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Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

The Real Cost of High-Stakes Testing

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The Real Cost of High-Stakes Testing

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, public education has accomplished a lot. We have managed to utilize assessment data trends to identify resources and programs to support students’ educational needs. We have also learned how to breakdown objectives or learning standards to their most intricate parts to align our resources. Most of all we have developed ways to hold educators accountable for student achievement…One question remains: at what cost are we making all of these efforts? In other words, what have we sacrificed for this “data-driven” approach to education?

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

Public School Accountability: The Death of Student Learning

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Public School Accountability: The Death of Student Learning

Satisfying the demand for highly skilled workers is the key to maintaining competitiveness and prosperity in the global economy.  For this reason, many educational policymakers strive to craft policies that assist educators in developing a stronger workforce.  This was the intended aim of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act put forth by the Bush administration. However well intended the NCLB Act was, the consequences of several key requirements have turned out to be counterproductive.

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

An Assessment Accountability System Deferred

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Houston iTunesU

Houston iTunesU

Recently the Texas Commissioner of Education, Michael L. Williams, announced that he was deferring implementation of a 15 percent grading requirement for the 2012-2013 school year.  This news was received by the vast majority of educators across Texas with jubilation and relief.  To put this reaction in context, you would have to understand the policy’s origins and scope.  When the state of Texas decided to upgrade its assessment and accountability system in 2009, it included a ruling that made a student’s score on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course examinations count toward15 percent of the student’s final grade in each tested subject area.

Now at first glance that would seem alarming, but when you consider the fact that students would be required to take several more assessments with more rigorous content and testing conditions, it became a serious anxiety accelerant for school administrators and educators.   Commissioner William’s decision marks the second year the rule has been deferred. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 1,100 of the state’s more than 1,200 school districts notified the Texas Education Agency that they would be selecting the voluntary deferral option.  Even though school systems have been given a reprieve with regard to the 15% grading requirement, students still must take all STAAR tests and meet all requirements for graduation.

Even though most of the state appears to be finding a resolution, I am troubled by the majority reaction and am left with several yet-to-be answered still questions for theTexas Education Commissioner and K-12 School system educators throughout the state.

  • Why do we have so many conflicts with the 15% rule in the first place?
  • Who is looking into the nearly 100 out of the 1200 independent school systems that did not request a deferral of the 15% ruling during the first year of implementation, and how are these school system fairing? What led them to reject the deferral?
  • What does all the conflict with the 15% ruling really reveal about the Texas Educational System?

In summary, I am left with wonderments of the potential of the new state of Texas assessment and accountability system.  One can not help but notice how that the system is being altered from what its planners originally intended.  This is not to say adjustments are not needed, but the goal is to improve student achievement, all of these backtrackings no the 15% rule could be the proverbial beginning of the end. This end is the political dismantling of a once-promising state assessment and accountability system that supports more rigor and better student preparedness for their post-secondary endeavors.  Perhaps we are simply witnessing an assessment accountability system deferred.

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

What are Real Math Textbooks?

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What are Real Math Textbooks?

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

 

Do you have a great math textbook? What makes it great? How does it address problem-solving?

In the video, Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, Dan highlights an ingenious way to add rigor to a typical math textbook based transforming key problem solving and critical thinking strategies from what is presented in your textbook. Actually, the principle behind Meyer’s methodology could be utilized in different courses to bolster a teacher’s classroom instruction. It is truly amazing what you can do with a little technology and carefully placed ambiguity.

Meyer’s video presents us with a bigger challenge. How can we change the learning culture of our students? If you are like me, you are getting pretty tired of lazy learners and dare I say, lazy teachers. Now I am not trying to point fingers or downplay the challenges many teachers experience when preparing for their students.  More than ever before, teachers have limited time and resources, and they have to prepare for students with diverse instructional needs.  Instead, Meyer’s video should be viewed as a challenge to how we approach problem-solving with our students.

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

Assessment to Death

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High Stakes Testing Culture

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, we have accomplished a lot. We have managed to learn how to analyze assessment data to determine trends. We have also learned how to break down objectives or learning standards into their most intricate parts. Most of all we have learned how to make ourselves feel good about our data.

Everybody is “data-driven” these days. But what does that really mean? There still exists a culture of assessment “I got ya”. Frankly, we are so focused on assessments that we have missed the whole boat on instruction. If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in assessments into quality instruction, we might actually have more accurate assessments. Now I realize having quality assessments can and should drive instruction, we just need to vary it a little.

Fundamental Questions

How can we, as school systems, transition from a culture assessment for accountability to one focused on students learning?  any of you may have experienced an educational system that has figured how the “game” of high stakes state testing.  The more intimately involved you are with teaching and learning the more repulsive the idea of playing with what state standards are taught and tested to merely make a school district look good.

I am ready to buck the system by actually teaching and assessing for student learning first.  I am not saying we should do away with summative assessments of learning.  I realize how necessary it is for every school system.  I would just like to see the focus put in the proper balance. Maybe we could even move toward looking at project-based work or performance-based assessments. In future posts, I will share some different strategies for assessing for learning.  In the meantime, I guess we will keep plowing away at making more new tests.

Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning

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