Friday, August 28, 2015

The "Fools Gold" of Testing Mania

Great op-ed from the Washington Post from the 2015 Superintendent of the Year, Philip D. Lanoue,  as selected by the American Association of School Administrators.  He is the superintendent of the poorest county in Georgia.  As Clarke superintendent since 2009, he is credited with making more gains to close the achievement between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students than any other district in the state. (highlights mine)


Evaluating the total learning experience for either students or teachers through high stakes testing has no real research base and holds little value for students. Let’s not confuse the high-stakes testing movement with the practice of effective and meaningful assessment.

I believe there is consensus among educators that conversations regarding school transformation must shift from problems and failure to solutions and successes. 


It is clear that the annual testing merry-go-round is not going to get the results we want: all students engaged and performing at high levels. Rather, this fixation on ratings through high stakes testing is so entrenched that we are missing the bigger picture about the true purpose of our classrooms. 

By using data insightfully, we can understand where students are at any point in time. This is done through realistic and sensible formative assessment measures of growth, and we are able to personalize learning in ways not possible in high stakes testing environments where results are delayed by months. Educators don’t need or want to wait for post-test or end-of-year summative test results to understand how well students understand critical concepts and skills.

From a previous Washington Post interview:

He said he created a new structure — not a script — for teachers that includes “non-negotiable practices” for student achievement centering around four questions:
*What do you want kids to know?
*How do you know?
*What do you do when they don’t know?
*Do you know then?
He instituted common planning in every grade level, and the consistent use of student performance data from teacher-created assessments to inform instructions.

“You can’t solve social inequities on a test,” he said, speaking about the standardized test-based reform efforts that have taken root around the country. “It’s ludicrious.” 

A last statement from his op-ed:


We are on the cusp of making radical transformations without the high-stakes testing regiment, but it is up to the educators, administrators, parents and students to demand this change come to fruition. 

The only power those parents have in this discussion is opting out.  I certainly wish it was different but I have seen no evidence that schools/districts have the power to stop a machine coming from the state/federal level.   Starving the state/feds of data points will certainly slow down or force course correction.  

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"but it is up to the educators, administrators, parents and students to demand this change come to fruition." (note the exclusion of elected officials)

Listening to Seattle School Board Director candidate Jill Geary, I learned she sees the job of Director to be directing the district rather than rubber stamping proposals from the superintendent and senior staff. She certainly appears to be a proponent for meaningful positive changes. She plans to lead the district rather than be lead around by Senior Staff.

Inquiring Mind

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the thing - there does NOT need to be an push-pull to the relationship between district headquarters staff and the Board. They keep going round and round in circles, tying themselves up in knots over who gets to do what and when. (See the agenda for the upcoming Board retreat.)

Staff cannot keep complaining about the Board doing its oversight duty. The Muni League is due to release a study they have done of school boards in the region (not in specific but how they work). Should make for interesting reading.

I think that there does need to be a clear line about who does what but the staff cannot stop the Board from doing their job.

Now we could go with "the Board creates policies and the staff creates a plan and carries them out."

That would be fine EXCEPT for enforcement. Charlie points this out all the time.

What good are policies if staff ignores them/inteprets them in their own way?

What good are policies that are largely WRITTEN by staff and reviewed by lawyers who represent BOTH staff and the Board?

And what is left for the Board to do when policy is NOT followed?

Staff cannot complain if the Board says to them (when staff is in one of their patented hurry up and rush modes): "We cannot vote on this item because it violates Policy A and/or we have not received the information we need to make an informed vote per our elected oversight duty."

North end mom said...

I was wondering about the changes to NCLB and being in Title I schools that did not meet AYP. Can you still transfer to a non-failing school? I remember this being offered last year, but with the changes and discussions of revamping NCLB, I wasn't sure how it stands.

Anonymous said...

Dear North end mom,

As the revamping of NCLB has not yet become law, I see no reason that the transfer to a non-failing school would be effected this year.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Which are the non-failing schools? The brand new charters? Is there a list anywhere?
Not going to do it...

...Just curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

You could not transfer to a charter school like you would within the district. The only charter in Seattle - First Place Scholars - has struggled and I have no idea what their test scores look like.

There are a couple of non-failing schools in SPS but I don't which ones, right off-hand. Again, with capacity issues, I don't think the district would do that and can, instead, offer tutoring services.

Lynn said...

Here's a link to the Washington State Report Card for First Place: http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=7873&reportLevel=District&year=2014-15