National Assessments in mathematics, English/language arts and science are coming soon to an American school in your neighborhood. Although the national science assessments are a few years away, the national assessments in mathematics and English/language arts will begin early pilots and field testing next school year, and will be ready for full operational administration in 2014 – 2015.
Is this an idea that is good for American education? For students? For parents? For Teachers?
In a recent post on this blog entitled The Testing Games: How America’s Youth are being put at risk, we suggested that American students from grades 3 – 12, participate in an annual event that makes them take tests to ensure that their state and school continue to receive federal funding. The testing games that children and youth are annually required to participate in are used to identify winners and losers. Unlike the Hunger Games, children are used to determine winning schools, teachers and districts. No one dies. However, we are testing the life out of our children and youth.
As we noted in the post on testing, student scores determine whether a school has done a good or bad job. Schools which receive Federal ESEA funding must make progress (known as Adequate Yearly Progress) on test scores. Schools compare scores from one year to the next, and use the difference to determine how well or poorly the children and youth did. And we added that policy makers are hunting for bad teachers. To do this, they have required states to begin using VAM (Value Added Modeling) to rate teachers, and to then humiliate the teachers by publishing VAM scoresin the local papers, as in Los Angeles and New York City.
Each spring, American students sit for hours at their desks, or at a computer and take tests in mathematics and reading, and for some students in science, and social studies. In many school districts, especially in poorer communities, students are prepped for the tests by their teachers, who may take as many as two or three weeks to get them ready. We know how this testing mania, and the consequences attached to high-stakes tests has led to wide-scale cheating by school officials, with state department’s of education looking the other way, or not participating in the exploration of the causes of test erasure scandals.
Even when we examine the social-emotional toll that high-stakes testing, we continue along a path as if students didn’t matter.
Anxious teachers, sobbing children was the title of an opinion article published in the Atlanta newspaper a few weeks ago. The article, written by Stephanie Jones, professor of education at the University of Georgia, asks “What’s the low morale and crying about in education these days? Mandatory dehumanization and emotional policy-making — that’s what.”
Policy makers, acting on emotion and little to no data, have dehumanized schooling by implementing authoritarian standards in a one-size-fits-all system of education. We’ve enabled a layer of the educational system (U.S. Department of Education and the state departments of education) to implement the NCLB act, and high-stakes tests, and use data from these tests to determine the fate of school districts, teachers and students. One of the outcomes of this policy is the debilitating effects on the mental and physical health of students, teachers and administrators.
What follows is a discussion of the present state of the national assessment movement in American education in mathematics, English/language arts, and science. In light of the context in which real schools, teachers and students are required to participate in annual rounds of high-stakes testing, the discussion below might lead you to a variety of conclusions about the wisdom of nationalizing assessment.
Mathematics and English/language Arts
The movement to create national assessments, especially mathematics and English/language arts, comes on the heels of the Common Core State Standards. PARCC received $186 million from the U.S. Department of Education through the Race to the Top assessment competition. Only Three organizations submitted proposals for funding, two were awarded grants, PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. PARCC chose Achieve, Inc. to be its managing partner as reported in the proposal and the review by the Department of Education. Smarter Balanced will develop computer adaptive testing for the Common Core.
PARCC, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is a consortium of 24 states organized by Achieve, Inc., to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English/language arts and math correlated to the Common Core State Standards. Assessments will be developed for K-2, grades 3 – 8, and grades 9 – 12. At each level, required performance-based assessments (PBA) will be administered near the end of the school year in ELA/literacy and mathematics. Optional non-summative assessments in the form of diagnostic and mid-year will be available to schools.
The PARCC assessments will be administered to students, K-12 as computer-based assessments. According to the PARCC website, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and the Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) have issued guidelines to schools defining the technology requirements for the administration of the Common Assessments.
School’s will have to budget millions of dollars to equip classrooms with the technology recommended by PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Will computers make the playing field level, or not?
The Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Academy of Sciences announced that it will form a committee to make recommendations for strategies for developing assessments that will be based on the K-12 Science Education Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards. According to the NRC, the committee will prepare a report that includes a conceptual framework for science assessment in K-12, and will make recommendations to various groups about what is needed to develop a national science assessment.
The Next Generation Science Standards are being developed by Achieve, Inc., a company that stands to earn millions of dollars just with its work in science education. They also are the company that developed the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English/language arts (ELA).
The first draft of science standards is set to be released for view very soon. Although feedback will be solicited, it will be regulated by Achieve and final decisions will rest with the oversight committee. Finally, when the draft is released the secrecy that has surrounded this effort will be exposed.
Is this effort to nationalize standards worth the effort at the expense of removing options for each state to take responsibility for the education of its citizens, as most state constitutions suggest?
To find out what readers think about National Assessments, we invite you to take a minute to respond to four opinion questions.
The Next Generation Science Standards are being developed by Achieve, Inc., a company that stands to earn millions of dollars just with its work in science education. They also are the company that developed the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English/language arts (ELA). The science standards are set to be released for view very soon.Tags: education in the united states, education reform, evaluation, High-Stakes Testing, language arts, national assessment, Science Assessment, science education, standardized test, standards based education