Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Times Op-Ed On NCLB Waiver by President Peaslee

If you blinked, you might have missed it.

The Times does some really weird thinking on how long they allow education opinions/op-eds to stay (1) on their front page of their website and (2) on the Opinion page of their website.  I've seen some stay for just a day, some for a week or more and some, you cannot find even if you search.

This one is a bit of a record as it was just there this morning on their front page webpage and now it's not.

But, of course, the Times wants the NCLB waiver issue to run to their view and this, well, doesn't.

In fact, President Sharon Peaslee, rather than arguing the rightness or wrongness of having the waiver, does the opposite.  She talks about how one score will not achieve better outcomes for anyone.

And, she's right.

She even puts in a throwdown to Common Core, saing that Common Core should be "decoupled" from high-stakes testing.  But, it's not because Common Core is bad::

The testing is putting the Common Core at risk. 


She argues for formative assessments:

Formative assessments give the same data as high-stakes tests — how many students have achieved grade-level standards, and how many have not. But this is achieved without failure. Measuring progress increases student motivation and eliminates the downward spiral of demoralization and disengagement. 

And she lays the blame for the problems in NCLB right back where it belongs:

The loss of the federal education waiver should wake us up to the need for changes in state and national accountability requirements. It’s not the failure of legislators or teachers unions, as some allege. The failure is in rigid federal mandates that don’t make sense. 

She even offers a solution:

Washington could probably win back the waiver next year by embracing the accountability system we just rejected. Or we can turn this loss into a far more significant victory by developing an assessment system that authentically improves teaching and learning. We’ve already taken the lead. Let’s lead with a solution, and surely others will follow.


Anonymous said...

Good to see this and some of the others that have come out rather than Lisa MacFarlane's whiny BS on the LEV site about how the union is completely at fault.
NCLB is flawed legislation, 7 years past the ESEA reauthorization date, yet Congress won't do it's job and fix it. They will, however, give more money to charter schools for expansion of that fraudulent industry. ($136 million in taxpayer funds paid to charter schools/orgs in 15 states - all gone. Misuse, fraud, mismanagement, etc.)

A very disgusted.....

n said...

The irony is that the bureaucrats aka legislators themselves are unable to respond to data...

Anonymous said...

President Peaslee states, "Formative assessments give the same data as high-stakes tests — how many students have achieved grade-level standards, and how many have not." This, unfortunately, is not accurate. Formative assessment is not intended to be used to determine whether or not students "have achieved grade-level standards." The point of formative assessment is to give teachers real-time information on the effectiveness of their instruction, i.e., did this lesson work, which students need additional instruction on this lesson/unit/chapter, etc. Teachers use formative assessment all the time and it doesn't need to take the form of a test --- formative "assessment" can be teachers gauging by student body language/facial expression whether they are getting it or not.

She is correct, however, that standardized tests --- by which she technically means standardized summative assessments --- do not measure student growth nor teacher effectiveness. These cannot tell you, from one administration, how a student is doing. These are not the intended uses of large-scale summative assessments. But they can tell you how a school is doing overall and can tell you the overall effectiveness of a curriculum and/or school program.

The bottom line is that formative assessment also should not be used for accountability purposes. High stakes should not be attached to a very effective instructional strategy employed by teachers. Besides, formative assessment is not intended to be used to make valid and reliable determinations of whether or not students have achieved grade-level standards. That's not what they're for.

Formative, interim, and summative assessment should be used in concert. They are not, however, interchangeable; each should be used for a different purpose and as intended.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

@swk: That is exactly why MAP should not be used as a part of teacher evaluations. Nor should MAP be used as an entrance point/barrier to APP.

It continues to make my blood boil that MAP is employed in our district in both ways. Horrid.

BTW, I am not against judicious formative test use. They aren't a big time suck and they don't stress the kids out. I see with regularity how they are used well in my kids' school to be sure everyone "gets it" in reading and math - it means kids aren't inadvertently being left behind.


Carol Simmons said...

Isn't it impressive that Seattle School Board President Sharon Peaslee made those public remarks and isn't it encouraging that the Times published these remarks. President Peaslee was absolutely correct. We need to let her know this.
Isn't it discouraging that President Obama has been influenced by the Corporate Charter School folks. President Obama is absolutely incorrect. We need to let him know this.

#agreewithPeaslee said...


I am afraid you are making untrue assumptions. Seattle Public Schools uses a plethora of formative assessments and they do not include "body language". These formative assessments DO provide information as to whether or not a student has achieved state standards. So, yes...formative assessments are as accurate as high stakes tests.

Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge growth...not just whether or not a student has passed.

