Sunday, May 26, 2013

New tests bring twists, frustrations

It's hard to miss the irony:  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools didn't have enough confidence in new state exams to stake students'  grades on them,  yet student performance on those tests will be used to evaluate teachers.

That's not necessarily a sign of hypocrisy from the district.  Local officials had a choice about counting the tests toward student grades,  but the state has mandated that value-added ratings generated by the SAS Institute's EVAAS system be part of teacher evaluations.  Still unclear is whether lawmakers will use scores from the new exams to assign letter grades to schools this year.

CMS leaders aren't saying the new exams are bad.  They're just saying there are too many unknowns this year,  with teachers having little information about what would be on the new tests and how to prepare students.  (Those of us who have been around awhile know the state has a history of discovering glitches after kids take a new test,  and these have not been field-tested.)

Rather than risk a student failing a class,  which could potentially jeopardize or delay graduation,  CMS decided the state exams won't count toward grades this year.  That's frustrating to some teachers,  who believe students will put little effort into an exam that can only benefit or harm their instructor.  To top it off,  teachers have to spend unpaid time scoring new items on the tests.

CMS created a parent guide to explain the exams students are taking now  (some exams started earlier in May and some will run through June).  In addition to the familiar terms  -- end-of-grade exams in elementary and middle schools, end-of-course exams in high school  --  you'll now hear about  "common exams,"  sometimes called MSLs,  for measures of student learning.  The difference is that EOGs and EOCs will be used to grade schools,  while common exams will only be used for teacher evaluations.

I'll be curious to hear what parents and teachers think as the exam period plays out.  If there's one consolation for those who think this is too much testing,  it's that the new state program doesn't include the K-2 tests CMS tried in 2010,  requiring adults to administer the tests one student at a time.  However,  officials do expect an early-grades reading test in 2014.


Anonymous said...

What a great time to retire..............

Anonymous said...

Any idea how much SAS has paid the lobbyists of NC so far? One day in the not-so-far-off future, education will focus on the children vs the edu-crats and politicians who use the system as their piggybank.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in CMS and I can tell you these new tests are a joke. My kids took less than 30 minutes to take them and said they were so easy. Is that what we need to do now to make the numbers look good, dumb down tests? I am embarrassed by this test and think the state of NC got scammed big time. It is a shame that the people who directed these tests have absolutely no clue of what goes on in classrooms today.

Anonymous said...

I think it is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous that a test that has not been field-tested would count for ANYTHING. It also is unfunded mandate that costs large systems like CMS lots of money. My daughter took the Algebra II test and said it was very difficult and she is an A student, so all the tests are not easy. It is a total waste of money since we are implementing a new curriculum and they will be redesigned in less than 3 years!

Anonymous said...

Problem one: tests covered material that was not in curriculum. Problem 2: the teacher of record is responsible for scoring their own students work that will eventually count toward their own evaluation....accuracy anyone? Problem 3: there was NO true effort to calibrate scoring from teacher to teacher, school to school or district to district. No anchor papers, no rubric explanations, nothing. There was no policy on dealing with handwriting issues. Problem 4: there is no clear explanation regarding how disparities between scorers on the same essay are going to be resolved. Under normal standardized scoring, disparities are dealt with as scoring occurs. Problem 5: the students had little to no reason to try as these tests didn't effect them excel that they HAD to take them. As these will be used to set the scale for scoring in the future, there is a real possibility that this scoring session will not accurately reflect the difficulty of these tests, the accuracy of scoring, the validity of results, etc. Problem 6: the article also failed to recognize that not only are the teachers forced to spend countless extra hours SCORING the tests, they also had to spend an extra hour or two fixing mistakes made by the state and SAS on the EVAAS system so that their rosters are correct. All of this during the most time-consumed time of year when planning and developing interventions for students is of the utmost importance. Ann, I think you really need to take some time and dig into how absolutely absurdly this new system of testing was designed and implemented. The state should be embarrassed, but hey...SAS gets richer...its like making a direct contribution to Cary Academy....wonder if they have to take these tests....ha ha ha)

Anonymous said...

