Blue Ribbon Testing Reform (NCEA-JLF)

https://i0.wp.com/www.warrenncgop.com/Education%20Alliance%20Logo.jpg The North Carolina Education Alliance (the education arm of the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation) released a column by NCEA fellow Kristen Blair on proposed state testing changes in our schools.

Here’s the column in its entirety, then I’ll interject with some analysis:

There’s a growing consensus that our state testing program is due for a major overhaul. But ideas on how to fix it vary widely. Last week, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability (formed in May by the State Board of Education) circulated draft proposals for change. Curbing the number of tests topped the list: writing and computer skills tests could get the boot if the commission has its way. The commission’s final report is due in January, so stay tuned.

In the interim, new educational data may incite more calls for testing reform, particularly given the ongoing (and glaring) mismatch between national and state numbers. On November 15th, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released results from the
2007 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). The 2007 TUDA reported on the math and reading performance of fourth and eighth graders in 11 urban school districts (including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, CMS) on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

CMS students fared well compared to their peers in urban districts around the country, but they’re still a long way from making the grade. In reading, just 35 percent of CMS fourth graders and 29 percent of eighth graders were proficient or above on NAEP. In math, 44 percent of fourth graders and 33 percent of eighth graders performed at or above the proficient level.

How does this relate to the issue of testing reform? Consider that the state report carddiscrepancies between state tests and NAEP are nothing new. Still, lawmakers have yet to push through a testing program that accurately assesses student performance.

Instead of tightening testing rigor, the emerging trend – reflected in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s preliminary recommendations and also in national policy decisions – seems to be that less is more, at least when it comes to testing feedback. The NCES recently made the decision to withdraw American students from the international Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), due to “scarce resources.” So we’ll get a temporary reprieve from international embarrassment (the last time American 12th graders took the test, they came in 19th out of 21 countries). But our unenlightened state will eventually show us up as we fail to keep pace in the global economy.

TIMSS isn’t the only test on the chopping block. At their recent quarterly meeting, officials with the National Assessment Governing Board (the agency that sets policy for NAEP) warned funding shortfalls portend fewer NAEP tests. Exams in economics, foreign language, geography, and world history will likely be the first to go. Long-term trend tests in reading and math may take a break in 2012 for the first time in more than 40 years. Officials claimed the familiar refrain of insufficient funds as their rationale – a shocker given our hundreds of billions of dollars on annual K-12 education expenditures.

What’s the solution to our testing dilemma? Jettisoning valuable national and international assessments isn’t the answer. Simply cutting back on the number of exams at the state level won’t help us either – we’ll still have bad tests, albeit in shorter supply. Instead, we ought to trade our plethora of faulty state assessments for an independent, nationally normed achievement test. Such a move would enable us to trim state testing excesses and gain genuine accountability in the core subjects. Whether commissioners agree or not, that’s a blue ribbon proposal for reform. released this fall tells a far different story about CMS performance, lending credence to Mark Twain’s oft-cited assertion that “statistics are more pliable” than facts. According to data from 2007 state tests, 85 percent of CMS fourth and eighth graders were at or above grade level in reading; 68 percent of fourth graders and 63 percent of eighth graders scored at or above grade level on state math tests. Unfortunately, such gaping discrepancies between state tests and NAEP are nothing new. Still, lawmakers have yet to push through a testing program that accurately assesses student performance.

Instead of tightening testing rigor, the emerging trend – reflected in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s preliminary recommendations and also in national policy decisions – seems to be that less is more, at least when it comes to testing feedback. The NCES recently made the decision to withdraw American students from the international Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), due to “scarce resources.” So we’ll get a temporary reprieve from international embarrassment (the last time American 12th graders took the test, they came in 19th out of 21 countries). But our unenlightened state will eventually show us up as we fail to keep pace in the global economy.

TIMSS isn’t the only test on the chopping block. At their recent quarterly meeting, officials with the National Assessment Governing Board (the agency that sets policy for NAEP) warned funding shortfalls portend fewer NAEP tests. Exams in economics, foreign language, geography, and world history will likely be the first to go. Long-term trend tests in reading and math may take a break in 2012 for the first time in more than 40 years. Officials claimed the familiar refrain of insufficient funds as their rationale – a shocker given our hundreds of billions of dollars on annual K-12 education expenditures.

