Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In The News

Some pretty funny (and not surprising) public education items in the news.

First up in the category of "well, that didn't take long", the Washington Policy Center opines on Senator Ross Hunter's idea that the state should take over failing schools.  (This is a similar idea to what happens in many other states - the schools become "turnaround" schools.) 

Lawmakers should remove the cap that limits the number of charter schools that can open to only eight a year, up to a total of 40.

We don't even have ONE charter and they want the limit raised.  Unbelievable.

They do use the thought that Charlie had:

Removing the cap would benefit all children, because just the possibility of a parent takeover would motivate school officials to improve services for children before that option arises. That, in turn, would give parents the leverage they need to seek positive change in education.

Imagine this message from parents, “Give our kids the education you promised or we’ll look into starting our own school.” Now that’s one way to concentrate the minds of school district officials.

Leverage is one word for it.

Then we have the brain trust that is the editorial board over at the Times.  They are against any talk of a MAP boycott and want the teachers to shush.

Protests in a couple of Seattle schools over a standardized test may be inspired by legitimate concerns, but the protests are clearly igniting anti-testing fervor.

As I ask them, why is this a bad thing?

Debate over MAP was hashed out three years ago when teachers approved a labor contract allowing student test results from the MAP to be one of several measurements used in teacher evaluations.

Actually it wasn't because now MAP is used in ways that it was not meant to and, as well, has not been good and effective testing tool.  Hence the teachers unhappiness.

They then extoll the virtues of MAP and Charlie sets them straight (Lynne Varner really needs to learn to do her OWN homework and not just work off whatever she is told is the truth):

"The Times writes: "the MAP, a two- to three-times-a-year assessment meant to gauge the effectiveness of teaching and learning."

This statement is false. The MAP was meant to be a formative assessment, not a summative assessment. It is not meant to gauge the effectiveness of teaching or learning. It is meant as a tool to help teachers individualize instruction.

The Times writes: "MAP, which students take on the computer, is designed to assess students at different levels of achievement "
This is incorrect. The MAP is an adaptive test. When students answer questions correctly they get harder questions. When they answer incorrectly they get easier questions. The test is not designed to assess individual students at different levels of achievement, but to narrow in on each student's individual level of understanding.

The Times is arguing in a favor of a test and they don't even know what kind of assessment it is or how it works. Classic."

Then we have Danny Westneat at the Times chiming in.  Why is MAP a good thing to him?  Because it screens kids for Advanced Learning which is a task it isn't designed for AND hasn't brought more diversity to the program anyway. 

Because enrollment has skyrocketed, up 47 percent since 2008. The two programs, called the Accelerated Progress Program (or APP) and Spectrum, now have 4,200 students between them.

“This is the biggest it has ever been, by far,” says Bob Vaughan, who runs the programs. “I honestly didn’t think this could happen, this fast. It is just ... awesome.”

Really?  Because we serving those kids so well?  Because APP is in limbo because so many locations are overcrowded?  Because we are supposed to be overhauling this really weak and unwieldy gifted program and yet the district (and Dr. Vaughan) remain silent on the Advanced Learning Taskforce to the point of not even answering e-mails?  Yes, it's "awesome."

Matt Carter, a teacher at Orca K-8 who is boycotting the MAP test, said the test is “very Eurocentric” in its approach and may be racially biased. He said that even if the test is useful for finding high-achieving kids, it isn’t much aid to teachers working with a wide range of kids. 

“Our point is that if we’re going to be doing all this testing, we just need a better test,” he said.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...



Melissa Westbrook writes:

"Some pretty funny (and not surprising) public education items in the news."


What exactly is funny about the news? I don't think the Times or Danny Westneat were aiming for humor in the purpose of their writings. And I don't think you are either in this post. It feels like another rant. That is fine, to each his own. But readers of this blog do not always agree and that is what makes it worth reading, for the diversity and respect for different viewpoints. You have made good points about the many flaws in the MAP test, but Danny Westneat's point is well taken too. If you are denigrating Tiger Dads who seek to advocate for their children, just as Momma Bears can, and many of these Tiger Dad's are divorced dads - I think you are being mean to them. I think you are NOT looking out for the best of this children and our students who have been identified as able to work in Spectrum or APP. Yes, those programs have many problems, but your anger is misdirected somewhat. Do you honestly believe and can you look the readers in the eye and say those kids in Spectrum and APP should be sent back to the general curriculum? Why kill the hope of those families who have been given a chance at something that perhaps their parents never had the chance at? I know you have stopped being a source for the Seattle Times and they ARE part of the problem. But assuming that every word that comes out of the paper is part of the problem makes attitudes like this ALSO part of the problem.

