Huge Happenings In Public Ed Throughout the U.S.

First up, Testing

It appears that most people are in agreement - there is too much testing in this country.  (Sorry, except for Arne Duncan.)  Going to the press conference at the Senator Patty Murray event at Madrona certainly made that clear.  Senator Murray says there needs to be work to reduce the "redundant and unnecessary testing" in our schools.  (No, she wouldn't be more specific than that.)  She also said she had heard from many parents and educators that the current testing does not meet the needs of students especially around progress. 

She could not have been more clear, "NCLB is broken" and it's "no secret" that it is not working.  She said there was no disagreement about this in Congress.  

But she did say a couple of disturbing things.  One, they need "data."  Data is what is going to tell us everything we need to know about student progress.  Two, I asked her about student data privacy being included in any reworking of NCLB and she said, yes, there were many issues in education and this is one of them.  She said it is a growing concern but only seemed concerned in a general way.

Stories about the rising up against testing.

PoliticoPro - Testing Under Fire
Huffington Post - About kindergarten teachers in Tulsa who refuse to give MAP testing to their students.
From the Lace to the Top blog, an excellent piece about testing.
If my child is going to sit for 500 minutes to take a test there better be a good reason. To date, I have not heard of any.
 Washington Post - Chicago School district is refusing to give the Common Core PARCC test.


Anonymous said…
Melissa, it is disingenuous to state that Arne Duncan has not voiced concerns regarding over-testing. I believe you read the same mainstream education news resources that I do and it's been reported that he believes there is over-testing. Maybe you're just being snarky (and that's cool if you are, he deserves it).

Essentially, Sen. Murray echoes the Secretary's position on testing --- that annual state summative testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school should remain ala NCLB should remain in place. It's the additional testing piled on by the state and districts that has led to over-testing according to Sen. Murray, Sec. Duncan, and many others.

--- swk
Yes, Duncan DID express concerns but just recently went back on the testing train, just a week ago in the NY Times.

"In a speech on Monday to outline the administration’s priorities for a revision of No Child Left Behind, the signature Bush-era education law, Mr. Duncan said that “parents, teachers and students have both the right and the absolute need to know how much progress all students are making each year towards college- and career-readiness.”

Here's the problem:

- how much testing? Is he talking one annual test? What about states and districts?

- how much of this is driven NOT just solely around student outcomes but tying it to teacher evaluations? Those seemingly go hand in hand and I'm not sure they should.

My issue - and maybe you can help, SWK - is the difference between "testing" and "assessments." Are they the same? What is the difference? And how much is too much assessment? Who decides?

If Duncan truly cared, he'd have a loud public opinion on this issue of overtesting and help parents.

Instead, like Murray, it's a lot of yada, yada, yada.

Watching said…
Washington State House Committee will debate Common Core on January 20th.

I do agree with SWK that we have too many levels of government impacting our classrooms, and this results in excessive testing. That said, I don't see the feds, state, district or schools really wanting to change.

Murray wants to identify areas of need. Well, with 50% of students living in poverty...this is not a monumental task....:)
Watching said…
I meant to say: The Washington State House Education Committee will debate Common Core on January 20.

Anonymous said…
Melissa, I believe testing and assessments are synonymous. They are often used interchangeably.

However, I could argue that the use of the term "testing" could refer more generally to the practice of providing assessments while the term "assessments" is a more technical term that refers to specific assessments being provided, e.g., MAP, SBAC ELA, ACT, Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), etc.

But generally, a test and an assessment are the same thing.

On a related note, I agree with you that the fairly recent explosion of testing/assessments is directly related to tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Because this cannot (or should not) be done with summative scores, states and districts have mistakenly chosen to pile on additional diagnostic/formative/interim assessments on schools in order to accomplish this misguided policy. If we could get rid of the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation, we could see a decrease in student testing/assessments in our schools.

