I've been neglecting the testing issue and here I cram a bunch of amazing stuff on testing. I would do them separately but the poor people who subscribe to this blog would be buried under the weight of the emails.
The GEM high stakes testing committee has been doing such great work with its Change the Stakes campaign. Feel free to join in at this Friday's meeting:
We have a lot to do in the coming weeks considering the impending boycott, the petition, etc so I hope folks can make it.See the Change the Stakes leaflet at the end of this post.
HIGH STAKES TESTING MEETING NEW ROOM LOCATION
Room 3102 at the CUNY Graduate Center
I saw Matt Frisch at the DA today and he reminded me I promised to post his letter to Duncan.
An open letter to Secretary Arne Duncan,=============
It’s test prep season in America. My elementary school in NY City will devote a full 6 weeks to nearly non-stop test prep. Despite individual teacher’s personal misgivings, schools all across America will push everything else aside in the service of respectable test scores. This is the inevitable result of the fact that students, teachers, principals and schools are all judged, rated, hired and fired based on these scores. The intensive preparation taking place now is in addition to part-time test prep which goes on throughout the year.
Rather than corresponding to a clearly articulated curriculum, the standardized tests given in 3rd-8th grade have become the curriculum. Students take predictive tests published by the same corporations that produce the actual tests, throughout the year. School districts pay for detailed analysis of students’ performance on these predictive tests. Teachers are told to use the data from these predictive tests to structure instruction.
Test publishers have become very adept at pairing test questions with standards. This is actually quite easy to do because standards are written in the most general terms so that one or more standards can be matched to almost any question. Testing data determines students’ weaknesses in terms of standards and teachers place students in groups in which, theoretically, common weaknesses are addressed. Standardized tests, predictive tests and testing data have become central to classroom instruction. Tests are loosely based on standards; the connection between test items and curriculum, if one can be found, is even more tenuous. For these reasons, standardized tests have become the de-facto curricula.
In today’s educational climate, teachers’ and schools’ fates are determined by test scores. The validity of the tests is rarely questioned by policy makers or the media, despite plentiful evidence to the contrary. Self-described ‘education reformers’ such as yourself must have absolute confidence in test scores since you advocate ending hard-fought careers and even closing whole schools if test scores do not measure up.
I, personally, have very little confidence in the validity of test scores. In my years of administering standardized tests in upper elementary grades, I’ve noticed that questions are often poorly written. Approximately 20% of published standardized test items contain flaws that should have been caught by even the most rudimentary quality control. Too many questions also exhibit sloppiness in their coordination with facts or skills contained in the curriculum. If an item writer cannot articulate the fact or skill a potential item addresses, the item should be discarded. We have to know what skills and knowledge we are testing. Otherwise, we cannot prepare students to take the test and cannot make any judgments based on the results. It’s not enough to say that we are testing ‘thinking skills’ because you would have trouble finding two people to agree on what they do when they ‘think’ let alone an objective way of judging the thinking ability of others.
Since item writers have become very powerful and influential, how is it that we know nothing about them? What are their qualifications for writing the tests by which our students, teachers, principals and schools will be judged? Shouldn’t they be required to have teaching or administration licenses? Shouldn’t they have credentials attesting to their expertise in the curriculum?
I understand that this particular qualification may not be feasible because in all the fervor to reform American education, no one is talking about curriculum. In N. Y. City, with its hundreds of central administrators and budget in the billions, there is no office of curriculum. Mayor Bloomberg exercises unprecedented power over education in our city and has not been shy about using that power to shutter once proud institutions but, unfortunately, he has had nothing to say about curriculum- all the more reason for test publishers to fill the void. But shouldn’t item writers have some credential if they are deciding what students should learn and when teachers should be fired? I’m not saying you have to do this. But if you are going to raise the importance of standardized testing above all else, you should demand that the people who are holding this power over the future of American education have some qualifications for the job.
HIGH STAKES 101
Brooklyn New School Mar. 19, 6:30
Got an email from Liza Featherstone, an excellent writer for The Brooklyn Rail:
=============save the date save the date save the date save the date save the date save the dateHIGH STAKES 101
What does high stakes testing mean forour children?our teachers?our schools?
MONDAY, MARCH 19 at 6:30pmShael Polakow-Suransky Chief Accountability Officer of the NYC Dept. of EducationEducation reporter Meredith Kolodner (Daily News, InsideSchools) will moderate a panel discussion with distinguished guests.
Sean Feeney Principal of the Wheatley School and Author of the New York Principals APPR Position Paper
Elijah Hawkes, Former Principal of The James Baldwin Expeditionary Learning SchooQ&A TO FOLLOWIf interested in CHILDCARE and PIZZA (starting at 6 PM, $5 suggested donation), RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.orgTHE BROOKLYN NEW SCHOOL AUDITORIUM610 HENRY STREET @3rd PLACEF or G to Carroll St. station, exit 2nd Placepresented by PS 29 & the Brooklyn New School
Here is the opt-out call from the Change the stakes-- share with everyone. Email me for the pdf.
March 10 - STATE OF THE UNION PART 2: TIME TO FIGHT BACK ---- See Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on the right for important bits.