"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

How Valuable/Viable Are SBAC's Recent Testing Decisions?

Clueless on the true purpose of education and testing.  SBAC at work?

An educator recently sent me an email reacting to a recent Ed Week article about Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia's test development quandaries.  She has given me permission to reprint her remarks and the highlighted statements are from the Ed Week article.


Attached is an article from Ed Week (Testing Group Scales Back Performance Items) that describes the controversy test developers are having in designing items and format for Common Core Assessment.

A group that is developing tests for half the states in the nation has dramatically reduced the length of its assessment in a bid to balance the desire for a more meaningful and useful exam with concerns about the amount of time spent on testing.
...Its end-of-year, summative tests will measure results for accountability, and those can shape what schools and districts do long term... 

Note the discussion about end of year testing. In assessment circles, we refer to end of year tests as autopsies. There's nothing a teacher can do to respond to the end of year data by changing instruction because there is no opportunity to "make amends" if the instruction wasn't appropriate for students since the last assessment cycle. End of year school district assessments are autopsies, and are virtually useless to classroom teachers. In addition, the more scores are averaged, the less information teachers have about individual student needs or specific areas of need a particular student may have.

“I’m not convinced that the end-of-year summative assessment used for accountability could be imagined to be extremely instructionally useful,” Mr. Willhoft said. It’s the interim and formative pieces of its system, he said, that have the potential to affect day-to-day instruction in profound ways.

The plan is to have thousands of test items and tasks in an online “bank” teachers can draw from to custom-design interim tests on specific standards. Also available will be a bank of “formative” tools and strategies to help them judge and monitor students’ learning as they go along, Mr. Willhoft said. That three-pronged approach—summative, interim, formative—makes up the “balanced” suite of tests many have sought, he said.
Formative assessments are referred to as wellness checkups; and, the best formative assessments are given by the classroom teacher during instruction to get a picture of student understanding in real time. Classroom formative assessments cost the school districts and state nothing. Classroom teachers can immediately adjust instruction in response to what the data are telling her or him. I'm not completely against some forms of standardized tests by districts or states IF they can articulate what they are using the data to accomplish, and prove the test was actually designed to achieve the purpose they describe.
(MEW note: Others involved in the SBAC's process have the same concerns):

The evolution of the Smarter Balanced assessment showcases a persistent tension at the heart of the purpose of student testing, some experts say.
 “Is it about getting data for instruction? Or is it about measuring the results of instruction? In a nutshell, that’s what this is all about,” said Douglas J. McRae, a retired test designer who helped shape California’s assessment system. “You cannot adequately serve both purposes with one test.”

Frankly, I've never met a bureaucrat who could articulate with valid evidence what they were doing or why.

For more information on SBAC read here and here.  These links detail the apparent chaos and possible demise of the consortia. 

1 comment:

  1. well, test results will be used for teacher evaluation in Florida (PARCC), so it is no wonder that parents, community members, and taxpayers cannot understand what this multi-billion dollar effort is supposed to achieve. What is the new definition of "accountability"??


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