Monday, April 23, 2012

PS 261 UNITE Sponsors Forum Weds on HST, Brian Jones/Lisa Donlan comments on Literature vs. Standardized Tests and Pearson Eats GED

With all the debate on testing, where is the UFT?
I'm packing a lot into this post. Sorry I'm going to miss this forum.

April, 2012

PS 261 is loaded with activists like Brian Jones, Jamie Fidler and Melissa Torres. And they rave about the principal Zipporah Mills. You know it's funny how many principals are turning up that people enjoy working for. But then again there is this MUST READ Assailed Teacher post:  A Tale of Two School Districts.

 
*PS261 UNITE is an independent group of teachers, parents, and community members advocating for our students, our community, and the right to free, quality public education.

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Brian Jones makes a great point about how good lit cannot really be tested effectively on a high stakes test.
I think it's [the pineapple story] a quirky story -- but really no stranger or mysterious than many other classic stories for children. This occurred to me as I was reading Harold and the Purple Crayon to my daughter this morning!

The problem is that when a story has any element that is not perfectly clear (which, in my view, makes it actually a more interesting story) then it's hardly fair to test kids on it and demand that there be a single right answer to questions about its meaning.

On the other hand, if you serve up a story that DOES have a bunch of "right" answers that are clear and straightforward, then you're not really dealing with literature that anyone would really cherish, savor, enjoy, etc. The delicious thought process that *can* occur between reader and text is lost, and is turned into a "skill" exercise.

Hence the problem with testing is even deeper -- it's a reductive approach to literacy that tries to take something inherently complex and make it simple. In doing so, most of what makes good literature and real reading worthwhile is lost. 

That's why the Pinneapple and the Hare may actually be a great (or just, funny) story, and thus HORRIBLE as a test passage.

Brian Jones
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The issue is the use (misuse) of the passage in the context of the test. Not a commentary on the text as a text/story/piece of literature or in any way a left handed defense of the "good" test questions that are not ambiguous.
I included some comments from students on the absurdity of testing.

These tests are so stupid. they do not test any knowledge. they will never count for anything. no one, in lets say, 20 years, is going to ask you how you did on your 7th or 8th grade standardized tests. no one! and that is why the amount of pressure that students are put under to do well on these tests is so silly and horrible! in the end, this will never count! for anything! it won't matter!

The point of school is to learn, and not to spend half the year on prepping for a silly state test that will not be of any use in the future. 

I don't even think kids that are trying to get into good colleges go through this amount of stress. AND IT MOST DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT BE THIS WAY!!! 

Lisa Donlan
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There is a GREAT NY times piece about just what Brian was talking about--written by a teacher. Check it out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/taking-emotions-out-of-our-schools.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

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From Mike Klonsky:
Daniel Pinkwater

"Who knew my book would be used for world’s dumbest test question?" -- Daily News
Deborah Meier
"In the world of testing, it does not really matter whether an answer is right or wrong; the 'right' answer is the one that field testing has shown to be the consensus answer of the 'smart' kids. It’s a psychometric concept.” -- When Pineapple Races Hare, Students Lose
Valerie Strauss
"The whole push for test-based school reform makes about as much sense as a talking pineapple." -- The Answer Sheet
ETS spokesman Tom Ewing
“We don’t want students to come out of a test and perhaps memorize questions or share or discuss questions with students who may not have tested yet,” said Tom Ewing, spokesman for ETS, which administers the SAT for the College Board. -- Miami Herald
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Leonie Haimson on Pearson takeover of GED

Pearson just acquired the contract to take over developing and giving the GED exams across the entire nation, to be taken on computer and supposedly aligned with the Common Core; it is also  “planning a substantial cost increase” that will double the cost of the exam which  may force states to restrict the no. of students that are able to them.  See article in Albany paper below.

Last year, the American Council on Education, which is providing the test through next year, and Pearson Vue Testing, a for-profit company, announced they would create a new, more rigorous GED, which would be administered and provided by a new company, GED Testing Service LLC. The new computer-based test is to be aligned with national common core standards and would replace the current exam in January 2014.

