Saturday, August 10, 2013

Newsday: drop in scores cd strengthen opt out movement

Imagine if they gave a test and nobody came. Grow the opt-out movement. Support the refuseniks. Join with Change the Stakes. Let's start organizing a parent boycott of the tests.

Leonie sent this Newsday piece.

Hofstra Prof: Parents backed into corner
LI Supe: new data useless

The dramatic drop in student scores on state English and math exams could strengthen the movement by parents to have their children opt out of taking the high-stakes tests.
Less than 1 percent of students statewide in grades 3 through 8 were counted as "not tested," the state Education Department said Thursday. Parents and education experts said they expect their movement to gain momentum after the scores plunged more than 40 percent on Long Island and statewide.
"Parents can see opting out as a legitimate option to use in our fight to take back control for our children," said Jeanette Deutermann, 40, a parent of two children in North Bellmore, whose Long Island Opt Out page on Facebook has nearly 9,000 members. "The test results help our cause by forcing districts to publicly acknowledge the flaws in the state's testing policy, instead of defending them."
English scores: Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 | Grade 6 | Grade 7 | Grade 8
Math scores: Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 | Grade 6 | Grade 7 | Grade 8
More than 1.3 million students statewide, including 210,000 on the Island, were slated to take the tests in April. An exact figure of those who did not take the tests was not available Thursday.
Education Department officials, in releasing the scores Wednesday, pointed to new, more rigorous exams overhauled to meet national academic standards as the cause of the low scores. They had predicted a significant drop.
"Three years ago the Board of Regents adopted more rigorous standards and committed to reflect those standards in the state's exams," department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said. "The goal is to make certain that all students are on track to succeed in college and meaningful careers when they graduate high school.
"Parents who keep their children from taking these tests are essentially saying, 'I don't want to know where my child stands, in objective terms, on the path to college and career readiness' -- and we think that that's doing them a real disservice."
But Debra Goodman, professor of teaching, literacy and leadership at Hofstra University's School of Education, said that opting out of the exams is one way that parents can protest. She also noted that a number of school boards and school administrators have been highly critical of the state assessments.
"I think that some of the parents -- the entire educational community, in fact -- has been backed into a corner where the only response that is available is for parents to opt out of testing," Goodman said. "Parents are starting to think, 'What benefit does this have for my child?' "
On the Island, 37.5 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 passed the new math test, compared with 75.4 percent last year. In English, the percent of students across those grades passing the latest tests was 39.6 percent, down from 67.2 percent in 2012.
More than 300 students in the Rockville Centre district opted out of testing. Superintendent William Johnson said Thursday that the test scores don't have much meaning for his district, calling them "uninterpretable data."
"I will not be able to use them to place kids into any programs," he said. "We are going to have to rely on other information . . . or data to do that."
He added, "I would certainly think that parents will have second thoughts about the results since we are not going to be able to use them effectively to do anything in the school district."
Amy Connor, 52, of Northport, said her three children, who attend school in the Northport-East Northport school district, opted out of taking the state tests. Because the test results are so new, she said she hasn't heard of other parents deciding to opt out, but she hopes it will strengthen the movement.
"I'm hoping parents will see what's going on and what's happening, and more parents will step in and refuse," she said.

And then this:

NY Superintendent of Voorheesville Central School District speaks out


I have rejected these missives [talking pts from SED] because they reek of the self-serving mentality the ‘powers that be’ have thrust upon our students and parents. Our community is sophisticated enough to recognize a canard when it experiences one.  These tests were intentionally designed to obtain precisely the outcomes that were rendered.  The rationale behind this is to demonstrate that our most successful students are not so much and our least successful students are dreadful. 

Commentary on Math & ELA Results
Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder
Over the past several months school leaders have been receiving countless messages from the State Education Department preparing us for the dire outcomes associated with the most recent spate of State testing in grades 3-8 in Math and English Language Arts.  As the date for the releases of the test scores approached, we received many notices of “talking points” to inform our communities about the outcomes, with explanations of new baselines and how these tests do not reflect the efforts of students and teachers this year.  I have rejected these missives because they reek of the self-serving mentality the ‘powers that be’ have thrust upon our students and parents.
Our community is sophisticated enough to recognize a canard when it experiences one.  These tests were intentionally designed to obtain precisely the outcomes that were rendered.  The rationale behind this is to demonstrate that our most successful students are not so much and our least successful students are dreadful.  If you look at the distribution of scores, you see exactly the same distances as any other test.  The only difference is that the distribution has been manipulated to be 30 to 40 percent lower for everybody.  This serves an enormously powerful purpose.  If you establish a baseline this low, the subsequent growth over the next few years will indicate that your plans for elevating the outcomes were necessary.  However, it must be recognized that the test developers control the scaled scores—indeed they have developed a draconian statistical formula that is elaborate, if indecipherable, to determine scaled scores.  I would bet my house on the fact that over the next few years, scores will “improve”—not necessarily student learning, but scores.  They must, because the State accepted millions and millions of dollars to increase student scores and increase graduation rates.  If scores do not improve from this baseline, then those ‘powers that be’ will have a lot of explaining to do to justify having accepted those millions.
If you examine the distribution of the scores, the one thing that leaps off the page is the distance between children in high poverty and children in relative wealth.  While all have been relegated to a point 30 to 40 percent lower than previously, the exact curve is absolutely connected to socioeconomic status—which has been historically true in such testing for more than a century.
The tragic part of this story is the collateral damage—the little children who worked so hard this year, who endured so many distressing hours of testing, who failed to reach proficiency, all because of the manipulation of the scaling.  We will be talking with parents whose children scored level four last year, who now may have scored a level two.  It does not mean much; it only means they are the unwitting part of a massive scheme to prove how these “high standards” are improving outcomes over time.  It is time to pay attention to the man behind the curtain—he is no wizard, but he is wily! 
By the way, if you want to know what curriculum experiences are being promoted for even our youngest learners by the ‘powers that be’, check out curriculum modules on www.engageny.org .  How many of us truly believe that expecting first graders to understand and explain why Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization is reasonable?  How many of us truly even imagine that six year olds should be able to identify cuneiform and hieroglyphics or understand the importance of the code of Hammurabi?  Check it out—then I suggest you let your legislators, and the Department of Education know what matters to you.
As we digest the information and prepare for the upcoming year, please rest assured that Voorheesville remains committed to challenging and cherishing our students.

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