Current American Thinking on Testing, Common Core and Taking Tests

Pretty amazing poll - A majority of Americans think there is too much emphasis on testing AND that test scores alone can't judge a student/teacher/school BUT believe parents should not opt their kids out from testing. They reject Common Core.  They believe "lack of financial support" is the biggest problem for their local school.

Americans across the board once again named lack of financial support as the biggest problem facing their local schools — the 10th consecutive year in which that issue has landed at the top of the list.

From the Washington Post:

The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the longest-running survey of Americans’ views on public education.

From PDK/Gallup:

This year’s PDK/Gallup poll is a nationally representative web survey of 3,499 Americans, ages 18 and older with Internet access and an additional telephone survey of 1,001 Americans, ages 18 and older. Both surveys were conducted in May 2015. The addition of the web survey allows PDK and Gallup to report in greater detail about racial/ethnic groups for the first time.
 Testing (and quality of school)
A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future. 

Overall, the public is happy with local schools, with 57 percent of public school parents giving their school an A or a B for performance. But just 19 percent had that opinion of public schools nationwide. 

(This mirrors the belief that many Americans have about their congressperson - love theirs but think Congress stinks.  Parents like their own child's school but think that, overall, most public schools are not good.)

Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. 

Despite the view that there is too much standardized testing, a majority of respondents said parents should not excuse their children from tests. A majority also said they think test scores are “somewhat important” in judging the effectiveness of their local schools.


 And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals.

A majority of respondents — regardless of political affiliation — opposed the notion of evaluating teachers based in part on test scores, an idea heavily promoted by the Obama administration and fought by teachers unions.

Control of Public Education

When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities.

But respondents were opposed to vouchers, or using tax dollars to pay for private school tuition, a policy increasingly promoted by Republican politicians. Several of the 2016 presidential hopefuls — Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal — support vouchers.

Charter Schools 
Respondents said they support charter schools, and more than six out of 10 say parents should be able to choose any school for their children within their school district.

(I think this says more about choice than the quality of charters.)

Common Core
But a majority — 54 percent — is opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 academic benchmarks adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia that have been under fire by critics on the left and right.

On some issues, there were clear differences of opinion along racial lines. Blacks tended to be more supportive of the Common Core and standardized testing than whites, and a majority of blacks — 55 percent — gave President Obama an A or a B for his support of public schools, compared with 17 percent of whites. 

Comparing Schools
 In a rebuttal to those who say states should use common tests so that the public can compare how students perform across state boundaries, fewer than one in five public school parents said it was important to know how children in their communities performed on standardized tests compared with students in other districts, states or countries.

But nearly one in three blacks said using standardized tests to compare their local schools with schools in other districts and other states is “very important.” Just 15 percent of whites gave the same response.


Anonymous said…
Nice job of cherry-picking your data. Why didn't you write up the results of this similar poll that gave different results on opt outs and testing?

Reader 420
dan dempsey said…
"But nearly one in three blacks said using standardized tests to compare their local schools with schools in other districts and other states is “very important.” Just 15 percent of whites gave the same response."

NAEP testing gives State to State comparisons every two years. It does so for many demographic subgroups. There is also the Urban NAEP.

TIMSS Math & Science testing does international comparisons every 4 years. Last reported from 2011 school year.

Some US states and Canadian provinces are now participating in TIMSS as individual governmental units.

North Carolina

Alberta, Canada
Ontario, Canada
Quebec, Canada

Common Core and SBAC provide nothing of positive value that was not present in Washington Schools prior to the "adoption" of CCSS. The added CCSS expense, looses of class time, and incoherent direction are a big minuses.
SPS Mom said…
Reader 420 - you're welcome to write up that article, if you'd like, and post here. Melissa can post what she feels is most relevant - and does a great job. She provides a forum for you to do the same. It's not her job to do what you want her to do.
Thanks, SPS Mom, because you are right.

Reader 420, I try my best to keep on top of ed articles. But there is a fresh onslaught every day. I did not see the Atlantic article but I do remember seeing this poll and ignoring it. Why?

1) Gallup is (and has been) a nationally recognized, non-partisan polling org. This current poll is the 47th they have done on public ed. That's a track record.

2) The poll at the Altantic traces to Education Next, a university-based think-tank (a la UW's).

3) As Ed Next say, comparing the polls is much about how the questions were asked. I do not support their reasoning about this particular set of questions but I agree that how questions are phrased is very important.