These tests DO NOT count for anything this year. Whoever is telling students that is misinformed. This is the field test for them. As for the teacher of record grading them, that is true, but another teacher in the same subject is also grading them, and they are only grading the constructive response questions.

One of the major problems with this test is it covered items that were not even gotten to per the state of NC's own pacing guide. How can you test someone on material not covered, when the state has set it up that it is not to be covered until last?

Again, these tests are a smokescreen and only test a child ability to take a multiple choice test. They are no better than the EOC tests they replaced.

BolynMcClung said...

At the last Board meeting three teachers spoke and just drilled the school board for letting this testing situation happen: No pay, no consequences for students, teacher jobs threatened by test results weaker than hearsay evidence. Their facts and antidotes were compelling.

Throughout the remainder of the meeting those teachers hung around. You kind-a do that when you say something important in your little three minutes. You can use the time afterwards to talk to the Board members to see if they got the message.

Before they could reach the Board Dr. Morrison had them corralled. I watched from the general seating. The conversation went on for some time. It was clear it was a business meeting….a serious meeting.

When it was over I went over to the Superintendent and talked about what I observed. His comments were that those men had to know that he recognizes what they pointed out…but the district's hands were tied. In particular that no money for testing thing was a bother.

The only things I can compare this to are those stories from Vietnam and Korea were soldiers took, lost and then re-took worthless pieces of landscape with names like "Hamburger Hill." Hamburger Hill because it didn't nothing but grind good men into corpses. North Carolina keeps giving the tests for no apparent reason.

So the three teachers who spoke really never had a chance… in an even older war, W W I, where a sergeant in a trench blew a whistle and sent soon to be dead soldiers over the top again and again to face withering machine gun fire. That's were that phrase "over the top" came from. Until the testing is done we're sending the teachers "over the top."

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

If CMS student doesn't take the test they can't get credit for the class.

Anonymous said...

I would say these tests are a complete waste of money, but by getting teachers to score them for free, it's actually a pretty savvy move by DPI. More cash for SAS.

Anonymous said...

I am assuming you are referring to testing in high school??? Elementary EOG's were administered as usual, except that there was added stress about protecting the integrity of the test and answers (THANK YOU ATLANTA!).

Ann Doss Helms said...

Rats, Bolyn, that's what I get for going on vacation and missing a school board meeting! Sounds interesting. But I think you mean their anecdotes were compelling -- teachers only wish they had an antidote to testing :-)

BolynMcClung said...

Ann, actually now that I think about it, I used the correct word. The teachers were telling the board the best cure would be for them to shove-it.


Anonymous said...

Direct quote from a student, "So, you mean we should actually try?"

Yes...totally valid data here! These don't count for anything for the kids. The teachers spend hours grading something that doesn't count and we have our own work to do and for some classes they take the State Exam and then a teacher made exam... All told I will grade over 300 exams in the next week.

Holy Cow said...

After reading these comments I am surprised there are any CMS teachers left in the system, and students for that matter. What an embarrassment and a joke. Private schools should be looking real good right about now.

Anonymous said...

The curriculum was thrown at the teachers the day before school started in August 2013.

They spent so much money ON WORKSHOPS that did absolutely nothing but show teachers how to read the codes for the common core.

The leaders read the Power Points to the teachers as if the teachers were a bunch of illiterates..

The leaders emphasized over and over and over the importance of the test and the test and the test and the test...

The children in NC were used for Guinea Pigs this year...totally..all of them..guinea pigs...Some teachers threw up there hands..who cares anymore..

NC has spent all of their RTTT Money on nothing and I mean nothing but TESTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They should be held accoutable for their spending Frenzy as it has done zilch to help these children....

There is a group of teachers and community leaders that want a breakdown of each and every penny spent in NC for these tests but no one has come forth with theses numbers..
The group wants all of the consultants they have hired and the extra spent on coaches to that appear at a school and sit there like a know on a log while the teachers are supposed to be planning..They are hired guards and report back to the administrators on the meetings..