Teacher in training and Tiger Dad defender

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maybe I should have said "amusing."

I'm amused because it hasn't taken two minutes before a call has come out to raise the cap on the number of charters.

I'm amused that the Times doesn't not even know the basics of what MAP is and yet feel compelled to weigh in on it.

I'm amused that Danny Westneat uses such a low bar for a test that he, too, knows little about.

I didn't denigrate anyone for wanting their child's academic needs met. I didn't say we don't need gifted programming - we need BETTER programming.

Charlie and I have BOTH, repeatedly, argued for better gifted programming so you must be new. We are both on the now-abandoned Advance Learning Taskforce.


Anonymous said...

IT IS JUST...AWESOME.

I just spit my coffee for the first time in my life.

-Laugh to keep from crying

mirmac1 said...

Lesley Rogers must have got on the horn to her ST mouthpieces after getting the call from Sara Morris and Michael DeBell. I don't see Banda fretting so much about messaging, as this memo during the MAP adoption demonstrates:

Recommended Uses of MAP, Before and After

I find it funny that real concerns of misusing MAP as a gatekeeping for AL simply disappear - all in the push to get an instrument to use for teacher evaluations.

dw said...

Accelerated Progress Program (or APP) and Spectrum, now have 4,200 students between them. “This is the biggest it has ever been, by far,” says Bob Vaughan, who runs the programs. “I honestly didn’t think this could happen, this fast. It is just ... awesome.”

Awesome? This statement is so sad.

WHY should this be awesome? If more is better, then wouldn't it be even more awesome if there were 8,000 students in Advanced Learning programs? Wouldn't it be stupendous if there were 25,000 kids in Advanced Learning programs? No, this is total BS.

The "correct" number of kids in AL programs is exactly as many that need a specialized, differentiated environment. No more, no less. The fact that the programs have grown so much in such a short amount of time is not a success, it's an abject failure, especially APP, which is supposed to be a program that serves only those kids who cannot reasonably be served in their local/regional schools. Instead, it's now the catch-all program that parents of above average bright/advanced kids are scrambling to get their kids into because the Spectrum program is in shambles.

Advanced Learning in SPS is a disaster. More is not better.

Patrick said...

The MAP was meant to be a formative assessment, not a summative assessment. It is not meant to gauge the effectiveness of teaching or learning. It is meant as a tool to help teachers individualize instruction.

Would someone be able to explain what formative and summative assessments are?

I'm surprised to learn MAP is meant to help teachers individualize instruction. The threads seem to me to be so vague as to be completely unhelpful. What I would like such a test to show is "Student has trouble with long division" or "student has trouble identifying parts of speech".

suep. said...

Meanwhile, in the Times' "Letters" section, a confusing (pro-MAP?) perspective from Carol Rava Treat (formerly affiliated with the Gates Foundation, and spouse of former SPS legal counsel Noel).

She seems to miss the mark on what the Garfield (and parent) protest is about. It's not against accountability. It's against the misuse of an inappropriate, inaccurate, unnecessary and costly standardized test.

Anonymous said...

What dw said. It's a sign that the general education program is underserving many, many students.

signed, dismayed parent

Anonymous said...

Patrick, the difference between a formative assessment and a summative assessment can simply (or overly simply) be found in their names. Formative assessments are used to "form" instruction --- they can be very brief even but are unused by teachers to determine where in a lesson, unit, instruction students may be struggling and/or succeeding. The teacher then would be able to tailor interventions for individual students based on the results. Summative assessments provide a "summary" of content instruction. These are given at the end of the year and cover a wider range of content than formative, interim, or benchmark assessments. The state assessments - MSP and HSPE as well as EOCs - are summative assessments.

The challenge of using MAP or any other commercial assessment for formative purposes is that, unless the test items are aligned to the teacher's curriculum and instruction, they do not help teachers form their instruction.

--- someone who knows

seattle citizen said...

SueP,
Rava_treat was Director of Strategic Planning at SPS, brought in in 2008, right after MG-J, hired from Gates, with Gates money (they paid for Strategic Plan) to do the work of Gates (bring MAP to Seattle. She was a lead negotiator on the bargaining team for the 2010 contract, and after MAP was agreed upon as part of that contract, she left SPS to go work for another Gates operation, Get Schooled.
That she didn't mention any of this in her letter just goes to show.....

seattle citizen said...

