AuthorTopic: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?  (Read 1168 times)

Offline RE

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Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« on: August 13, 2016, 05:47:37 AM »
This is a tough question.

On the one hand, you want a measure that is the same between schools, so that you have some kind of standard.  Kids do move and change schools of course, so what they learn in 3rd grade should have a common underlying curriculum you can test for to see if they are prepared to move on.

On the other hand, standardized testing is notroiously racially and culturally biased, and beyond that the tendency is to "teach to the test", rather than teaching critical thinking skills.

Diner ideas on resolving this problem are :hi:

RE

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/12/parents-sue-when-third-grade-honors-students-are-not-promoted-to-fourth-grade/

Parents sue when third-grade honors students are not promoted to fourth grade
By Valerie Strauss August 12 at 7:02 PM

President Obama, accompanied by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, right, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, attend an event at Miami Central Senior High School on in March 2011. (AP File Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

This belongs in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category:

In Florida (you knew it was Florida, didn’t you?), some third-graders — including honor students — are being forced to retake third grade because their parents decided to opt them out of the state’s mandated standardized reading test this past spring.

An undetermined number of third-graders who refused to take the Florida Standards Assessment in reading have been barred from moving to fourth grade in some counties. A lawsuit filed by parents against state education officials as well as school boards in seven Florida counties says counties are interpreting the state’s third-grade retention law so differently that the process has become unfair. Test participation, therefore, is more important than student class academic achievement.

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On Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers held a hearing in the suit about the third-grade retention law, which was passed years ago, when Jeb Bush was governor of Florida and at a time when there was no movement among parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Now the opt-out movement is growing, and officials in Florida as well in other states are trying to figure out how to handle students who won’t take mandated standardized tests. It is unclear how many students in Florida opted out of the 2016 test, though in New York state, 21 percent of public school students did.

Gievers said she may rule as early as next week in the suit, which was brought by parents against Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the State Board of Education, and the school boards in Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Sarasota, Pasco, Broward and Seminole counties. Other counties in Florida did not interpret the law as to mean that students had to be retained if they didn’t take the test, and the Florida Department of Education has said it never mandated that students be held back if they opt out of the FSA.

Children and their families learned in June, when they received report cards, that they would be held back, and over the summer, parents organized and raised money so they could file a lawsuit challenging the third-grade retention law. School has started in some parts of Florida, and is about to start everywhere across the state.

That this is happening in Florida is not entirely a surprise, given that the Sunshine State was the leader, under Bush as governor, of test-based accountability systems that made standardized test scores the most important measure of student achievement and school success.

The lawsuit says:

    Parents of students who received report cards with passing grades — some of whom were honor roll students — seek emergency declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that, because they opted out of standardized testing for their child, defendants arbitrarily and capriciously interpreted statutes and rules in a manner that requires retention, rather than promotion, of third grade students. The result is that students with no reading deficiency are retained in the third grade solely because they opt-out of standardized testing. Defendants’ policy mean s that a third-grader who takes standardized tests and scores poorly — whether intentionally or not — can still be promoted. Yet, an outstanding student who regularly produces proficient school work in the classroom for which they receive passing grades will be retained simply for not taking  a standardized test that they are permitted to opt of under the Florida Statutes. Because the receipt of federal dollars is at stake unless 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing, test participation is treated as more important than actual performance.

Here, from Twitter, is some of what happened in the court on Friday:
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2016, 07:13:27 AM »

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/12/parents-sue-when-third-grade-honors-students-are-not-promoted-to-fourth-grade/

Parents sue when third-grade honors students are not promoted to fourth grade
//
In Florida (you knew it was Florida, didn’t you?), some third-graders — including honor students — are being forced to retake third grade because their parents decided to opt them out of the state’s mandated standardized reading test this past spring.
//
 Because the receipt of federal dollars is at stake unless 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing, test participation is treated as more important than actual performance.

Ah. All is made clear by the money quote.

