Posts Tagged ‘high-stakes tests’

PSAT for 4-22-14: Speak out on testing!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

psat_logoThe date and time have been finalized for the subject matter hearing on testing sponsored by the Illinois Senate Education Committee, and you are invited!

The hearing will take place this Friday, April 25, at 2:30 pm at the Bilandic Building, 160 N LaSalle Street in Chicago, Room 600.

This is our chance to share our concerns about testing with our state legislators. If you want to speak, fill out a witness slip here (be sure to check that you are FOR or a proponent of both bills).

The specific bills under consideration at this hearing are sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, who represents communities in the far southwest side of Chicago and southwest suburbs:

  • SB 2156 (Chicago only) allows no more than four tests per year – two state standardized tests, and two tests to “comply with the Evaluation of Teachers” statute.
  • SB 3460 would prohibit the administration of tests to children enrolled in kindergarten through the second grade “for any reason other than diagnostic purposes.”

Our friend Jim Broadway, of State School News Service, says that these bills “faltered, missed their deadlines and have been sent back to the Committee on Assignments, which is the graveyard for Senate bills that never advance out of the Senate.” However, bills are never really dead in Springfield, and you can bring up any other testing issues as well. Let’s not let this opportunity pass by without a strong showing from Chicago parents!

Parents support Saucedo and Drummond teachers’ test boycott

Friday, February 28th, 2014

BNtestprepcropParents United for Responsible Education and the parent group More Than a Score strongly support the teachers at Chicago’s Saucedo, Drummond,  and any other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Illinois teachers who are refusing to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test to their students beginning on Monday, March 3.

The hundreds of parents represented by PURE and MTAS oppose the misuse and overuse of standardized tests. We believe that Chicago schools are administering far too many tests and wasting too much precious learning time on testing and test preparation. Some tests are given just to predict how students will do on future tests. Others are unfairly and improperly used to make life-changing decisions about children, which even test makers say is wrong.

Parents are increasingly fed up with excessive testing and test prep which we believe has replaced many of the important aspects of education including the arts, science, history, civics, and spoken communication. This is why hundreds of parents at scores of Chicago schools are opting their children out of the ISAT this year. This test is being phased out this year and has no particular purpose. Unfortunately, CPS officials have responded to parents’ concerns with threats and misinformation. They claim that schools may be lose federal funds or even their accreditation if students don’t take the test.

And for teachers like those at Saucedo, who support the parents, who want to teach and not incessantly test, and who have announced their intention not to administer the ISAT this year, the attempts at intimidation are worse: CPS has threatened to fire them and revoke their teaching licenses.

We stand in solidarity with these courageous teachers who are standing up for our children and their education.

Nationwide, a growing number of parents and teachers are rising up and saying “Enough!” Chicago is emerging as a national leader in this healthy movement away from excessive testing and towards a richer, more meaningful learning experience for our children.

PURE and MTAS ask CPS to respect the decisions of parents to protect our children from test misuse by opting them out, and to honor the teachers who are refusing to give the tests as a matter of conscience and from a sincere desire to provide children with a real education, not just more test prep.

Two LSCs sign on to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing!

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Congratulations to the Kelly HS and the Drummond Montessori Local School Councils for signing on to the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing. You can see their sign-on at the bottom below. The Kelly faculty also signed on.

The More Than a Score group has been working to include LSCs in the important work of educating parents and others around the problems with high-stakes standardized testing.

We created this LSC Testing Toolkit which provides useful fact and tip sheets as well as sample local resolutions to go along with the national resolution. We hope to get more LSCs to sign on and to bring this valuable information to their schools.



Testing resistance resources

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Educators oppose test score-based teacher evaluation

Monday, September 17th, 2012


Media Release:
For Immediate Distribution

Contact information:
Isabel Nunez, Professor, Concordia University Chicago,, 708-209-3518
Erica Meiners, Professor, Northeastern Illinois University,, 773-816-6561

Chicago, IL.  As the Chicago Teachers Union begins the second week of
their strike, some political leaders and media commentators are quick to
blame teachers for resisting a system for evaluating teachers that other
states and school districts across the country have already adopted.

But the research is clear: student test scores and “value added measures”
are neither valid nor reliable for evaluating teachers.  Half a year ago, a
network of 88 education professors from 16 universities in the Chicago
area, called CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for
Transformative Education), issued (an) open letter, explaining
why this evaluation system is neither research-based nor beneficial to our
city’s children.  CReATE is re-releasing this open letter, and urges
public debate, policy decisions, and contract negotiations to draw on
such research expertise.

PSAT for 8-2-11: Take the Matt Damon test

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Are you as well-informed about education issues as Matt Damon?

Check out his interview with Gotham Schools here and his SOS March speech here.

Did you know all that? Why is he so smart about school issues? Well, apparently he’s actually really smart. Also, he has a smart mom who is a professor of early childhood education and hangs around with Diane Ravitch.

But all of us can get smart, and we have started hanging around with Diane R., too, at least virtually, by reading her blogs and tweets, right? And we can share them with our friends and family the way Matt’s mom shares news and information with Matt, right?

So, let’s do it. For Public Schools Action Tuesday (PSAT) this week, take the Matt Damon test and find out if you are as smart about education as a Hollywood movie star. Then share the test with your friends and family. Let’s all be as smart as Matt.

