<$BlogRSDURL$>

from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Some thoughts on testing and education 

he two letters from the P-I were printed on Monday. One characteristic of the Washington tests, not unique to that state, is the secrecy which is attached to the test. While it is possible for a parent to see his child’s actual test (not the case in every state), there is a confidentiality agreement that prohibits disclosing what one has seen, even in discussion with the teacher(s) of your child. This provision has criminal penalties. The author of the first letter, David Muga, Ph. D., is a college instructor, and his entire letter can be read [here http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/233075_wasl19a.html ]

The letter is headed “Secrecy of the process helps no one” and begins
I object to the confidentiality form I was asked to sign prior to review of my daughter's fifth-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning test results. In essence, the form criminalizes any parents who talk about the WASL exam their child took, even if they talk about it to their child's teacher or other parent. As such, I declined to sign the form and was unable to review my daughter's test results.


About 1/3 of the test is recycled each year. However it is not clear whether if those questions were identified the parents could discuss the rest. A more serious problem, as Muga notes, is
According to an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction representative, Revised Code of Washington 28A.635.040 language quoted in the disclosure form was originally crafted for use in the administration of adult professional certification and advancement testing, for example, teacher certification exams and State Patrol advancement exams. Do WASL questions for my 10-year-old really fall into the realm of tests administered to professional adults? In my assessment, they do not. Adults who apply for a position do so voluntarily; children are subjected to WASL exams under coercive conditions.

WASL exams are allegedly intended to improve student learning. Thus, the reasoning behind enforcement of a level of confidentiality that significantly restricts both access and discussion of the test items is indefensible. Not only do secret tests fail to improve student learning, they, in fact, inhibit it.


Part of the argument given for such confidentiality is that each new test questions costs roughly $20,000
to create, validate, and pilot test
. Muga points out
the insanity of creating an assessment whose very cost precludes its use as a diagnostic tool. If student learning were truly the object of the exercise, hiring new teachers, reducing class size, purchasing new teaching materials or introducing new pedagogical techniques would seem a better use of this $20,000 per-item expense.


Muga also notes that the inability to see and discuss the items seems to work against the idea of having parents of those historically left behind involved in the process of helping their children comply with the expectations the tests impose. He also worries about the amount of testing:
According to my estimates, my fifth-grade daughter was subjected to at least 30 hours of testing, including 18 hours for the WASL, in April and May. Excessive testing; teaching to the test; the use of vague and non-measurable benchmarks and rubrics, portrayed as "best practices," and failure to ensure quality learning opportunities have exacerbated the inequalities of outcome for students.


The second letter, [No Child Left Behind Act and WASL will leave kids behind
URL: http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/233073_teen19a.html], was written by a therapist named Joe Guppy. He begins by talking about his pride at sitting in Seahawks stadium watching his nephew graduate as one of the valedictorians of his class. He then writes
I also felt pride in the diversity among the graduates and the crowd. It was inspiring when society seems to be growing ever more divisive to see a unified celebration of youthful achievement. But as each member of the entire class of 400-plus came forward to accept diplomas, and as the cheering of family and friends rose up from different sections of the stadium, I thought:

How many of these graduates would not be here if the rigid WASL test graduation requirements were in place now, instead of in three years? How many of these whooping and hollering families would instead be struggling with a child who had dropped out of high school, stigmatized as a "failure"? How many younger brothers and sisters will not join their siblings as high school grads?


As a therapist he has worked with many of those who would be affected:
I ran a teen anger management group at a Seattle-area community agency, working with students who struggle with the pressures of a society in which to be average is considered failure, and to be below average is to be considered worthless.


It is not that he is opposed to teaching kids skills in reading, writing and math, but worries that we have devalued an ordinary working class life for those not academically oriented, and the consequences of that devaluation:
Beneath the stories of anger, fights, shoplifting and drug abuse, I always see in these kids a deep shame. We do not give them dignified options, and instead they turn to an identity that offers them respect within an alternative society -- the "gangster" or "outlaw" culture.


He talks about the opportunities that used to exist. How his grandfather, an Australian, jumped ship in Canada and snuck into the U.S., where he joined the Army to earn citizenship, never had more than an 8th grade education, and worked as a house painter. He goes on:
My father earned a Ph.D. and became a top academic officer at Seattle University, but he never gave even a hint that his "career" was of greater value than his father's "job." Perhaps this comes out of the Depression, when any employment was valued and honorable. And he passed this on to his five sons. Some of us hold more working-class jobs and others have advanced degrees, but we know that we all have equal dignity.


