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Is the tide going out on high-stakes testing?

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New Hampshire has never liked the idea of linking test results to high-stakes for teachers.  Although each school board makes its own teacher evaluation plan, state policy (developed together with the superintendents, teachers and unions) is that framework of multiple measures of teaching effectiveness applied to groups of teachers is more effective and fair than punitive teacher evaluation strategies.

But, with the strong support of the U.S. Education Department, many states have begun using “value added” statistical procedures to reward and punish teachers.  Now the tide may be turning.  USED seems unsure about the whole issue.  The department did, after all, approve the NH low-stakes plan – after persistent negotiation by NHDOE.  However, Washington state, which negotiated an earlier waiver with a state-wide evaluation and now wants to leave teacher evaluation to the school districts, as NH does, finds that USED does not agree.

But New York has dramatically back down from its high-stakes testing plan.  And, now, Tennessee – a poster child for federal education reform policies and the birthplace of the value added statistical model – is having second thoughts about the whole idea:

Legislation to block student learning gains from playing a role in teacher licensing decisions is steamrolling to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk as lawmakers ask him to undo one of his administration’s most contested education policies.

The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 88-0 on Monday night to approve House Bill 1375, sponsored by Republican John Forgety, which would prohibit license decisions from being based on student growth data compiled from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

The Senate version, Senate Bill 2240, passed by a 26-6 vote last week.

The proposal came in response to the State Board of Education adopting a new policy last summer — at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s recommendation — that would link license renewal and advancement to a teacher’s composite evaluation score as well as the TVAAS.

….

read the rest at Lawmakers block linking student gains, teacher licenses.


3 Comments

  1. wgersen says:

    The fact that VAM is junk science is nothing new… the fact that legislators are beginning to recognize it as junk science IS something new… and here’s the link to a three part series about how Texas is moving away from standardized testing: http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/2014_March/standardized_tests/part2/

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Thanks, Wayne. VAM is an issue and has been discredited in the public debate. And standardized testing is an entirely separate issue. But a related and somewhat distinct issue is whether and how student test results should be tied to teachers, regardless of the scoring or statistical method used. The point I’m making in this case is that, possibly, there is coming to be less political appetite for evaluating teachers by the test.

  2. Stacey Young says:

    Unfortunately, NY hasn’t really backed down on high stakes testing – I know because I live here with my 3 children who are in the thick of it. In 2012 the New York State Department of Education’s Reform Agenda was introduced to classrooms across the state. This “Agenda” included the adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards and new state assessments, a plan to data mine our children’s personal information, a teacher evaluations system tied specifically to the state assessments results (APPR). These reforms (all required to comply with NYS’s Race to the Top application) have changed the landscape of education more than any other past reform.

    I tried to educate myself on details of these changes. I joined thousands in Albany last June for the One Voice Rally and listened as speaker after speaker talk about negative impact high stakes testing. I clocked countless hours reading articles, scanning social media sites attending forums, hearings all, I wrote letters to legislators and talked to anyone who would listen to me (even when they stopped listening) all to confirm what I as a mother already knew, our schools were changing and not for the better.
    I was relieved when finally the NY State Senate and Assembly began to hold hearings (17 in all) and listened to hundreds of hours of testimony from parents, teachers, administrators, board of education members about problems with the rollout of these reforms and the changes to classrooms and children. Commissioner King went on a “listening” tour of his own to crowds of less than happy constituents. School districts all across the state passed resolutions against high state testing. Every possible professional organization echoed the same concerns: The Nassau County and Suffolk County Superintendents Associations, NY State School Boards Association, and the New York State PTA. The Garden City Board of Education just released a letter to Commissioner King as well. For what? What has really changed after all this effort? When you really peal back the layers of the media snapshots, the only tangible change is the elimination of the 8th grade state math assessments for our accelerated students who will sit for a state math regents, reduced testing for pre-k to 2nd grade and the possibility of changes for our students with disabilities and ELL. Nothing has changed for our children who must sit for 500 minutes of state assessments in grades 3-8.

    Here lies my frustration and the reason for why I will refuse the state tests for my children. Don’t misunderstand my decision, I understand students have always taken some form of standardized testing and that testing has a value in education, I am not saying that students should never take tests or that teachers should not be held accountable – what I am saying is we as a state and a country have lost focused and these tests are different. When No Child Left Behind was introduced in 2002, our children were federally required to take state tests in 4th grade and 8th grade. In 2006, the federal requirement changed to all grades 3-8th. In 2012, the tests changed again increasing the time, the complexity and consequences unlike those that came before.

    The reasons my children have not taken the state tests the past 2 years is simple: they do not help my children in any way. While the test is given in April, the scores are not received until July. There is NO data or explanation of where my child had weaknesses or strengths for that matter. The teacher will see 25% of the questions but will not have ANY information on how MY child did on those questions. The quality of these tests are poor, often with many errors and questions that don’t make sense. The tests are not used to determine promotion, retention or as any grade at all. The children get a score of 1-4 and become statistics, a number. What does that number mean to me as a parent? Commission King and the SED repeatedly are quoted in the media saying, “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how their child is doing?” My answer is easy I will ask their teacher!

    The single largest change at the center of this all is that teachers are now rated on the results of these tests. Teachers are not saying they shouldn’t be evaluated – in fact – most feel that a good evaluation makes them a better teacher. There are so many things wrong with the APPR process that I would have write another letter on this topic. Basically, our children and our teachers work hard all year. They should not be reduced to a single score. Our children are athletes, musicians, singers, dancers, artists, robotics builders, community volunteers all of which cannot be measured by a single assessment. I am not sure when or why test scores became so important? It used to be that parents looking for a place to live perhaps based on the colleges that students attended. Our children’s test scores have become how we assess our property values. The tests have somehow become “practice tests” for the SAT’s, regents, LSAT’s. Why have we become a society that cares more about the test scores rather than the quality education?

    This obsession on standardized testing is narrowing our curriculum and taking time away from other subjects such as science and social studies. Test prep has is taking away time from creative learning – projects, plays, book reports, creative writing. We are losing LOCAL control of ours schools to state and federal mandates that don’t even apply to high performing districts. Education has become a “new market” and we are being referred to “consumers” by the NY SED. The amount of money behind this reform is staggering. Those who have NO classroom experience are making decisions. Until we stop feeding this machine, refuse these and reclaim our classrooms nothing will change.

    Stacey Young

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