Educrats dickwaving and saying, in effect, "don't take the standardized tests; your little future-unemployable can just repeat third grade," while parents invoke the Trump Option, namely, "I'll sue you." If parents can opt out of standardized testing, it's unclear just how "standardized" they are. Clearly they are not required. And if not required, how can they be a standard?

Institute a third grade achievement test, by which the results determine promotion or not. No testee, no schoolee.

Thus it is written: so shall it be done.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2016, 08:18:57 AM by Surly1 »
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Offline monsta666

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2016, 10:31:45 AM »
I think there are some things that could be done. I am not sure if these standardised tests come every year but if you do reduce the number of tests run. In England you have SATS at years three, six and nine so you can space the test over a longer period of time and allow teachers to set courses that are more tailored to their classes. In Scotland it is even better as they skipped the year three SATS which to me is not needed. What is more my experience, at least when moving to England, is the lack of testing had no detrimental effect as I found I was ahead of English classes particularly with mathematics.

The advantage of less common testing is teaching would be less rote based "test to test" that let us face it has questionable long-term values. The second avenue is that regular term-time assignments are given a significant weighting so kids who perform well during the year could qualify for the next year. This method has the added benefit of reducing the stress level for tests thus it is less likely for kids to fail due to anxiety. Finally you can have standardised tests but they have no baring on whether you stay behind in the year. Those decisions of holding back a pupil is made at the teachers discretion. What the tests can do however is determine what groups you set kids for various subjects in the future years.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2016, 10:35:08 AM »
Standardized testing is a huge, expensive scam, a conduit scheme that funnels half a billion taxpayer dollars a year into the coffers of corporations like Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson. 

We spent 7 million on testing in 1955. You really think students now graduate with a better education than they did then? I seriously doubt it.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/schools/testing/companies.html

Now the tests have gone from just being extra work for teachers, to being a downright harmful process that appears to be aimed at putting even more of our educational system in the hands of private corporations. Here's a teacher's perspective:

You Can’t Win a Rigged Game – Standardized Tests as “Proof” of Failure

September 19, 2015

One of my dearest high school friends was a bit of a doofus.

Who am I kidding? So was I!

One of our favorite things to do after school was plop on the coach and play shoot ‘em up video games. “Smash TV” was a particular favorite.

We’d bob and weave while clutching controllers and rapidly jamming our thumbs on the buttons.

And at such times, we‘d talk.

No great philosophical problems were solved during these mid-afternoon gaming sessions. We’d talk trash, dissing each other’s gaming skills, bragging about our own, and occasionally quizzing each other with trivia on a shared topic of interest.

We both loved movies, so my buddy used to shout out cinematic quotations and ask me to name where they came from.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

“Luke, I am your father!”

“Go ahead, punk. Make my day!”

None of these famous quotes made my buddy’s list. He preferred lines like these:

“Run!”

“Look out!”

“Holy S&*t!”

As you can imagine, I rarely got any of them right.

I’d laugh, punch him in the arm good-naturedly and go on shooting virtual enemies.

It was good dumb fun. But now – more than two decades later – my students are forced to take my buddy’s quiz – and if they don’t pass, the government is threatening to shut down their schools and fire me, their teacher.

No, learners don’t have to identify impossible movie quotes. Instead, they’re forced to answer impossibly bad multiple choice questions. But the results are pretty much the same.

In my home state, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and the Keystone Exams are high stakes versions of my buddy’s moronic quiz. The purpose isn’t to fairly assess: it’s to stump as many kids as possible.

And it’s working. For the fourth year in a row, student test scores have declined statewide. Previously, students had been doing relatively well. Why the change?

It began with budget cuts. The legislature slashed almost $1 billion every year in school funding. That means higher class sizes, less teachers, fewer electives, tutoring, nurses, services, etc. And districts like mine weren’t exactly drowning in money to begin with.

Students now have less resources, therefore they can’t prepare as well for the tests.

