I watched Superintendent Randy Dorn's press conference last Monday where he reviewed the state's SBAC scores.
I found his remarks somewhat scattered as if he were trying to remember all his talking points. (The contrast with his unflappable Deputy Superintendent of K-12 Education, Gil Mendoza,was interesting.)
As I mentioned in Part One of this series on the 2014-2105 SBAC scores for Washington State, the big takeway is that people who support SBAC are very happy (or putting on that happy face) on the announcement of these scores. (Ready Washington - a coalition group of the OSPI, Stand for Children, Washington STEM, Washington PTA, LEV, DFER etc., a lot of people except for teachers - could not tweet out the results hard enough.)
The scores were in the low-high 50s (but naturally, breakdown differently across different groups).
Highlights from the press conference:
- Dorn tried to explain "how we got here" (meaning creation of Common Core and SBAC). I personally thought that was a bad move because many people don't like HOW Common Core and SBAC got here.
He tried to be very folksy on this point about how "two groups of people got together" and wondered if it wouldn't make sense if 4th graders in "different places" learned the same things.
He said "it was a great idea that worked really well" but then got politicized.
Wait, what? Weren't the CC standards being created by two groups representing two different groups of elected officials also political?
- He said that the "kids" had far exceeded the field test results which has been in the 20s and 30s and had "far exceeded expectations." That "far exceeded expectations" was a very repeated phrase. He said they were "grateful" that the scores were not as bad as the field test scores.
- He said the assessment system is "a check of where kids are" and gives more info to teachers, parents and students as to "where do you line up on the spectrum for college/career readiness."
- He said using computers for taking the tests is better because of all the physical steps needed for paper and pencil tests.
- He said next year's test-taking will be a "pristine lake in a canyon" compared to the "rapids" of this year. He said, "The system isn't perfect."
- He did have a head-scratcher of a line when he said this is this is a generation that asks "why do I have to do this and how does this help me?" My recollection of high school algebra was always with some kid at the back asking that question and I doubt if I am alone.
- Mr. Mendoza was very careful in saying that the "refusals" were very important to the results of this test.
- Mendoza said that 2015 is the baseline for the state and that basically, some kids can meet the challenge and others won't (but that doesn't mean they can't get there). I appreciated that both Dorn and Mendoza seem to believe that one score doesn't define a kid.
- They acknowledged that the opt-outs at 11th grade had pulled the overall participation of the state down to 94% which does not meet the NCLB rate of 95%. They warned of ramifications of that participation rate from DOE.
- Just from the slides (that came and went very quickly), it appeared that Native American students did the worst followed by African-American students. What was interesting - and I have to go back and study the report more closely - it appear that Asian-American students did far better than whites. Not just marginally, but a lot.
- They acknowledged that Science is not part of CC but there will be new state standards in Science and it will be tested in 2018.
- Do you plan on punishing parents or students for opting out? (I asked this one via Twitter but the rest of these came from the press conference.)
Dorn - I don't plan on punishing any parent or student. He said taking the assessment is a huge advantage for students, a "where ya at?" for them. He said they don't have a writing test so that should make it better.He said the Feds make the rules on withholding funds (as they did withholding some Title One funds this year).
He said the Feds could hold back up to 20% of the Title One funds.
He said they needed everyone to participate for the overall system to have accurate data. He said but parents probably don't care about that.
- About the 11th grade opt-outs.
He said he thought they opted out because many had already passed the 10th grade test and that the higher ed offerings for taking the test didn't seem to interest them. He said it wasn't just students refusing the test that was the issue but that "responsible parents" told their 11th graders to take the test but then those students just didn't try.
(How he knows how many opt-outs were student decisions versus parent decisions is unclear to me.)
He believes this year's opt-outs are an "anomoly."
- About getting the test scores sooner.
He said parents will get their students' test scores the second week of September. He said "we will get better at this with vendors."
He said he wasn't really interested in national results - "I'm not much of a data guy." He said in states with no biology exam, there's no evidence their students do worse. He thinks the biology test is a waste of time.
- About the very low scores for different groups of students.
He said yes, that's true and we are trying to get kids to be "college and career ready" and that means "ready to go to UW and take entry-level math."
(Just to be clear, under CC standards, "college ready" means community college, not 4-year universities.)
-About kids who might not graduate because of their test scores.
Mendoza said that it wasn't a big deal for some seniors to have to go back to high school for a "5th year." He meant for the students in question but I would think that most districts - but especially SPS - would not like having 5th year students (given the capacity issues).
- the biggest thing that Dorn said was that he believes these assessments are for helping kids to see where they are to work towards where they want to go but does NOT believe they should be used for high school graduation.