--- swk

I also believe a lot of this push for "assessments" is about data gathering (and not just to see how a student is progressing).
Anonymous said…
swk @ 9:56, SBAC, MAP, MSP, ELA, ACT are most appropriately called HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS.

SBAC and ELA are tying federal funds to percentages of students tested in buildings; last year there was a bill put forth in our state trying to retain THIRD GRADERS who don't perform to a certain standard on SBAC. MAP is a gatekeeper to AP and Spectrum programs in Seattle. Passing the ELA is a graduation requirement right now. And the ACT has been recognized as being racist and classist in it's configuration.

And the WISC and it's background tied to eugenics shouldn't be overlooked.

opt out
Anonymous said…
When it comes to big corporate testing, or coal trains, Murray, Inslee, and Larsen will always cave.

Hope they don't mind losing in the future, because they are burning bridges with the people as they attempt to appease big money.

Anonymous said…
And add to this,at the high school level they are make it seem like students need to take common core this year to earn a diploma, when in fact that is not the case until 2017.

Schools have to administer the tests, students however don't have to take them.

You need to dig deep to figure out what tests your student really needs to take.

HS parent
Anonymous said…
opt out, assessments in and of themselves are not high stakes, or any stakes for that matter. It is the policies that are applied to them that make them high stakes.

MAP, for instance, is used all around the country without any stakes whatsoever. Teachers use them to inform their own instruction and make decisions based on the results as they see fit. There are no stakes attached to the results at all. In other words, MAP is not a "high stakes standardized test" in these circumstances.

You act like it's the assessments driving all of this when, in fact, it's people.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
HS Parent, the new high school assessments to be administered to this year's 10th graders is in fact a Common Core assessment. In other words, the assessments will be aligned to the Common Core.

This year's 10th graders --- the graduating class of 2017 --- must pass the high school assessments in order to graduate. So, they need to take the Common Core to graduate in 2017.

The graduating class of 2015 will not be required to pass a Common Core assessment, although they will need to pass the high school assessment or one of the alternatives to graduate. If the high schools are telling this year's senior class that they must pass a Common Core assessment to graduate, that would be false.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
HS parent's info matches the OSPI test requirements (see "Tests Required for Graduation"):

Also, this year's middle school students can no longer bank a passing score on a math EOC for their graduation requirements (even if they've already taken and passed an EOC).

MS parent
Anonymous said…
@swk, you said: MAP, for instance, is used all around the country without any stakes whatsoever. Teachers use them to inform their own instruction and make decisions based on the results as they see fit.

Wait, do teachers actually use these? I've asked every year before opting my kids out, and never once have I had a teacher tell me that they'd prefer my kid take the MAP test so they could have additional data on which to base their instruction. Yes, I specifically ask. Who are these teachers who actually find MAP data valuable, and why are they more valuable than data they could easily get from in-class assessments pertaining to the actual curriculum?

Anonymous said…
MAP becomes "high stakes" when it's used to evaluate teachers. The 2010 contract allowed this to happen in Seattle. Don't know if that's the case anymore. Likely, it is happening elsewhere.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
HF and enough already hit the nail on the head. The teachers distrust ALL the tests. They think the main way the data is going to be used is against them. They aren't interested in looking at test data. So the district and school administration say the data is going to be used to benefit our kids but the way they've implemented the testing so far has pretty much guaranteed that it won't ( with exceptions made for programs where the high testers are already segregated away from the general population and so the teachers don't fear the tests so much.) That's been my experience.

Gen Ed Mom
Anonymous said…
HF, I conducted a survey of teachers across multiple states back in 2011 regarding their use of formative and diagnostic assessments.

Those teachers who authentically used MAP did so for essentially three reasons: (1) It was relatively quick and easy to use, (2) the results were fairly easily understood and could be shared with parents, and (3) they were able to share and discuss results with their peers working in Professional Learning Communities.

This survey did not include teachers in Seattle or Washington state.

--- swk
Oh Please said…

MAP was not easily understood and tests could not be shared with parents. It took me two weeks to find out what "algebra" meant for a second grader and the actual test was locked into the computer.