What’s the solution to our testing dilemma? Jettisoning valuable national and international assessments isn’t the answer. Simply cutting back on the number of exams at the state level won’t help us either – we’ll still have bad tests, albeit in shorter supply. Instead, we ought to trade our plethora of faulty state assessments for an independent, nationally normed achievement test. Such a move would enable us to trim state testing excesses and gain genuine accountability in the core subjects. Whether commissioners agree or not, that’s a blue ribbon proposal for reform.

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Here’s where I respectfully disagree, and only slightly…I don’t oppose accountability, I only oppose the methods used to obtain that accountability. Dumping one standardized test in favor of another is, in my opinion, not really the way to go.

Let’s take the bureaucrats out of the situation entirely in favor of leaving it up to local school districts because they would know more than anyone else how to best take an accurate read on how their schools are doing and how to measure accountability.

E.C. 🙂

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Board Meeting Agenda for 12/4/07

The image “https://i0.wp.com/www.matthewktabor.com/images/gcs_logo.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

 Click here for the 12/4/07 meeting agenda.

Items of interest on tap:

Election of Board Chairman and Vice Chairman
At the meeting of December 4, 2007, Board Attorney Jill Wilson will lead the board in the election process of the chairman position. The newly elected chairman will then lead the board in the election process of the vice chairman. If you have questions, please contact Attorney Wilson at 373-8850, prior to the meeting.

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So will Alan Duncan lead the board once again with Amos as vice-chair? Any bets or wagers? Who would you like to see in the top spot? Respond with pithy comments only.

 School Improvement Targets for SCALE and High School Ahead Academy for 2007-08
At the meeting of December 4, 2007, the consent agenda includes a recommendation to approve the proposed school improvement targets for SCALE and the High School Ahead Academy for the 2007-2008 school year. The State Board of Education allows three year school improvement plans for non-alternative schools, however, improvement targets for alternative schools must be approved by the local Board of Education annually. For the two SCALE sites, these are the same goals the board approved for the past three years with increased targets based on percentage increase from prior results.  For the High School Ahead Academy this is the first plan. If you have questions regarding this item, please contact Dr. Mack McCary, chief academic officer, at 370-8106 or Dr. John Morris, chief student services officer, at 370-8380, prior to the meeting.

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E.C. 🙂

PBS Initiative Strengthens Efforts to Make Schools Safe for Learning (DPI)

From DPI:

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:rZDBhT53bVI-MM:http://www.ncwiseowl.org/erate/images/DPI_logo1.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. *PBS Initiative Strengthens Efforts to Make Schools Safe for Learning*

The state’s Positive Behavioral Support Initiative (PBS) is a program adopted by schools that promotes high student performance in an effort to reduce behavioral problems. This team-based system involves the entire school staff. It uses the school’s safe school plan, character education efforts and strategies and discipline efforts to make schools caring and safe communities for learning. The following documentation and reference material have been added to the PBS site:

-Data requirements schedule. This schedule provides a list of reports, their deadlines and who is responsible for submitting each report.  The list can be reviewed or downloaded at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/positivebehavior/data/requirements/schedule.

PBS module activities. A series of games that promote teambuilding and staff knowledge of PBS.  To view the activities please visit http://www.ncpublicschools.org/positivebehavior/implementation/modules/.

-School recognition documents. Beginning with the 2007-08 school year, schools participating in the PBS Initiative will be recognized based on how well they are doing in implementation, and in providing the implementation data to the state. An application and a checklist are available to download and review at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/positivebehavior/data/recognition/.

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E.C. 🙂

The minority are the kids there that want to learn

The image “https://i0.wp.com/www.matthewktabor.com/images/gcs_logo.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. While I was not able to make it to last night’s GCS school climate task force forum at Southern Middle due to a conflict I had, apparently there was some good discussion there.

Katisha Hayes from the High Point Enterprise reports on a little bit of that discussion:

Attendees broke off in small groups for about an hour, discussing everything from how to reduce the number of black students who are disproportionately suspended to how to handle the issue of gangs on school campuses.
The groups arrived at varying solu­tions – more parental involvement, more alternative programs, more con­sistent punishment for breaking school rules –with several agreeing, surpris­ingly, that only a small percentage of students at each school cause discipline problems.
Some believe too much emphasis is put on handling unruly students in the classroom, leaving the students who want to learn at a disadvantage.
“The minority are the kids there that want to learn, who are there because they want to be there,” parent Darilyn Knibb said.

