Friday, February 13, 2015

School Board Member takes 10th Grade Reading/Math Tests

So what did you think happened?  He failed math and got in D in reading.  From The Answer Sheet:

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

Here’s the clincher in what he wrote:

“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had. 


“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”

“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.” 

My school board member-friend concluded his email with this: “I can’t escape the conclusion that those of us who are expected to follow through on decisions that have been made for us are doing something ethically questionable.”

Apparently, though, some principals are fighting back:

But maybe there’s hope. As I write, a New York Times story by Michael Winerip makes my day. The stupidity of the current test-based thrust of reform has triggered the first revolt of school principals.
Winerip writes: “As of last night, 658 principals around the state (New York) had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.” 

One of those school principals, Winerip says, is Bernard Kaplan. Kaplan runs one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, but is required to attend 10 training sessions. 

“It’s education by humiliation,” Kaplan said. “I’ve never seen teachers and principals so degraded.”

A fourth principal, Mario Fernandez, called the evaluation process a product of “ludicrous, shallow thinking. They’re expecting a tornado to go through a junkyard and have a brand new Mercedes pop up.” 

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree with what has been said, but this is an article from 2011. Why is it news today and what was the influence it had 4 years ago?

LP

Anonymous said...

The relevance is that Gov. Cuomo,at this moment, is trying to link NY state assessments to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. Another so called "Democrat". An enemy of an enemy is my friend comes to mind whenever I agree with Republicans about these matters.

Also, best wishes to Melissa. Your strength and chutzpah are inspiring.

--enough already

Patrick said...

So I took the quizzes. The main trouble was the mechanics of the test. The images were tiny, and had to be downloaded separately and opened with a different application than the web browser.

My answers were right according to the test. However, the poetry section had several questions that had multiple defensible answers. I wouldn't feel at all comfortable labeling someone else's answers as Wrong.

The math is things that are useful all the time, understanding what's being presented in a graph, figuring out how much material to buy for a project, or what financing options would be the best. I don't work in any STEM field, but math is useful for many sorts of problems. It boggles my mind that anyone would think it was unnecessary.
Although a quiz should not be the only way

Anonymous said...

I agree that those quizzes weren't difficult and that I would expect most typical high school educated students to be able to answer them.

Check this one out:

http://epat-parcc.testnav.com/client/index.html#tests

(the PARCC test)

I did poorly on the fiction/LA part of this test. I admit that I was sloppy in my test taking, and that I would probably do better if I tried harder. But, I also felt like the questions I was being asked weren't really the kind of questions I wanted to learn to answer.

(I was cool with the historical documents section; it was the fiction section with excerpted passages that threw me).

zb

Anonymous said...

I do feel very strongly that politicians, educators and parents should take the tests, though, to have the personal experience.

On the other hand, I don't think individuals can use merely their own experience (the test was easy, hard, etc.) to conclude that the tests are valid and useful measures of learning, or to assess what should be required of everyone. We need more data for that.

zb

Anonymous said...

I got a sign-in screen, zb. How did you bypass that?

zz

Anonymous said...

zb,

I think the "point" is that a single test has become a determination of the futures of both students and teachers.

Is that good or bad? I think the "point" of the debate is that the determination slipped through the back door (read political donors) in the ole USA.

In many other countries, the single test has long been the norm, but I'm not sure how much correlation has been attributed to teachers. It's usually family shame that's been the disgrace factor.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

If you want to check out SBAC tests (what will be used in WA), as opposed to PARCC (what will be used in a consortium of other states), this site has grade by grade practice questions:

http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/TeachingAndLearning/Testing/StateAssessment/Pages/Smarter-Balanced-Practice-Questions.aspx

The math questions can include multiple concepts and answers within one problem. Looking at the grade level LA questions for my child, I'd say they are not doing the type of literary (and poetry) analysis in class that would prepare them for the type of questions being posed. Readers and Writers Workshop is not enough.

Reports from my child about the short Amplify assessments being taken in class - reading passages on a computer gives headaches and some of the answer choices are ambiguous.

MS parent

Anonymous said...

