Thursday, March 05, 2015

Common Core Testing Nationwide

A lot of this uproar is about technology, I'll admit that.  But it further confirms that schools and districts are - not - ready.  I have no idea is SPS is truly ready.

It's funny because at last night's Board meeting, Director McLaren asked what kind of message it would send to kids to entertain discussion about SBAC.  (She also said kids would be "proud" to have taken the test.  Are kids supposed to feel proud of getting thru a slogfest of a test?)

But if I were a kid, siting and waiting and sitting and waiting, I think my range of emotions probably would not add a lot to the actual taking of the test.  If I were a teacher, I would feel a lot of frustration and some despair for my students.  And, as a parent, I would just not take any test result seriously.

Maybe SBAC will do better than PARCC.  

So let's see what's happening around the nation.  (all bold mine)

From Colorado - PARCC Testing in Colorado has disastrous first day

The rollout of Common Core-centric standardized testing in Colorado was a disaster today, with numerous school districts reporting a range of problems and children spending hours in front of non-functioning computers.

Just a fraction of students were able to complete the testing, and questions about testing security and validity given the problems were endemic.

Lisa Escarcega, chief accountability and research officer for Aurora Public Schools, said in an e-mail the district has experienced challenges because the online Pearson system students log onto differs from the system for last fall’s Colorado-specific science and social studies tests, on another Pearson system. The process differs for student roster uploads, creating test sessions and starting sessions, she said.

“We knew the systems were different and trained using the practice site, but you don’t find out the intricacies of those differences until you are working within them,” she said. “It has been a steep learning curve, but we are working through these issues. We are working hard to make testing go as smoothly as possible for all our students.”

She added: “Aside from these issues and the amount of time schools are needing to spend on scheduling and rotating students in and out of computer labs or taking computers on carts around the schools, it is going OK here in Aurora.”   Aside from the Titanic sinking, it's a beautiful ship.  Very funny, Ms. Escarcega.

From Washington, D.C.

From Bellevue (this is truly important reading as it comes from a veteran kindergarten teacher):

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Linda Myrick, a 4th grade teacher in Bellevue, WA  – and a member of the Washington Badass Teachers Association  – objected to the administration of Smarter Balanced Assessments before the Bellevue School Board.

At our last PD day, Dr. Mills said he feels we don’t have enough IMMEDIATE access to data, but we’ll continue to use the STAR test for consistency. I want all of you to know that I DO have immediate access to THE MOST IMPORTANT DATA that I need every day. I look in the eyes of my students, I listen to their words, I watch them interact with each other, I conference with them, I read their journals.

We are losing the notion of the importance of THIS DATA while we are constantly looking at our reports and clipboards.

Even while appreciating all of the strengths of a fantastic school district like Bellevue, we are seeing that the environment that is resulting from current conditions that affect all public schools exists here.  

Forbes (yes, Forbes): Should PARCC be killed before kids even take the test?

On its website, PARCC downplayed the problems, citing the 700,000 students who have completed tests as of Wednesday. “The biggest drivers to the call center have been things like forgotten passwords, firewall settings and other easy fixes that can be made at the school or district level,” according to the daily update. On Tuesday, PARCC thanked users for their patience while “the call center phone lines were intermittently available.”

Wait, the call center lines weren't even working correctly?

Schools in the District of Columbia and much of New Jersey are closed on Thursday and many were closed on Tuesday due to snow storms that have played havoc on testing schedules. Schools in Maryland also delayed the start of testing because of bad weather on Monday. This is the first time that mass standardized testing across so many grades has occurred in the winter rather than the spring.

One group called “Arkansas Against the Common Core” suggests that parents schedule a “cordial” meeting the principal to make it clear that their child will come to school, but won’t participate in testing. Since states need 95% participation to ensure valid results, the group is hoping that 6% of the students boycott. “Without valid test results the standards themselves cannot be validated and the school cannot be held accountable for poor scores,” the group says. “This frees our students from unnecessary stress, privacy invasion and unburdens our teachers from teaching to a test that is tied to their performance evaluations.”

