Tuesday, March 11, 2014

States Starting to Grasp the Realities of Common Core

Two major stories have come across the wire in the last 24 hours about Common Core. 

One school district in Massachusetts, Worcester, says that parents can opt out of field testing for the Common Core assessment.  (There are two groups creating assessments.  One is PARCC and the other is Smarter Balanced; Washington State belongs to the latter.)

From MASS Live:

Thursday night, the Worcester School Committee decided to allow parents of Worcester Public Schools students selected to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) pilot test to say that they want their children to participate in regular classroom instruction or other education-based activities during that time.

Committee members Brian O'Connell and Dianna Biancheria said that parents should have the ability to decide whether their children should participate in the test. O'Connell added that the administration of the test is taking "a block of time away from academics and putting it toward a for-profit company on a test that we may never see again."

"I didn’t sign her up to be a lab rat. I’m sending her to be the public schools to be taught, and testing is not teaching," parent Ed Moynihan said earlier Thursday. "I want the school committee to affirm my rights as a parent to opt out on testing."

The issue was that those students selected to pilot the PARCC test would also take the state test, the MCAS. And, that some districts in Massachusetts were not being required to do field testing at all. 

Gee, your kid gets to take a test that means nothing to the child or his/her learning while other kids are in class learning?  Yeah, I'd be unhappy as well.

Another city, Norfolk, is also fighting back.  Boy, do I love a district that stands up for its students and parents.

Also in the Common Core news is the release of a preliminary report on Common Core in NY state by a committee convened by governor, Andrew Cuomo.  It's interesting because many of the recommendations that the NY Board of Regents recommended - that Cuomo said were "too little, too late" - are the same ones his own panel has recommended. 

It's a great report written by a broad panel that - gasp! - includes a parent , a teacher, a superintendent, a couple of people from higher ed, a business type, a legislator, and the great education professor at Stanford, Linda Darling-Hammond (who should be sitting where Arne Duncan is right now).

Here's a great wrap-up of the report Auburn, NY Citizen.  None of what the panel suggests surprised me at all.   From the Citizen:
  • Common Core isn't going away (at least for now).  
  • They recommend getting NY out of inBloom (and they are the only state still connected to that data cloud so this is big)
  • Emphasizing student data privacy.  Things like a "Parents Bill of Rights for Data Privacy", a state Chief Privacy officer.  "Strong" penalties for violations.
  • No "bubble test" for K-2.  Stopping "inappropriate" testing for ELL and Sped students. Capping the amount of time for tests and test prep. 
  • It did not mention the funding issues which will be HUGE for every state.  You want to know where district dollars are going?  They are going - both in operations and capital - to Common Core implementation.
  • Giving teachers the resources and training they need AND deserve.  
  • One of my favorites - "Treat parents as essential partners in CC implementation. 
This is the start of this trend, not a blip.  

18 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Thanks for this info Melissa!

Anonymous said...

You people amaze me. You've complained and complained that common core has not been field tested. Now that it's actually being field tested, you're outraged.

Double Wow

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Double Wow, it is NOT Common Core that is being field-tested - it's the assessment. Big difference.

And,if you are fine with your kid getting less academic time than another kid to test a test for a company making money off of it? Be my guest.

Anonymous said...

Content standards are not typically "field tested." The Common Core State Standards are content standards. It would not be common practice for the CC to be field tested. Only test items planned for future operational tests are "field tested." So, I have to admit that I'm confused by the original concern regarding the Common Core State Standards and the field testing of them.

Here in Washington, the Smarter Balanced field test begins next week. Students will either take the field test or the MSP. Students will not take both (unless their school and/or district has decided to test both). In other words, there shouldn't be any students in grades 3-8 who are not testing; they should be either taking the MSP or the Smarter Balanced field test.

Of course, there will be students not testing because their parents have opted them out of the field test and the MSP. Parents in Washington certainly have the right to opt their children out of testing.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, and to note, there is no way for teachers/principals to give feedback on these "content standards." You certainly wouldn't do this with a new drug but new standards that affect every single public school student in the country? No problem.

Anonymous said...

Two things to keep in mind regarding the Common Core State Standards themselves. First, here in Washington, the CCSS were reviewed and analyzed by teachers, principals and other educators prior to their adoption by OSPI. So, your statement that teachers/principals didn't have an opportunity for feedback prior to adoption is not accurate (at least as far as our state's adoption is concerned).

Second, if the CCSS were adopted as the state's content standards but students were never tested on them and teachers, schools, and districts were never held "accountable" to their implementation, why would it matter if they were field tested? Content standards that are not implemented are simply words on paper. Who cares? We've had "Standards of Learning" before in the state before the WASL was given and no one, and I mean no one, bothered with them. My point is this: Field testing the assessment of the content standards is what is critical, not a field test of the content standards themselves. It is to the assessment results that people are held accountable, not implementing the content standards.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

C'mon SWK, "reviewed?" As if they could change them in any way? Please.

Feedback BEFORE they are tested in the field is not the same as input.

You leave out how those standards are implemented via curriculum. That's what needs field testing. Then we could talk about the assessments.

But you are talking about assessing new curriculum because of new standards that teachers have NOT been given near enough resources or time to create that curriculum.

You can keep on defending CC but there really is not a lot to defend.

Anonymous said...

I'm not actually defending the CC. And if you re-read my comments, you'll not see a defense of the CC. If I'm defending anything, I'm defending against misinformation, half truths, and hyperbole.
For example, you said that teachers/principals didn't provide feedback and I said they did. We can agree/disagree on whether that feedback and the timing of it was sufficient. That's a judgment and I make no judgment about that.

