A decade ago, with great fanfare, a bipartisan bill became law, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, renamed No Child Left Behind. The new law required testing of all children in grades 3 – 8 in English and Mathematics; the setting of goals called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), and the publication of the results disaggregated by subgroups. The goal of AYP was to encourage states to make incremental progress with all children reaching grade level by 2014.
Behind closed doors the AYP requirement was called the Lake Woebegone law – you will remember the community of Lake Woebegone where all children are above average.
The assumption was that long before 2014 the law would be reauthorized and the punitive sections rewritten. As the years passed the House and the Senate moved further and further apart, with the Republican victory in the 2010 midterms the hope of a reauthorization faded. The House and the Senate have bills that are strikingly different.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by the National Governors Association and the US Department of Education dangled $4.4 billion in competitive grants, called Race to the Top. Among the preconditions for winning the grant was adoption of the Common Core, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and the creation of a student testing regime based on the CCSS.
Two organizations emerged, coalitions of states, called Smarter Balance and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career); the coalitions, with federal and private dollars, created tests based on the Common Core. The PARCC website contains sample questions and the road to PARCC adoption.
Read a sample PARCC 4th Grade ELA questions: http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC_SampleItems_ELA-Literacy_Grade4Items_082113_Final.pdf
As the timeline approaches for states to move to PARCC testing more and states are having second thoughts.
Barbara Byrd Bennett, the CEO of Chicago schools has doubts about PARCC
“The purpose of standardized assessments is to inform instruction. At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents, and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment”
As the PARCC empire continues to crumble New York State, at least the commissioner, is rushing down the path to PARCC. At the November 17th Regents meeting the Regents considered making field testing of PARCC questions mandatory, urging school districts to use the Technology Bond dollars to purchase computer hardware for computerized state tests; the next step is asking the Regents to give a green light to move to PARCC testing.
An item will go for public comment to force school districts to offer PARCC field testing, a power the commissioner insists he has had since 1938.
Regent Cashin sharply questioned the commissioner, was he moving to PARCC testing, without a clear answer. The hordes of e-communication to Regents members resonated as Regents members were uneasy.
The Commissioner seems to ignore the tens of thousands of parents who are part of the opt-out movement, a movement that is spread like wildfire across the state and the nation.
The Long Island Opt-Out Facebook page has over 17,000 members, and growing every day.
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Longislandoptout/permalink/377404222432922/
As the legislature returns in January the opt-out parents will move their activism to the halls of Albany; members of the Regents are increasingly discomforted.
With the Republicans in control of both house of Congress it is altogether likely that a bill will arrive on the president’s desk, a bill that might have some Democratic support.
The bill will move accountability measures from the US Department of Education to the states, and the states may have wide latitude.
Why is it necessary to have annual testing of each and every student, why not use sampling techniques similar to the techniques used by NAEP – called the gold standard for measuring the achievement of American students?
The Republican House bill also removed the requirement for teacher evaluation based on student test scores.
Hundreds of thousands of moms and dads across the nation are telling states to quit the burdensome testing regime.
Alfred Spector Vice President of Research at Google muses about the future of education. The world is changing at an incredible pace, tests to measure accumulated knowledge are meaningless, the new tests are adaptive tests, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new tests learn from you, as you answer they craft new questions that emanate from your answer. The tests learn from you and your learning, your education is individualized to you. Once upon a time we would scoff, we shouldn’t, the future is now. Spector argues that all education should be based on a simple equation CS + X (computer science plus X), computational thinking in all domains.
Listen to Spector: http://www.wnyc.org/story/empowering-next-generation-world-changing-ideators/
The only purpose of the current testing regime is to “measure” the effectiveness of the $55 billion New York State spends each year as well as to “measure” the effectiveness of individual teachers.
The governor loves to talk about turning New York State into a high tech center, creating high paying jobs in the new cyber industries and harasses educators and demeans parents, he is the troglodyte.
The governor should be leading our school system into the new age, not wasting time and money and resources testing kids in a meaningless exercise.
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