I attended high school in a community that was largely upper middle class. Of the four elementary schools, two were that SES or higher, one was a mix of high SES and middle class, and one was lower middle class and working class. That fourth school was largely Italian and Black families. I remember at one reunion seeing a film where they talked about how these were the families who provided the gardeners and servants. I was sitting with a classmate who was Italian, who still burned at the denigrating attitude it reflected. He had developed his own business, after successful military service as an officer. But he was still proud of his father’s gifts as a gardner, and wondered why it had to be viewed in such a demeaning fashion - even 20 years out of high school it still “frosts my cookies” as he put it, trying to abide by his father’s demand that he never curse.

Finally, we have today’s op ed by Bob Herbert, entitled [Education’s Collateral Damage http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/opinion/21herbert.html?hp]. Let me offer the beginning:

Stop the presses! Within just a few days we've had a scandal involving a world-class presidential guru bumped off the front pages by a prime-time presidential announcement of a nominee to the Supreme Court.

No one would argue that these aren't big stories. But an issue that is even more important to the long-term future of the U.S. gets very short shrift from the media. In an era when a college education is virtually a prerequisite for maintaining a middle-class lifestyle, an extraordinary number of American teenagers continue to head toward adulthood without even a high school diploma.


Quoting an essay in a new book by Gary Orfield of Harvard, Herbert presents us with this
"Nationally, only about two-thirds of all students - and only half of all blacks, Latinos and Native Americans - who enter ninth grade graduate with regular diplomas four years later."

In much of the nation, especially in urban and rural areas, the picture is even more dismal. In New York City, just 18 percent of all students graduate with a Regents diploma, which is the diploma generally required for admission to a four-year college. Only 9.4 percent of African-American students get a Regents diploma.


In fact, the U.S. has one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world, and realistically, as Tom Vander Ark of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation notes, only one in five of our students is prepared for college. Vander Ark calls it a social justice issue, noting
"In the aggregate, we need more young people educated at higher levels: more finishing high school, more finishing community college, more finishing four-year degrees. And secondly, I think it's very important that we close the racial and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment.

"We're seeing a scary level of income stratification that is the result of educational stratification. And it's becoming important not just for the economy but for our society that we help low-income [students], and especially kids of color, achieve high levels of education so that they can participate in the economy and in our society."


The Gates Foundation offers the following factoids:
High school dropouts, on average, earn $9,245 less per year than high school graduates.

The poverty rate for families headed by dropouts is more than twice that for families headed by high school graduates.

Dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, less likely to vote and more likely to be imprisoned than high school graduates.


Let me give some snippets from Herbert’s conclusion, and then offer some remarks of my own:
And whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you'd like to see a wiser, more creative and more effective approach to such crucial problems as war and peace, terror, international relations, employment, energy consumption and so on, you'll need to rely on a much better-educated and better-informed population than the United States has now. . . . The public needs to understand the extent of the high school dropout crisis, and its implications for the long-term future of the U.S. It will most likely have more of an impact on the lives of your children and grandchildren than George W. Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court.



On the surface the three pieces I have offered you may seem contradictory, but they are of a piece. First we need to decide what role or function our schools should provide. That we needs to have a meaningful way of evaluating how well we do our job of schooling is not the question. If the way that we do is not supportive of learning, and not structured so that the information obtained can be used to help students, then that means of assessment - such as WASL - is not performing a positive function. Clearly we do not what children dropping out if at all possible. But then we need to recognize that a school environment that devalues much of what students know is counterproductive. We also cannot demean those who opt for future paths that are not the typical aspirations of the upper middle class. It may be more difficult nowadays to make a good living without graduating from college, but I can assure you, having dealt with auto mechanics and tv repairmen in the past few days, certain skills can still lead to a rewarding life even without the BA or higher. And while we should encourage students to strive and to explore, we cannot so structure school that it discourages them and leads to higher dropout rates. Because while one may not need a college degree in order to succeed, it is very difficult without at least a high school diploma. And the disparity of dropout rates always falls more heavily on those form the lower SES, which inevitably correlates all too well with issues of race.

I hope these three items provide some food for thought.