Anonymous said…
@ Reader 420, the results of that other poll actually aren't that different. Melissa wrote: A majority of Americans think there is too much emphasis on testing AND that test scores alone can't judge a student/teacher/school BUT believe parents should not opt their kids out from testing.

The article you linked to doesn't really address the first issue (how much emphasis is placed on testing), but it did address the second (beliefs on opting out). It found that most don't support parental right to opt out of state tests. That's consistent with what Melissa said, isn't it?

It's also important to note that that article you mention took a lot of liberties with the data. Questions were asked in very vague terms, but their interpretation is much more specific (and likely not particularly valid). For example, the question "Do you support or oppose letting parents decide whether to have their children take state math and reading tests?" is pretty generic, measuring level of support for the idea of testing in general. It is not, however, well-suited to measuring the level of support for specific tests, such as the SBAC. Just because someone supports the idea of standardized testing and statewide assessments it does not necessarily follow that they are against the op-out (of these specific tests) movement--but the article assumes just that. However, it is NOT contradictory to think students should, in theory, participate in state assessments, while simultaneously thinking that opting out of these particular tests is good idea. Opposition to these tests could be based on a whole host of legitimate concerns, concerns completely distinct from just not liking state testing: a distaste for Common Core; a sense that these tests don't accurately measure Common Core stds; a concern that it's "too soon" because CC-aligned instruction hasn't been around long enough; concerns about the lengths of tests and impact on regular instruction; concerns about inconsistencies in administration (e.g., computers vs tablets and mouses vs. touchpads, differences in how classroom activity portions are conducted, timing of test components, etc.); concerns about the developmental appropriateness of the tests: concerns about the value of the resulting data; and the list goes on. The article is pretending the data say more than they do.

Anonymous said…
I am not against standardized tests. Standardized tests are just part of school. My children have taken the WASL, the MSP, and the EOCS, yet we chose to opt out of SBAC. The state made tests were straightforward and seemed a reasonable, though basic, assessment of the standards (and I took the time to review my children's tests at district headquarters one year, so I've seen the questions). The WASL/MSP/EOC results were consistent with performance at school and they didn't take weeks and weeks out of class time. The SBAC, on the other hand, is a test I can't support. It's time consuming (3 weeks of testing at our school!), needlessly convoluted, and the results are used for what? We can't even view our children's tests (as was previously allowed with WA State tests). We will opt out until it's required as part of graduation.

-opt outer
Anonymous said…
Sorry, HF, but you have it backwards. It is the PDK/Gallup poll, to which Melissa refers, that asked the vague questions. See

Regardless, why not provide information from both polls? Why pick just one? Is it because the PDK/Gallup poll better supports Melissa's positions? Hmmm.

Reader 420
Anonymous said…
My daughter like many students came home complaining of a headache after the SBAC. I think the test screens where not designed well or they used cheap monitors.

Jan said…
Frankly, Reader 420, besides the point noted above (it is her blog, she is free to spend her analytical and writing time where she thinks best), my opinion is she would have been well within rights to ignore based solely on the source of the poll (EdNext is associated with the Thomas Fordham Institute -- a leading ed reform think tank.)

I don't take, nor would I ever take seriously, poll results from places like newsmax -- because they have an agenda that I don't support, and I think it taints any analytical endeavors they might make. That is an extreme example, and I don't mean to put EdNext in the same squalid category as Newsmax -- but I think there are plenty of reasonable reasons why a blogger might choose not to give their poll results air time.

Anonymous said…
Reader 420, how do I have it backwards? Both polls, flawed though they are, show that parents are less in favor of opting out. One shows a much higher opposition to it than the other, but Melissa never said the polls indicated support for opting out. She said parents didn't support it. That's what both polls generally say.

That said, both polls have unclear questions. (And just because Education Next said it's own questions are more neutral doesn't make it so.) The opt-out questions are phrased very differently. EdNext says the PDK Gallup question is more "opt-out" friendly, but another way to word that is that the EdNext question is less opt-out friendly. PDK Gallup asks whether parents should be allowed to excuse their children. The passive choice is to test--opting out requires additional effort. The EdNext question, however, asks whether parents should decide if their kids should test. That reads like more of an opt-in, not an opt-out. This eliminates that sense that parents might have a good reason for not having their kid tested, and suggests that any ol' reason is a good one. Fewer people would be for that.

