Monday, January 04, 2016

Speaking of Testing...

A couple of items to consider.

Update 2: SPS teacher (and parent and activist) Jesse Hagopian's essay on why he is opting his 1st grader out of MAP testing.
end of update

Update: just crossed my desk.  The state of Colorado - over their holiday break - mysteriously and without warning, switched from using the ACT to the SAT.  From Chalkbeat Colorado:
Colorado high school juniors will be required to take the SAT college-entrance exam instead of the ACT starting this spring, a significant change that grew out of a competitive bidding process required by hard-fought testing reform legislation.

The state Department of Education announced Wednesday that a selection committee chose The College Board, makers of the SAT, over the ACT testing company, which has been testing juniors in Colorado since 2001.

High school sophomores, meanwhile, will begin taking the PSAT. Under the compromise testing legislation, sophomores and juniors no longer will take PARCC English and math tests, which debuted last spring and proved especially unpopular with high school students.

The SAT tests differ from PARCC and, notably, will take less time. For example, sophomores spent more than 11 hours on PARCC tests last spring, while the PSAT clocks in at just under three hours. The PARCC tests have been shortened somewhat for this spring.
End of update.

From Seattle Opt Out:

KINDERGARTEN PARENTS IN SEATTLE: Do you know that today, Jan. 4, the testing window for MAP opens in schools that are choosing to administer it? 

Most of the parents we've encountered WERE NOT INFORMED of this. Many have been confused about what is happening--principals are saying that they're "leaving it up to teachers," teachers are saying "my principal encouraged me to administer it," no one downtown at the District is answering the phone to get to the bottom of it, and many PTAs are simply unaware of the window having opened. 
Confusion is part of the high-stakes game; it makes it more challenging to organize an opt-out campaign if no one really knows what the hell is going on. On the District's website it is listed as "required" next to the Jan 4-29 MAP for Kindergarten assessment. THIS IS CONFUSING, TOO, because it DOESN'T MEAN THAT STUDENTS ARE 'REQUIRED' TO TAKE IT! You can opt out! 

You can even call your child's school, right now, and opt out verbally (per OSPI! Opt outs do not have to be in writing, no kidding). Or, tomorrow, you can send a handwritten note to your child's teacher or principal saying this:
Dear ________________,

I would like to opt my child out of the MAP test during their kindergarten year. This includes make-up tests. Please provide a place for them to look at books, draw, or engage in another meaningful school activity.

You can reach me at ___-____-_____ or _______@____ if you have any questions. Thank you.
As well, there is this article from Education Week about the new ESSA (Every Student Achieves Act, formerly NCLB) rules on testing.
The questions are hanging over a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act that lets states measure high school achievement with college-entrance exams instead of standards-based assessments.
That's because most states' current tests are based on their academic standards and are built to measure mastery of those standards. Moving to a college-entrance exam such as the SAT or ACT, which are designed to predict the likelihood of students' success in college, would mean that states had chosen instead to measure college readiness.
Yes, using the ACT or SAT, rather than, I assume, SBAC or PARCC (depending on your state - WA state uses SBAC.)
Seven states have won permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use SAT or ACT for federal accountability. But a spokeswoman for the department said the states still must present evidence, through the peer-review process, that the exams are valid for that purpose. Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire won approval to use the SAT for federal accountability, and Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming got the nod to use the ACT that way.
Is this so easy-peasy?
It isn't clear yet exactly which "nationally recognized high school academic assessments" the Education Department will consider acceptable, since regulations and guidance to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act haven't yet been written.  

How well a national exam can reflect state standards is a central—and unanswered—question in the use of college-entrance exams for accountability purposes.

FairTest, a group that opposes standardized testing, warned that that provision in the new law "must be treated with caution; those tests are no better educationally than existing state tests, and they have not been validated to assess high school academic performance." The college-entrance exams have long been criticized, too, as biased in favor of wealthier students from college-educated families.
What does this mean for determining outcomes for any given school?
One danger, however, lies in what use states make of college-entrance-exam data. Using it to measure students' likelihood of success in college is one thing, but using it to make judgments about the effectiveness of a school, a principal, or a teacher would be another, assessment experts cautioned.

"Tests like the SAT or ACT can measure college readiness, but whether they can measure a teacher's or a school's contribution to college readiness is an open question," said Lauress L. Wise, the immediate-past president of the National Council on Measurement in Education, which sets standards for best practice in assessment.


Po3 said...