See also press release below, which says Pearson will be selling “associated online courses to help prepare students for GED” – another huge source of potential profit and adds:  

The new GED Testing Service will build on its past experience in adult and continuing education by harnessing the considerable resources of Pearson, the world's largest education and testing company, with the nearly 70-year history of ACE to expand access to the GED Test, ensure its quality and integrity…”

Given  #pineapplegate that may  be a hard line to sell.

State may bypass GED

Costs, less control over school equivalency exam have state eyeing change
 
By Scott Waldman
Published 02:06 a.m., Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ALBANY — The state is considering alternative pathways to the high school equivalency diploma because a new for-profit company that will administer the GED test is planning a substantial cost increase.

Taking and passing the General Education Development test is the primary way adults and young people out of school earn high school equivalency diplomas. In 2011, more than 26,000 New Yorkers earned an equivalency diploma after they passed the test. Another 2,750 people earned the diploma by completing 24 college level credit hours.


All states rely on the GED test as a primary pathway to a high school equivalency diploma, and New York is among those now considering alternatives in the wake of a decision by an educational services company to revamp the exams and increase their cost. New York is one of 16 states considering joining to create a similar comprehensive test with questions taken from their own end-of-year exams, like the Regents exam in New York. Others are considering putting out a request to different vendors to create a new, cheaper exam.
"You always worry about a monopoly," said state Education Commissioner John King. "If a single company is the provider of a product, it makes the state vulnerable."
New York also is consulting with the State University of New York and the City University of New York to see if college placement exams could be used as a GED alternative. Other than the GED test, the only other way to obtain the New York's equivalency diploma, a key step to entering the work force for those who did not finish high school, is by taking the 24 credit hours of college level courses.
One of the new options the state may offer is a local diploma for those over 21 who can demonstrate high school skills and knowledge through their work and other experience.
The General Educational Development tests were developed in 1942 to help returning World War II veterans finish high school studies and reenter civilian life. In 1947, New York was the first to offer the test to civilians. To be eligible, test takers must be at least 16 and not be a high school graduate or enrolled in high school.
The GED consists of a battery of five tests, which take over seven hours to complete. Test takers can take a preparation course or study on their own.
In New York, 60 percent of test takers are over 21 and two-thirds come from metropolitan New York City.
The change is a "radical departure" from the current system, according to Kevin Smith, deputy commissioner for adult career and continuing education services. That's partially because it greatly diminishes the state's role in the process and turns it over to a private company, he wrote in an October memorandum. The test would only be on computer, instead of pencil and paper, which could be a significant hardship for some test takers, according to Smith.
The GED test is the primary way to get a high school equivalency diploma, according to the Department. New York, where 50,000 people a year take the exam, is one of only three states that does not charge for it. Just 58 percent of New Yorkers passed the GED in 2010, one of the lowest rates in the nation.
King said the new test, no matter who develops it, will be more difficult, in keeping with higher academic standards being pushed by the federal government.
Last year, the American Council on Education, which is providing the test through next year, and Pearson Vue Testing, a for-profit company, announced they would create a new, more rigorous GED, which would be administered and provided by a new company, GED Testing Service LLC. The new computer-based test is to be aligned with national common core standards and would replace the current exam in January 2014. New York now administers its own tests at 268 centers, including state prisons, residential facilities and county jails.
GEDTS would administer the new exams and the company would take greater control over the process, authorizing test locations, examiners and test scorers. Currently, only 19 Pearson test sites are operating in New York. The state is concerned that it will not be able to accommodate the surge of applicants who want to take the tests before the current one ends in December 2013.
Company officials have said the new exam would cost substantially more.
The 2012-13 state budget provides $2.71 million to purchase and administer the tests. The current computer-based testing costs $120 for each set of exams, and at that rate the state's cost would more than double to $6 million. King said that price hike could cut the number of test takers.
swaldman@timesunion.com518-454-5080 • @518Schools
The GED consists of a battery of five tests, which take over seven hours to complete. Test takers can take a preparation course or study on their own.

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