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That last quote is striking. If this not a cry for change in our schools, I don’t know what is.

E.C. 🙂

Dudley teacher had an assault record (N&R)

 It’s deja vu.

Today’s News & Record reports the teacher that was charged for allegedly assaulting a student at Dudley High School had a reportedly shaky history, according to published reports.

So either background checks didn’t catch Social Studies teacher Robert Bullard’s past, or it did and it was too late.

I said deja vu at the top of the post because GCS went through this before, I think it was a couple of years ago where a teacher was hired with a checkered history that wasn’t thoroughly examined.

Why is it that GCS seems to be playing defense lately instead of offense?

N&R: Robert Lee Bullard, 59, of Greensboro was charged Tuesday with simple assault. He is accused of punching student Tyrick Glover in the face at school on Nov. 13, according to arrest warrants.According to court records, Bullard’s criminal record dates back at least 13 years to when he admitted to hitting a Danville, Va., man with a trophy, breaking his arm and sending him to the hospital.

Bullard pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and avoided a trial. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, placed on probation for five years, and ordered to pay court costs and restitution, records show.

Superintendent Terry Grier said Thursday that he was startled to hear about Bullard’s record.

“If true, that is very disturbing,” Grier said. “You can be assured that we will launch an immediate review into how we are conducting criminal background checks.”

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Honestly, is that the best you can do?

Oh…I forgot who we’re talking about…our illustrious superintendent of the year!

But wait…there’s more: Sharon Glover, the mother of the Dudley student, was angry when told of Bullard’s record.“That’s bad,” Glover said. “They are supposed to go back and see who is being allowed around your kids.”

She said the school system promised her paperwork and pictures from the assault, which she has yet to receive.

“I’ve called, but I haven’t gotten any kind of answer,” she said. “They want me to let it go, but I’m not going to let it go.”

Other parents also said they were concerned when told about Bullard’s past.

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Ms. Glover, I hate to say it, but this is your county government you’re dealing with. Unfortunately, I think you’re going to be waiting a while.

GCS…always on defense, never on offense.

E.C. 🙂

Dropout focus once again

The image “https://i0.wp.com/www.matthewktabor.com/images/gcs_logo.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. We have breaking dropout numbers from GCS, but first…two opinions in today’s News & Record.

First, this Counterpoint:

Teachers were overcome by frustration

The following is a Counterpoint.

By Marilyn Fisher

I write this as a concerned citizen and a retired teacher. In recent weeks, I have been dismayed to read articles of student fights in our schools and even more appalled to learn of the reported student/teacher conflicts at Smith and Dudley high schools. At the very least, I hope that the superintendent will investigate the events and classroom environment that resulted in a teacher attaining such an intolerable level of frustration that it caused her to respond in the vernacular that she used.

Did the student who recorded the Smith teacher’s actions also record the events that led to her total meltdown?

The incident was preceded by a discussion regarding dissatisfaction on the part of the students with their conduct grades. Hopefully, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Terry Grier stressed the importance of proper behavior on the part of the students at some point during his apology to the students and their families. Respect is a two-way street and one must give it to receive it.

The words spoken by the teacher, “I love you and care about you …” are the words that should have made an impression on the class; they did on me. Evidently she did write references and referrals on the behalf of some students which also demonstrates the concern she has for her charges. Unfortunately, all of the positive things she has done have been negated by this incident. Music is an elective class and class members should appreciate and enjoy the experience.

It has been 10 years since I retired from my itinerant teaching position with the school system serving visually impaired students kindergarten through 12th grade. I had the good fortune to work in many schools throughout the county and spent massive amounts of time at Dudley and Smith. I was able to befriend, admire and observe teachers and students alike. I did occasionally witness acts of insolence and disrespect by students toward teachers. Yet in every class there are students who are focused on getting an education. Don’t they have the right to obtain one in an environment appropriate for learning by incorporating mutual respect and responsibility on the part of all involved?

I do not condone teachers losing control by using bad language or fighting with students. I do, however, recognize a call for help when I hear it.

