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Assessment

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By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Last week, Achieve, a national education advocacy nonprofit, released an analysis comparing proficiency rates in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math as reported by states to the same data measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Discrepancies were found between the percentage of students reported as proficient by states and the number of students who met national proficiency benchmarks.

NAEP defines proficiency as “solid academic performance” for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills approximate to the subject matter. Frequently, states’ testing and reporting processes yield different results than the data collected and reported by the NAEP, which is administered uniformly across the nation and assess what students know and can do in various subject areas. And NAEP results are generally not known by students and their families. ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

As a University of Florida graduate, I was happy to see Tim Tebow get another chance to play in the National Football League, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t understand why the football world is so disparaging of him. At UF, Tebow led the school to two national championships and won a Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. Since he entered the NFL, the main criticism is that he has a low percentage of completed passes.

In 2011, Tebow was named the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback when the team had won only one game and lost four. He turned the abysmal season around, leading the team to its first division championship, and first appearance in the playoffs, in six years. But he only completed 46.5 percent his passes, so the Broncos brought in superstar Peyton Manning, and after standing on the sidelines with two other teams, Tebow has been out of the NFL for two years. He completed less than half of his passes when elite quarterbacks complete of about two-thirds of their passes. Seriously, what difference should that make? When Tebow’s given a chance to play, his team wins. Isn’t that what’s really important? ...

New research on student achievement under the Common Core State Standards shows that students exposed to the standards made faster progress than those who had not been exposed to CCSS—a promising sign that the standards will improve student learning.

The study was conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers analyzed three cohorts of students in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt the standards in 2010 and began implementation the next year. Kentucky requires its 11th graders to take the ACT test, which provided data for three cohorts of students in both high-poverty and low-poverty schools. ...

This month, the first year of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced assessment began. Both are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and designed to measure student academic progress. This month, the media has also been full of stories of parents who are “opting out” of their child’s participation in the assessments. While none of us who have worked in the public education sphere for years believe that testing should be the focus of our work with students (and certainly it makes perfect sense to re-evaluate on a regular basis the time and energy expended on assessment) the hysteria around this assessment season seems overblown and misplaced.

This parental concern does give us a chance to stop and consider what’s most important in our developing children’s lives. As the adults in the room, we need to remember that a test, any test, has major limitations and serves as a snapshot in time of what the test taker knows and is able to communicate ...

By Dr. Joseph Bishop, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

What does equity have to do with accountability?

Many teachers and principals are likely feeling stressed as they think about how to make up for lost instructional time in the wake of an uptick of winter storms like Juno. This isn't the case for students in Hamilton, Michigan. In fact, a little more cold and a little more ice might be a good thing for their math and science projects. As part of the STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) program at Hamilton Middle School just outside of Grand Rapids, students are developing the fastest sleds they can make, using cardboard and duct tape. Students are doing more than playing in the snow, seeing how learning can be fun in the right conditions. One student said it best, "It's cool because no one else in school has ever gotten to learn like we are."

But under the current accountability system, often lurking behind the classroom choices are inevitable questions about the ‘what if.’ Like, will an innovative project-based lesson similar to testing sled designs have consequences for student preparation for tests or test responses? Instead, educators should be thinking about more important things, like finding the best creative way to make sure a lesson sticks like fresh snow. And far too often, No Child Left Behind and many state accountability plans have looked too quickly at test results, and not addressed the unequal conditions that are making it hard for communities to deliver enriching public school experiences. ...

I’ve been reminded over the past weeks of the importance of language in arriving at agreement on what needs to happen for the public education experience to be successful for all our students, regardless of their background and socioeconomic condition. The use of language and its different translations/meaning for different citizen groups was brought home during recent debate over proposed changes in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education bill that is now before Congress. A few examples:

  • Accountability – From my standpoint, accountability just means assessing the progress of those who have some skin in the game and can influence the outcome of any endeavor. I actually prefer the word responsibility ...

By Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA), and Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

This piece first appeared in the Washington Post. View the original here.

Public education for every child was an American idea, but it has always been a local and state responsibility. Even when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 50 years ago, the intended federal role was limited but clear: ensuring equal opportunity.

The act provided federal resources for states to level the playing field between schools in wealthy and poor districts. However, its 2002 reauthorization, which became known as No Child Left Behind, took the law off track by mandating that all students hit arbitrary scores on standardized tests instead of ensuring equal opportunities.

No Child Left Behind has failed. Now we have a chance to fix the law by refocusing on the proper federal role: equal opportunity. To do that, we must change the way we think about accountability.

Under No Child Left Behind, accountability has hinged entirely on standardized test scores, a single number that has been used to determine whether students graduate or teachers keep their jobs. The problem is, a single test score is like a blinking "check engine" light on the dashboard. It can tell us something's wrong but not how to fix it ...

Cory Notestine is the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) 2015 School Counselor of the Year. He worked in Guilford County Schools (NC) at T. Wingate Andrews High School before moving to Colorado, where he currently serves as a counselor at Alamosa High School. Notestine's efforts have resulted in higher college going rates and increased opportunities for students to partake in community college and university courses while still in high school.

Notestine was kind enough to take time to discuss his work and the school counseling program at Alamosa High School in greater depth. He highlighted the importance of the ASCA National Model in guiding the creation of the school's comprehensive counseling program, one that both holds counselors accountable and shows the impact of their work for the students they serve. Notestine also presented his priorities for the next year, when he will be serving as a national spokesman for his profession and his colleagues nationwide.
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What makes good public policy? Some analysts might respond with the phrase "evidence-based research." Unfortunately, policymakers can also be political agents, acting in the interests of outside forces and influences. A recent book, Show Me the Evidence, by Ron Haskins, heralds the Obama Administration's focus on using evidence to inform public policy solutions. Unfortunately, the administration’s current obsession with the use of value-added measures (VAM) to track student growth and account for their progress in teacher evaluations runs counter to this evidence-based emphasis. ...

By Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Founder and Executive Director, Data Quality Campaign

This article will also appear on The Huffington Post.

“My child is not a number!”

In the era of so-called big data in education, you’re likely to hear this refrain. Education data are, after all, mostly numbers. (I would argue that more anecdotal information—such as classroom observations—should also be considered part of a full picture of student “data,” but that’s a whole blog post in itself.) No child’s experiences can be reduced to a set of numbers on a spreadsheet, and no data policy should be about limiting a student’s options or reducing her experience. On the contrary: effective data use should expand a child’s horizons by providing more information about individual students to help guide the people making decisions about their learning—parents and educators. ...

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