Friday, May 20, 2011

More on CMS testing

The testing frenzy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is winding down, though state-ordered retests for those who fail state exams will drag things out.

CMS officials will soon be crunching results from the 52 new end-of-year exams the district created for everything from kindergarten science to high-school calculus. Each school will get a report on how its kids fared, says Chris Cobitz, the CMS official in charge of the tests. By identifying where kids soared and where they floundered, CMS hopes schools can refine teaching tactics to help students learn more.

Individual students will not get results, with one exception: The tests that CMS designed for Advanced Placement classes can be used in place of a teacher's final exam for grading, Cobitz says. The AP exams given by The College Board aren't used toward grades because the results aren't available in time.

Cobitz said CMS hasn't yet decided whether to report results for individual teachers. As you may recall, the push to generate "value-added" ratings of teacher effectiveness is driving development of the new tests. This year, Cobitz says, principals are under orders not to use the new exams to evaluate teachers.

We also talked about the test-security issues that are creating a buzz. Cobitz says the state and district codes of ethics specify that teachers can lose their jobs and licenses if they disclose "secure information" from tests. That definitely includes revealing a question, whether that's in an online post, an email or a conversation in the grocery store, Cobitz said.

When there's an allegation that someone has breached test security, CMS investigates and, if a state exam is involved, makes a report to state officials. Cobitz said he's done one investigation in connection with the new CMS exams and concluded there was no violation.

Cobitz says teachers who think questions are flawed should discuss their concerns with the school test coordinator, who can relay it to him. They're not supposed to put specifics into an email because emails may be subject to public disclosure. Once specific questions are public, they're no longer considered valid.

Some people have urged me to get a copy of "the test" and print it in the Observer. While Cobitz let me look at the early versions of the K-2 tests, he's not about to hand them over for publication, for the reason just cited. And if he did, publication wouldn't be practical; there's not one test but a mountain of them. The various versions of the K-2 test alone created a phone-book sized stack.

So, will CMS work out the kinks and create a testing system that makes sense to families and faculty? That remains to be seen.
p.s. I'm going on vacation next week. The timing coincides with the departure of some Observer employees (no reporters) because of our own "reduction in force," but it's just that -- a coincidence. Like it or not, I'll be back soon!


Anonymous said...

Nice post--presents facts, not conjecture. Meck ACTS is not going to like this!

Anonymous said...

"The various versions of the K-2 test alone created a phone-book sized stack."

Well, that alone should be sufficient to show what a worthless bureaucratic boondoggle this really is.

If your "quality assurance" test are all over the place then it shows that the "management" doesn't know what they are looking for when they measure.

The first rule in quality assurance is knowing what to measure.

Publish it and the problem will be solved.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the Teachers should know how well their students did on these tests, so that they can use the results as a testament to their teaching skills. CMS should stop forcing teachers to test a certain way. WHAT IS THAT ABOUT? I can truly say that during my K-12 education years I loved all of my teachers because they danced to a different drum. I was fortunate to graduate High School at 16 years of age, and I was not alone. How many CMS kids today can say that they love all of their teachers...hmmm maybe one out of six? Let these teachers know that they if they are not doing it right, so they can change the rhythm of teaching.

Ghoul said...

If this year's test are not going to be used to evaluate anybody, but instead are used to see how they work, then CMS shouls allow all of the tests to be published so the public, teachers, and student can all see for ourselves if they are worth the millions we are paying for them.

So does Chris Cobitz have something to hide?

Anonymous said...

"Individual students will not get results, with one exception: The tests that CMS designed for Advanced Placement classes can be used in place of a teacher's final exam for grading, Cobitz says."
I sure hope every AP teacher out there is listening... Please DO NOT use this test INSTEAD of your final exam! PLEASE!!!

Pamela Grundy said...

Enjoy your vacation, Ann. Sorry you'll miss Tuesday's dance. It's going to be fun.

Anonymous said...

Peter Gorman, Chris Cobitz and company spent @$40,000 each for these tests - to a company (Measurement Inc) that just delivered 7000 incorrect test scores to kids in NYC. From all I have heard, these tests are horribly designed. Students know they have no personal stake, so why take them seriously. They can make christmas tree designs out of the bubbles if they want to. Maybe there's a teacher they'd like to sabatoge. The entire concept is a hightly flawed public releations fiasco. In the business world, continuation is called 'throwing good money after bad'. It's time to stop this thing that should NEVER have started. California is in the process of doing just that. Not a done deal yet, but Jerry Brown has removed the funds from his budget.

Anonymous said...

"Nice post--presents facts, not conjecture. Meck ACTS is not going to like this!"