I'm certainly not buying into the "you're either with us or you're against us" mentality pervasive on this blog. I believe I can provide objective information on a controversial topic without taking sides. I have no interest in taking sides in this particular debate. However, when I determine that a clarification, correction, or more information is likely needed and possibly helpful, I try to provide that.

As for the CC themselves, I do not have a strong opinion as to their value. I would agree with you without reservation, though, that the drafting could have been more inclusive, more time and money should have been spent in training and implementation, and that the assessment timeline is far too rushed to say the least. But the fact is, as far as Washington goes, the CC are here and the assessments go fully operational next year. That train is on the tracks. While there has been an abundance of hand-wringing and chest-thumbing going on in opposition here, I'm trying to provide the most accurate information I can and in the most dispassionate way I can. It's pretty obvious that I'm not an activist. However, it has been my experience that parents and teachers are best equipped to fight the good fight when they have the most accurate information. I have found it least effective when it's all passion and half-truths and misinformation. You may disagree with this tactic. But let's not assume we don't share the same goals (at least relatively speaking).

--- swk

Anonymous said...

swk,

As a teacher reading this blog, your posts have not indicated that you are an unbiased bystander.

You have repeatedly attempted to link student test results, no matter the research refuting the linkage, to teacher quality and "accountability" as you stated on this thread.

Even though you state that you would agree "without reservation, though, that the drafting could have been more inclusive, more time and money should have been spent in training and implementation, and that the assessment timeline is far too rushed to say the least," you are not against these scores being linked to teacher evaluations, as indicated in comments you made about the teacher evaluation bill in the legislature.

Herein, lies the problem.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

swk - speaking of misinformation.. I attended state and local meetings on CC and SBAC and everything was already a done deal. OSPI agreed to a product sight unseen, and nothing we said said had any impact on any decisions. Suggestions that were made for changes - timeline, administration, interface design, items, etc. - fell on deaf ears, though we were "humored" by being told our feedback was valuable and would be considered. Considered irrelevant, that is. So yes, I guess if you want double-speak, our feedback was "taken", then promptly discarded. Not a genuine attempt to improve the product or really include teachers or administrators, not to mention parents. How nice that you can remain so dispassionate and correct those of us who are so in the wrong. Unfortunately when you're faced with sobbing kids and irate parents, it's much harder to remain so detached from the issues at hand.
Whatever

Anonymous said...

enough already, please quote ONE instance in which I've attempted to link student test results to teacher quality, let alone repeatedly. I don't believe you'll find a single instance in which I've done that.

If anything, I've attempted to support the conclusion that student test scores can be linked to student knowledge of state content standards. ALL of my comments in this regard have to do with the validity and reliability of student test scores vis-a-vis student performance, not teacher performance. In other words, I can support the use of student test scores to judge student performance without supporting their use in teacher evaluation.

As for my bias or otherwise, everyone has bias. It is whether or not we act on our biases. So, of course, I'm not unbiased. But I do do my best to not comment here based on my biases (though I sometimes fail, as we all do). I try to be objective.

You apparently made some assumptions about my intent in challenging one of CT's assertions a few days ago. Just because I challenge one of his assertions on its face doesn't mean I challenge his/her overall conclusions.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

"For example, you said that teachers/principals didn't provide feedback and I said they did."

You missed my point. I have consistently said that teachers gave feedback during the forming of the standards but did not write them.

What I am saying here is that there is NO mechanism for teachers to give feedback about how the standards are working out in practice. Are we to believe these are the 10 commandments and written in stone and are as good as gold? Where is the ability for the actual on-the-ground users to give feedback?

I did leave something out of my Board wrap-up and it was about CC (my error). Michael Tolley was saying how they have a 3-year plan for PD for CC.

He said the first action is establishing a common language around it. Next year they will provide PD with implementation and grade level content.

So SWK, you say two things over and over about CC.
"Drafting could have been more inclusive, more time and money should have been spent in training and implementation, and that the assessment timeline is far too rushed to say the least." but train has left that station.

So there's too much "hand-wringing and chest thumbing" over those above issues? I don't think there has been enough.

Well, you know what? Trains can be slowed down and even stopped. It's not a runaway train.

You think I'm telling half-truths and misinformation? I'm filling in the half-truths and misinformation that Gates, the Chamber of Commerce and all these CC supporters are leaving out.

I believe in standards and assessments but I don't support CC.

Whatever, I have heard, both in other states and in SPS, of how this affects children. I have heard of sobbing children and not irate parents but frustrated and worried parents.

Anonymous said...

Whatever, you were a member of one of the alignment committees convened by OSPI in August 2010 (for English/language arts) and/or November 2010 (mathematics)?

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I concede each of your points. I can't argue with a single thing you stated above.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

swk,

When you stated that "no single test should be used to evaluate teacher performance" in response to CT, that indicated to me that, for you, this test could be used with other tests to evaluate teachers.

When you linked state tests with accountability for teachers and principals on this thread, that indicated to me that you thought the state test provides accountability.

That's the information that I am drawing on.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

enough already, you made a logical leap based on my first statement, but it was a leap nonetheless. I did say "no single test should be used to evaluate teacher performance," but I don't believe I went on to say state tests could be combined with other tests to evaluate teachers. You simply made that assumption.

As for the second statement you noted, that statement was in regard to accountability for implementation of state content standards. If you re-read that statement, you'll see it is not in reference to accountability for student test scores. Teachers are required by state law as well as local board policy to teach the state content standards. Teachers should, therefore, be held accountable for their implementation.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I'm just so relieved to know that we both agree that these tests should not be used to evaluate teachers.

Great news!

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Me too. ;-)

--- swk