Archive for the ‘Testing’ Category
For the first time since 1997, the federal education department has assessed U.S. students in the arts. There are no individual or even state results, but there are some important findings. Again, the feds tested a nationally-representative sample of 8th graders. And, while the results are depressing in some ways, the fact that the government goes to the trouble of testing for basic student literacy in music and visual art, and has ways to test for that, is encouraging enough, especially in our math- and ELA-centric world.
How do they actually test a national sample of children for musical ability? Students aren’t asked to compose symphonies, or even play an instrument. But they are asked to listed to music and answer questions, and they are asked to write some basic rhythmic annotation. More »
Three weeks ago NY State released the 2009 ELA scores, and I posted the results for New York’s Big Five city districts, noting how gains seem to have followed increases in funding under CFE for the second year in a row. I also pointed out that in NYC, students made greater gains in the two well-funded years than they had in the first four years of the Chancellor’s reforms.
Now we have the 2009 Math, and the pattern holds. First, here’s NYC:
New York City teachers of grades 3 to 8, who have had experience with the ELA and math tests, are invited to take an independent survey about the city’s testing program. The topics covered include test preparation, testing and scoring procedures, and the significance of the results. It takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Your knowledge and the opinions of your colleagues will have direct meaning for the testing program. Your answers may also shed light on issues that are relevant to current discussions about mayoral control of education and the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
This independent survey is trying to reach as representative a sample of teachers as possible. Please urge other teachers in your school to participate. To take the survey, click this link:
» Teacher Survey on New York City Public School Testing
Last June, I wrote an item on Edwize about how scores had increased in New York State’s Big Five city districts during the first year of CFE funding. After CFE funds reached our schools, scores went up in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers, and Syracuse. In fact the growth in these cities generally outpaced the growth for the state, and did so after years of indifferent progress. I also pointed out that though the New York City’s Children First reforms had been in place for five years, passing rates in NYC didn’t move much over the first four of them. Then, in the first year of CFE, scores went up.
At the time, I emphasized that “one year of data is hardly conclusive,” and I would say the same is true about two years of data. Still, let’s look at year two of CFE. Scores are now available for ELA.
The pattern holds. First, like last year, students in CFE’s Big Five showed terrific progress, whether we look at passing rates or scale scores. And again, these cities outpaced the state as a whole.
What is more, in NYC the gains under this single year of CFE again outpaced the gains made during Joel Klein’s first four years, before we had the cash.
Here are the details: More »
I have not been posting on Edwize at all this year — chalk it up to laziness — but I just couldn’t resist this howler in Joel Klein’s weekly letter to principals on April 29.
First, the background: a lot of teachers are concerned that — paperworked and micromanaged to death — they are not permitted to teach reading, and instead wind up teaching to the test. The results of all that micromanagement show up in the city’s national scores (NAEP/TUDA), where our students’ proficiency levels lag behind their proficiency levels on the state exams. With increasing dissatisfaction with his tenure coming from Albany, Mr. Klein has been scrambling to justify the difference.
Says Mr. Klein:
…neither our school system nor our students are held accountable for the NAEP results.
Every four years the National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) gives essentially the same test it has given since 1971, to representative samples of U.S. 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds. The results say a lot about whether U.S. students are making real progress. This morning, the 2008 “long-term NAEP” results came out, and there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that U.S. 9-year-olds have improved in both reading and math, in some cases very substantially. Their average scale scores rose 4 points in both reading and math from 2004, and they gained much more — 12 points in reading and 24 points in math — since the tests were first given in the early 1970s. More »
In a New York Times op-ed, E.D. Hirsch, Jr. argues for a simple change to reading tests: ditch the random comprehension passages in favor of curriculum-focused ones. He made this case last year in the AFT’s American Educator, which we covered here at Edwize. Key passage:
Students now must take annual reading tests from third grade through eighth. If the reading passages on each test were culled from each grade’s specific curricular content in literature, science, history, geography and the arts, the tests would exhibit what researchers call “consequential validity” — meaning that the tests would actually help improve education. Test preparation would focus on the content of the tests, rather than continue the fruitless attempt to teach test taking.
