Testing - Big News Throughout the Country

From reader Lynn:

The Washington Educational Research Association has published a White Paper on Parent/Student refusal to participate and a handy test refusal form.

Smarter Balanced website (the test that Washington State students will be taking). FAQs page.

I note that on their support for students page ( those with visual, auditory, linguistic, or physical needs), they say this (partial):
  1. A set of universal accessibility tools—such as a digital notepad and scratch paper—will be available to all students.
  2. Designated supports—like a translated pop-up glossary—will be made available to students for whom a need has been identified by school personnel familiar with each student’s needs and testing resources.
  3. Accommodations will be available to students with a documented need noted in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. These tools include Braille and closed captioning, among others.
A digital notepad is going to be available for all students?  Every district in every state using SB will supply this and has the dollars to do so?

Recent (and semi-recent) articles on testing:

 Why Poor Schools Can't Win at Standardized Testing from The Atlantic

All of this has to do with the economics of testing. Across the nation, standardized tests come from one of three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or Pearson. These corporations write the tests, grade the tests, and publish the books that students use to prepare for the tests. Houghton Mifflin has a 38 percent market share, according to its press materials. In 2013, the company brought in $1.38 billion in revenue.

Books can be reused year to year, but only if the state (Penn) standards haven’t changed—which they have every year for at least the past decade.

Test Prep Kills Learning: Guess How This One Turns Out from the Huffington Post's Ed section

And let's be even more clear about what the problem is with test prep. As Marc S. Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, explained:
There is far too much test prep if, by test prep, we mean setting aside good and challenging curriculum in order to prepare students for low-level tests of basic skills that rely on remembering facts and the rote application of procedures.
Surprising Secrets of How Much We Test Kids from the Washington Post's Jay Mathews

 The researchers reported that administering tests takes much longer than school district officials say it does. Also, tests designed by school districts might be more time-wasting than the annual state tests we complain about most. 

The report’s first finding sounds like a victory for people like me who have argued that testing isn’t so bad. Across 12 urban districts, the authors concluded, the average amount of time students spend on state and district tests equaled only 1.7 percent of the school year “in third and seventh grade and substantially less in kindergarten.

The authors surveyed 300 teachers in Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis and the District who reported that the actual test administration time, based on their first-hand experience, is more than double that length. 

In kindergarten, the school districts counted 2.3 hours a year of testing. The teachers said 7 hours. In third grade, the districts said 14.2 hours; the teachers said 27.7 hours. In seventh grade, where teachers and students had more experience with the process, the numbers were closer; districts reported 14.9 hours and teachers said 16.4 hours. Keep in mind this is only the time spent giving the test. The report did not assess the time spent preparing students for the test or analyzing the resulting data. That would be a much higher number. 

That was not the report’s only troubling discovery. It found enormous differences among urban districts.

More on length of testing in school districts from Education Post:

The Center for American Progress (CAP) today released a report, Testing Overload in America’s Schools, to address this gap. Sampling districts from seven states, the report uncovered:
  • Districts require more tests than states
  • Students are tested up to twice per month, leading to a rise of test-prep culture
  • There is a lack of transparency around testing  
One New Jersey couple's answer to their district on opting-out, with many court rulings on why the parents believe they do have the legal right to opt-out.

We are in no way asking for your permission to REFUSE these standardized tests, assessments, questionnaires and surveys for our children. The Constitution and Supreme Court rulings supersede any authority you think you may have over our decision as taxpaying parents within this district. It is our right as parents to refuse to allow our children to take the state standardized tests because our parental rights are broadly protected by United States Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education.

One parent's letter, via The Answer Sheet, to President Obama about PARCC testing (she has a PhD in English and is a a literacy consultant in urban high schools.)

And I had no idea what to do with this essay prompt on the third grade test:

Old Mother West Wind and the Sandwitch both try to teach important lessons to characters in the stories. Write an essay that explains how Old Mother West Wind’s and the Sandwitch’s words and actions are important to the plots of the stories. Use what you learned about the characters to support your essay.

Would Sasha have been able to figure this out in third grade? And, more importantly, is there any reason a third grader should have to figure out an essay prompt this broad and abstract?

Lastly, one Kentucky school's answer to testing via NPR:

Principal Amy Swann and the district's superintendent, Carmen Coleman, have completely overhauled their school's educational philosophy, moving away from standardized tests toward an approach called performance-based assessment.

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt the Common Core and the tests that align with it. This spring, the 1,700-student Danville district thinks it's found a better way to teach the Core.

Swann got right to work, reorganizing the staff, introducing project-based learning and setting expectations with a "Danville diploma" that included social and emotional skills, ethics, technological literacy, career readiness. In 2013, the school was designated an "exemplar school" by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, one of just 25 in the nation.

They were most impressed with a group of 39 schools in New York state called the Performance Standards Consortium. Since 1997, these public schools have been exempt from state standardized tests. Instead of working from textbooks, students in performance schools create research projects, both solo and in groups, and present them for detailed feedback.

Students in these schools produce documentary films. They research position papers on immigration policy, conduct scientific studies of visual perception, and create mathematics puzzles.

Indeed, there are better ways to assess students than standardized testing.  Again, is it about learning or training?  Do we want citizens or workers?  Do we want to foster love of learning or fear of testing?


Sigh said…
"A set of universal accessibility tools—such as a digital notepad and scratch paper—will be available to all students.
Designated supports—like a translated pop-up glossary—will be made available to students for whom a need has been identified by school personnel familiar with each student’s needs and testing resources. "

Writing and copying has been used as part of the learning process. How will technology impact brain development? Call me old fashioned, but I still like the benefits of pencil and paper.
dan dempsey said…
I think Jay Greene has this one correct.... What is needed is a nationally normed test ... not a criterion referenced test.

Dump PARCC and Dump SBAC for something more useful and way cheaper.

DUMP Criterion Referenced tests for a National Normed Referenced test

Lets stop gaming the system an save money as well.
Anonymous said…
Now that's a really dumb idea. Norm referencing. Instead of basing testing on content eg, criteria... we'll just base it on "norms", eg, what everyone else does. Then, the only thing we need to do is decide how many we want to fail.

Stupid. And wrong. Still gamable.

Anonymous said…
I think the digital notepad is a built-in feature of the test. Not a terribly useful one on the pilot I played with last year, but it technically exists.

Glad I left
Tool Auto MMO said…
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