The two letters from the P-I were printed on Monday. One characteristic of the Washington tests, not unique to that state, is the secrecy which is attached to the test. While it is possible for a parent to see his child’s actual test (not the case in every state), there is a confidentiality agreement that prohibits disclosing what one has seen, even in discussion with the teacher(s) of your child. This provision has criminal penalties. The author of the first letter, David Muga, Ph. D., is a college instructor, and his entire letter can be read [here http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/233075_wasl19a.html ]

The letter is headed “Secrecy of the process helps no one” and begins
I object to the confidentiality form I was asked to sign prior to review of my daughter's fifth-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning test results. In essence, the form criminalizes any parents who talk about the WASL exam their child took, even if they talk about it to their child's teacher or other parent. As such, I declined to sign the form and was unable to review my daughter's test results.


About 1/3 of the test is recycled each year. However it is not clear whether if those questions were identified the parents could discuss the rest. A more serious problem, as Muga notes, is
According to an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction representative, Revised Code of Washington 28A.635.040 language quoted in the disclosure form was originally crafted for use in the administration of adult professional certification and advancement testing, for example, teacher certification exams and State Patrol advancement exams. Do WASL questions for my 10-year-old really fall into the realm of tests administered to professional adults? In my assessment, they do not. Adults who apply for a position do so voluntarily; children are subjected to WASL exams under coercive conditions.

WASL exams are allegedly intended to improve student learning. Thus, the reasoning behind enforcement of a level of confidentiality that significantly restricts both access and discussion of the test items is indefensible. Not only do secret tests fail to improve student learning, they, in fact, inhibit it.


Part of the argument given for such confidentiality is that each new test questions costs roughly $20,000
to create, validate, and pilot test
. Muga points out
the insanity of creating an assessment whose very cost precludes its use as a diagnostic tool. If student learning were truly the object of the exercise, hiring new teachers, reducing class size, purchasing new teaching materials or introducing new pedagogical techniques would seem a better use of this $20,000 per-item expense.


Muga also notes that the inability to see and discuss the items seems to work against the idea of having parents of those historically left behind involved in the process of helping their children comply with the expectations the tests impose. He also worries about the amount of testing:
According to my estimates, my fifth-grade daughter was subjected to at least 30 hours of testing, including 18 hours for the WASL, in April and May. Excessive testing; teaching to the test; the use of vague and non-measurable benchmarks and rubrics, portrayed as "best practices," and failure to ensure quality learning opportunities have exacerbated the inequalities of outcome for students.


The second letter, [No Child Left Behind Act and WASL will leave kids behind
URL: http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/233073_teen19a.html], was written by a therapist named Joe Guppy. He begins by talking about his pride at sitting in Seahawks stadium watching his nephew graduate as one of the valedictorians of his class. He then writes
I also felt pride in the diversity among the graduates and the crowd. It was inspiring when society seems to be growing ever more divisive to see a unified celebration of youthful achievement. But as each member of the entire class of 400-plus came forward to accept diplomas, and as the cheering of family and friends rose up from different sections of the stadium, I thought:

How many of these graduates would not be here if the rigid WASL test graduation requirements were in place now, instead of in three years? How many of these whooping and hollering families would instead be struggling with a child who had dropped out of high school, stigmatized as a "failure"? How many younger brothers and sisters will not join their siblings as high school grads?


As a therapist he has worked with many of those who would be affected:
I ran a teen anger management group at a Seattle-area community agency, working with students who struggle with the pressures of a society in which to be average is considered failure, and to be below average is to be considered worthless.


It is not that he is opposed to teaching kids skills in reading, writing and math, but worries that we have devalued an ordinary working class life for those not academically oriented, and the consequences of that devaluation:
Beneath the stories of anger, fights, shoplifting and drug abuse, I always see in these kids a deep shame. We do not give them dignified options, and instead they turn to an identity that offers them respect within an alternative society -- the "gangster" or "outlaw" culture.


He talks about the opportunities that used to exist. How his grandfather, an Australian, jumped ship in Canada and snuck into the U.S., where he joined the Army to earn citizenship, never had more than an 8th grade education, and worked as a house painter. He goes on:
My father earned a Ph.D. and became a top academic officer at Seattle University, but he never gave even a hint that his "career" was of greater value than his father's "job." Perhaps this comes out of the Depression, when any employment was valued and honorable. And he passed this on to his five sons. Some of us hold more working-class jobs and others have advanced degrees, but we know that we all have equal dignity.