Carol Rava-Treat (in her letter defending MAP, a mere mother of three with some educaiton experience):
Linked-In profile of Ms. Rava-Treat

Anonymous said...

About Dr Vaughan?
It seems to me that over the years he managed to loose all the touch of the reality about the AL programs in SPS. It is really sad that he is who "runs the programs".
NOT awesome

Anonymous said...

Sps students MAP percentile scores are not nationally normed / compared against a national pool of students. The SPS scores are compared against whichever (minor) test population is selected to compare against. The lower the scores of those we are compared against the higher percentile scores the students receive....or is really just a higher evaluation score for the teachers.
Would be interesting to see which students SPS was compared to each year.
MAP IS A HUGE WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. Give the kids more instruction time and some REAL achievement tests that are nationally normed and nationally scientifically regarded as worthy of reading the results instead of the crap propganda the NWEA spreads to rake in hundred's of thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of subjecting
Children to swallowing their garbage.


dan dempsey said...

Speaking of Charter Schools, here is an interesting article.

James Shuls: Why We Need School Choice

The teacher explained that the district was using Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) as the method to teach the Common Core State Standards. I was a bit confused. In the CGI book, the authors clearly stated CGI was a professional development program and I knew that Common Core was the name of the standards being implemented in the state. So I inquired where the curriculum came from, to which the reply was the Common Core. After some back and forth, the principal chimed in that she had researched the answer to my question in preparation for our meeting. Why she did not know the curriculum being used in her own school ahead of time, I do not know. Nevertheless, she informed me that she had spoken with the assistant superintendent for education, who informed her that the Common Core standards were the district’s curriculum and they were using CGI to implement those standards.

==========
If the nations public schools are headed toward even more Top Down one size fits few.... School choice will be increasingly attractive. --- Oligarchs increasingly manipulate the system to their advantage.

Anonymous said...

To anon@11:23pm -

MAP scores are nationally normed. Every three years NWEA releases norms based on a pool of students across the US that have taken the test. Perhaps what you are trying to suggest is that the norm group, and schools that choose to administer MAP, don't fully represent the broad spectrum of student abilities? Is it possible that when compared to other tests the 95 percentile scorers on MAP may correlate to an 88 percentile on another test? It would be interesting to compare.

another anon

Anonymous said...

Taken from a comment discussing test score results:

I know that psychologists and others who are tasked with explaining GEs [grade equivalencies] to parents always say not to pay any attention to them. And that's true, one shouldn't use GEs for placement because they don't indicate mastery. They only indicate the pathetic state of education in this country.

Maybe more to anon's point.

Anonymous said...

More on MAP:

NWEA MAP critique

Josh Hayes said...

They may be nationally normed, but they're badly done -- the recent rejiggering of student percentiles as more data were added to the norming pool should have produced unimodal changes, but they didn't: students with nearly identical scores saw their percentiles move in different directions. WTH? It is, I suppose, theoretically possible, if an enormous number of new data points were wedged into a tiny tiny piece of the distribution, but it seems more likely to me that they just don't know their posteriors from holes in the ground when it comes to statistics. Because that, in my (fairly substantial) experience, is always the cause of such oddities.

suep. said...

Ah, that's right! Thanks Seattle Citizen for connecting those dots. In defending MAP, Rava-Treat is defending her own professional reputation. Oddly, though, even she has trouble giving MAP a ringing endorsement.
And yes, once again a highly connected corporate ed reformer pretends to be a mere parent with kids in SPS, and fails to be upfront about who is paying her salary to support this agenda.

suep. said...

MAP is only nationally normed to the extent that NWEA has sold its product to other markets. Unlike the SAT or other truly national tests, MAP is only given in certain markets. How this skews the sampling isn't clear. But I've heard that some SPS kids' scores dropped by as much as 20 points when NWEA "recalibrated" Seattle MAP scores last year.

How can the district base any important decision on "data points" that are grounded in quicksand? Advanced learning tests are being permitted or denied based on these shifting MAP scores. Math placement is being determined or denied by these inconsistent scores. Teachers are being hounded or praised based on these slippery MAP scores.

The staff at Stanislo are right when they describe Seattle's use and abuse of MAP as "Kafkaesque."