The current business model for both the ACT and SAT is to get "age appropriate tests" implemented in K-12 classrooms across the country. If they are successful they will take a market share away from Pearson. Also, the ACT has taken a fair share of the SAT market, so SAT is particularly interested in getting a foothold on the K-12 business. In addition, as more colleges move away from the SAT and ACT requirement for admission, less students will take the tests. So both companies will need a new revenue stream. Our education tax dollars are low hanging fruit in this test-obsessed education world we live in.

Time magazine did a big article on this back in Aug or Sept? It's kinda brilliant, if successful.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3 and while we ponder what the heck is happening (and why), these people try to get a larger and larger share of the market for their group.

Garfield staff said...

What I see as just one of the many unfortunate components of this is that kids don't have a choice. At least them do/experience both! The exams are very different and I've seen plenty of my kids who do much better on the ACT, for example. I am one of the many people upset with SPS for choosing to administer the SAT on March 2nd for all juniors. It's wonderful to give the opportunity but we need to make sure we expose the kids to ALL of the options, not just the ones through College Board.

Po3 said...

SAT - 1

Game on.

And also fascinating to me as I have spoken to several college counselors (the ones you pay) and all are recommending ACT.

Anonymous said...

FYI: SAT is changing quite radically this March. Becoming more like ACT. Scoring will be different as will content emphasis. Less aptitude. More Achievement like ACT. Why? Because SAT has been losing students taking it to ACT. ACT claims it correlates more to CC standards. States are adopting ACT as their (better than ever) SBAC/PARCC equivalent. SAT wants some of that pie and made big changes to its test. Some states will use the new SAT. It's about the money and market share. SAT poached ACT top writers to make this happen. Suggestion from college counselors in the know, the new SAT written portion is optional, but take it anyway. You never know which college requires it or weigh it. Throw out the old, outdated SAT prep book.

Also for those HS kids who wondered why they can't up their ACT science score after mx retakes and prep, it's not you. It's the test. Not enough time provided.


Anonymous said...

Scores for the fall PSAT should be available online this week. I'm curious how this year's scores will compare to last year's.

-another parent

Po3 said...


Why is the SAT free?

Says to me take the ACT.

seattle citizen said...

So in CO the PSAT is replacing the PARCC (which is the other CCSS test, along with SBAC.) At least CO had the sense to replace a useless 11 hour test with a potentially useful 3 hour test....
So under the new fed rules, I guess states can choose PSAT....hmmm....

mirmac1 said...

Road Map Project/CCER push SATs. CCER gets the students scores along with other personal data. Thanks SPS

Anonymous said...

As a former test prep tutor, the differences between the ACT and the "new, improved" SAT are minimal. As colleges have discovered, neither test is a very good judge of ultimate success in college, and, in general, reward preparation and rote test-taking skills over deeper critical or creative thinking (not to mention the ability to pay for private tutoring, test prep materials and books, etc.). Thus, more and more colleges and universities have decided to go "test-optional" for admissions. This means that an applicant will NOT be penalized for not including any SAT or ACT scores in their applications. This is great news for students who don't do well on standardized tests (those with learning disabilities, for example, or kids who think "outside the box").

Parents and students should take a look at the following website, which includes a current list of the many, many colleges and universities that have made the decision to go "test-optional" or "test-flexible":


-former tutor

Outsider said...

I totally don't get the freak-out about MAP testing. I understand when parents last year complained that the SBA test was on a computer platform with confusing unwieldy interface, and their kids didn't know how to type, and it was stressful and annoying. But what is so terrible about MAP testing?

Our son took the test last year in kindergarten, apparently. We weren't notified, and there were no visible scars to indicate that it happened. He didn't mention anything different happening at school. The scores just popped up later.

As I understand, the MAP tests are the only thing in SPS with no ceiling, so they are probably challenging and a good exercise. We also didn't hear anything about this year, but if they happen, it will probably be the only challenging thing he does this month. Why are they called "high stakes"? They seem to be no-stakes.

Anonymous said...

