Tag Archives: testing

What testing should do for us

Multiple choice test

John Robinson said:

‘We would like to dethrone measurement from its godly position, to reveal the false god it has been. We want instead to offer measurement a new job – that of helpful servant. We want to use measurement to give us the kind and quality of feedback that supports and welcomes people to step forward with their desire to contribute, to learn, and to achieve.’ – Margaret Wheatley, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time

Want to know what’s wrong with testing and accountability today? It’s more about a ‘gotcha game’ than really trying to help teachers improve their craft. Over and over ad nauseam, those pushing these tests talk about using test data to improve teaching and thereby student learning, but that’s not what is happening at all.

via http://the21stcenturyprincipal.blogspot.com/2014/08/time-to-dethrone-testing-from-its-godly.html

Image credit: Exams Start… Now, Ryan M.

The REAL international story of American education

Linda Darling-Hammond said:

Federal policy under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Department of Education’s ‘flexibility’ waivers has sought to address [the problem of international competitiveness] by beefing up testing policies — requiring more tests and upping the consequences for poor results: including denying diplomas to students, firing teachers, and closing schools. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t worked. In fact, U.S. performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) declined in every subject area between 2000 and 2012 — the years in which these policies have been in effect.

Now we have international evidence about something that has a greater effect on learning than testing: Teaching. The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching — and learning — in the United States.

In short, the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle-school teachers work in schools where more than 30 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. This is by far the highest rate in the world, and more than triple the average TALIS rate. The next countries in line after the United States are Malaysia and Chile.

Along with these challenges, U.S. teachers must cope with larger class sizes (27 versus the TALIS average of 24). They also spend many more hours than teachers in any other country directly instructing children each week (27 versus the TALIS average of 19). And they work more hours in total each week than their global counterparts (45 versus the TALIS average of 38), with much less time in their schedules for planning, collaboration, and professional development.

via http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

Picking right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity

Leon Botstein says:

The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated twentieth century social scientific assumptions and strategies. As every adult recognizes, knowing something or how to do something in real life is never defined by being able to choose a “right” answer from a set of possible answers (some of them intentionally misleading) put forward by faceless test designers who are rarely eminent experts. No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician – and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member – pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.

via http://time.com/15199/college-president-sat-is-part-hoax-and-part-fraud

Education reformers want double standards for THEIR schools


In what is likely to be my favorite post of the week (and, yes, it’s Monday!), Shaun Johnson says:

in case you’re confused, let me summarize Jay P. Greene’s innovative arguments: Standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are wonderful ways to hold public schools accountable, up to and including shutting down public schools, because public schools are funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer has a right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes. On the other hand, standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are terrible ways to hold voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs accountable, even though voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs provide the exact same service and are also funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer would normally be right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes but is (for some reason) not right in expecting those things of voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs.

Look, you can have public funding with public accountability, or you can have an absence of public accountability and an absence of public funding. You can’t have the public funding and sidestep the public accountability. Sorry, that isn’t how it works.

And if choice advocates don’t like the public accountability system as it snarls at their weaker choice schools, someone should remind them that they all cheered as it tore “failing” public schools limb from limb. Oh, and they also insisted for years that choice schools would leave public schools in the dust, performance-wise. That was one of the reasons for promoting a choice system, wasn’t it?

Jay P. Greene can’t have it both ways. Either public funding should come with test-and-punish accountability, or it shouldn’t.

Being adamantly pro-testing while the tests are used to undermine traditional public schools and then flipping a switch and becoming thoughtfully anti-testing when the same tests threaten to gauge the quality (or publicize the lack thereof) of private schools that are funded with public money doesn’t “feel like” a bait-and-switch.

It *is* the height of cynicism.

Let’s not soften what Jay P. Greene has done here. . . . He has switched his opinion to its polar opposite when the same logic he long applied to the schools he wants to kill was applied (entirely fairly) to the schools he wants to save and replicate. Jay P. Greene even tossed out this gem to bolster his point: “score increases may well be just an artifact of … schools deciding to start prepping students for that high-stakes test… Fordham is confusing real learning increases with test manipulation.”