And FYI, my earlier point was that the Atlantic article you linked to was skewed. They made a lot of claims the data didn't support.

Anonymous said…
Jan, thanks so much for bringing me back to reality. This is a blog, not a newspaper. Her audience is clearly only those people who already agree with her. She's clearly not interested in presenting both or all sides to a complex issue but rather advocating for her own point of view. I'm such a dolt for thinking otherwise. It's her blog. Duh.

I'd heard this was a serious outlet for discussion. Turns out it's only an echo chamber.

Reader 420
Anonymous said…
NPR had a discussion on standardized testing and opt outs this a.m. The story was national in scope. Good people have valid points on both sides of whether public school standardized testing is useful - and in what circumstances - as well as whether allowing opt outs is useful.

I think the story here is that there is a story. A few years ago, the idea that parents and students would vociferously reject federal education mandates simply wouldn't have taken place. We'd have to go back to desegregation via mandated busing to find such a national education outcry. Mandated busing was a much more prominent national debate, but the testing debate is no longer a small story.

Reader 420, even if you find the voices here one-sided, it should be useful to you to read and understand the pushback. It doesn't seem an echo chamber to me. It seems evidence of a movement. Likewise, readers should be eager to understand Reader 420's point of view. After all, at the federal level, as well as at the state legislative levels, few politicians are backing off their stance on mandatory testing. Lessening the importance of the tests might be the best opponents can do in the short term, but that won't happen without understanding the reasons politicians and education policy makers seem loathe to give them up.

Anonymous said…
While the state and federal governments can impose mandatory testing, meaning school districts must administer the tests, parents still have some say in their children's education and have every right to opt them out of standardized testing. If the number of opt outs increase, it could signal a need to change the test or the testing requirements. Given the number of states that have left SBAC or PARCC, maybe the parents are just ahead of their state government in questioning the validity of the current tests. I am grateful WA State provides parents some control over their children's education, from opting out without penalty (unless you have a principal that imposes penalties...) to allowing inter-district transfers and homeschooling.

-opted out
Reader 420, sorry you have given the blog just a brief chance. We often have many discussions where different viewpoints are heard. I often note when I am wrong.

I do try to present different viewpoints but just as LEV would NEVER present the other side or Stand for Children or anyone from the Gates Foundation, I'm not sure why I get dinged for having a stand. You want an echo chamber, go read what they write.

"I think the story here is that there is a story."

Unknown said…
“Education polls often ask unprepared people to make ‘finely nuanced distinctions’ without the requisite background, said Andrew Rotherham, the co-founder and a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit in Washington, in an interview last year. ‘You get a result, but you also get a lot of noise.’ ”

This is from Seattle Times Education Lab on August 27th, and is a pretty good take on the dueling polls about common core and testing. Minor changes in the wording of the poll question produces the difference seen between the two polls.

My take agrees with some of your observers above - that the common core state standards aren't all that different than what Washington had before, but that they save us a TON of money every year by not requiring the state to develop tests and other materials that are unique to Washington. It turns out that algebra is pretty much the same here as it is in Minnesota.

The state has changed the testing requirements every year for the past decade, creating a confusing collection of tests. We should simplify this and have fewer tests, but I agree with the parents who want to see how their kids do compared to other kids, and more importantly, want to ensure that their kids aren't getting screwed by having a "lesser" curriculum. Unfortunately America has a long history of providing a strong, college-prep curriculum to kids from well-to-do families and something much less in other places.
Lynn said…
Mr. Hunter,

Do you have any idea of the amount of money districts spent on hardware to enable schools to administer the SBAC? It's hard to believe this change saved the state's schools any money at all. (Minnesota by the way writes it's own tests for federal accountability.)

How much of the school year is lost to the SBAC? Reports from some Seattle middle schools were that they had no regular instruction for a full three weeks in order to complete the testing process. Are those test results more valuable than three weeks of instruction?

Anonymous said…
It's a lot more than 3 weeks lost. It's at least a month. Kids at my school sometimes took 9 hours on the ELA. Then there's the prep and the training of students. Then there's Amplify, which is really yearlong prep. And Amplify checkpoints, math teachers use this. Libraries, cafeterias, computer labs, laptop carts, are all reserved for this all day long.

It's a huge cost in time, 3 months or more, administration, generally a fulltime position for secondaries.


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