Category Archives: High Stakes Testing

How much testing is too much?

President Obama issued a statement on October 24, 2015 that testing has gone too far and needs to be reduced to at most 2% of classroom instruction time.

Governor Cuomo followed up with a press release praising President Obama’s Testing Action Plan and detailing what he believes New York has already done to make testing less onerous.

Unfortunately as Diane Ravitch points out based on a piece written by Tim Farley, for states like New York where we already require 2% or less of instructional time to be spent on testing, the new Obama testing policy might increase the time spent testing students.

From Tim Farley:

In New York, as Cuomo has reminded us, we already have a two percent cap on time spent on standardized testing. What does that actually mean? New York requires 180 school days and an average school day runs about 6.5 hours. Do the math and the result is 180 x 6.5 x 2% = 23.4 hours of testing. So, by law, we cannot exceed 23.4 hours of standardized testing in grades 3 — 8.

This begs the question — how much time do kids in grades 3–8 spend on the state tests in English Language Arts and math? If you are a general education student, you will spend roughly nine hours in a testing room for both the ELA and math tests. If you are a student with a learning disability (SWD), and you have a testing accommodation of “double time,” you get to sit in a testing location for eighteen hours. As insane as that seems, it is still 5.4 hours short of the time allowed by law. A 2% cap isn’t a step forward, it’s a giant leap backward. …

How much testing is too much? I don’t know the magic number that will give the state education departments and the U.S. Department of Education the data they supposedly need in order to determine the effectiveness of the schools, but I do know that nine hours of testing is too much for a nine-year-old, eighteen hours is abusive for nine-year-olds with a learning disability, and 23.4 hours of testing for a child at any age is criminal.

 

More teaching less testing

Articles announcing President Obama’s Testing Action Plan:

Additional responses to the federal/New York State statements on reducing testing time:

By the way if you are not a regular reader of Mr. Greene’s posts, ‘BS Tests’ stands for ‘Big Standardized Tests’.

Stealth Assessments and Competency Based Education

Stealth Assessments and Competency Based Education – from stopcommoncorenys

reblogging:

For anyone who wants to see how the new generation of Competency Based Ed rolling exams will be marketed and who is behind it, please check out the following. Note Gates and Pearson, among others. This is not the competency based learning from years ago.

click here to continue reading

kids-school-computer

Key points of concern:

You don’t have to be a technophobe to sound alarm bells. Children sitting on devices all day long – concerns all of us. For budgetary reasons, for health reasons, for social reasons, and for practical reasons, is this what parents and teachers want, and does it matter? And what becomes of the teacher who has acquired a masters degree, who is now to sit and be a tech support proctor? Where does the human interaction fall in this paradigm? Let’s not forget online vulnerability. Where does the data go? How safely is it protected from hackers?

Receivership, High Stakes Testing and Social Justice Forum

Check out this forum coming up on December 1, 2015 hosted by Rethinking Testing: Mid-Hudson Region

The panel will address the increasing intense segregation of public schools in New York State and the discriminatory nature of current accountability policy and law, including receivership and high stakes testing. Panelists will examine the implications for ALL students, communities, and taxpayers, the dangers of privatization from these policies and the resultant loss local control and infringement on parental rights and voice.

Panelists will highlight the need for united action to challenge these policies from people of all communities and will discuss a new vision for socially and educationally-just schools and communities that educate all children in meaningful ways.

Panelists will include:

Jamaal Bowman, Principal of CASA Middle School, Bronx NY
Kevin Gibson, Buffalo Parent & Educator, Secretary of Buffalo Teacher’s Federation
Ellen Roach, Parent and Board of Education Member-Elect, Albany City Schools
Bianca Tanis, Parent and Special Education Advocate

The forum will be held on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium at 7:00pm.

SUNY NP December 2015 Forum

New Paltz BOE Stands Against Use of State Tests to Evaluate Teachers

The New Paltz Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution against the use of state test scores to evaluate the efficacy of teachers and schools on November 4, 2015.

Read the resolution here.