What? Standardized test scores don’t accurately reflect quality of education? Didn’t Jay P. Greene’s blog once call people who think that way about testing “nihilists?”

Where was all this refreshing nuance when Jay P. Greene was pro-standardized test? Oh, I know where it was: Diane Ravitch was using it, and Jay P. Greene was blasting her for it.

via http://atthechalkface.com/2014/01/20/fordham-and-hess-temporarily-acknowledge-that-reformers-cant-have-it-both-ways

As the supposed achievement benefits of many education reformers’ initiatives fail to materialize, we are seeing this about-face more and more. Stay alert for further hypocrisy…

Image credit: Flip-flop in the morning, Melissa Segal

Want students to look worse? Change the cut scores.

In a must-read article explaining the politics behind cut scores on state-level tests, principal Carol Burris notes:

In 2011, the College Board created a College Readiness index.   It was a combined index of 1550, which only 43 percent of all SAT test takers achieved. You can find it here. Now add up New York’s chosen index.  It is 1630, significantly higher than the 2011 College Board’s index associated with a B- in college.

The above illustrates how one can manipulate the percentage of college readiness by … changing the definition of “college ready” to suit oneself. . . . In the end, [the New York State Education Department] chose values that are extraordinarily high, producing an index that exceeds the College Board’s index for achieving a B- average.

Next time you read or hear about someone saying that more difficult tests and/or higher cut scores will ensure college readiness, remember this and ask some tough questions.

No one is listening to the students

Diane Ravitch says:

[The] data-driven focus [of Houston Independent School District’s Apollo Program] contains the seed of its own destruction. Talking about tests all the time, doing test prep all the time, making kids take tests that they are not relevant to them and that they are not prepared for. . . .

I was not surprised by the emotional and physical reactions of these kids as staff kept trying to get them and keep them in school. The kids keep saying that the learning is irrelevant. They keep saying that school is boring. They keep saying that no one understands them and their plight. Telling them, “No Excuses!” is disrespectful.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/05/17/pbs-in-houston-watch-the-faces-of-the-students

A running theme that the only thing that matters is test scores

according to the American Psychological Association, a study of Texas middle school students found that healthy lungs and hearts could “predict” better scores on reading and math tests.

Here’s another — from the UK but in the same vein — touting the conclusion that “daily exercise significantly improves pupils test scores.”

And another finding that integrating arts education into students “regular curriculum showed remarkable improvement on standardized test scores.”

The recent study that raised the most eyebrows, however, was a “working paper” reported by Education Week which revealed that students get better test scores when they are given an incentive up front — “a trophy, $10, or $20 in cash” — with the threat of having the reward taken away should scores turn out to be sub-par. The researchers call their approach “loss aversion.”

Notice the running theme throughout all these — that just about the only indicator of childrens wellbeing that matters anymore is how well they score on standardized tests? Hard to remember now that once upon a time, when Americans talked about children, healthy “hearts and lungs” were thought to be a pretty important condition for their own sake. Yet now that test scores have become the holy grail of education, other really important indicators of childrens wellbeing — their health, their opportunities to learn about the arts, their intrinsic love of learning — seem passé.

It’s important to be reminded that Americans haven’t always thought this way.

Jeff Bryant via http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012083313/back-school-and-renewed-call-progressive-education

Does the fate of America rest on how well our children bubble in answer sheets?

does the fate of the nation rest on how well 9- and 13-year-olds bubble in answer sheets? I don’t think so. Neither does British economist, S. J. Prais. We look at the test scores and worry about the nation’s economic performance. Prais looks at the economic performance and worries about the validity of the test scores: “That the United States, the world’s top economic performing country, was found to have school attainments that are only middling casts fundamental doubts about the value and approach of these [international assessments].”

Gerald Bracey via http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/standardized-tests/so-what-if-the-us-is-not-no-1.html