Better tests? Better get some better answers first, part 2

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

This is part 2 of a 2-part series on the national tests under development to assess progress under the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Part 1 is here, and here’s an earlier post about the CCSS.


The Obama administration’s support for more testing under ESEA is based on an assertion that the tests will be better than the ones we have now.

How’s that going so far?

To find out more about this so-called “new generation of assessments,” I followed a link on the Illinois State Board of Education web site to a report by the Educational Testing Service. I learned that there are two groups, or consortia, developing the national standardized tests based on the CCSS.

One is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). There are 24 states involved in this group, including Illinois. PARCC’s project management partner is Achieve.

PARCC’s goal is to “increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workplace.” To achieve this goal, PARCC will develop “assessments to help educators improve teacher, school, and system effectiveness by providing a wider variety of data that is useful for the purposes of analyzing effectiveness, calibrating interventions, holding school professionals accountable for student outcomes, supporting strategic management of human resources, and identifying mid-year professional development and support needs for educators. This, in turn, is intended to lead to higher levels of teacher and administrator effectiveness and faster rates of student and school improvement” (ETS report p. 7).

That’s not exactly how John Dewey described the purposes of education, is it? Nothing, really, about meeting students’ needs, about the value of learning, about helping students develop their potential…. In fact, that goal statement would make a whole lot more sense if you substituted “widget production” for “student outcomes.”

The other group is the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), whose project management partner is West Ed. The letters in SMARTER seem to stand for something but I couldn’t find out what. The SBAC group includes 31 states (some states are involved in both groups).

SBAC’s plans are even heavier on technology than PARCC’s, and depend the most on having the technology actually work. “The design of the SBAC Consortium is intended to strategically ‘balance’ summative, interim, and formative assessments through an integrated system of standards, curriculum, assessment, instruction, and teacher development, while providing accurate year-to-year indicators of students’ progress toward college and career readiness” (ETS report p.11).

The thing that jumped out at me from the pages of this guide was that THEY REALLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO WHAT THEY PLAN TO DO. What do you think? Here are a few more quotes from the ETS report (emphasis added throughout).

For example, about PARCC:

The end-of-year component will utilize 100 percent computer scoring. The Partnership (PARCC) plans to press for advances in automated scoring, including the use of artificial intelligence (p. 9).

While a specific analytic approach for calculating growth has not yet been determined, the objective will be to describe each students’ relative growth, expected growth given the students’ prior achievement, and the extent to which that student is ‘on track’ toward college and career readiness… A number of technical and psychometric challenges will be investigated during the development phase to determine if and how the scores from these multiple components can be aggregated to yield valid, reliable and legally defensible scores (p. 9).

About SBAC:

Student scores from both the performance tasks (one in reading, one in writing, and two in math per year) and the computer adaptive assessment will be combined for the annual summative score. Research will be conducted to inform decisions concerning the aggregation and weighting of the results from these two components (p. 13).

They call them “unresolved challenges”

The final essay in the ETS guide is “Finding Solutions, Moving Forward,” by Nancy Doorey, Director of Programs at ETS’s Center for K-12 Assessment and performance Management, which prepared the report.

Granted, the purpose of the essay is to raise some important questions about the assessment development, but considering what is riding on these tests being BETTER tests, there seem to be way too many questions for comfort.

Here are a few:

How far can we push the frontiers of measurement during this development phase? Can we find better solutions to address two priorities that stand in tension, first, the need for highly precise and reliable data for high-stakes decisions; and second, the need for assessments that require students to apply knowledge and skills to solve complex, real world problems? (p. 15).

Studies will need to be carried out to gain deeper understanding than we currently have to support these decisions (p. 15).

Designing these components such that they can be placed onto a common scale and equated from year to year may require new approaches (p. 16).

Policy decisions concerning the weighting of the individual components into a composite annual score will need to be informed by data and field tests to ensure that the final composite scores are legally defensible for use in high-stakes decisions concerning individuals (p. 16).

Artificial intelligence engines exist that score the large majority of student essays at least as reliably as humans, and ‘send back’ those essays that are so unique or creative as to require human scoring. However, as we look to assess writing in the context of science, English literature, or history, as called for in the CCSS, new advances are needed to produce reliable sub-scores for both writing and the content area constructs assessed (p. 16).

The development of interactive computer tasks and their automated scoring engines is challenging, particularly when used within high-stakes assessments. To illustrate, the National Board of Medical Examiners has been working on interactive medical case simulations and automated scoring methodologies for use in their licensure examination for nearly 30 years and using them in operational exams for more than a decade. Examinees currently complete nine simulations, each of which takes about 25 minutes. However, to insure high comparability from one administration of the test to the next, each examinee takes approximately 480 selected response items. If results from the new K-12 assessment systems are to be used for comparable high-stakes decisions regarding individuals, such as the awarding of high school diplomas, similarly high thresholds for psychometric quality must be met (p. 17).

Finding solutions to the measurement challenges would help our schools identify individual student needs for intervention or acceleration throughout the year. The Race to the Top Assessment Program, therefore, will likely stimulate important advances in the measurement field (p. 16).

So, to President Obama, Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan, and the entire USDE PR Department, I’m not convinced.

And to you, dear readers, for doing all this god-awful reading so you don’t have to – you’re welcome!

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.