MAP is CR**
Anonymous said…
I conducted a survey of teachers across multiple states back in 2011 regarding their use of formative and diagnostic assessments.

Those teachers who authentically used MAP did so for essentially three reasons...

@swk, was this research specific to MAP assessments, or other assessments? Formative and diagnostic assessments comprised of questions that remain a mystery to the teachers themselves, and that are not linked to the actual curriculum being taught, seem a lot less likely to be "authentically" used.

You neglected to mention what percentage of teachers said they DID in fact use the MAP. And really, with MAP results I sincerely doubt that any teachers who do share the results with parents do so in an "authentic," meaningful way. Saying your kid scored in the x percentile on math and y percentile on reading doesn't really count. We have statewide tests that give us the same big picture info already. Did teachers indicate that they provide meaningful differentiation and curriculum adjustment based on MAP results?

Anonymous said…
HF, the research was not specific to MAP. Teachers would indicate which formative/diagnostic assessments they were using then identify usefulness and challenges with each formative assessment they were using.

The reasons they provided were open-ended, meaning the survey did not provide a list of reasons from which to choose. The survey results were then compiled to provide an analysis.

FYI - The reason most often provided for lack of usefulness was the lack of alignment to their own curriculum.

While I can't recall the percentage of teachers using MAP who were using any standardized formative/diagnostic assessment at all, I do recall that MAP was the most common by far.

Finally, the survey was not about instruction or curriculum. It was simply a survey of formative/diagnostic assessment usage and pros/cons of their usage.

[Oh, Please. I do not share this information to promote the usefulness or otherwise of MAP or any other assessment. If you found MAP to be crap, that is your perspective and one that was not uncommon among those I surveyed.]

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Thanks, swk. So when you earlier said MAP, for instance, is used all around the country without any stakes whatsoever. Teachers use them to inform their own instruction and make decisions based on the results as they see fit that may have been a bit of a stretch? It sounds like you were referring to diagnostic tests more generally in the second part of the statement, not MAP specifically. I don't think anyone will argue that formative/diagnostic tests can be useful to teachers when linked to curricula, easy to use, and well-understood. And of course, when they are able to use the resulting data to inform instruction and curriculum. It they aren't using them for such purposes, I fail to see the point.

Anonymous said…
Wow, this is a tough crowd.

I didn't mean to infer that everywhere except Seattle teachers are using MAP as I described, HF. If you look at my original point in this vein, you will see that I was making the point that standardized tests in and of themselves are not high stakes but rather the policy attached to them can make them high stakes. I used MAP merely as an example, intending to make the point that there are teachers all over the country who are using MAP as intended and that no stakes are attached to the results.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
When teachers don't "use the MAP as intended" it's because they can't--they are being evaluated by it due to the "high stakes" punishing culture and it takes on a completely different meaning (as Gen Ed mom got).

Many teachers knew when MAP was brought into Seattle that it would be used to evaluate teachers, even though we were assured (lied to) that it wouldn't be. We long-timers knew better from the start.

When swk stated that " used all over the country with no stakes whatsoever" that should instead have read: "When MAP is not being used as a high stakes test for teachers' evaluations, then there are no stakes whatsoever."

--enough already

Anonymous said…
enough already, your statement isn't entirely factual. While a school/district/state might not use MAP for teacher evaluation, they could use it for student program placement, school accountability, etc. In these instances, it would be considered high stakes even if teachers were not evaluated on it.

--- swk
Okay, last time - if assessments - and I mean in-class assessments by teachers - are used for anything but measuring student progress, they are being wrongly used.

If assessments/tests are used for ANY other reason than the one they were created for, they are being wrongly used.

Tired, tired, tired of this obfuscating BS on assessments and testing.

Nothing like this was going on when we were kids.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, in regard to your last post, we are 100% in agreement. Using an assessment for purposes in which it is not designed invalidates the results.

--- swk

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