Jack Schneider, “Beyond Test Scores,” Sept 20th, Harvard Coop

by The Coop Event Series...Authors, Coop Kids & More!

Wed, Sept 20, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Harvard Coop, 1400 Mass Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Beyond Test Scores reframes current debates over school quality by offering new approaches to educational data that can push us past our unproductive fixation on test scores. Using the highly diverse urban school district of Somerville, Massachusetts, as a case study, Schneider and his research team developed a new framework to more fairly and comprehensively assess educational effectiveness. And by adopting a wide range of measures aligned with that framework, they were able to more accurately capture a broader array of school strengths and weaknesses. Their new data not only provided parents, educators, and administrators with a clearer picture of school performance, but also challenged misconceptions about what makes a good school.

About the Author

Jack Schneider is Assistant Professor of Education at the College of the Holy Cross and Director of Research for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment.

34 problems with standardized tests

 April 19 at 12:57 PM


In March I wrote about a decision by three justices on a Florida appeals court that said that a standardized reading test is the best way to decide whether third-graders should move to fourth grade — not actual school work or grades.

The case involves a Florida law that says that students who fail a third-grade language arts test can’t move on to the fourth grade (though some exemptions are made). While the policy has not been shown to have a lasting benefit to students, Florida and other states maintain it anyway.

Some third-graders — including honors students — from a number of school districts were denied promotion because they opted out of the test. The parents of those students, who are part of a national testing opt-out movement, went to court and sued their districts. In August, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that those school districts that had refused to promote the students had been wrong. The case was appealed and the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned her ruling, saying:

The purpose of the ELA is to assess whether the student has a reading deficiency and needs additional reading instruction before (and after) being promoted to fourth grade. See § 1008.25(5)(a). The test can only achieve that laudable purpose if the student meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of its questions to the best of the student’s ability. Anything less is a disservice to the student — and the public.

That ruling ignored years of research that shows that high-stakes standardized test scores are not reliable or valid, and it ignored the problems Florida has had with its standardized testing accountability system, which became so severe that school superintendents statewide revolted in 2015 and said they had “lost confidence” in its accuracy.

Here’s a look at all the things standardized tests can’t do, by veteran Florida educator Marion Brady,  who has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall),  professional books, numerous  nationally distributed columns (many are available here), and courses of study. His 2011 book, “What’s Worth Learning,” asks and answers this question: What knowledge is absolutely essential for every learner? His course of study for secondary-level students, called “Connections: Investigating Reality,” is free for downloading here. Brady’s website is www.marionbrady.com.

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How the SAT and PSAT collect personal data on students — and what the College Board does with it

March 30

If your child takes the SAT or PSAT, is his or her personal information being collected, profiled, licensed and sold?

That is the question that Cheri Kiesecker, Colorado parent and member of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, asks and attempts to answer in the following important post. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy is a national alliance of parents and advocates defending the rights of parents and students to protect their data.

The SAT has traditionally been used as a college entrance exam but it, and the ACT, also a college entrance exam, are increasingly being used as high school tests. In fact, 25 states now require that high school students take them for school accountability purposes, Education Week reported here.

The protection of personal data is in the news with the recent passage by Congress of legislation that eliminates landmark online privacy protections established by the Obama administration. It removes limits that had been placed on Internet service providers —  such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon — on how they can use data they collect on their customers, including browsing habits and Social Security numbers. Privacy advocates are especially concerned with how this will affect young people.

Here’s the post by Kiesecker, and following it is a response from the College Board, which owns the SAT and the PSAT exams.

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Local legislators reconsider the standardized test

Local legislators reconsider the standardized test

After fielding hundreds of calls from concerned parents, local teachers, and administrators frustrated by an education system they see as increasingly obsessed with standardized test scores, nearly 100 state legislators have joined in support of a bill that would freeze for three-years the use of state assessments.

Those supporting the sweeping education reform package, known as Bill S.308, include legislators representing most of The Middlesex East’s coverage area, including Wakefield, Woburn, Tewksbury, Wilmington, Reading, Wakefield, Winchester, and Stoneham.

“I felt over the last few years that too much time is dedicated towards preparing and studying for the test. The students are losing time with other subject matters they could be learning otherwise,” said State Rep. James Miceli (D-Wilmington), who is a strong supporter of rethinking the state’s MCAS policies.

"I co-sponsored the high-stakes testing bill (S.308) after speaking with teachers, administrators and educational professionals about the growing burden of testing on our students,” State Rep. James Dwyer, a Woburn democrat, commented in a separate interview. “Don't get me wrong; I believe there needs to be assessments to determine our students' growth and achievement. However, when our system of education becomes so assessment centered, I think we need to take a step back.”

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8 Reasons To Opt Out

Peter Greene, Curmudgucation, Wednesday, March 8, 2017

 Depending on your state, it is that time again-- time to waste students' school time on the Big Standardized Test. Whether it's the PARCC or the SBA or whatever mutant offspring of the testing industry that your state prefers, it's headed your way like a hungry wildebeast.