Right now in Seattle the MIF teaches a lot of procedure but not a lot of thinking or applying - at least at elementary. I'm struggling to understand that. Are procedures so important that they are taught first and then understanding and applying comes later when more abstract thinking skills are level?

As someone who has come up through the discovery method at primary, this new focus-on-arithmetic math has me a little confused.

Can anyone clarify? It used to be "where's the math." Now it's "where's the thinking." At least for me.

???

Anonymous said...

One more thing: if we focus on procedural math, will our kids be ready for these other common core-based assessments?

???

Anonymous said...

Right on. Nope. Singapore/MIF is not about thinking, its about procedures. 100%. It's about what what parents wanted. It's what parents think they should have learned, and how they should have learned it. Educators did not support the selection of MIF for this reason. Unfortunately, MIF procedural slkills not the new state standards, which is measured by the SBAC. SBAC is heavily laden with language and concepts, and with combining the two.

Sabe

Anonymous said...

The discovery math methods were criticized for good reasons — students spent too much time on conceptual story problems related to math and not enough time solving specific math equations. The focus on abstract problems should come later after students achieve proficiency.

Students with ADHD or English as a second language were especially confused with abstract math questions. Many of these discovery textbooks had no examples for students to follow.

Educators sold this conceptual approach to parents by saying it would teach students to solve real world problems. In our case, it just confused our children.

Math experts like Ted Nutting at Ballard high school and Cliff Mass at the University of Washington argued for better math instruction. Over 60 math professors at UW expressed concern over the declining level of math competency seen in freshmen students.

A good article about mastering math was in the Sept. 23, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal by Barbara Oakley, engineering professor at Oakland University. She writes, “Achieving conceptual understanding doesn’t mean true mastery. For that, you need practice.”

Our new textbooks in elementary schools are a good start. (Thank you new school board directors.) But we need better textbooks in middle and high schools.

S parent

Linh-Co said...

At ??? -

Arithmetic is a CCSS focus for primary grades. If you look at the key content for K-2, it is place value, understanding the relationships between addition and subtraction, composing and decomposing numbers, relating subtraction as unknown addends, and applying these to word problems. While I agree with you that MIF is not perfect, arithmetic is and should be a primary focus in the lower grades. Students get their number sense and numeracy by working with numbers.

Anonymous said...

S parent, I'm going to push back once again on this statement --- "Over 60 math professors at UW expressed concern over the declining level of math competency seen in freshmen students."

Yes, over 60 UW professors signed a letter expressing concern over declining math competency of UW first-year students. But there's never been ANY evidence provided that demonstrates any decline occurred and there certainly has been NO evidence that, if such a decline occurred, it could be attributed to instruction in discovery math.

Can we please put this tired, old canard to bed once and for all?

To be clear, I'm not arguing for discovery math (or MIF for that matter). I'm just tired of people dragging out this letter every time they want to make a point that discovery math hurt our students.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Discovery math indirectly helped my children gain strong math skills. How? Once we realized how weak EDM and CMP were, we supplemented at home with more sequential, mastery based materials. Had we "trusted the spiral," our children are unlikely to have gained such solid math skills.

MS parent

Anonymous said...

—swk, these math professors see first hand the lack of skills our students possess. Professor Cliff Mass did show evidence, based on incoming freshmen tests, that math skills were declining. He talked about students who were unable to progress into science careers because they did not have math proficiency to move forward.

Business, technology and science companies express big concerns over the lack of skills in our young work force. Can you discount their criticism?

The Seattle Times said that 70% of entering students in the Seattle Community College district needed remedial math. Why aren’t we talking to these colleges to see what skills need to be addressed?

Discovery math DOES hurt students. It has been entrenched for many years and has only helped the outside tutoring industry.

Teaching actual math instead of story problems pretending to be math would be a giant leap forward.

S parent

Anonymous said...

I will also cite a big study in the August 2014 Economics of Education Review. Quebec did universal reform in early 2000 throughout primary and secondary schools where they moved away from traditional math to constructivism, comparable to the approach taken in the U.S.

