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Here’s more about why everyone is so interested in how New Hampshire is changing student testing

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There was a time when American education policy makers who cared about equity for low-income children, minorities and children with special needs felt that heavy use of standardized tests was the way to ensure that.  So in 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy was glad to join President George W. Bush in passing No Child Left Behind.  Education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch, an Assistant Secretary of Education at the time, said in 2005,

“We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.”

Now she says, as she did in an recent exchange on her blog, “Why aren’t [education policy makers] looking enviously at Finland, where there is no standardized testing until the end of high school,” going on to say that current discussions of alternatives are”a mass revolt among parents and teachers” against standardized testing, a movement she promotes in almost daily posts.

I believe testing issues today 
are sucking the oxygen out of the room
     --Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Even Education Secretary Arne Duncan, long committed to testing to ensure equity for disadvantaged students and accountability for teachers,  seems to be having second thoughts.   Here he is on the U.S. Department of Education blog:

I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more. This is one of the biggest changes education in this country has ever seen, and teachers who’ve worked through it have told me it’s allowed them to become the best teachers they’ve ever been. That change needs educators’ full attention.

I’ve done several posts lately on how years of far-sighted work by the New Hampshire Department of Education on how to  personalize learning to the needs of each student is now showing the country a better way.  This week, Education Week placed the New Hampshire effort in the context of the national debate about ensuring equity all students while moving beyond standardized testing.  Here are some excerpts:

For many, implementing annual 
statewide standardized tests 
represents the surest way to hold 
schools, districts, states, 
and even teachers accountable

For many, implementing annual statewide standardized tests represents the surest way to hold schools, districts, states, and even teachers accountable for meeting the needs of all students, especially those most at-risk. No Child Left Behind (NCLB)–a federal act intended “to close the achievement gap with accountability… so that no child is left behind”–tied federal funding to the requirement that all students take common, statewide, annual summative assessments of content knowledge in mathematics, language arts, and science; and that all schools, districts, and states report on student achievement both in aggregate and by student subgroups….

Other equity proponents suggest 
performance-based assessments

Other equity proponents come to a different conclusion regarding the use of assessments. They suggest that student-centered inquiry-based instruction, coupled with more authentic performance-based assessments, are the essential common threads in schools that provide equitable learning experiences for students…..

Some suggest that the two viewpoints are complementary, rather than competing–that states can provide students with deeper learning opportunities and administer statewide standardized tests…..

New Hampshire is field-testing 
performance-based assessments 
in all grades

In response, some states are exploring ways to pilot novel combinations of statewide summative assessments (in some grades) and locally-created performance-based assessments (in some or all grades) into a new statewide system that is still able to make annual determinations of progress for all students in all grades. For example, through its Performance Assessment of Competency Education pilot initiative, New Hampshire is field-testing a system that would allow pilot districts to administer common performance-based assessments in all grades, while still requiring statewide summative assessments once in elementary, middle, and high school as an external audit of the performance-based system…..

As a recent article in the Atlantic shows us, if we learn anything from New Hampshire and the years they have devoted to building their pilot system, it is that success will have as much to do with capacity-building and community engagement at the state and local level as it does with divining the right policies, assessments, and accountability algorithms. High expectations, standardized across the state, coupled with well-supported systems of assessments of deeper learning, will help ensure that students–all students–can win.

See the rest here: Standardization or Personalization? – Education Week.

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