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.

*************************

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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2 Responses

  1. So, Erik, do you trust this administration and school board to provide an accurate read on how our schools are doing and how to measure accountability? Our trust with most everything has been strained or broken, so what’s going to be different? I have no problem with getting the feds out of public education, but as long as significant amounts of federal grants are going to school districts, what mechanism can be used to assure that results are being achieved? Face it, public education is mostly broken in this country. Schools rarely exist anymore for the benefit of the ultimate customer…the students. You have a host of other stakeholders getting their share of the vast amounts of money being spent on public education and learning falters more every year. And, you can’t say that the community holds them accountable, because we know that isn’t true in this county. The public is rarely heard and gets a positive response to its concerns, just more manipulation.

  2. I don’t trust this system with a 10′ pole, and that’s sad to say, Stormy. Conflicting numbers on dropouts and test scores, etc., only fuel the mistrust our citizens have and that’s just as sad. That’s why I want to work twice as hard after I’m elected to help rebuild the trust that’s lacking in our school system. If there’s no trust on what the overseers are doing, then the work we’re doing is in vain.

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