Maybe you have opted your child out in the past. Maybe you've thought about it, but ultimately decided not to. Maybe you've even become comfortably numb about test-driven education. Consider opting out this year.

If you want to read more, wider, deeper perspectives on the movement, click on over to United Opt Out. If you want to find out the specific mechanics of opting out in your state, just google "opt out" and your state. For instance, if I look for "opt out Pennsylvania," I find the basic instructions for the steps I must take to opt my children out of testing (since my children are currently Negative 3 Months old, it won't be an issue this year, but I like to be prepared).

If you opt out, you may will get grief and pushback for your choice. Here's why you should do it anyway.

1) No Benefits for Children or Parents

Your child is not allowed to discuss specifics of the test with anyone, so there will be no after-test conversation that would help her glean lessons through reflection. Your child will not get any specific feedback telling her which answers she got right, and which she got wrong. You will not get any feedback on the test except a single blanket score between 4 (super-duper) and 1 (not so great). Once this test is done, you will not know anything about your child that you did not already know.

2) No Benefits for Teachers

In most states, we are not even allowed to lay eyes on the test, and we will receive a single score for your child. All of this is useless. We will learn nothing about your child, and nothing about your child's class (except how well they did on this test). If an administrator or a teacher tells you that the test results will give them valuable information about your child, ask them why they have not already collected that information by other means and if not, what they've been doing for the past eight months.

3) Wasted Time and Resources

What could your student have done with the time spent on preparing for the test, drilling for the test, taking the test? What could your state and local school system have done with the millions of dollars spent on giving the test? Students, parents and schools are paying big in both financial and opportunity costs.

4) Warped View of School and Life

Test-centric schooling leaves our students with the impression that they go to school to learn how to pass the test, and then to take the test. That is a terrible model for learning and for life. Contrary to what test supporters say, life is not all about standardized tests. You will not take a bubble test to get married or to have and raise children. Whatever your career, it will not involve a steady daily diet of test prep and test taking. Show your child that the Big Standardized Test is not the point of school.

5) Don't Negotiate with Hostage Takers

You may hear that your child must take the test because otherwise it will hurt the school or the classroom teacher. This is simply hostage taking. And it's important to remember that every year this continues, schools and teachers continue to pay a price-- in time, in money, in the growth of a pervasive toxic test-driven atmosphere. This argument is a bully who says, "If you don't let me beat this kid up, I will beat him up even more." In any bullying situation, the person to blame is not the victim the person that the bully uses as an excuse to bully. The problem is not that your child isn't taking the test-- the problem is the state that is threatening to punish the school and teachers. Deal with the real problem; don't enable it.

6) Privacy Matters

This is certainly not the only mechanism being deployed to capture, collect and monetize data about your child. In fact, many folks who position themselves as opponents of BS Tests are actually doing so to build a case for other data collecting methods (but we'll talk about Competency Based Education another day). But opting out is certainly one clear and immediate way that you can keep some of your child's data out of the hands of the Big Data miners.

7) The Value of Non-compliance

In this day and age, it is never too early for a child to learn that sometimes people in authority will demand that you comply with dumb actions. Unthinking compliance is unwise. It's good for all citizens to learn to say "no," and the Big Standardized Test is a good practice case for all the reasons listed above. Compliance is not a virtue in and of itself; this is a great chance to practice rebelling just a little.

8) Be a Snowflake

It's true-- your opting out may well not get your state or school district to change policy, may not recapture all the time and money being lost to testing, may not change the course on which we're currently set. But then again-- if you are one among many, it might. Put enough snowflakes together and you get an avalanche that crushes everything in its path.

The requirement to make schools test-centic, to put bad tests at the center of school's existence is foolish, on the order of demanding that all students wear silly hats. At this stage of the game, there can be no doubt-- there are no benefits to the test and many unnecessary costs. It will not go away easily, because test manufacturers are making a ton of money on this giant time suck. It's time to make your life a source of friction in the machine.

This year, whether it's for the first time or the tenth, opt out.

State Officials Vague on New Standardized Test

Doug Page, Bay State Parent, March 14, 2017

State Officials Vague on New Standardized Test

Massachusetts students in Grades 3 through 8 will take a new standardized test this month, but it’s unclear how new the test really is.

Dubbed “MCAS 2.0” in October 2015 by Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the new test was proposed by Chester as a compromise between the aging MCAS and the controversial Common Core-aligned PARCC exam. When suggesting a hybrid test, Chester said it would be a combination of Common Core-based questions, like those found on the PARCC, along with those not aligned with Common Core standards. At the time, critics predicted that MCAS 2.0 would be akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a backdoor way to administer the PARCC test to Massachusetts public school students without the critical backlash of adopting the PARCC outright.