Florida (for a 4th day):

Students attempting to take the writing portion of the Florida Standards Assessment on Thursday did a lot of waiting around. It took 30 to 45 minutes for some kids to log into the system. 

“The party line from the Department of Education is ‘persistence.’ To be persistent,” said Miami-Dade’s Chief Academic Officer Marie Izquierdo. 

When students were finally able to get in, many saw blank white screens. Izquierdo said districts across the state experienced the same glitch. 

Testing will continue in Miami-Dade for now. But Izquierdo had this warning: “We’re getting dangerously close to saying, ‘I’m sorry. We’re not going to do this to our kids any more.’”

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

Hmm...I like that in Arkansas, you need 95% participation to validate the statewide results. What's the percentage for Washington State? Would be interesting if you could, say, get 6% of students to boycott the tests and invalidate the entire ridiculous exercise. I think parents could rally around a percentage goal. And maybe kids could use the campaign to learn about percentages. Would be nice for something testing-related to have some learning value :)

- Percentage Boycott

Benjamin Leis said...

I think its something of a moot point to speculate what would happen with rates of opting out that high. No state so far has had anything near that range. I'm grateful that at in WA we have a relatively non-confrontational opt-out path so you can at least take control of your own student's fate.

Po3 said...

I think what is going to tank SBAC this year is widespread technology problems - not one of SPS' strong suits to begin with.

I recall lots of issues with administering MAPS followed by that weird re-calibration of scores from the MAPS people.

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, what do you make of the ominous warnings at the bottom of the opt-out form?


Benjamin Leis said...

@TC - I don't find any of the warnings particularly compelling but I do assume it will discourage a certain number of folks.

Anonymous said...

(repost from other thread)

Nyland has to send out ominous warnings. He is the head of the largest district in the state. He has to keep Command and Control to keep his reputation intact.

We don't have to accept the command and control.

It is ridiculously easy to start an opt out movement at a school if you are passionate about taking action. Get on your kid's grade's email thread. Explain that your family is opting out. Explain why. Ask others to join you. Ask that parents with kids in other grades pass the message along on their email threads.

Wildfire. The decision to opt out spreads like wildfire.

Go start a fire.

Opting out

cmj said...

It's funny because at last night's Board meeting, Director McLaren asked what kind of message it would send to kids to entertain discussion about SBAC. (She also said kids would be "proud" to have taken the test. Are kids supposed to feel proud of getting thru a slogfest of a test?)

Many students are proud when they do well on challenging tests, but that isn't a reason in itself to use valuable time administering tests to all students--many of whom will either fail or not find the test challenging.

If SPS doesn't give a standardized test to an entire school or an entire district, students aren't going to see that as a vote of "no confidence" in their collective abilities. They won't care and/or will find out from a parent or teacher that they're not taking the test because of one of the following:
a) the test wasn't useful.
b) the test wasn't well designed.
c) the district lacks the adequate funding for testing.
d) logistics issues
e) all of the above

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, as much as I still totally respect parents rights to opt-out, regardless of Superintendent threats, I'm starting to wonder if it's best that ALL students attempt to take the test.

Here's why - forget about hitting a 6% rate to "invalidate" (seriously, statistical models can be modified and they will be). Instead, considering the stories to date, have so many students "attempt" to take the test that the systems continue to get completely overloaded to the point that districts/states just bail on the test and, in turn, sue Pearson/SBAC/PARCC for the money back + damages.

Continue adding to the embarrassment of the testing companies so the districts/states/feds (ok, Arne has drunk too much kool aid) decide to try something totally different. Even the Seattle Times would have to report about how badly the tests went when the students tried logging on and couldn't, etc.

-- Overwhelm 'em

Anonymous said...

