|He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts– for support rather than illumination.|
|— Andrew Lang,|
With the State tests in grades 3-8 looming schools are in full test prep mode. Test results were always important, now they become life and death, not necessarily for the students, definitely for teachers and schools.
Test scores drive value-added scores for individual teachers which drive ratings, tenure determinations and dismissals; for schools progress on standardized tests determines survival.
Some school leaders download scores, create an error matrix, disaggregate answers and provide each teacher with specific skills that require attention for each kid. Teachers embed remediation in every day instruction and test prep is minimal. Unfortunately, too few.
Others simply drill and kill.
In common planning time, if it exists, teachers work collaboratively on assignments to address areas of concern and discuss the impact of lessons, a good practice.
Unfortunately in too many schools common planning time provides teachers with more time to prepare (not a bad thing!) or share lesson planning with other teachers, little time is spend discussing kids or the effectiveness of lessons, lots of time on the “teaching” side and little on the “learning” side.
Schools and teachers succumb – test prep day after day – mind numbing and counterproductive, it deadens the learning process.
School districts emphasize designing and implementing common core-based lessons, on where you fall on the Danielson 4-tier scale and little or no time checking for understanding during and at the end of every lesson.
Charlotte Danielson trumps Mike Schmoker. Too bad. (Spend a few minutes and read Schmoker here)
If you think there is too much emphasis on testing now take a look into the future.
A couple of years down the road both the full implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC assessments will drop down out of the clouds.
New York State belongs to the 24-state PARCC consortium, it’s goals seem reasonable,
The priority purposes of PARCC Assessments are:
- Determine whether students are college- and career-ready or on track
- Assess the full range of the Common Core Standards, including standards that are difficult to measure
- Measure the full range of student performance, including the performance high and low performing students
- Provide data during the academic year to inform instruction, interventions and professional development
- Provide data for accountability, including measures of growth
- Incorporate innovative approaches throughout the system
The path to achieve the goals is five tests a year – that right, five tests a year for every kid.
To address the priority purposes, PARCC will develop an assessment system comprised of four components. Each component will computer-delivered and will leverage technology to incorporate innovations.
- Two summative, required assessment components designed to:
- Make “college- and career-readiness” and “on-track” determinations,
- Measure the full range of standards and full performance continuum, and
- Provide data for accountability uses, including measures of growth.
- Two non-summative, optional assessment components designed to:
- Generate timely information for informing instruction, interventions, and professional development during the school year.
- An additional third non-summative component will assess students’ speaking and listening skills
PARCC will also leverage technology throughout the design and delivery of the assessment system. The overall assessment system design will include a mix of constructed response items, performance-based tasks, and computer-enhanced, computer-scored items. The PARCC assessments will be administered via computer, and a combination of automated scoring and human scoring will be employed.
If you roll your eyes and cynically conclude this can never happen, beware: the State Education Department is in full PARCC implementation mode (see plans here)
You may snicker and think: how computer-based testing can be in place for the 2014-15 school year – my school struggles now with technology.
The folks in Albany are aggressively moving towards a statewide Computer-Based Testing (CBT) system by the 2014-15 school year.
What will the PARCC assessments test?
As we move towards the 2014-15 school year states will begin to embed the Common Core State Standards into their testing programs and school districts will require embedding standards into lessons. The Department of Education will roll out the Instructional Expectations for the 12-13 school year and school leaders will be required to monitor the inclusion of the CCSS into daily teacher lessons.
Who’s paying for all this test creation and implementation?
PARCC has $180m in federal dollars and New York State is using Race to the Top pieces of silver to create the data warehouses, sort of a statewide ARIS, and work with school districts to create CBT capability.
Of course there is an “event” in November that could impact the entire plan – who knows the impact of a Republican presidency. Romney or Santorum (heavens, or whomever, forbid) could be more enthusiastic about testing than the current administration!
Theoretically the tetra-bits of data will enable teachers to modify instruction for each and every kid- to truly differentiate to address the “lacks” of kids.
Teachers will wince and rightfully point to those other day-to-day impediments to success,
* the chronic lateness to period one classes.
* chronic school absenteeism
* the impact of the world outside of school: poverty, gangs, housing, despair … those behaviors beyond the scope of school.
* the zip code dilemma
* lack of resources in the neediest schools
The policy makers nod, agree, point to the use of regression analysis formulas, such as value-added modeling to adjust for the external factors, and move forward.
Numerical teacher ratings based on teacher evaluation laws, tenure determinations, teacher dismissals, school closings, teacher salary and layoff lists will increasingly be based on the results of student tests.
While New York State does have a multiple measures system there is no question that frequent student tests will influence classroom observations.
School districts, principals, teachers and parents oppose the increasing reliance on testing. Diane Ravitch, school boards (with the exception of NYC), principals and teacher unions all feel the pendulum is swinging in the wrong direction. Collectively they point to the highest achieving nations on international assessments who all abjure frequent testing and depend upon decisions made collaboratively at the school level. So far, to no avail.
The key decision makers in the field of education are not the educators – not the scholars and researchers who have spent a career working in school districts with students and teachers – the economists dominate policy-making – peruse the agenda of the Association for Education Finance and Policy just held in Boston.
Arne Duncan crows that the federal turnaround dollars are working (see press release here). Have you ever heard of a federal program that didn’t work (“Don’t all answer at once”)?
Education increasingly is driven fromWashington; states are uncomfortable, not uncomfortable enough to turn back the DC lucre.
If you don’t like No Child Left Behind, and who does, apply for a waiver; however, the waiver requirements are basically a ploy to embed the Duncan agenda permanently into states. And, if you’re state doesn’t take the bait Duncan is suggesting that school districts can apply directly for waivers.
Can a state decide that it wants to measure accountability in another fashion, not a standardized test, perhaps a portfolio of student work measured by a high quality rubric and graded outside of the school district?
And, certainly not in New York State, who gulped the cool aid when they leapt onto the Race to the Top band wagon. See EngageNY.gov web site.
Kids, get out that number 2 pencil, oh, excuse me, computer stylus, how can we fit lunch and gym into 24/7 test prep?
I hear rumors that in a few years the feds will require stapling chips into kids’ earlobes so we can get immediate feedback as to whether our lesson worked, oh yea of little faith who scoffed at black helicopters…