As a result of multiple layers of bureaucracy, thoughts etc. our children will spend 7 hours taking math tests and 4 hours taking language arts test this fall.

#standwithPeaslee said...

I meant to say: Our children will spend 7 hours taking math tests and four hours taking language arts tests this spring.

Common Sense said...

Formative assessments are also done on writing assignments etc. Why should we subject children to endless tests..when the objective is to learn??

Anonymous said...

Anyone willing to define formative versus summative assessment?



Anonymous said...

#agreewithPeaslee, I'm going to respectfully say that you're out of your depth on this one. The points I made above are not "assumptions" but rather examples of formative assessment. Formative assessment can be formal and informal; regardless, formative assessment provides teachers with immediate feedback on their instruction and allows teachers to "form" or modify their instruction depending upon how students respond. The "plethora of formative assessments" used in SPS to which you refer I'm assuming are likely more of the formal nature --- I'm assuming because you didn't provide any examples. But there are many educators who use "vibe" of their classroom to indicate whether a new approach to instruction might be needed --- this would be an example of informal formative assessment. Lastly, formative assessments are not used to determine if students have achieved THE grade-level standards --- that would be an example of summative assessment. Formative assessments may tell a teacher whether students have mastered one, two or a cluster of grade-level standards but they are not designed (formally or informally) to assess whether students have met the whole of a grade-level set of standards.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

NEP, I started writing a definition of formative vs. summative assessment but abandoned it for a much better summary: http://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/Assessment/AsDet/TabId/180/ArtMID/780/ArticleID/286/Formative-and-Summative-Assessments-in-the-Classroom.aspx.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Common Sense, formative assessment, or rather formative processes are part of the learning experience. As I mentioned previously, formative assessment/processes do not have to be tests. Formative assessment can be a class discussion or a show of hands as well as a quiz or unit test. Formative assessment is how teachers and students themselves gauge their teaching and learning, respectively.

--- swk

#standwithPeaslee said...

swk, I am going to respectfully say: You don't know all that is going on.

mirmac1 said...


I will also respectfully say that, if you are so expert, you really should start a blog so that those of us who wish to, may all be enlightened.

I often see Melissa at these board sessions so I greatly value her opinion and her blog. I know you do not intend to disparage and, in fact, almost always maintain a respectful tone (certainly more than moi). I just wonder why someone who so clearly disagrees with the writers and readers of this blog would continue to expound on the "establishment" viewpoint.

Don't misinterpret my observation as an attempt to stifle your freedom of speech. I just rue the fact that nobody reads the LEV or Stand blogs, to learn more about how high-stakes tests tied to teacher evaluations are such a great thing, along with other somesuch.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I'm going to respectfully say that you're out of your depth on this one."

And you know this how?

Anonymous said...

mirmac, I guess I took the masthead to this blog literally: "Debate the issues facing Seattle Public Schools, share your opinions, read the latest news."

Debate. Is this blog only for those that comport with the prevailing point of view? If so, that's not much of a debate. It's an echo chamber.

Share. I was planning to disappear from this blog following Melissa's respectful notice that she was no longer going to engage with me. However, I was persuaded by a generally silent minority who asked me to remain because my thoughts were not only welcome, but appreciated.

I know that my comments are often unpopular and sometimes (if not regularly) infuriating to the writers and readers of this blog. And because I know this, I do my best to maintain a respectful tone. I'm not attempting to disparage anyone, but rather to share my opinions.

Lastly, and I'll say this again, I do not believe "high stakes tests tied to teacher evaluations are such a great thing." I said it above. I said it in previous threads. I will say it again. I do not believe high stakes test scores should be used in teacher evaluations.

--- swk

Charlie Mas said...

There are all kinds of assessments: formative, summative, diagnostic, screening, etc.

All I ask is that the District use them appropriately. The most confusion, for me, is the MAP. When the District first bought it, they said that it would be used as a formative assessment to inform teaching and as a tool for differentiation. Since then, however, they have used for all kinds of other purposes.

Disgusted said...


We have multiple levels of bureaucracy influencing our children's education. That is why our children will take MSP, MAP and school exams for placement. As a parent, I can not opt my child-out, at certain times, because placement depends upon these exam results. As a result, my child will take 7 hours of math tests and 4 hours of LA tests.

BTW, I understand the district intends on having our children take BOTH Smarter Balanced AND EOC tests next year.

Bureaucrats, ed. advocacy groups are very busy fixing the system and all the cr@# falls on our kid's heads.

Anonymous said...