So what did the legislature do? Did our lawmakers fix the problem by putting back the money they had repurposed as gifts to the natural gas industry?

Heck no! They made the tests even more unnecessarily difficult.

As a result, the steady decline in test scores this year fell off a cliff!

After all, this was the first year in which the Commonwealth fully aligned every question of its mandatory testing with the Pennsylvania Core Standards – which are similar, but not identical to the Common Core standards adopted in other states.

Proficiency rates in grades 3 through 8 dropped by an average of 35.4 percent in math and 9.4 percent in English language arts on the PSSA. Nearly half of all seventh and eighth graders dropped an entire proficiency level in math in just one year.

If I made up a test like this in my own classroom, gave it to my students and got results like these, my first assumption would be that there was something horribly wrong with the test. I must have messed something up to fail so many students! Teachers are always on the lookout for unclear or bad questions on their self-created exams. The for-profit corporations that create our state-mandated tests? Not so much.

Though state Department of Education officials acknowledge the continued decline in scores, they insist problems will work themselves out in subsequent years – as if a 4-year trend is just an anomaly. Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

My students used to make impressive gains on the tests. My principal stopped by today to give me the scores for my current students and those I taught last year. No surprise. Very few passed.

Are my students now lazier and less intelligent than those I taught four years ago? No. Students who scored well before the budget cuts, often score badly now.

Am I a worse teacher? Absolutely not. I have the same skills I did then. I spend the same amount of time at school – maybe more.

So what changed in my classroom? Lack of reconnaissance.

Teachers like myself used to know exactly what was expected of students on these assessments. We had plenty of materials with which to prepare them. Now the exams change every year – and I don’t mean just the individual questions, I mean what is tested!

Back in the day, when my buddy first shouted out, “Run!” and asked me which movie it came from, I had no idea. But after he did it long enough, I’d start to anticipate him. I’d learn that he was thinking of James Cameron’s “The Terminator.”

That’s how the PSSA’s used to be. Teachers knew how the test makers wanted kids to answer. And we could prepare them to do so. The tests didn’t accurately assess student learning even then. It was a game, but at least it was more fair.

Let’s be honest. These tests have never been particularly good. You can’t honestly expect to assess higher order thinking skills on a multiple choice test. Basic skills, maybe. But anything complex simply cannot be measured in this manner. We’ve known that for over a century!

It’s like my buddy’s movie quiz. I have little doubt that someone really did shout “Run!” in “The Terminator.” However, that same line probably appears in at least a dozen more action movies. There’s no way to determine a single correct answer. And shouting out a different quote instead like “Look out!” doesn’t help either.

So please stop the talk about “Rigor.” We’re not raising standards. We’re changing them. My buddy found a new bunch of movies from which to shout out impossible quotes. That’s all.

Anyone who wants to argue validity to these new test questions has to leap a host of hurdles to accomplish his goal.

First, one would have to prove PA Core – and by extension Common Core – Standards actually improve student learning. Good luck. It’s never been done and all the evidence is against you.

Second, one would have to gain access to an individual year’s worth of test questions. Again, good luck. They’re corporate property. The public is not allowed to see the questions. If a principal, student or teacher were to copy a question or snap a photo of a test, they could be subject to prosecution in a court of law.

Such a lack of transparency in government is a sure sign of malfeasance.

It’s almost impossible to avoid certain conclusions about this whole process. Standardized testing is designed to fail students – just like my buddy’s movie quiz was designed to stump me.

These tests constitute fake proof of inadequacy. They attempt to “prove” our public schools are failing and should, therefore, be replaced by private corporations – maybe even by subsidiaries of the same for-profit companies that make and grade these tests!

When my buddy unfairly stumped me, we both knew it was a joke. We’d laugh and play another video game.

But there’s nothing funny about this when it’s perpetrated by the state and federal government.

Pennsylvania’s standardized test scores are a farce just like the scores in every state and territory throughout the country. They’re lies told by corporations, permitted and supported by lawmakers, and swallowed whole by the media and far too much of the public.