After seven points about the Value Added Model (VAM), the BOE concludes:

Our conclusion is that the results produced by the current assessment system are unproven, volatile, and lack utility. We call upon the Board of Regents and Legislature to immediately suspend all state assessments that use a VAM or growth theory until there is evidence of efficacy.

The BOE gives four points about APPR and concludes:

Our conclusion is that the current APPR mandates are invalid measures of educator- and school district-effectiveness and present serious short- and long-term risks to the availability of instructional talent.

Finally after three points on the utility of student assessment data, the conclusion is reached:

Our conclusion is that the data produced by the state assessment system provide no value while simultaneously diverting resources away from initiatives that serve districts’ missions.

Based on the conclusions presented, the New Paltz Central School District makes the following recommendation:

The Board of Education of the New Paltz Central School District asks the Board of Regents, State Education Department, New York State Legislature, and Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare an immediate moratorium on the current testing mandates and for that moratorium to continue until such time as a body of evidence for their efficacy in improving instruction has been fully established. We also request that no Smart Bond funds are expended to computerize an evaluation system based on the Value Added Model. – New Paltz CSD Board of Education Resolution Regarding Value Added Model

Note the request to not use any of the Smart Schools Bond fund money for testing.  A concern of many of those who advocated against passage of the Smart Schools Bond Act was that it would be used to cement testing/Common Core within the schools.  We need to make sure that does not happen while everyone is still ‘deciding’ what is to be done about Common Core/testing.

The New Paltz BOE will send their resolution to the Board of Regents, including our local Regent Josephine Finn, for consideration before the Regents meeting on November 16, 2015.  The New Paltz BOE also asks that the resolution be shared widely so that other New York parents and school districts can contact the Board of Regents to show support of the resolution.

Editorial: Finally, testing obsession is under review

This editorial from lohud is an excellent summary of the state of testing and Common Core in New York right now with a bit thrown in about President Obama’s about-face on testing last week.

At the first public meeting of Gov. Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force on Thursday, a Bronx principal named Jamaal Bowman displayed a picture of his young daughter on a big screen and said he would not send her to a public school in New York because of our “test-and-punish culture.” The task force members, including state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, sat impassively at the College of New Rochelle as Bowman, an invited speaker, decried an overemphasis on standardized testing at the expense of innovation, creativity and richer methods of measuring student achievement.

Read the rest of the article here.

I would like to highlight the following points where parents have made a difference as noted by the editorial staff:

  • Cuomo’s task force is charged with reviewing New York’s testing program and its close ties to the Common Core standards by year’s end.
  • Cuomo just named Bedford Superintendent Jere Hochman his deputy for education. Hochman has sharply criticized New York’s focus on “high-stakes” testing and has called for the state’s widely disliked teacher evaluation system, tied to student test scores, to be torn up and replaced.
  • Longtime Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who has overseen the state’s test-centric “reform” agenda, will leave the board when her term is up in March.
  • The state Education Department is also reviewing individual Common Core standards — but not the role of the Core itself.
  • The Board of Regents plans a serious review of the teacher evaluation system, which Cuomo and legislators have essentially taken control of in recent years.
  • Congress is trying —struggling, really — to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind law to reduce the federal role in education while maintaining accountability measures for school systems.

The battle for the education of our kids has been long and hard and there is still much to do.  We don’t know yet if those in charge of ‘education’ are really going to start listening but we can hope that this is a step on the path to dealing with the testing mess and Common Core.  Do not despair and continue to do what is best for the children.

It’s debatable how much Obama’s new posture will help. But he knowingly gave a shot in the arm to parents, teachers and others who are fed up with federal and state prescriptions for saving our supposedly failing schools.

Have no doubt that New York’s opt-out movement forced Cuomo, legislators, the Regents and newcomer Elia to reconsider testing and related policies. Tisch and Elia may condemn opting out as counterproductive, but when 1 in 5 bubble sheets are not filled out, which is what happened in New York last spring, you’ve got a big problem on your hands.