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School offers ‘incentives’ to get kids to take Common Core standardized test

 March 8, 2017

We’ve seen in years past pep rallies, parties, raffles and other sorts of enticements — which some might call bribes — for students before they take high-stakes standardized tests.  In spring 2016, for example, Washington Redskins cheerleaders surprised students at an assembly for students at a Washington elementary school to cheer them on for their Common Core tests.

Now, as school districts around the country get ready to launch into their annual spring testing season, it’s starting to  happen again.

A notice was just sent to families with children attending Jewell Elementary School in Aurora Public Schools, a school with some 530 students in pre-K through fifth grades, most of them minority. The memo actually includes the phrase “PARCC incentives,” with PARCC referring to the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, a Common Core test created by a multistate consortium funded by the former Obama administration.

Other schools are also offering incentives in Colorado, one of the states with the largest opt-out movements. New York has had the most opt-outs, with at least 20 percent of students statewide refusing to take accountability tests for the past few years, and officials expecting big numbers again this year.

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School board debates ‘high-stakes’ testing


During a recent meeting, School Committee member Dr. John Wells, referencing legislation recently introduced at the State House that would dramatically alter the manner in which so-called high stakes testing data is used, suggested city officials should take a position on the proposal.

“There seems to be a lot of support [for these changes], and we may want to take a look at whether we want to [weigh in],” said Wells.

Though he didn’t specifically mention the legislation by name, Wells was likely referring to a proposal entitled, “An Act Strengthening and Investing in our Educators, Students, and Communities”, which would implement comprehensive education reforms, including:

• The imposition of a three-year moratorium on the use of MCAS, PARCC, or the next generation MCAS 2.0 testing results as a high school graduation requirement;

• A prohibition on incorporating “student impact” ratings, or indicators based on MCAS or other student assessment data, into teacher evaluation grades;

• New limitations on the state’s power to mandate changes at “underperforming schools”, a designation that is now largely based upon test scores.

• A new recess mandate, which requires school districts to schedule weekly at least 100 minutes of free play time for pupils in grades K-5.

Introduced by State Senator Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury), Bill S.308 has garnered the support of more than 100 other legislators on Beacon Hill, including State Rep. James Dwyer (D-Woburn). In late January it was referred to the State House’s Joint Committee on Education for further study.

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Bill SD.1486 would put a 3-yr moratorium on high-stakes standardized testing

Sen. Michael Rush's Bill SD. 1486 would put a three-year mortatorium on high-stakes testing in Massachusetts and require a re-evaluation of the use of standardized testing in public schools. Here are some highlights:

SECTION 28. (a) Notwithstanding subsection (i) of section one D of chapter 69, during the next three full school years following the effective date of this act, the requirement that a student must demonstrate mastery of a common core of skills, competencies and knowledge as measured by MCAS or another standardized test shall not be required as a condition for high school graduation.

(c) During the next three full school years following the effective date of this act, and notwithstanding the provisions of section 1J and 1K of chapter 69 or any other general or special law to the contrary, the department shall not use student achievement measures on the MCAS assessment or any successor test or use student growth measures based on standardized tests for the purpose of assessing the performance of any public school or school district.

Section 29. (a)

(i) reviewing the use of MCAS or any mandated state assessments, the implementation of the educator evaluation framework established pursuant to section 1I of chapter 69, and the use of student data on standardized tests as a student high school graduation requirement or in evaluating educators, schools, and districts and

(iv) a study of the validity of using student growth percentiles as a component of the educator evaluation framework, and a review of how school districts use, misuse, or plan to use measures of student learning including standardized test scores in the evaluation framework;

Read the whole bill here.

Massachusetts Teachers Union Chief Says More Testing Threatens “Hope for Democracy”

NewBostonPost, Evan Lips, December 20, 2016

MALDEN — Standardized tests present a threat to democracy and shouldn’t be expanded, the state teachers union president told the state’s education board today.

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, spoke out against several new high school testing proposals at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting.

“As both a high school English teacher and a teacher-educator, I’m deeply aware of the ways that high-stakes testing takes away from the idealism and hope, the possibility of imagination, the creativity and the hope for democracy,” Madeloni told board members.

Madeloni, during her reelection campaign last spring to retain her top spot as union honcho, vowed to fight in favor of a moratorium on all new standardized testing proposals. On Tuesday she described the new proposals as “profoundly bureaucratic and technocratic views of what it means to educate and learn.”

Board members, however, appeared enthusiastic after being briefed on the subject by Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

The board already voted earlier this year to develop a new standardized test combining aspects of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (known as MCAS) and the newer PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams, with students enrolled in grades three through eight slated to begin taking the new unofficial “MCAS 2.0” English and language arts and math tests in the spring.

Massachusetts high school students are currently required pass standardized tests in English, math, and science in order to graduate.

Most recently, Chester in a memo outlined plans to add history and social science tests as graduation requirements.

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