low track) - and her honest reply was not too far off track - 'They're lazy and they act like pigs.'

To some extent I have to agree - the English-learners at least in Math and Science, where I live, outperform the English speakers and worse all the students are aware of this.

Ngaire said...

Bruce Taylor said...

Please don't make fun of me, because this is an honest question: Is there organized opposition to standardized testing? If there is, I'd like to join. I'm plowing through the Diane Ravitch book, and I'm stunned by the manner in which good intentions, poorly executed, have led to dismal consequences.

none1111 said...

I think we can all agree that posting teachers' "growth" scores for all to see is NOT the purpose of standardized testing...?

This is the kind of stuff that's outrageous, in my opinion. I don't hate standardized tests in general, but I mistrust the administration so terribly that when I read stuff like this, that it makes me question whether the potentially valuable data outweighs the potential evil uses. :-(

My opinion is similar to what Charlie wrote recently. I don't feel like the MAP (or any assessment) should be a trigger for any action, whether it's student-based or teacher-based. But I think certain data over time can daylight causes for concern, and can therefore be useful as a trigger to start asking questions. Often the answers may be readily available, and cause for concern could be quickly dismissed. But I've seen situations personally where I'd wished there was some unbiased (in theory) data to trigger some of these questions. For without it, the typical action is merely the path of least resistance, i.e. no action whatsoever.

It seems the big worry, at least right now, is misuse of the data. I think if we trusted the administration to use test data responsibly there would be a lot fewer "haters", no?

Eleuterio said...

Well, I would love to know where Chris Stewart, pro-tester, is getting the organizing spirit (and money)?

Does Mr. Stewart work for NWEA? It wouldn't be the first time...

Is this yet another astroturf organization?

Like Mr. Eide's Teachers United (against teachers and unions)?

seattle citizen said...

Eleutrio,
MS Stewart is helping to convene a discussion about standardized testing. She is NOT an astroturfer; she is a member of the community who is seeking to ensure that all points of view are heard. As they should be.

As indicated, there are already lots of other panel members "on the other side of the coin" (generally not in favor of high-stakes testing) and she is seeking balance.

Sahila said...

Chris Stewart is definitely not on the side of NWEA and other deform agencies...

For HER OWN birthday two years ago, she gave each member of the board a copy of Diane Ravitch's book... it appears that only Michael DeBell read it, and after that, his stance towards reform began to change (marginally)...

This dialogue on MAP/standardised testing is to open the discussion...

Some individuals/school communities are talking about whether to opt out and what effect that will have on their children and teachers (and perhaps the schools)...

For Bruce... there is nothing that is solidly organised here in Seattle or nationwide (yet) for opting out, but individuals in many schools are withdrawing their children from testing...

That's a trend that is growing nationally - a Pennsylvania woman who is opting out her children was interviewed on national media in the past couple of days...

If you want to hang with 'like minded people' and be involved in ed deform pushback, you might like to join Parents Across America (Seattle)... the national group has a webpage and both it and the Seattle groups have facebook pages...

Dora Taylor is a good person to talk to about this - she's a founding member of the national group...

Sahila said...

and I know many teachers, here and nationally, wish that parents would opt their children out....

they dont feel they can do/say much about standardised testing because they'll be accused of being afraid of being held accountable, of having poor teaching exposed...

for them, we the parents are the people with the power to change this...

NW Mom said...

I'm not saying I'm for testing, but without it we wouldn't have known our daughter was APP material. She seemed normal/average to us.

Although we love her K teacher (who has 28 kids), we don't get any feedback so the MAP results were informative.

One obvious flaw with MAP testing: I imagine our son (who seems smart) will be more interested in spit balls than a computer test. So, he won't get labeled as an advanced learner and may not be taught to his full potential. To me, that is an unacceptable reality of the testing.

Jan said...

NW Mom -- for the use you illustrate, am I correct in thinking that testing once every two or three years would do? Are you continuing to get any use from the test now that your daughter's strengths have been identified?

One problem I have with MAP testing is that if it is to test teachers, tests should be given on the first and last days of school -- and no other time.

If it is to "inform" teaching of each student, neither the first day (no teaching has happened) nor the last day (no more teaching WILL happen by that teacher) are of any use at all. If should happen about every 6 to 9 weeks DURING the year - but not at either end.

What we are doing doesn't work well for either goal.

hschinske said...

NW Mom, you may be surprised. My wiggliest, most easily distracted child actually did the best in the family on the kindergarten CogAT testing (even though he came out running for the bathroom). You just never know.

Helen Schinske

SC Parent said...

It would be interesting to see standardized test results comparing pre-summer (end of year) to post summer (beginning of next year) to quantify the summer drop off, if any, and then to correlate the results to demographic data. That may give us insight into the source of the "achievement gap" and identify where we focus our limited resources.