Disgusted, it is not the district that intends to have kids take the Smarter Balanced tests and the EOCs next year but rather the state. To be exact, students will take a comprehensive grade 10 English language arts (ELA) exam, the math EOCs, and the Biology EOC in addition to the grade 11 Smarter Balanced ELA and math exams.

The grade 10 ELA and the math and Biology EOCs are required for graduation. The grade 11 Smarter Balanced exams are for state and federal accountability.

Of course, you can opt your children out of any or all of these exams. However, do know that opting them out of the graduation exams may have unintended consequences for your children.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I just realized what it was about President Peaslee's op-ed and a few of the comments in this thread that bothered me --- as Charlie states, there are all kinds of assessments/tests; however, 'high stakes tests' are NOT a kind of test. 'High stakes' is a policy - a policy that is applied to kinds of tests, whether those are formative, interim, summative, etc.

High stakes can be applied to virtually any kind of test. As Charlie points out, MAP was promoted to SPS teachers, parents, staff, etc. as a formative assessment WITH NO STAKES ATTACHED. However, when the district chose to use this single assessment for teacher evaluation, program placement, the district not only used the assessment for purposes in which it was not designed, it also applied 'high stakes' to the results. In other words, formative assessments as well as diagnostic and summative assessments can be high stakes assessments. It's the policy that drives this issue, not the kind of test.

So, what I think President Peaslee is saying (because she confuses high stakes tests with summative tests) is that NO STAKES should be applied to tests used in the district. And if that's so, she has the authority to get that ball rolling at least as far as district assessments are concerned. She can work to delink MAP results from teacher evaluation, program placement, etc. within the district.

--- swk

Disgusted said...


Peaslee is NOT confused. She simply is trying to acknowledge student growth in relation to federal funding. We're not looking at pass/fail, but growth...which is also very important.

We can agree: We have the city "leaders" wanting MAP to assess F&E levy , politicians wanting to link teacher growth to student achievement via SBA, others, wanting longitudal studies via SBA or PARCC, comparisons between EOC/SBA etc and it is not a good situation for our children.

We can also agree: We can't opt our children out of hours and hours of math/LA because of unintended consequences.

In short, politicians, ed. advocacy groups and policy makers are interfering with our children's education in a manner that has resulted in endless hours of testing..not to mention costs, test fagitue etc.

Disgusted said...


Can we also agree that in addition to EOC and SBA, high school students will take AP, PSAT and SAT exams? Can we agree that this is TOO much testing??

Ragweed said...

Peaslee may be somewhat conflating high-stakes and summative vs. formative, but she also clearly targets the impact of summative testing on students, particularly learning disabled and other challenged students. Learning disabled students who perform 1-2 years behind their peers will generally get test results stating they "Did not meet Standards" every year. Even if they are making good progress each year, they get told year after year that for all their efforts, they still aren't good enough. Formative assessements without a pass rate allow students of any level to see progress.

But the point is valid that formative assessment can be misused and misdesigned as much as summative. The real issue is the use of grade-level pass rates, rather than recognizing each student as an individual who progresses in their own way, according to their unique abilities.

Charlie Mas said...

I think swk hit the nail on the head. It is nothing about the assessment but policy that creates and defines a "high stakes test".

The tests are just tools. They can be good tools or poor tools. They can be used properly or improperly. The data from them can be used properly or improperly.

Lots of people want to use the assessments improperly and lots of people improperly interpret the data. "High stakes" is just one misuse.

Bureaucratic Disaster said...

" She can work to delink MAP results from teacher evaluation, program placement, etc. within the district."

Easier to turn-back the tide. Have you been watching the legislature, NCLB waiver, Tif Grant, VAM etc.?

Anonymous said...

I agree with swk's characterization of formative assessment.

I see two very good uses of standardized test:

1. An objective measure for parents of how their kids are doing in certain subjects (assuming the test is broad in scope and grade-level appropriate and cannot be "taught-to")

2. A means for evaluating whether the district leadership is providing a good system of schools.

Under these two purposes, we rarely need to have high stakes for individual students, teachers, and schools attached to a standardized test.

With regard to the 1st purpose, I like the MAP test data for that reason. I find no value in the teacher-generated report cards (I know the marks on the card has mostly to do with the teacher needing to show that each child made growth, and little to do with my child's actual performance.)

I also am outraged that the district attaches high stakes to this test. This is a misuse of this particular test.

In relation to the 2nd purpose:

If the district uses the scores to evaluate whether it has good curriculum, is making good programmatic decisions, and is providing good support, then we do not need to test every student multiple times every year. We need only test each year a randomized stratified sample of the students across the district.

I am shedding no tears over my state's losing the NCLB waiver.

Joan NE