The MAP is not correlated with curriculum taught in our schools, and is (or was) used to evaluate teachers, which seems like a mismatch. The high stakes for kids is that it has been used as a gatekeeper for advanced learning, which seems a little tricky given that it's not related to what they are taught. It also does have a ceiling. I have 3 kids, two of whom it was actually a pretty good metric for. If they had a weak teacher year, their score would stay the same or go down, because they were typically answering questions around their grade band, and so when teaching was weak it would show they were not learning much generally. I have one child who is well above grade level, and that child's scores are almost a completely random scatter shot. I think he started maxing out some time in 1st or 2nd grade, and whether the number went up or down depended on the order of the questions, or if he missed just one it would go way down, and it was all on stuff he definitely would never have seen in school. Sort of an ok thing to do once, but not several times a year every year. I think our family's experience is pretty typical. For kids doing fine, in the middle, it works ok, but why do you need to test them? They are fine, and you know it. For kids on the ends of the spectrum, it's not useful. It also often closes libraries and computer labs for weeks or months on end, which is a pretty big cost for a school.

I am not as vehemently opposed to it as many people here, though, and would welcome it back having seen the SBAC as an option, especially if it is or could be more aligned to our curriculum. It was just so time consuming, and less helpful than the MSP, which was no great shakes either. Speaking of, can someone remind me of how to opt out a middle schooler? They don't have homeroom teachers, so who do I tell? And Amplify is in this, too, right? Just random standardized test? The kid is getting very bored of them.


Outsider said...

If MAP tests are used to restrict entry to advanced learning, then the reason the schools don't announce schedules is probably not so much to frustrate boycotters as to keep tiger parents from prepping.

If the MAP tests handle stuff never seen in school, maybe that is a good thing. A lot of kids would benefit from seeing more in school, and maybe the test is the only way. How is it different from computer-based learning?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's the case. It's not like an IQ test. Prepping for the MAP would just be...learning things. I do think most people don't really care, and I know it used to be better if more kids took it at a school, so it probably seemed expedient to just do it.

They don't get any instruction after the question, is how it is different. The only way they do is if they remember not knowing the answer to a question and then ask someone later. Better to have the one kid just read a book with the word solipsism in it and guess or ask than have the whole class take a not super useful test, which shuts down the library for two mornings, and which dings their teacher based on things they are not teaching them so that my one kid can ask me what the word solipsism means. Other people have other problems with it. If it had less of a ceiling, if it was correlated to SPS curriculum (then it could also be used for levelling in class, which would be great), and if it was maybe once a year(in the fall?), I would think it was pretty great. My kids mostly took it, and they are not going to take the SBAC anymore. It is better than that. It's not heinous, just....kind of a waste of time, and the teacher evaluation part is pretty rank. I think it should possibly be opt in if you want to for advanced learning(same as the cogat is now), just because we don't currently have anything better. And it does bluntly get at whether the kid is ahead or behind.

My kids mostly did challenging things in gen ed classrooms on a regular basis, though. If yours isn't, I'd consider looking into your advanced learning options. Too late for this year, but next year maybe.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sleeper, for middle/high school you can send an e-mail to your principal stating you do not want your child taking "test X" and that your child should have appropriate work/activities while other students are taking the test.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa.


Anonymous said...

An interesting link is included in the comments of Hagopian's opt-out letter - it's an analysis by Stanford mathematician R. James Milgram of released sample questions from high school level Common Core MAP tests...but I don't think it's in any way associated with the NWEA MAP test. In this case, MAP stands for Mathematics Assessment Project, and the link from Milgram shows it's a collaboration between UC Berkeley and University of Nottingham, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



The criticisms from Milgram certainly make me concerned about tests claiming to be Common Core aligned and even more saddened that the SAT is changing to something supposedly aligned to CCSS.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent, I have pointed out James Milgram's issues for a long time. He really knows what he is talking about.

Melissa said...

I have been following your schools' relationship with the MAP for a while now. I live far far from Seattle (Michigan, to be exact), but I have worked as a teacher in two schools that used MAP testing, and I struggled with it for all the reasons you have been sharing with the world. I wanted to say THANK YOU for that! There is a post from 2013 or so with a list of reasons why MAP testing is not a good idea, and I have shared it widely among educators here in Michigan.

Although I have now left classroom teaching, I had to find work-arounds to create what I knew to be a strong classroom and still meet the demands for test prep. This is an issue that needs to be made public, so thank you for these posts.

I ended up creating MAP leveled activities that require higher order thinking skills and were flexible to be used for ANY reading assignment, but that also mentioned or touched on skills commonly tested in NWEA. It allowed me to check "test prep" off, as we were required to justify how what we did was building DesCartes skills differentiated to each student's needs, but that didn't make me feel slimy doing so.

I have shared some of these on my teacherpayteachers site, but I won't link it here in case that feels too spammy for you! I'll do so in a separate post so if you do not allow links you can delete that one :)