I assume that a lot of the Title 1 schools lose significant ground over the summer breaks that they just can't make up over the school year.

Salander said...

As a teacher I have no problem with collecting data on student abilities. This even though by the time the test scores are released I no longer have the student in my classroom.
I do have a problem with spending so much money on testing at both the district and the state level.

Year after year I have watched programs for struggling students have disappeared in favor of collecting data.

While it is nice to know that a student is reading at a sixth grade level in tenth grade my ability to intervene is nil. Not with 30+ students in a classroom and a curriculum to get through before the end of the year.

Honestly, unless we stop cutting teacher, raising class size and cutting programs the data is worthless.

Anonymous said...

Well said Salander!

None 111
"It seems the big worry, at least right now, is misuse of the data. I think if we trusted the administration to use test data responsibly there would be a lot fewer "haters", no?"

Trust is only a small part of why I as a teacher hate standardized testing. As a kid, I had no issues with testing. I test extremely well, having been raised by a teacher and being of the middle class white demographic. But I never put any faith in tests.

Tests don't test anything but test taking ability. Otherwise all of the test prep materials would be total bunk. There's a trick to every test, you just have to learn it. You can give a class full of kids who test well the worst teacher on earth, and they will still test well after a year. You can give kids who test poorly an amazing teacher, but if they don't learn test taking skills, they will still test poorly.

Standardized test scores don't tell me anything about a student I didn't already know. The scores don't say anything about ability to do school well or poorly. Many of my severe ADHD kids tested pretty well (if the tests were short enough) while being incapable of passing classes because of behavior and work management; many of my lower skills SPED students tested expectedly poorly but passed classes because they had support and the ability to complete the work.

Testing takes time away from the classroom, stresses students out, and eats up a huge amount of time and money from districts, student's days, and teachers time deciphering results. Test scores are yet another way for kids (and parents and schools) to feel superior or inferior in ability.

Echoing Salander, even if I know a kid is reading 3 grades behind, or can't do simple addition, it's not in my curriculum to teach them, nor is it in the timeline given by the district. All I can do is accept the fact that they will need a lot reading aloud in class where they get short and easy paragraphs, and they get priority over the 3 calculators I've brought from home. The specificity of their lack of skill is also moot for me, it's not as though I have leveled text books or worksheets. I know pretty fast who are the low, average, and good readers in a class by the quality of and time needed to complete work.

Former teacher

peonypower said...

former teacher-
so well put. The cycle of find out what the student knows, teach, check to see what they understand, revise/reteach, and the check again (usually by testing) is directly related to the number of students and the amount of curriculum that must be covered by the end of the school year. I know the first week who has weak math skills or reading skills, but with 55 minutes and 30 kids or more per class there is only so much catching up that can happen.

I agree with kprugman as well. At least if you are trying to collect accurate data- it must be tied to a consequence for the student. MAP and MSPE has no impact on a student's grade so that data by the nature of it is flawed. A great teacher once told me if you value something in class then assess it, and that would mean having doing well on the test mean something.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

Some more thoughts on all this:

15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test—ASAP

How to opt out of the MAP® test


-- Sue p.

Shelve MAP said...

Thank you for this link to "15 Reasons to Shelve MAP". I found this very informative. I agree that MAP is innacurate based on fluctuations. I had a child take MAP at Laurelhurst Elementary before she transferred to our school and her scores placed her well above grade-level. Then she took the same test again (I don't know why that was necessary since she had already taken the test a day before) and she scored below grade level. She wasn't nervous, she tried her best, but she was given two different tests only separated by a day and yet the results were so different. !

I like the MSP. It tests to a deeper level of understanding than the MAP based on the OSPI released items. I'm happy with just the MSP. I don't find the MAP useful at all.

The school district is cutting funding to SBD students (severe behavior disorder) and are now grouping the most severe SBD students into one school into one classroom (my child's). In one day, an SBD boy managed to punch 7 children in my child's class. The 5 million that goes to MAP should go to alleviating the problem with SBD children so they don't all end up in one poor teacher's class where the other students end up suffering.

SeattleSped said...

Shelve MAP,

I'm very sorry to hear that. Obviously ALL the children in the class are not being served. I urge you to email Marni Campbell, Exec Dir Sped, and cc: Susan Enfield, your School Board Director and your Education Director

NW Mom said...

Jan,

No, I don't see any reason for any additional tests for my child. I also don't think the tests are needed if we have reasonable class sizes so the teacher would have time to give me the feedback on my child. I would obviously place more weight on what my kid's teacher says about my child over a computer test!

3 times a year is absurd! Our school doesn't have a computer lab so that's lots of missed library time.

Thanks, Helen, it will be interesting to see how the squirmy, uninterested boy does if MAP is still around.

NW Mom