School systems are rightfully concerned with student dropout rates. Shouldn’t they be at least as concerned with providing teachers with an optimum teaching environment to prevent them from leaving the profession?

The writer lives in Greensboro.

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Next, Greensboro resident Keith Hoile pens this article, saying high school dropouts will create an economic underclass:

 Andres Oppenheimer, a correspondent for the Miami Herald, discussed an alarming possibility in a column reprinted in the Nov. 7 News & Record. If the United States continues to adopt policies that tend to isolate illegal immigrants and their children who have been raised almost since birth in this country, Oppenheimer can imagine an ever-angrier immigrant underclass that may turn to violence when they perceive that even their children are legally proscribed from opportunities to participate fully in the American Dream.

I question whether violence would necessarily be limited to the so-called immigrant underclass. Data show that income and wealth gaps between the richest and poorest among us continue to increase, reaching extremes not seen since the 1920s. Because we have had such civil discourse and politics for so long, we forget that desperation can provoke protests and riots. For example, this occurred in the 1930s when World War I military veterans became frustrated enough to riot in the District of Columbia.

I am not suggesting current or future economic conditions are likely to be as severe as during the Great Depression. However, people’s expectations are much higher today, so they may not be willing to accept as much deprivation as our parents and grandparents. A recent Johns Hopkins report for the Associated Press called four Guilford County high schools “dropout factories,” together with 1,700 others throughout the country. What are the opportunities for high school dropouts today? Very dismal. On the Nov. 7 Diane Rehm program on WUNC-FM, former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, now the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, stated that a high school dropout would typically earn $260,000 less during a lifetime than a high school graduate.

And we all know that even a high school education is not sufficient to prepare one for a job with a good economic future in America.

Returning to Guilford County, we should not be surprised at the four schools cited in the Associated Press report — Smith, Dudley, Eastern and Central. Dudley and Smith were threatened with outside intervention by Judge Howard Manning’s order last year. While some commentators have disputed the findings or methodology in the Associated Press report, the fact is that these four schools have struggled for years trying to educate all their students.

In 2000, I analyzed N.C. Department of Education data that showed Guilford County had much greater variation in test scores among its high schools than did Wake County. Much of the variation was accounted for by the different performance between schools like Grimsley and Dudley. (Incidentally, no Wake County high schools were included on the Associated Press dropout factory list.)

This situation need not be the case in Guilford County. Dudley was once a proud institution, graduating young men and women who have become some of our most distinguished citizens.

Academic problems do not suddenly materialize in ninth grade. They begin in elementary school, where we must increase our efforts, through special tutoring programs, more parental involvement, high quality teachers and other resources.

We can be proud that Guilford County’s Terry Grier was recently named the state’s top superintendent. Without taking any luster away from his many achievements, we still need a school system that educates all of our students, for their future and the future economic health of Guilford County.

We can’t tolerate a growing underclass here in Guilford County and the problems it would cause, whether or not we ever experience violence in the form of riots.

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All this…leading up to new numbers just released today, from GCS, claiming fewer students dropped out during this past academic year.

Via the N&R:  The district reports that 680 out of about 22,700 students dropped out for a rate of 2.99 percent. That compares to 766 dropouts and a rate of 3.41 percent in 2005-06. Seven additional students dropped out in elementary and middle schools.

Hmmm….

More coverage and links from the N&R Chalkboard.

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E.C. 🙂

Disruptive students get far too many assurances (N&R)

In a LTTE in today’s News & Record:

David Hoggard (Nov. 21) has it right. There is far too much emphasis on assuring the “rights” of the disrupter than there is on protecting the “rights” of the learner in our public schools. Are schools supposed to be places of learning or day care centers? I am luckier than most. In my classes, most of my students either want to learn or can be persuaded to. Some, a disruptive few, couldn’t care less and are there, I suspect, because their parents had no place else to put them during the day.

Sound harsh? What’s harsh (and unfortunate) is that the rights of good and decent children (and their parents) are violated every day in our public schools and it’s not politically correct to do much about it. Perhaps it is time for the advocates of the decent students to start pressing legislators and filing litigation in order to stem the tide.

No, it’s past time.

William Toth
Greensboro

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E.C. 🙂