Joe that you? Or maybe Rhonda Lennon...heck, Peter Gorman.

Anonymous said...

Here's a leaked question....

You're a 5 year old. I'm showing you a blank map of the US. What's missing?

If any adult proponents can figure this one out, let us know.

Small wonder Chris Cobitz doesn't want these questions leaked. He doesn't want the public to see what CMS just spent 1.9 mil on.

Anonymous said...

"When we cannot measure that which is important, we will make important that which we can measure." - Francis Fukuyama

Anonymous said...

These tests purport to test everyone except the child taking the test. Any child over the age of about ten will realize that the test has no effect on him. Why should he care what his test score is?

Anonymous said...

I volunteered to proctor the EOG tests for 2 days this week at a middle school. First day I had to break up a mini-fight between a couple of girls while the teacher was delivering the tests to the office. The second day students were making paper airplanes out of their scratch paper.

Both days, about 20% of the class just immediately put their heads down and went to sleep. Neither the test administrator nor I could urge the students to work; we could not officially tell them anything other than the instructions. All students were told they’d have additional time so they went to sleep knowing they’d be pulled out of class later to finish. It was an absolute joke and waste of my time.

Wiley Coyote said...

It doesn't have to be this difficult.

Every teacher in CMS teaches from the same book and/or curriculum; algebra, geometry, US history, biology, etc, etc.

Have at least two tests written by the district, one each semester that counts towards a percentage of their grade, which has questions related to the subject matter taught during that period of instruction.

These tests would be given just as if the teacher had come up with the questions - no assistants or volunteers needed. Either the students have a basic grasp of what has been taught or they don't.

The teacher teaches the subject and gives any number of other tests they come up with plus home work, etc.

That way, the teacher gets to do what they were hired to do - teach! and there is no pressure on the students because it's really just another test but they have an incentive to do as well as they can on it instead of sleeping through it.

Anonymous said...

I happened to see a test question, and it contained a statement that went something like this: (This example is made up, but basically constructed the same way.)

"Customers were given salads who did not like soup."

So.....the salads didn't like soup or the customers didn't like soup?

I'd like to know why we are using tests that are so poorly constructed to measure what our students have learned. Do they take a value-added measure of the test providers?

Anonymous said...

I have given Summative tests for two weeks now. The questions are either way too hard or laughably easy and barely touch on the wide range of curriculum objectives. Random, isolated, often bizzare questions that children would never know or could know by just playing in their own backyards. The students in grades K-2's answers have to be rated by the evaluator...very subjective. I think these tests have a tiny amount of value, but not worth the cost in time or money for the results.

Anonymous said...

At what point Ann will you provide the public with clarity on procedures in the area of testing.
1. The opening statement implies that State EOC's and EOG's, which require retesting for students who fail are connected to the 52 Summatives administer to students from k-12.


What you have done is given the public false and misleading details that lessens the blow of the fact that CMS is wasting tax payers dollars on an experiment.

PFP and state EOC's are 2 completely seperate assessments.

therestofthestory said...

Seems someone needs to file a Freedom of Information Act request about these tests.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a bit of a memory loss (perhaps on purpose) as to whose idea the "protest dance" was to begin with?

4:30 - 5:00 folks. TUESDAY MAY 23RD in front of the Government Center next to the Court House. NO experience necessary. If you can "Do the Hustle" you can do the "Test Teacher" dance!

Just come. It WILL be fun.

(Lord help me)...

Carol said...

I can't email you Ann. But I do have another question about the testing...

I am yet another CMS parent who is test-weary at this time of the year. I would love to pose a question that I haven't seen mentioned in the press. (Maybe I haven't been paying attention with keeping track of the testing schedule of my own three cms students. If that's the case, I'm sorry to have missed it.)

So, here goes: I have been getting repeated pleas from all three of my children's schools for help in proctoring these tests (which tests? eogs, retests, summatives, eocs, eoys...who really knows?) I can't even tell you how many phone calls and emails I've received saying "we need proctors." Or "if we don't get enough volunteers for proctors, specials will be cancelled so we can cover the tests." Seriously? We NEED the parents to come in and help proctor tests or we can't continue the school day as planned? In my opinion, if CMS insists on giving more tests to my children each year (and increasing the stress level in my home in doing so) the least they can do is be able to administer the tests on their own without an army of parent volunteers.

Please ask the good folks at CMS downtown why the schools can't administer all the required tests with the resources they have. Do they know the burden of the testing process is too great for the schools?

JuliejpEs said...

Nice post--presents facts, not conjecture. Meck ACTS is not going to like this!