Category Archives: Info

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PROBLEMS: HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS

Our friend, Marion Brady, put together a comprehensive list of what is wrong with high-stakes standardized tests.  Feel free to copy and pass around to parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens.

PROBLEMS: HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS
A partial list of problems with standardized, machine-scored tests, problems which should
be addressed before such tests are used to determine student life chances, establish teacher
pay and reputation, trigger school closings, affect real estate values, and undermine
confidence in public schooling to pave the way to privatization.
Commercially produced, standardized, machine-scored tests:
1. Can measure only “lower level” thought processes, trivializing learning
2. Provide minimal to no useful feedback to classroom teachers
3. Are keyed to a deeply flawed curriculum adopted in 1893
4. Lead to neglect of physical conditioning, music, art, and other, non-verbal ways of learning
5. Unfairly advantage those who can afford test prep
6. Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring
7. Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (which the young frequently do)
8. Radically limit teacher ability to adapt to learner differences
9. Give control of the curriculum to test manufacturers
10. Encourage use of threats, bribes, and other extrinsic motivators
11. Use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores
12. Produce scores which can be (and sometimes are) manipulated for political purposes
13. Assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known
14. Emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance
15. Create unreasonable pressures to cheat
16. Reduce teacher creativity and the appeal of teaching as a profession
17. Are unavoidably biased by social-class, ethnic, regional, and other cultural differences
18. Lessen concern for and use of continuous evaluation
19. Have no “success in life” predictive power
20. Unfairly channel instructional resources to learners at or near the pass-fail “cut score”
21. Are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences
22. Are at odds with deep-seated American values about individuality and worth
23. Create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes toward learning
24. Perpetuate the artificial compartmentalization of knowledge by field
25. Channel increasing amounts of tax money into corporate coffers instead of classrooms
26. Waste the vast, creative potential of human variability
27. Block instructional innovations that cannot be evaluated by machine
28. Unduly reward mere ability to retrieve secondhand information from memory
29. Subtract from available instructional time
30. Lend themselves to “gaming”—use of strategies to improve the success-rate of guessing
31. Make time—a parameter largely unrelated to ability—a factor in scoring
32. Create test fatigue, aversion, and an eventual refusal to take tests seriously
33. Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that those closest to the work are best-
positioned to evaluate its quality
34. Simply don’t work. The National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress says that
the use of standardized tests “has not increased student achievement.”
www.marionbrady.com/documents/TestProbs.pdf

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A Message to Local School Boards Across America

A Facebook friend who is a college professor and father of school-age kids in Pennsylvania recently posted this message he delivered to his local school board.  It is so well done I thought it needs to be shared with others.  So with Tim Slekar’s approval:

Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush and prolific educational researcher asks these questions:

Can a mathematical formula sum up a school or a teacher?
Can a letter grade give an accurate portrait of a school?

Last year I appeared before this board and asked what all of you planned to do when the state forces teachers and principals to be evaluated with our childrens’ test scores. I pointed out that using high stakes test scores (derived from NCLB tests) to evaluate teachers and principals is wrong-not because of my personal bias-but because the tests were never designed to evaluate teachers and principals. A point in which I understand the superintendent agrees with me.

But what about the NCLB tests in general? What do or what should we know about these standardized tests? We need to know and our community needs to know that NCLB tests were never designed to evaluate our children as they are currently being used–this is a major problem.

The results are not valid because the tests are being used incorrectly. The problem is the high stakes consequences. NCLB tests are simply a tool. Tools are designed for specific purposes. This tool was not designed to evaluate achievement in a high stakes environment. In other words the tests were not designed to administer rewards and punishments. They were never intended to communicate how well or poorly our school, its teachers and administrators are doing. They were designed to give a quick snapshot in time of the estimated academic achievement of the test taker–that’s it!

Just an FYI, NCLB tests are not even good at telling us about academic achievement. Education researchers can predict students’ test scores BEFORE THEY TAKE THE TESTS just by knowing the socioeconomic status of the test takers. (I can talk to you about this later if you have questions.)

Back to why NCLB tests don’t work. As soon as NCLB mandated that standardized tests be used to reward and punish the results of the prescribed standardized tests became invalid. Again, standardized tests and the scores from these tests if used properly can give us a snap shot of academic achievement. However once standardized test scores have high stakes consequences attached to them, each and every single score from every single student is an invalid measure of achievement. Again this is not my point of view. This is a fact that has been demonstrated by testing experts. The American Educational Research Association (AERA) released guidelines that warn against the improper use of high-stakes tests because of issues concerning validity and the potential harm that can be caused from inappropriately using high stakes test scores to administer punishments and rewards. AGAIN. Not my opinion. This is just a fact that any testing expert would agree with.