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In case you can not access the lohud editorial, here is a PDF containing the article – Editorial_ Finally, testing obsession is under review

 

Parent Speaks Regarding the Impact of Standardized Testing

Even though some of the references are different because this parent lives in Indiana rather than New York, she has hit the nail on the head over all!

This educational environment has become a pressure cooker for our kids and teachers because the legislature has decided that somehow educators weren’t accountable enough. The learning and teaching process has been transformed into a test-taking, data collecting nightmare to somehow prove accountability… at the root of which is an apparent deep distrust of teachers.

We’ve had standardized tests for a long time. But it is what is at stake when the kids take the test now that has transformed their experience.

Read here.

 

Act now regarding Regents low pass waiver

I shared a post yesterday from One Mom’s Journey Through Education Reform regarding a new regulation to allow special education students to apply for a waiver if they have taken a Regents exam twice and failed it with a 52 to 54.

Today Christine has a specific action requesting everyone to help by submitting comments to NYSED regarding an amendment to the regulation.  Please take action as requested.

From One Mom’s Journey Through Education Reform:

Please take the time to cut and paste these comments and send to the email address:

 spedpubliccomment@mail.nysed.gov

Members of NY STOP GRAD HST respectfully request members of NYS Regents to vote Yes to amendment ID. NO.EDU-40-15-00007-P; Regarding Students With Disabilities Diploma Requirements.

Specifically we request a vote during the upcoming December 2015 meeting in order to allow year 2016 potential graduates additional safety nets to successfully meet their graduation requirements.

Currently there are three safety net options available to students to graduate with a local diploma;

  1. Low Pass Safety Net Option: 5 required Regents exams with a score of 55 or better.
  2. Regents Competency Test (RCT) Safety Net Option: This option, which is available to students who entered grade 9 prior to September 2011, allows a student with a disability to receive a local diploma based on a passing score on the RCT if student does not achieve a score of 55 or higher on the Regents examination.
  3. Compensatory Safety Net Option: For students not relying on RCTs, a student with a disability may receive a local diploma if he/she scores between 45-54 on one or more of the five required Regents exams, other than the English language arts (ELA) or mathematics, but achieves a score of 65 or higher on another required Regents exam which can compensate for the lower score. A score of 65 or higher on a single examination may not be used to compensate for more than one examination for which a score of 45-54 is earned.

We support and are seeking your support as well regarding approval of the below amendment which includes an additional safety net option for a score of less than 55 for a student with a disability to earn a local diploma;

(*Note: While this appeal option may be important for some students, data shows that in the 2010 cohort, there were only 258 students with disabilities who did not graduate who received a test score between 52 and 54 on any Regents exam; this statement requires clarification as students still had the RCT option in that cohort).

-score up to three points below a score of 55 on a Regents exam after at least two attempts, and attain at least a 65 course average in the subject area of the Regents examination under appeal;
– provide evidence that they have received academic intervention services by the school in the subject area of the Regents examination under appeal;
– have an attendance rate of at least 95 percent for the school year during which the student last took the required Regents examination under appeal;
– attain a course average in the subject area of the Regents examination under appeal that meets or exceeds the required passing grade by the school and is recorded on the student’s official transcript with grades achieved by the student in each quarter of the school year; and
– the student is recommended for an exemption to the passing score on the required Regents examination under appeal by his or her teacher or department chairperson in the subject area of such examination.  Appeals by students with disabilities of a score of less than 55 under the proposed amendment would be reviewed by the same committee that reviews all other Regents appeals.

The final average for the waived Regents exam may be excluded in the calculation for the final class average, if it will bring that score below a passing grade.

Crocodile Tears

“At 6 p.m. on a Thursday night, I come home from a meeting, my phone rings, and it’s Merryl Tisch,” Ms. De Vito said. “She said, ‘I received your letter,’ and she said, ‘It made me want to cry.’”

This is quoted from this NY Times Article that describes the new regulation to allow SPED students to apply for a waiver if they have taken a Regents exam twice and failed it with a 52 to 54.

Click here to read the rest of the post from One Mom’s Journey Through Education Reform.

