Saturday, March 21, 2015

Testing - What Will You Do?

Vermont says no.  From the Vermont government website, an op-ed by a member of their Board of Education:
On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the Vermont State Board of Education unanimously voted to suspend the use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) scores for the 2014-2015 school year for the purpose of annual school evaluation determinations. These English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments were developed to measure student mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which were adopted in 2010.
Until students' education has been guided by the new standards and schools have practiced administering and interpreting SBAC, the results will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance and should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose. Unless empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes ("college and career-ready"), test results should not be used to make consequential judgments about schools and students. 
  • We believe standardized tests play an important but limited public assurance role in education.
  • Well-designed tests can help evaluate greater equity of outcomes for our students. 
  • Educators can use tests to set realistic targets for improvement. 
  • Test scores can be a trigger for detailed evaluation to learn what schools are doing very effectively or to help identify strategies schools can use to get better. 
However, there are real limitations of what can be concluded about learning based on test scores, particularly in the first years of new tests and standards. Students this spring will be tested as if they had Common Core-aligned curricula for their entire educational career. 
While schools have secured sufficient capacity and internet access for testing, we should not confuse this with equity across the state. Districts with more access and whose students have more familiarity with technology will find it easier to administer these tests. Will the tests measure reading and mathematics or will they measure computer access and literacy?
Over time, the computer adaptive tests will likely be better than their predecessors as they hold strong promise for individualizing and testing knowledge in applied settings. This is an improvement from other tests, yet it is a substantial change and, therefore, SBAC scores cannot be compared with earlier NECAP scores. 
From Mercedes Schneider, a powerful, smart voice writing about public education:
Pretend I am Pearson.
  • I have just spent ten-plus hours with your child. 
  • You have no idea what we "talked" about, what exact ideas I have presented or how I presented them to the tender mind of your child. 
  • I can "discuss" whatever I like and present it with authority. I can promote certain people as "good and others as "bad." 
  • I can promote products. 
  • And I can shape your child psychologically via my topics and presentation of such topics. 
  • Why, I can even collect psychological information on your child.
And once my ten-plus hours of "meetings" with your child are ended, I make it clear that I plan to monitor your child's public discourse about the experience.
All that this does is protect me, the one already in incredible power.
  • You did not request that I meet with your child. 
  • Your child did not request the meeting. 
  • However, those who organized the meeting (e.g., state departments of education, in cooperation with me) have made it clear that there will be consequences if the meetings are not kept. 
  • They have also admitted that there is no direct benefit for you or your child as a result of the meeting.  Yes, you might receive a report of our meeting produced by me, but that report will be several months in coming, and its contents are chiefly meant to judge a third party- adults who are also kept in the dark about the details of the meetings (e.g., teachers and schools).
Meanwhile, in the media, those who arranged the meeting (state departments of education) are able to advertise the meeting as wholesome and good- and even as a civil right- but there will be no equally free opinion allowed from the child about his/her experience.

Now tell me again how standardized testing constitutes a "civil right?"
From today's foot-stomping, barn-burning SEA Town Hall at Nathan Hale High School:
  • Jeanne Kohl-Welles and David Frockt, both senators in the legislature who voted for SB 5748 to include test scores in teacher evaluation, were there.  Jamie Pedersen, another senator who voted yes, was not.  All the Representatives said they would vote against any House version of this bill.
  • Also in attendance, Speaker Frank Chopp, Reps, Gerry Pollet, Brady Walkinshaw, Jesslyn Farrell, Gael Tarleton, Strom Peterson, and Rosemary McAuliffe.
  • co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Seattle Council PTSA
  • Sadly, not organized well and the legislators were not grilled near enough on their stands; felt more like a pep rally than a forum.  
  • HUGE outpouring of support for Hale's tough stand on testing 11th graders
  • Rep. Ferrell saying that when she and her 6-year old daughter play school, sometimes they play "testing" and, as a mom, she hates that
  • Rep Pollet saying that he is disturbed with the reaction about opting out from the district and School Board.  He says that this is an "option" for parents and it's a legal and moral one.
  • Both Kohl-Welles and Frockt tried to explain their vote but frankly, I think it just sounded like a lot of explanation without talking about the central issue (which is using test scores in teacher evaluation). 
  • Kohl-Welles said her motivated granddaughter was "a nervous wreck" over the testing at her school.
  • Frockt said his mom, a long-time teacher, was against his vote.  
  • On class size, all the legislators are for 1351 but believe it has to be implemented slowly and they need more revenue.
Some great lines from teachers who spoke:
  • Giving these tests makes teachers employees of Scholastic and Pearson
  • Seattle teacher saying that students feel frustrated because some things on the test are not taught in class.  She said, "I tell them 'make your best guess' and that's a horrible thing for an educator to tell a child. She said there is not time to analyze and use the data from the tests and she thinks a lot of data "goes to a black hole at headquarters."
  • It's time to do what is right AND what is right for kids.
  • One teacher spoke of begging EMTs to allow her to drive her husband to the ER because of the costs of an ambulance.  She also said she and her husband, both teachers with Master's, were not putting anything away for college for their children because they were paying off their own loans.
  • Why haven't teachers gotten a COLA raise in six years but legislators voted themselves an 11% raise?
Last thing - I wish teacher Doug Edelstein at Nathan Hale would run for School Board.  He was so smart and so on-point with his speech.  He got two standing ovations.


