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 and 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  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.

Everything I could say about RTTT in NY has been said…almost.
January 26, 2012, 9:41 pm
Filed under: assessment, education law | Tags: , , , ,


God bless the New York Times, this article sums up all of my questions and concerns better than I ever could. That said, I have something to add. The author questions the role of State Ed in determining how well 700 school districts are assessing students for growth in non-state tested subjects given the budget cuts at the state level and the number of students and teachers and assessments that would need independent review.


I think I know what’s going to happen. The assessment/evaluation police aren’t going to show up. In fact, its likely that no one will ever look closely at how districts meet the mandate. Experience tells me this. While working in Michigan as a Social Studies Consultant the state adopted k-12 Social Studies expectations where there had previously been very little required, but the state also had just one Social Studies Supervisor for the entire state and when she retired she was not replaced. State Ed funding and personnel were dramatically reduced. No one checked what you were teaching, or if you had created a curriculum that was freely available to parents, or if you were assessing students on the new expectations. Some schools even refused to align their grade level subjects to those required by the state. Because, really, what was the limbless state ed going to do about it?


I suspect RTTT in NYS will result in similar behavior in schools; do enough to make it look like you’re doing what they want, create a paper trail, but don’t really change much of anything in the end.





So I took a year off; everyone deserves a break!!
January 22, 2012, 11:11 pm
Filed under: education law | Tags: , ,

A break, sure. Resigning, moving back to NY, having a baby, surviving said baby’s colic, selling two houses, buying one house, and trying to lose 70 pounds of baby weight (what, doesn’t everyone gain that much?!) make up my 12 months of edu-blogging non-blogging. For the record, I’m 10 pounds away.

While I’m no longer working full-time with one county as a Social Studies Consultant, I have been contracted by AtotheB and Oakland County to continue work on the MC3 curriculum; primarily writing US History and editing grades 5,6 and 7. I’d love to think that the end is in sight for this project, after four years of writing, but our complete overhaul of middle school as well as lack of unit and course ending assessments means I could probably milk this cow for several years or until Oakland Schools decided to stop paying for curriculum in Social Studies. I won’t hold my breath.

Now that I’m back in NY and likely to try to work in a real office with actual people in a nearby school district I figured it was time to brush up on NY’s Race To The Top brew ha ha regarding teacher evaluations, assessments, and Cuomo’s promises/threats of withholding funds (see my previous post on RTTT here and evaluation here and here). So I started where any Social Studies geek/nerd would start; the law itself. I went straight to the horse’s mouth and discovered that the horse has marbles in his mouth…Education Law 3012-c is not a scintillating read (are any laws?) and leaves me with several questions.

Here’s my basic interpretation:

1. Teachers and Principals will be evaluated and categorized in to the incredibly descriptive and clear Highly Effective, Effective, Developing and Ineffective. AKA Awesome; Pretty Good; You’ve Got Potential Kid; and Sucks.

2. Some teachers (grades 4-8 ELA and Math or common branch subjects) will participate in this beginning in the 2011-12 school year (so now) while others (everyone else) will be held to this law beginning in the 2012-13 school year.

3. Prior to the development of  value added measurements,  20% of the teacher eval will be based on student growth as measured on an approved assessment and 20% will be based on local selected measures of student growth. Basically, a kid’s score last year is compared to his score this year. (I’m going to reserve my question as to how one compares growth when the content assessed isn’t the same…)

4. When value added measurements are in place, the numbers are 25% and 15%.

5. If you suck, you get an improvement plan.

Anyone following this or teaching in NY can tell you the laundry list of questions/concerns with these things while at the same time agreeing that something other than the current drive by evals is needed. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to this.

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