Therefore I am asking the board again: What are you going to do?
You all understand that in 2014 our school district will be labeled “failing.” This is a guaranteed scarlet letter that our children, teachers and principals will be forced to wear. How much longer are you going to allow the children of this community to be used as political pawns in a system that was designed to prove that our teachers, our principals and our schools are failing?

Before you tell me to take up with the politicians that designed this disaster let me remind you that each of you was elected by the people of this community to uphold the Pennsylvania constitution which states specifically in regards to education,

“shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth”

Therefore it is your job to make sure that our children receive the best educational opportunity possible.

You are the politicians.

That’s why I am taking it up with you. And that’s why I ask you again: What are you going to do to save this community from being falsely labeled failing?”

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A Superintendent Speaks Out About Standardized Testing

John Kuhn is superintendent of a small school district in Texas. But his voice is mighty and powerful. Those who have heard him wish he were Commissioner of Education for the state of Texas or in another position where everyone would learn from his wisdom.

Kuhn was the first person to be named to the honor roll for his eloquence and courage in support of public education.

The Dallas Morning News Published: November 2, 2012

 John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt school district in Jack County, northwest of Fort Worth, is active speaking out and writing critically about public-education reformers. He’s gained some fame for his oft-quoted “Alamo letter” from 2011, in which he vowed never to surrender the fight for his students. Now that more than 850 Texas school boards have signed on to a resolution against over-reliance on high-stakes testing, we asked Kuhn what that movement is all about. (This is a longer version of the Q&A that appears in print.)
You’ve said some very pointed things about education reformers, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and their impact on schools. What worries you the most?
What worries me most as both a dad and an educator is the outsized influence of test-makers, statisticians, and economists on modern educational decision-making. Unfortunately, our wizards of data are not wizards of humanity, and they have foolishly elevated impersonal forces as the drivers of education.
The education of children is above all a human endeavor. We aren’t programming answers into computers; we are inspiring and encouraging and challenging and coaxing and pushing and pulling and hoping and praying and hugging and wiping tears and watching ballgames and telling them how nice they look in their prom dresses. The value of the factory model touted by today’s educational Taylorists is quickly disproved by its absence of the holistic and humane methods employed in the best private schools. Middle class kids need and deserve more art in their lives than the arrays of bubbles they pencil in. Elite reformers want what’s best for their kids, but they often only want what’s most efficient for yours and mine.
Ultimately, I want for my kids what caring parents, like our president, want for theirs: a thorough, non-standardized education of the whole child. Today we are so busy raising test scores that we are forgetting to raise children. The little red schoolhouse is fast becoming a little red widget factory, and that’s wrong for kids and detrimental for our future well-being as a people. Continue reading
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Paul Allen group gives $50,000 to Delta High

Delta High School principal Deidre Holmberg has secured a $50,000 award from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation for the school’s educational approach and methods.

It’s the first year the foundation is giving out the Creative Leadership Awards, which acknowledge future-focused thinking and adept work by individuals and community organizations, according to a news release.

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Kennewick School Board increases funding for pre-kindergarten program

I was out of town in June and July so did not see this when it was published.  This board action is significant so I am reporting it now.

The Kennewick School Board will increase funding for programs preparing students for kindergarten, though the district will have to dip into savings to do it.

Board members Ron Mabry and Ben Messinger voted Wednesday night to provide more than $244,000 to the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia for the READY! for Kindergarten program, a roughly $50,000 increase over how much was provided the previous year.

“I’m normally a miser but these are really good programs,” Messinger said.

Board member Brian Brooks opposed the decision. Board members Dawn Adams and Heather Kintzley were absent. Continue reading

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Tri-City Herald Reports Kennewick Board Members’ Fines

3 Kennewick School Board members fined

Three Kennewick School Board members will each have to pay a $100 fine to the state for violating state campaign finance laws during their elections last year.

Brian Brooks, Ron Mabry and Ben Messigner were penalized by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission following hearings last week, according to commission documents.

Read more here:
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Kennewick Board Members Brooks, Mabry and Messinger Fined for Campaign Law Violations

Details from the PDC record are posted at the bottom of this article.

Following Tuesday’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) hearings in Olympia, Kennewick School Board members Brian Brooks, Ron Mabry and Ben Messinger were fined for violating PDC rules during their 2011 election campaigns.

Each candidate had selected the Mini Reporting option for financing his campaign which limits total contributions and expenditures to $5000. with a maximum contribution from any individual of $500.

Local businessman, Ty Haberling initially contributed $250.  to each candidate then later paid $2817. postage for mailing three political advertisements featuring the three candidates.  Proportionally dividing the postage among the candidates resulted in an additional individual contribution of $939. which exceeded the limit by $689. Continue reading