Achievement suffered at every grade and skill level.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Although I adore Cliff Mass, he is not an expert on math, and his math "experiment" consisted of a ungraded survey test on incoming freshman in his class. The math problems in his test are mostly definitions with a bit of arithmetic thrown in. In my mind, the test is an example of the potential arbitrariness of testing, when experts define core knowledge as what they know and how they learned. I do not find his experiment a convincing argument that the math skills

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-good-are-uw-students-in-math.html

zb

Anonymous said...

Cliff Mass is more of an expert than most of us. He sees too many students who cannot progress, because they do not have math skills.

Heck, even my husband, an older UW Access student, sees students who cannot major in what they want. He recently talked to a student who could not go as far in science as he wanted — because he could not do the math.

I am not a big fan of testing. But if I was in charge of curricula at SPS, I would certainly be asking the colleges and community colleges what these students lack in math. Why they do not do this is a big mystery to me.

S parent

Anonymous said...

@Linh-Co: should a teacher worry that assessments may not follow the MIF/Singapore philosophy and that scores could decline if arithmetic is emphasized over thinking?


I have a very good new friend who recently emigrated from China. She said her math education was not Singapore although computation was expected to be automatic. I asked her the strategies she was taught to use and she said none. She just knows numbers. Memorization. Still, she emphasized, her education was not Singapore and that math was much differently taught even though memorization was part of it. She repeated it was not Singapore and that her math had been more broadly taught than the Singapore method.

She is now studying at SPU and learning to teach the "American Way" because that is what schools in China are looking for. And apparently she is learning strategies that resemble the "thinking math" approach over the procedural approach. She has been contacted by several international schools and the program at SPU is what they are looking for.


Finally, the BIG question I have concerns the District's use of two different math curricula. MIF is heavily arithmetic and Envisions is still largely thinking math - from what I'm told. How can a District assess elementary students math skills if they are teaching two divergent math methods?

Or are teachers supposed to throw out all curricula and start teaching to the standards by inventing their own again?

??? questions sparked similar ones of my own. Thanks for responding.

i used to think i was a good math teacher
!!!

Lynn said...

This is the problem with including test scores in teacher evaluations. I don't care how my elementary student does on the SBAC. I want to know how well he is learning the math being taught in his classroom.

We bought a set of textbooks. If we cover them all over the six years of elementary school, our students will have learned all they need.

The parents I know aren't interested in their children being taught multiple stragies for doing arithmetic. Isn't that the point of the switch to MIF?

Anonymous said...

Multiple strategies accommodate multiple ways of learning and remembering. Also, mental math is increased for many children when concrete conceptual strategies are present. Finally, without conceptual understanding, many children cannot recognize when they make mistakes.

So, your children learn from any textbook you have on the shelf. Fine. Does that means all kids do?

!!!

Anonymous said...

Finally, without conceptual understanding, many children cannot recognize when they make mistakes.

Doesn't conceptual understanding come from lots of practice? Conceptual understanding and procedural fluency go hand in hand.

...A Bogus Dichotomy in Mathematics Education by H. Wu

https://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/wu1999.pdf

-tired debate

Lynn said...

When you say multiple ways of learning and remembering are you referring to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles or something else?

When I said we'd purchased a set of textbooks - I meant the district. The district has purchased what I assume is a complete math curriculum. By the end of elementary school, I expect that our students will have learned what they need to know before middle school.

If my child does well when tested on the math covered in the classroom, I'll be happy. I don't care at all about SBAC scores. My kids won't be taking that test.

Anonymous said...

Lynn only cares about one standardized test:the app entry then exclusion test. After that, no she doesn't care. Right. One way to do everything. That's awesome.

Reader

Anonymous said...

The Oklahoma State Education Department has recently been granted a federal waiver so students won't need to be double tested in math. For this year, Oklahoma students taking end of course exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, or Algebra 2 need not take the grade level assessments in math.

Not so in Washington State. Middle school students will take the grade level tests, but won't be given the end of course exams in middle school. Middle school students taking Algebra 1, Geometry, or Algebra 2, will have no standardized test to gage their performance in the course.