The Regents tests and Common Core are failing our kids and actually increasing the number of students who do not graduate.  Crocodile tears and minor changes are not what is needed.

As Christine writes (I actually know the blogger from One Mom’s Journey Through Education Reform – she is an amazing advocate for changes needed regarding high school graduation requirements and the Regents tests and not just for special education students but for all students):

Tisch is throwing away a generation of New York State citizens with the punitive graduation requirements approved under her tenure.  It is time for a reinstatement of multiple pathways to a meaningful local diploma and end to high stakes testing as the sole path to a New York State High School diploma.

 

Florida Superintendents Announce They Have Lost Confidence in the State Accountability System

As you read this announcement from Florida school superintendents**, please remember that our new commissioner MaryEllen Elia has been most recently employed as a superintendent in Florida and has been touting her support of the Florida testing and evaluation systems since her arrival this past summer.

From the announcement:

Florida superintendents have consistently defended and supported accountability, the new Florida Standards, and the need to accurately measure student performance. At this time, FADSS is compelled to provide a position regarding the recent actions of the Department of Education (DOE) and the State Board of Education (SBE).

Florida district school superintendents have lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the State of Florida.

Bubble test3

Commissioner Elia told us she would be going on ‘listening tours’ around the state to hear from stakeholders when she started her job.  There hasn’t been much ‘listening’ going on on the tours though. Commissioner Elia already has her mind made up about Common Core regardless of what New York parents think.

A Siena College poll found that 64% of Néw York voters either oppose Common Core or thinks it has made no difference.

She also said, ““The United States used to lead the world educationally, but we’ve fallen to the middle of the pack. Our students are lagging behind, and the global economy is growing more competitive every day.”

Actually, that’s not true. The U.S. never led the world on test scores. When the first international tests were given in the 1960s, the U.S. students came in last. Yet over the next 50 years, our nation surpassed the other 11 nations that took the same test by every measure: economic productivity, technological innovation, military might, creativity, and democratic institutions. The test scores of 15-year-olds do not predict our future. The policies of our government, the decisions of corporations to outsource jobs, our treatment of our children and communities matter more.  – “Elia:  We Are Sticking with Common Core, No Matter What the Public Thinks” – Diane Ravitch September 25, 2015

I wonder if Commissioner Elia would be listening to her fellow superintendents if she was still employed in Florida?

If you missed all the questions and concerns associated with the hiring of Commissioner Elia back the end of May 2015, check them out here.  A few of the highlights:

A former school superintendent in Florida who led efforts to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement and was fired after clashing with her board was appointed New York State’s education commissioner on Tuesday.  – “MaryEllen Elia named New York State Education Commissioner” New York Times

From Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Answer Sheet May 26:

Carol Burris, an award-winning principal in New York, said this about Elia:

“It is now apparent why the Board of Regents did not reach out to stakeholder groups and inform them that she was a candidate–if her support for merit pay, the Common Core, Gates Foundation grants,  the formulaic dismissal of teachers, and school choice were known, certainly there would have been an outcry from New York parents and teachers who have had more than their fill of test-based reforms.  The message of 200,000 Opt Outs has not been heard.”

 

** Reports regarding the Florida superintendents’ announcement:

Board of Regents approves 50% of teacher evaluation based on state test scores

The Board of Regents voted 10-6 to approve the current, temporary teacher and principal evaluation system that bases 50% of the evaluation on the test scores of the students sitting in the classroom.  The current evaluation system is not just bad for our teachers; it is bad for our students!

I am getting tired of the ‘heavy hearts’ and ‘nose holding’ but still going along with what Governor Cuomo wants. The state legislators did it in March (read here and here). The board of Regents did it in June and again today. I want someone in Albany to have the guts to stand up and tell Governor Cuomo that his education plans are BAD and New York says No!

Regent Tilles talks of a ‘lack of confidence in the current evaluation system’ but he still voted for it.