From the New York Times:
While significant numbers of black and Hispanic students from public middle schools took the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test over the past two years, a small fraction scored high enough to earn a space in the freshman class. The test, a grueling two-and-a-half-hour set of English and math questions, is the single gatekeeper to eight high schools, including the storied triumvirate of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech; about 1 in 5 of the 25,873 students who took it last year got into a school.
Among the 21,490 public school students who took the exam last year, 6 percent of blacks and 7 percent of Hispanics were offered admission, compared with 35 percent of Asians and 31 percent of white students.
The UFT and the Department of Education have reached an important agreement on the use of data from the standardized tests of our students. This agreement addresses the major concerns the UFT has expressed in the past over the inappropriate use of standardized test data.
The agreement was reached on the eve of the DoE’s preparation of new reports of standardized test data, based on student scores on the ELA and Math state exams in grades 4 through 8, with a comparison to their performances in previous years where applicable. Principals and teachers will receive the final version of those reports in the schools in November.
A joint letter from DoE Chancellor Joel Klein and UFT President Randi Weingarten to New York City public school educators, reproduced at the end of this post in its entirety, sets forth the agreement. Specifically, this letter explains the best use of the new reports: to empower teachers with information useful in our teaching. In this same vein, the letter expressly prohibits the use of that information for evaluating teachers, in both annual ratings and tenure decisions. More »
A little brush fire (verbal, not real) in front of P.S. 205 in Bayside, Queens, this morning may hint at a much bigger conflagration to come this year over test prep and excessive testing in the schools.
About 30 parents gathered in front of the school and cheered as speakers denounced the Dept. of Education plan to test kindergarten through 2nd grade students. DOE floated this plan in late August and was bombarded by criticism from testing experts and educators. They actually intend to give paper-and-pencil standardized tests up to 90 minutes long to kindergarteners. Is the chancellor kidding? “Has he ever spent time with any five-year-olds?” parent Martha Foote wondered.
For the last few years teachers have criticized the emphasis on test prep. Now the parents are getting vocal, and they are just getting started. More »
As The New York Sun reported, and Leo Casey highlighted in a recent Edwize post, the DoE has created its very own Ministry of Truth. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of its Orwellian tactics in action, take a look at Chris Cerf on Eduwonk, debating with Sol Stern. Stern’s point by point response to Cerf is posted in the comments under Cerf’s post but I have also pasted most of it in the second half of this post. More »
Over the years, and especially this past week, concern has risen about whether the New York State tests are reliable indicators of absolute student achievement. The arguments are familiar to all of us. Standardized tests do not test the full curriculum. They are subject to gaming; they show gains at odds with NAEP; and their calibration from year to year seems far less a science than an art. But regardless of whether or not these tests are accurate in terms of actual gains, they probably aren’t meaningless. At the very least, they probably allow us to glean relative gains across large populations. After all, if the tests are easier, then all the scores go up. But if scores go up more for some large groups than for others, it ought to make us pause.
In light of that, let’s look at two interesting facts: More »
Over at Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham expresses cautious praise for the UFT’s accountability proposal, which asks that schools and their systems be held accountable for more than tests. Rotherham says, “Weingarten is on to something with the idea that a district-level accountability matrix should measure more than just test scores and should incorporate some concept of reciprocal accountability.” Since we are a union, we can hardly expect Rotterdam’s praise to come without its share of caveats. Still, it’s a start. Rotherham invites dialogue, and in that spirit, I address here his chief concern.
Figuring out how to get experienced, certified teachers to work in hard to staff schools isn’t really rocket science. You just have to do the same thing you’d do to attract and retain people in any difficult job that requires talented people who have other options:
1. give them professional power, support their needs as human beings and as teachers; and
2. minimize the fears and problems associated with taking on an extra challenge.
You might also want to pay them a little extra if they’ll stay.
That makes sense. More »
There is something wrong when a report card grade comes as a surprise to a student. If a teacher has been doing his job properly, providing his students with a clear account of how their work will be assessed and with appropriate feedback on the work they have submitted, his students will have a very good idea of the grade they will receive.
It was telling, therefore, that when the Department of Education issued its School Progress Reports last fall, so many schools — and not just the schools with poor grades — were taken by surprise. More »