If students are accelerated in math, shouldn't the assessment be aligned with the grade level math they are taking? You'd think...but no. Shouldn't the teacher be assessed based on the math material they have taught students that year? You'd think...but this isn't the case for students taking math one or two (or three) years ahead of other students. Is it no wonder some parents opt out? We don't opt out because review is review and it's all practice for taking standardized tests for when they actually count.

-another perspective

Anonymous said...

There is no longer going to be any math EOCs that count for graduation for current middle schoolers. So, your kid could take them. They simply don't count for graduation, as they are obsolete. Why would you want them to take the EOC? All students, including accelerated students, will take the SBACs in high school which, unlike the EOCs, cover more than one year. It didn't work for the WASL. Remember, students flunked that in droves which is shy we have an EOC. Hard to see it working again.

3rd Perspective

Anonymous said...

I don't think middle school students can take the Algebra or Geometry EOCs this year, even if they wanted to. The state will not be administering the EOCs to middle school students.

-another perspective

Anonymous said...

I'm asking more questions than providing answers. When I say "different" learners I'm talking concrete vs. abstract. Primary learners are concrete learners. MIF offers bins of manipulatives but doesn't really emphasize them in the teaching. It is really procedural at first and second. That's my concern.

My perfect math world keeps concrete learners in manipulative and conceptually based math. As they develope into more abstract thinkers - about 7-8 yrs of age - I would move them into procedural math but keeping concrete and conceptual heartily in the mix.

I guess that's the debate. I'm still wondering if the focus on procedure is matched in the assessments coming up. MAP for all grades is my main concern.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if there can be any comparison between the Envision schools and the MIF schools of test scores.

@Tired of the debate. So, don't engage. I never tire of reading or discussing (over debating) educational ideas and opinions. That's why I read this blog.

As a teacher, I'm making a big shift in my teaching and I want as much info as I can get on what works. I've had phenomenal success with EDM and Terc but that's early primary.

!!!

Anonymous said...

I'll retire my thoughts after one more contribution: I've read that memory creates the gap between the highest achievers and the rest of us. Effort, of course. But given less-to-no effort, it is memory. Procedural math relies on memory over understanding. So our high kids will be just fine. I'm not so sure about the rest. I've always been a concrete/conceptual learner myself. Even now. God bless those kids who are like me.

!!!

Anonymous said...

I thought the basis of MIF was a concrete - pictorial - abstract progression in the coverage of concepts. A comparison of Envision vs MIF would be interesting, but being the first year of SBAC testing and the first year many teachers have taught MIF, comparisons may be hard to make. Tests will also assume prior years' standards have been covered, even though this is the first year of CCSS for SPS. It all makes for an interesting (and challenging) year.

Have you looked at the sample test items linked above? They would give one a good idea of what will be expected. Grade 3 math sample:

Math Grade 3 SBAC

-another perspective

Anonymous said...

MIF promo materials discussing the CPA (concrete-pictorial-abstract) approach:

Math in Focus: The Underpinning Concept

-another perspective

Anonymous said...

That was very helpful. Thanks.

!!!

Anonymous said...

Another Perspective - THe "state" doesn't administer EOCs or SBACs or anything else. Your school does. Yes. Your school can elect to administer EOCs. (They could also test your kid with the MAP, or any other obsolete test they wanted to give.) But what would be the reason? It won't count for anything. Do you really just want your kid tested some more? Are you really so worried that your middle schooler didn't learn anything in Algebra or Geo? If so, they can re-enroll in the course in high school. It's really pretty dang simple.

3rd Perspective

Melissa Westbrook said...

As one article points out, the largest amount of testing seems to come from districts, not states.

Anonymous said...

Have schools announced test dates yet? The district info has a testing window of Mar 9 - May 29. Since they are computer based, will they have to stagger testing (different grade band each week?)? We haven't received info from our school.

wondering

Anonymous said...

3rd Perspective, you are correct that it is districts/schools that technically administer the MSP, HSPE, EOCs, and soon the SBAC assessments. However, districts and schools CANNOT simply "elect to administer EOCs."

It is the "state" that has a contract with vendors to develop, distribute, and score the state assessments mentioned above. The state pays the vendors for these assessments. The districts do not have individual contracts under which these assessments are administered like they do with NWEA to administer the MAP, etc.