Any test named after a margarine product can't be very well thought out. Seriously, I can't even remember what was before the WASL but kids just think it is stupid to change the testing all the time. So do I. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

When do we expect children use a qwerty keyboard for tests and papers? 6th grade?
Call me a luddite, but K-5 should be bubbling with a No. 2. Just like voting.


Anonymous said...

The Bellevue thing is interesting. Just as in Boulder CO, Long Island, the well off suburbs of Chicago, people see the testing for what it is, low quality garbage. The actual questions are hacked together. The high performing students realize that they could write more coherent questions than the people who manufactured the test.


Anonymous said...

I am exhausted by this. To be honest, I'm exhausted by the entire K-12 situation. I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school (and happens to be a very good test taker). But we as a family are so tired of this. Testing. Preparing for the test. Stressing out over the test. Fighting against the test. De-stressing our daughter after the test. This is not what education should be. When did we, as a culture, start to think of children as automatons and teachers as test prep robots? I realize that I am preaching to the choir, but this has hit ridiculous levels.

I will admit: I can't wait for our daughter to be done with high school and out of this system. My whole life I've been public school advocate. We have been very involved parents who have served on committees, PTAs, marches to Olympia, letter writing campaigns. It feels like all we do as parents is try to protect our kid from the system that is run by people bent on destroying their humanity. I can't take it anymore.

Roosevelt Mom

Anonymous said...

Since CO, WA, OR, and AK legalized pot, is it a big stretch to sucede from federal control of education, and not take the money or the mandates?

Anonymous said...

Since CO, WA, OR, and AK legalized pot, is it a big stretch to sucede from federal control of education, and not take the money or the mandates?


Melissa Westbrook said...

CMJ, I don't know if McLaren meant the kids would be proud to have done well (and really, how many kids think they do well on tests) OR if she meant they made it thru? Honestly, I could not tell from her remarks.

Roosevelt Mom, I can understand your pain. By the end of the process, you do feel exhausted and it seems sad to feel that way.

I really am not completely sure exactly what the feds could do. I'm not sure they could take money away but rather, might put spending restrictions on it.

Native NewYorker said...

Dora Taylor did a piece on Long Island's superintendent- Dr Joseph Rella.

He has been an outspoken critic of testing and failure rates related to Common Core tests.

Trust me NNCR- Nyland and others in Seattle don't even come close to having the courage of Dr. Joseph Rella.

Po3 said...

Amen. Roosevelt Mom. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Here are some comments from New Hampshire middle school teachers that took the SBAC.


dan dempsey said...

About SBAC Math -- too flawed

SBAC Math test - too fatally flawed

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt mom, you are not alone. I've had one kid or another in the district for 15 years. I feel exactly the way you do. Exhausted and cannot wait to be done with it.

Another Roosevelt Mom

Anonymous said...

@dan dempsey - Thanks for that link. Fascinating to see the problems broken down like that. Yikes, what a disaster these tests seem to be. On the other hand, it sounds kind of fun for math-loving high school students to do their own similar analyses--much more useful to opt out and critique the practice tests than to actually take the real one. THAT might be a useful exercise in real-life skills.

I hope our Board members all read this, and that they also each take the practice exams (preferably videotaped, so we can see their struggles and successes--and their "pride" upon completion). I can't imagine they could push forward with implementation of the tests in good conscience after fully understanding the flaws in the tests themselves.


Anonymous said...

I tried to get a recording of my daughter crying in the car on the way to school because of the stress she was feeling fearing she might be one of those 68-percenters who don't pass. As soon as I started to record, she stopped crying and became more self aware. I want them to see the reality we are living, instead of believing in a fantasy of what they think our students experience.

Anonymous said...

West Virginia just voted to repeal the CCSS. They are [were?] part of SBAC.

just fyi

Anonymous said...

@ just fyi

Amid the myriad exhibits for stomping out the SBAC and having a real discussion about Common Core, citing anything out of West Virginia is not a prime piece of evidence.

Friday LOL