Teaching and Learning; Performance Assessment Drives Better Thinking

Factory-Model Schooling One of the ways in which we think about teaching and learning is to ask what do we want our students to learn. Although this is a great question, the answers that teachers and schools choose often lead … Continued

Call to Boycott Flawed NY State Tests

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Liz Hallmark writes in the Democrat and Chronicle recently (Feb. 5, 2015) about, Gov. Cuomo’s call to increase the use of student tests in teacher evaluations. I commend her article to you. In “Passing the Tests” she writes about the over use of tests, the proper use of tests, and the need to join networks that support a better conversation about tests.

Bill Cala, interim Superintendent of Fairport, recently challenged Governor Cuomo’s call to increase the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.

The use of tests to measure student learning has been fluctuating for many years in New York State. This is a result of the Common Core curriculum implementation without proper professional development for teachers and without proper pilot testing of state tests associated with the Common Core.

Tests should be useful. The best ones are those that can diagnose what students have or have not learned from class. Results from well-designed tests allow teachers to customize and target their teaching rather than constrict it toward further uniformity (Democrat and Chronicle).

States Reconsidering Common Core Assessment Policy

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It seems that we are poised to make a shift in testing policy at the state level. Many states are reconsidering how they test, how much they test, and what the test says about student achievement and teacher quality. With students studying for more and more tests, the amount of testing seems to have been in question for many years. But this issue is now gaining strength at the state level as the cost of this testing is examined.

In Colorado, for example, a Standards and Assessment Task Force established through legislation this year is planning to make recommendations about statewide and local assessments by the end of January. A November study commissioned by the task force found that local assessments cost between $16 million and $25 million in the state annually, while statewide assessments cost between $45 million and $53 million, or roughly $70 to $90 per student (EdWeek.org).

New Tests Threaten New York State Teacher Evaluation

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The first round of new tests for the Common Core resulted in very low scores for many students around the country. In NY State, the passing rates, the rates at which students met or exceeded standards, dipped as low as single digit percentages. Since teacher evaluations are partially determined by their student’s test scores, The NY State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) has protested.

“NYSUT’s goal is to do an overhaul of the entire APPR,” Karen Magee told Chalkbeat, referring to the state’s evaluation law. “This is the first step towards doing so.” Magee wouldn’t comment on the negotiations, which are centered on the role that tougher, Common Core-aligned state tests will play in teacher evaluations this year and next year.

An Opportunity to Improve Assessment Systems

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Linda Darling-Hammond writes about the possibilities for better assessment based on the new Common Core Standards:

“Because the CCSS are intended to be “fewer, higher, and deeper” than previous standards, they have created a natural opening for the development and adoption of better assessments of student learning. The assessments developed by two new multi-state consortia could move us toward more informative systems that include formative as well as summative elements, evaluate content that reflects instruction, and include some challenging open-ended tasks” (TESTING TO, AND BEYOND, THE COMMON CORE; New assessments can support a multiple-measure framework to deepen teaching and learning. By Linda Darling-Hammond; Principal, January/February 2014).

The reform of testing is an ongoing business. Year after year the testing companies have refined their product. But there is a real need for changing the purpose to which these assessments are always tasked with, accountability. This accountability is narrowly defined and heavily sanctioned when schools fall behind. After 10 years of NCLB most schools have been deemed as falling behind or otherwise not making the grade. Why would we think this narrow accountability definition for standardized tests is helping anyone? It isn’t. So Darling-Hammond’s hope for better assessments that are improved by teachers and principals is welcome news:

Questioning the Common Core In New York State

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Recently, Commissioner John King testified in front of the New York State Senate Committee on Education and defended the Common Core. Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, said school officials within his district are unified in their criticism of the Common Core.

“School superintendents, principals, school administrators, parents, PTA groups, classroom teachers — they all seem to be united in their opinion of the Common Core,” Maziarz said. “To me, those are experts that we are hearing from. Now, commissioner, to be frank with you, the people who seem to be supporting this are yourself and the members of the Board of Regents.” (Lohud.com)

Common Core Steamroller

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Fred Smith, retired analyst, has testified about the Common Core steamroller that is over-running New York State parents and students. In his testimony in front of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education on 10/29/13 he documents with graphs that “raise questions about the scales being used to weigh student achievement and the veracity of the [NYState] ELA and Math results.”