I attended high school in a community that was largely upper middle class. Of the four elementary schools, two were that SES or higher, one was a mix of high SES and middle class, and one was lower middle class and working class. That fourth school was largely Italian and Black families. I remember at one reunion seeing a film where they talked about how these were the families who provided the gardeners and servants. I was sitting with a classmate who was Italian, who still burned at the denigrating attitude it reflected. He had developed his own business, after successful military service as an officer. But he was still proud of his father’s gifts as a gardner, and wondered why it had to be viewed in such a demeaning fashion - even 20 years out of high school it still “frosts my cookies” as he put it, trying to abide by his father’s demand that he never curse.

Finally, we have today’s op ed by Bob Herbert, entitled [Education’s Collateral Damage http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/opinion/21herbert.html?hp]. Let me offer the beginning:

Stop the presses! Within just a few days we've had a scandal involving a world-class presidential guru bumped off the front pages by a prime-time presidential announcement of a nominee to the Supreme Court.

No one would argue that these aren't big stories. But an issue that is even more important to the long-term future of the U.S. gets very short shrift from the media. In an era when a college education is virtually a prerequisite for maintaining a middle-class lifestyle, an extraordinary number of American teenagers continue to head toward adulthood without even a high school diploma.


Quoting an essay in a new book by Gary Orfield of Harvard, Herbert presents us with this
"Nationally, only about two-thirds of all students - and only half of all blacks, Latinos and Native Americans - who enter ninth grade graduate with regular diplomas four years later."

In much of the nation, especially in urban and rural areas, the picture is even more dismal. In New York City, just 18 percent of all students graduate with a Regents diploma, which is the diploma generally required for admission to a four-year college. Only 9.4 percent of African-American students get a Regents diploma.


In fact, the U.S. has one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world, and realistically, as Tom Vander Ark of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation notes, only one in five of our students is prepared for college. Vander Ark calls it a social justice issue, noting
"In the aggregate, we need more young people educated at higher levels: more finishing high school, more finishing community college, more finishing four-year degrees. And secondly, I think it's very important that we close the racial and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment.

"We're seeing a scary level of income stratification that is the result of educational stratification. And it's becoming important not just for the economy but for our society that we help low-income [students], and especially kids of color, achieve high levels of education so that they can participate in the economy and in our society."


The Gates Foundation offers the following factoids:
High school dropouts, on average, earn $9,245 less per year than high school graduates.

The poverty rate for families headed by dropouts is more than twice that for families headed by high school graduates.

Dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, less likely to vote and more likely to be imprisoned than high school graduates.


Let me give some snippets from Herbert’s conclusion, and then offer some remarks of my own:
And whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you'd like to see a wiser, more creative and more effective approach to such crucial problems as war and peace, terror, international relations, employment, energy consumption and so on, you'll need to rely on a much better-educated and better-informed population than the United States has now. . . . The public needs to understand the extent of the high school dropout crisis, and its implications for the long-term future of the U.S. It will most likely have more of an impact on the lives of your children and grandchildren than George W. Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court.



On the surface the three pieces I have offered you may seem contradictory, but they are of a piece. First we need to decide what role or function our schools should provide. That we needs to have a meaningful way of evaluating how well we do our job of schooling is not the question. If the way that we do is not supportive of learning, and not structured so that the information obtained can be used to help students, then that means of assessment - such as WASL - is not performing a positive function. Clearly we do not what children dropping out if at all possible. But then we need to recognize that a school environment that devalues much of what students know is counterproductive. We also cannot demean those who opt for future paths that are not the typical aspirations of the upper middle class. It may be more difficult nowadays to make a good living without graduating from college, but I can assure you, having dealt with auto mechanics and tv repairmen in the past few days, certain skills can still lead to a rewarding life even without the BA or higher. And while we should encourage students to strive and to explore, we cannot so structure school that it discourages them and leads to higher dropout rates. Because while one may not need a college degree in order to succeed, it is very difficult without at least a high school diploma. And the disparity of dropout rates always falls more heavily on those form the lower SES, which inevitably correlates all too well with issues of race.

I hope these three items provide some food for thought.
Comments:
Hello, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a opt in mlm lead site. It pretty much covers opt in mlm lead related stuff. Check it out if you get time :-)
 
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?