We always seem on the verge of waking up. Tomorrow we will stop the state-sanctioned abuse of children by the testing industry. Tomorrow we’ll take responsibility for this sick system we allow.

But when will tomorrow come? I’m tired of waiting.

NOTE: This article also was quoted extensively on Diane Ravitch’s blog and published in full on the Badass Teachers Association blog.



https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/you-cant-win-a-rigged-game-standardized-tests-as-proof-of-failure/


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Offline RE

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2016, 10:41:19 AM »

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/12/parents-sue-when-third-grade-honors-students-are-not-promoted-to-fourth-grade/

Parents sue when third-grade honors students are not promoted to fourth grade
//
In Florida (you knew it was Florida, didn’t you?), some third-graders — including honor students — are being forced to retake third grade because their parents decided to opt them out of the state’s mandated standardized reading test this past spring.
//
 Because the receipt of federal dollars is at stake unless 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing, test participation is treated as more important than actual performance.

Ah. All is made clear by the money quote.

Educrats dickwaving and saying, in effect, "don't take the standardized tests; your little future-unemployable can just repeat third grade," while parents invoke the Trump Option, namely, "I'll sue you." If parents can opt out of standardized testing, it's unclear just how "standardized" they are. Clearly they are not required. And if not required, how can they be a standard?

Institute a third grade achievement test, by which the results determine promotion or not. No testee, no schoolee.

Thus it is written: so shall it be done.

Tests don't need to be require to be standardized.  The SAT, LSAT and MCAT are all standardized, but none are required.

The federal goobermint mandating a certain percentage of the students take these tests is their "stick" as an enforcement tool.  What would occur in years before this type of mandate is that schools with a low percentage of students scoring well simply would stop taking the tests.

Your reply also doesn't really address the question I posed in the OP, which is the conflict of a need for some comprehensive standard versus individual teachers making their own assessments based on factors other than what might be included in a standardized test.  The further problem being that once these tests are in place, the teachers tend to teach to them, because your performance as a teacher is measured by how well your students perform on the test.

RE
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Offline RE

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2016, 11:03:51 AM »
Standardized testing is a huge, expensive scam, a conduit scheme that funnels half a billion taxpayer dollars a year into the coffers of corporations like Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson. 

We spent 7 million on testing in 1955. You really think students now graduate with a better education than they did then? I seriously doubt it.

You forgot the ETS.

Indeed, the whole testing business has ballooned up to ridiculous levels.  Much like with new Iphones every year, in order to have something new for the customer to buy each year, you have to create a new test each year.  In this case, the customer is Da Goobermint.

In reality, if you just have around a 10 year bank of questions you can randomly pop in each year on a given test, this is plenty so the students don't know for sure what questions will come up.  On math questions you can simply vary numbers so that answers can't be memorized but have to be worked out.

If you have a standardized curriculum also, any decent teacher should be able to make up his or her own tests, but again you have the problem that not all teachers are decent nor do all teachers stick to the curriculum.  In the case where you don't have standardized testing, teachers can pass along students who really have not mastered the material.  Since your performance gets measured by how many students pass each year, obviously you as a teacher would pass everybody.

So it is rather a conundrum overall.

RE
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Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Are Standardized Tests more important than Grades?
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2016, 01:44:39 PM »
Second, one would have to gain access to an individual year’s worth of test questions. Again, good luck. They’re corporate property. The public is not allowed to see the questions. If a principal, student or teacher were to copy a question or snap a photo of a test, they could be subject to prosecution in a court of law.
Right there!

That's where I see the crack in the process starting.

The public is paying for this testing, so the public should have a right to access it.  Sure, I understand not providing it while the testing is occurring, but after it is finished, it should be available for scrutiny.  It's not even a matter for lawyers or legislators, per se; the states can insist on it as a matter of contract law and refuse to do business with any company that refuses.  Outsource it to an overseas company if necessary, lol.
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