Why is the NYC school leader giving a standardized test in the middle of October, in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of a world wide crisis of unparalleled proportions?
COVID positive rates are inching upward, the mayor threatening parents in an attempt to force kids back to in-person instruction, the teacher union president sharply criticizing the mayor,
UFT President Michael Mulgrew on City Hall’s decision to reduce the opportunities for parents to opt-in to blended learning:
“City Hall’s decision violates the plan New York City filed with the state, and it breaks faith with parents.”
“Families were told they would have an opportunity each quarter to decide whether their child returned to the classroom or remained fully remote. Such a decision undermines parents’ trust in the system.”
Is this the time to introduce another standardized test? Teachers and students are stressed each and every day, and now you’re kids are taking a standardized test.
For decade after decade education technology entrepreneurs have touted program after program and promising the path to Lake Woebegone, where all children are above average.
“Buy our program, our product, and we will guarantee, if you precisely follow our directions, success.”
If you’ve noticed, none of the prior programs, in spite of the promises, have delivered a magic bullet. We do not live in Lake Woebegone; all children are not above average.
We live in a data-driven world, algorithms; dense mathematical formulas influence everything, from when to replace a pitcher in a baseball game (didn’t work out too well for Tampa Bay!!) to medical decisions to the cost of auto insurance.
The field of education is no different, a few years ago school districts began to use Value-Added Measurements (VAM) to rate teachers, and the error of measurement was so large as to make the determinations meaningless.
The testing of students has become more complex, more data-driven, and promises that elusive magic bullet.
New York City is administering the MAP – Growth test in Mathematics and English, to kids in school and remotely to kids at home.
The test, Northwest Evaluation Association, MAP – Growth, is used in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the CPS schools, until recently, have shown a steady upward trend in state test scores.
The glitzy NWEA website is impressive,
Easy-to-use, standards-aligned reports put the information teachers need at their fingertips. Reliable insights make it simple for teachers to plan for differentiated instruction, develop interventions for struggling students, and see what students are ready to learn next. Higher-level reports provide administrators the context to drive improvement across entire schools and systems.
Lacking from the site, no surprise, is a February, 2020 report, that finds the administration of the test in Chicago “worrisome,”
Chicago Public Schools’ internal watchdog is recommending the school district overhaul its Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing processes after finding a “concerning level” of possible “gaming and cheating techniques,” including longer-than-average test durations and high numbers of pauses.
In a new report submitted to the Chicago Board of Education, CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said a series of data analyses conducted by his office found “unusual patterns” in the application of the untimed, computer-based test known as the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth test.
“These analyses, combined with interviews of students and teachers at some schools with unusual results, indicated that proper test administration procedures were repeatedly violated … This occurred in a minority of cases, but enough to be worrisome and to warrant action.”
Yet now the latest version of the MAP tests, designed to be more useful, is being boycotted by Seattle teachers who say the tests are useless, sparking a debate that has resonated across the country.
Results often make zero sense (how does a student who worked their tail off in the classroom all year actually lose learning points, while another miraculously makes three years worth of “growth”?), but because the results have a sort of science-y feel, the test is used to place students in intervention groups, gifted and talented programs, and even to award merit pay bonuses to teachers.
The administration of the test in New York City, both in-person and remote was chaotic, one administrator told me, “The Department help desk needed a help desk.” The software stops the test if the student answers too quickly or too slowly, The Department on-loan computers were missing required software, and on and on.
In a few weeks or so teachers will be getting the results of the test.
How do they use the data?
Do they ignore what they’ve been teaching and start the school year anew?
Will the Department be offering professional development webinars to explain what the data means and how to use it?
Is the MAP – Growth test aligned with the New York State Next Generation Standards?
At the top of the list of the principles of personal and organization change are:
- Change is perceived as punishment
- Participation reduce resistance
Guess the Department is 0 for 2.
If you bring your car into a garage; its not running right, the mechanic plugs the car into a computer, the computer identifies the problem and tells the mechanic which parts to change.
We can’t change parts in kids.
Parental income and level of education align closely with student success, as measured by test scores, college admittance and the world of post-school work.
Fredrik de Boer, a self-described Marxist and a sort of Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve” of the Left argues,
… America’s much-vaunted meritocracy is actually an aristocracy, given that today’s rich and powerful did not earn their “just desserts,” but simply won their stations in life by lucking into the best genes. Likewise, the losers of the knowledge economy never had a chance, given their inferior intellectual inheritance. Education reform, then, is worse than pointless, because academic outcomes are largely determined at the moment of conception.
New York City Chancellor Carranza is addicted to testing. A year ago at the pre-school opening City and State event he laid out his plan, he called it Edustats, a test every few months, instant feedback, teachers simply use the data and, presto!! All kids are above average.
Carranza and other urban leaders quest for the Holy Grail is endless and futile. Carranza will be no more successful than King Arthur.
David Kirkland, the newly appointed Vice Dean of Equity, Belonging, and Community Action at New York University has written eloquently about the challenges of disassembling a school system, and a society constructed to preserve the riches of the some and push aside others who nibble at the gates of the privileged, read examples here and here.
Chancellor Carranza’s plans: more testing and why not rate teachers during remote teaching. That’s right … 10, 20, 30 maybe more kids in a remote class, each on his/her device interacting, or not, with a teacher – don’t worry, Charlotte Danielson has revised her rubrics: see the Danielson Framework for Remote Teaching, here.
The magic bullet is a dud.