Watching said...

"Until students' education has been guided by the new standards and schools have practiced administering and interpreting SBAC, the results will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance and should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose. Unless empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes ("college and career-ready"), test results should not be used to make consequential judgments about schools and students. "

Prudent, SPS should be asking Washington State Board of Education and Randy Dorn to suspend use of SBAC.

We should expect Nyland and the board to be leading this effort.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, this is what I don't get from the senators that voted for the bill - they think that Dorn(?) or whoever will let them know after three years if the SBAC is "reliable."

There are way too many people invested in this effort for that to happen.

It should happen now because I don't believe - no matter the results - that it would be suspended.

Watching said...

I agree, Melissa. I came across a document between Inslee and SBAC Consortium regarding funding for this project and the dollars were absolutely staggering.

I've noticed that the Senate seems to following a path that resembles California. wanting a framework that includes multiple measures to evaluate teachers and one of those measures is test scores.

"decision to suspend California's school accountability system is also part of a larger effort to develop a new framework using multiple measures to evaluate school performance, rather than a single number tied to a test."

I keep asking: Where is our leadership?

I'm grateful that Director Peters and Director Patu have forced this issue into public light. I"m afraid the district spent too much time sitting on their hands. They remained silent as ELL and other students were about to fall off of a cliff.

Anonymous said...

We've decided to opt out/refuse the SBAC for our 5th grader, based mainly upon how poorly-written and confusing the test appears to be, and the cumbersome computer interface...coupled with the fact that he has not been taught to the common core standards for his entire K-5 career.

For us, it is not so much what WE will do - we are concerned with what OUR SON will do, during the 4 mornings that his classmates will be taking the SBAC.

Kids at our school will be taking the test in their classrooms, on laptops, since we do not have a computer lab. Our principal has told us that kids who are not taking the test cannot be in their classroom during the testing periods. Kids who have been opted out will be placed in other classrooms during the testing period. These may be a classroom that is the same grade level, or another grade level. I have no idea if he will be allowed to use this time for independent reading or study, or if he will be taking part in the other classroom's lessons.

Lots of unknowns at this point.

- North-end Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, I,too, am puzzled that neither senior staff nor the Board as a whole ever thought that a real discussion of Common Core and its assessment was ever needed. You cannot make sweeping changes in how/what kids are taught and what they are tested on and expect parents to be sheep.

NE Mom, in a word, ask. Here's a suggestion - if your library will not be used for testing - ask if your student can do homework/read/or even help the librarian reshelve books. My sons did this in elementary school and it was a good experience. I also packed my own "worksheets" in case they did not have any homework/project to work on.

I suspect your principal has said nothing because he/she doesn't want more parents to know about his legal option.

I have heard that in some states they force the kids to just sit there with nothing to do. That's ridiculous and does nothing but punish the kid.

Anonymous said...

Well considering that 10th graders are mandated to take the test to meet state graduation requirement, I guess we will be taking the test.

Concerned 10th grade parent

Anonymous said...

The town hall at Nathan Hale on 3/21 with state representatives was very inspiring. About 1000 people (lots of educators) were there.

- pumped up

Opting Out said...

State Representative Gerry Pollet was at a Nathan Hale event this past Saturday. Pollet is NOT impressed by the manner in which Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland is handling the concerns of Nathan Hale teachers. Here is what Pollet had to say:

"Parents need to know that they have an absolute right to opt out of having their children take the SBAC test this year. The Seattle district's letter was misleading and threatening, referring to parents who "refuse" to have their children take the tests. Worse, is the District's threats to our teachers who are exercising their professional judgment in questioning why they should have their students act as guinea pigs for this test with no academic benefits. I meant what I said at the Town Hall yesterday, I will do whatever I can to support the educators and parents at Hale. At the state level, I'm working with WEA in response to the outrageous effort by the (not elected) State Board of Education to move to have one high hurdle for the 11th grade test as a graduation exam - which they would set at the level at which 65% of students fail."

I am glad that Pollet has the courage to stand with teachers. Where is the board on this issue?