Am I a geek or a nerd?


Taking Tests in High School Helps Students Succeed in College or the Workplace (AKA WTF?)
March 17, 2012, 9:46 am
Filed under: assessment, evaluation | Tags: , , ,

Heavens, this Race To The Top/Common Core/Teacher Eval/Assessment path meanders…

I’m reading more about how NYS is planning to implement Common Core and teacher evaluations as part of their Race To The Top plan. The rabbit trails of the internet mean lots of unrelated reading but I’m finding much of what I’m looking for. The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is the brainchild of the US Dept of Ed to assist states with RTTT assessments and teacher evaluations. Achieve, Inc is a managing partner for PARCC (and after bouncing around on parcconline.org and achieve.org I’m not entirely sure that I know precisely who they are or what they do). PARRC will be creating assessments to be used four times a year in English and Math classes to assess student progress and, ultimately, evaluate teachers (see more about how NYS is doing that here).

On achieve.org  I came across the statement that serves as my title; taking tests in high school helps students succeed in college or the workplace. Pardon my dunce cap for a moment, but how can that be? I’ve never, in the 24 years since I left high school and the 20 years since I left college, been placed in a workplace circumstance that required me to take a test.  Certainly there are things I’ve committed to memory and/or have such a deep understanding of that I do not need to look them up, consult others, or conduct research on in order to respond to my boss/co-workers/clients–I suppose that’s like a test, maybe. But I’m not penalized when I say to someone “let me look in to that” or “I’ll need to do some research” or “give me 10 minutes”. The skills we want students to leave school with are those-the ones that allow them to determine what’s important when reading, how to find information, and how to communicate to people. Again, there are things we need to know off the tops of our heads, but I’m not sold that taking tests in high school is the preparation for that.

So with that in my head I clicked on the citation with the above statement to read the study. It’s from 2005 and indicates that about 40% of college students surveyed felt unprepared by high school for college. Seems quite a leap from that statistic to the title of this post.  They didn’t say “gee, if I’d taken more tests I’d be more prepared” although I can see how more tests would have let them know what they didn’t know.  What these students did say is that they would have worked harder in high school knowing what they know now (who hasn’t thought that; I promise you that I’ve had that thought while running nearly every one of my marathons…if only I’d done one more 20 mile training run, or hadn’t skipped that 18 miler three weeks ago…everyone who wants to do well has these thoughts). I interpret that to mean that perhaps high school was preparing students just fine, but that these 40% didn’t take that preparation seriously.

Just to be clear, I’m all for Common Core standards, I’m all for a more rigorous teacher evaluation system, and I’m all for being clear about what our students know and do not know, but I’m not sold on enigmatic national organizations that use buzzwords and have fuzzy agendas as the best way to support those things.

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Is this a dead horse I’m beating?
February 19, 2012, 8:53 pm
Filed under: education law, evaluation | Tags: , ,

I belatedly finished Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System (I link to B&N because I have a Nook…we actually have three Nooks in this house…for two people who are able to read…and a tablet…and a netbook…heavens…) and while I’m pretty sure I knew the basics of much of her position, that she provides citations and research to debunk myth and illustrate our dangerous ways makes this a nerdy/geeky delight.

Read it yourself for the full poop; I’m still thinking about the prospect of using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Ravitch provides much info, but the piece I’m most struck by is this study: “Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains.” In short, the USDE commissioned a study that found that error rates in determining effectiveness of individual teachers range anywhere from 25 to 35 per cent depending the variables (number of years scores are collected for example). This was released in July 2010. One year prior to this study Race to the Top was announced and in part required states to use student scores to evaluate teachers. Hmm. I poked through the study document and found citations dated 2010, so my assumption is that this was commissioned sometime in 2010. So USDE demanded an action of states and at the same time paid for a study to see if that action was really effective. Then it turns out that the action doesn’t seem to be a great option but they keep on keepin’ on with the demands.

I get that scores will just be one part of evaluation for teacher here in NY, and I get that we don’t have a great system in place now (see here, here, here and I’m sure I’ve mentioned more than that and for some other great links and commentary on this, here), but I really don’t think I want any part of any evaluation to have an error rate of 25%.

I’m still trying to be unsurprised by the blindness of everyone barreling down this road.




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