So, no, schools cannot simply elect to administer the EOCs. There is mechanism under which a school or district can purchase these the EOCs or any other state assessment. Private schools can contract individually with the vendors but the state does not allow public districts and schools to do so.

Therefore, there will be no EOCs administered at the middle schools.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that "There is no mechanism under which..."

--- swk

Linh-Co said...

I thought the EOC, teacher recommendation, and course title was used for high school math placement. Would it be fair for the 6th grade student currently taking algebra to wait until 9th grade to take the algebra 1 EOC test or its replacement in high school?

Linh-Co said...

@ !!!

I'm not too sure what you are referring to as far as conceptual understanding. In teaching kids sums of 5, number bonds are used in K-2 Math In Focus to show the sums can be made up with 0 & 5, 1 & 4, 2 & 3, 4 & 1 , etc. This is a big idea in primary grades to know numbers can be composed and decomposed into different parts. You are encouraged to show this with unifix cubes for the younger grades. They also teach adding as counting forward on a number line while subtraction as counting backward.

In terms of teaching mental math, it's very difficult to teach kids if 4+5=9, then 64+5=69 or 5+6=11 then 75+6=81 if they don't know their single digit addition facts.

I'll have to say my favorite pick from the choices of textbooks was JUMP math and not MIF, but MIF was probably the best of the final 3. Also, I would not consider Envision a "thinking math" curriculum. I don't even know what that means.

Anonymous said...

Linh-Co, as far as state policy goes, the EOCs in math are going away and there will not be replacements other than the comprehensive high school math SBAC assessments (which are not end-of-course).

As for high school placement policy in SPS, I can't speak to that. However, why would any criteria at all be needed to place a 6th grade student taking Algebra into the next math sequence? In other words, why wouldn't this student just take Geometry in 7th grade?

If SPS is using the math EOCs for placement purposes currently, they're going to need to modify the policy.

--- swk

Linh-Co said...

Some students are partially homeschooled in math and parents have used the EOCs as a way to re-enter these kids in the next course.

There are some Seattle middle schools that teach "algebra" to all 8th graders at grade level. Some of them can't pass the EOC.

Anonymous said...

Lihn-co, what part of "it's going away" are you failing to understand? The EOC for math is obsolete.... except that it's a high school graduation requirement for students in class 2018 and older. No. It isn't used as a placement for high school. High schools don't even have the EOC or MSP results by the time school starts in fall. Plenty of students enroll in geometry after failing the Algebra EOC. It isn't possible to know that before you enroll. Middle schools like McClure who have required Algebra, have also gotten excellent EOC results. In high schools you can sign up for any math you want.

T

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the change to no math EOC in middle school was not known or announced until after the start of this school year. Schools have used the EOC as a condition for math placement when students homeschool for math and then want to re-enroll with an accelerated placement. It was a questionable use of the EOC test, and yes, results weren't available to schools until just before school started, but that didn't prevent schools from doing it. It affects a very small group of students. My guess is the students homeschooling for math and working above grade level did just fine on the EOCs.

AP

Anonymous said...

@Linh-Co
I spent the day going over my kids math workbooks and homework. We had a math trainer in last week talking about procedural as opposed to conceptual math. I am beginning to understand.

When the adoption was being considered, I purchased online a couple of Jump Math books. I took another look at them today.

Both Jump and MIF(which is very confusing at times) concentrate on pure numbers and number relationships. I've always spent a lot of time on word problems and "explain your thinking" activities. Jump and MIF are mostly procedural - just numbers. Truthfully, my own ability to see number relationships is getting sharper. My math (arithmetic) has always been fast and facile. But I totally stink at algebra. Do you think my algebra deficiency might improve with the new math? :)

I always appreciate your postings on math.

!!!

Linh-Co said...

@!!!

Love to meet with you if you want tips on how to teach standard algorithms (procedural math) with meaning and understanding. I can show you the progression of bar modeling to solve algebra problems without the use of x.

Contact me at:
Linh-Co.Nguyen@seattlecolleges.edu