“We have to express a lack of confidence in the current evaluation system,” said Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island, who voted for the rules. “We have to express a lack of confidence in the current growth model. We have to … call for changes to the evaluation system as it currently exists.”  – “After debate, Regents pass teacher-evaluation rules”  Democrat & Chronicle September 15, 2015

I KNOW I have a lack of confidence in 10 members of the Board of Regents who voted to continue the current teacher and principal evaluation system that places 50% of the evaluation squarely on the shoulders of the students sitting in the classroom.

Diane Ravitch got it exactly right in her blog on September 16, 2015:

Today, the New York Board of Regents will vote to approve the harsh and punitive educator evaluation plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the Legislature last spring as part of a budget bill.

In doing so, the Regents will abandon their Constitutional authority over education policy. The New York State Constitution grants full control over education to the Board of Regents. It grants none to the Governor. The Governor does not appoint a single member of the 17-member Board of Regents. The State Legislature selects them. The Governor does not appoint the state Commissioner of Education. That is the job of the Regents.

Today the Regents will approve Cuomo’s plan to tie 50% of educator evaluations to student test scores. The Governor’s plan was shaped in his office, without benefit of hearings, public discussion, public debate, or expert testimony.

The Regents have the power to reassert their Constitutional authority. But they are weak. They will fold to the will of a Governor whose determination to rule is greater than the Regents’ commitment to the State Constitution. Or to the children, or to the educators, or to the best interests of education in New York.

Parents have been ignored throughout this charade of the Governor flexing his political muscle. They will have a chance to be heard next spring, when the tests are administered. More students will opt out, more than the 220,000 who refused the tests in 2015. Will it be 300,000? 400,000? This is parents’ only means to be heard. They will be heard.

I will be doing everything I can to make sure that the 10 Regents who voted in support of the continued emphasis on state testing today will NOT be re-appointed.  Ulster County representative Regent Josephine Finn is one of the 10 who voted to continue the teacher evaluation system that is harmful to our students, teachers and local public schools.

Regents APPR vote 9 16 2015

Regents Rosa, Cashin, Chin, Collins, Johnson and Ouderkirk voted against the teacher evaluation system in June and again today. Please thank them for taking a stand for the children.

I will also be encouraging parents to continue to REFUSE the state tests for grades 3-8.  Apparently 220,000 test REFUSALS were not enough to let New York State know that the tests are unsatisfactory to the parents of New York so I guess we will have to have more REFUSALS.

Test refusal letter links:

 

Diane Ravitch response to the widely expected (and disappointing) “vote” by the NYS Regents today making Cuomo’s attack on public schools permanent. Again, no surprise that the weak Regents bowed to a bully Cuomo, but the blatant ignoring of over 20,000 written appeals to vote NO is appalling. The Regents, Legislature and Governor are all begging parents to Opt their kids out of this mess (oh.. And they’re renaming Common Core – same problems, different name).

All 6 votes against we’re women, all men voted yes joined by 3 women and Brown from Rochester was absent. Nice.

“Today, the New York Board of Regents will vote to approve the harsh and punitive educator evaluation plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the Legislature last spring as part of a budget bill.

In doing so, the Regents will abandon their Constitutional authority over education policy. The New York State Constitution grants full control over education to the Board of Regents. It grants none to the Governor. The Governor does not appoint a single member of the 17-member Board of Regents. The State Legislature selects them. The Governor does not appoint the state Commissioner of Education. That is the job of the Regents.

Today the Regents will approve Cuomo’s plan to tie 50% of educator evaluations to student test scores. The Governor’s plan was shaped in his office, without benefit of hearings, public discussion, public debate, or expert testimony.

The Regents have the power to reassert their Constitutional authority. But they are weak. They will fold to the will of a Governor whose determination to rule is greater than the Regents’ commitment to the State Constitution. Or to the children, or to the educators, or to the best interests of education in New York.

Parents have been ignored throughout this charade of the Governor flexing his political muscle. They will have a chance to be heard next spring, when the tests are administered. More students will opt out, more than the 220,000 who refused the tests in 2015. Will it be 300,000? 400,000? This is parents’ only means to be heard. They will be heard.”