Friday, June 7, 2013

Can you pass the national exams?

Dang it, I still don't know if I'm as smart as a fifth-grader.

Practice versions of new English and math tests,  designed to provide a consistent measure of whether students are meeting national Common Core standards,  were recently posted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  I tried my hand at the fifth-grade math exam -- partly to see how rusty my skills had gotten and partly to see what online testing is all about.

I found the online format a bit random:  Sometimes you typed in numbers,  sometimes you clicked and dragged them from columns.  It took a bit of figuring out,  but didn't seem terribly daunting.  But it was such a letdown when I finished,  clicked submit and didn't get a report on what was right and wrong.  A spokesman for the consortium said the scoring rubrics won't be finished until later this summer.

Of course,  the purpose of posting the tests is to let teachers,  parents and other concerned people get a feel for what's on the horizon.  Plans call for North Carolina students to start taking the national online tests in 2014.  A big part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budget is geared toward building the capacity for all schools to do online exams.

But now there's a twist:  Even though North Carolina is among 26 states that make up the Smarter Balanced Consortium,  officials say it's unclear whether the state will spend the money to actually buy the exams. "NC has not made a decision about Smarter Balanced yet. We anticipate making a decision (really our state Board of Education will make a decision) in 2014,"  said Vanessa Jeter, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The Common Core movement has proven controversial in many states.  N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest recently added their voices to those raising questions,  saying they want to know more about the Common Core and the state's testing regimen.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's too bad you don't get that score.

I'd like to see that just to see if the test is accurate or not.

I don't doubt my math skills one bit at the fifth grade level, even after taking that test.

I am curious how the thing is graded, though, just to see how "picky" it is about the things which are just a function of this test (such as whether or not you put parentheses in expressions or rely on natural precedence in simple arithmetic).

In other words, will it recognize:

1+2*3 aand 1+(2*3) as the same thing or not in an expression.

The parentheses are not necessary, but who knows how this thing scores or how they teach math today.

Does it count wrong if you use the parentheses, or does it count wrong if you don't or does it know that they are the same.

It's things like that which I wonder about in a test.

Wiley Coyote said...

One of the tests didn't let me enter two numbers to complete it. I believe it was question #7.

Like you, when I finished all I muttered was "eh" and wished I hadn't wasted all that time.

Many of the answers I could do in my head but it took longer to try and type the formula out.

As I entered formulas, I was concerned if the computer would correctly read what I wrote, plus I found some of the instructions limited in explanation.

It's much different taking it online than having it on paper with a pencil, an eraser and a calculator.

I have to go to work.

Anonymous said...

Why would we care what a 1 term McCrory thinks? He has no kids so his views on todays education system are minimal at best. I wonder if he starts his day at (:15 am like some school kids? He just does not get it with little experience.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:59am.

Elections have consequences...

Anonymous said...

Common Core is a disaster and a waste of money. Hyper-testing has gutted the classroom and turned it into a test prep session. Teachers work feverishly trying to prepare students for tests - the contents of which they do not know! It's out of control. Teachers are trained to assess - they do not need corporate buddies who write secret questions and reap millions of taxpayer dollars while putting students and teachers through unnecessary hell. The test questions are ridiculous anyway!

Wiley Coyote said...
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Wiley Coyote said...


...and the past 100 years of Democrats running this state "got it"?

Tell me again how many times and how many millions did Beviepoo raid from the Education Lottery?

Plus, the Obama administration is neck deep in high stakes testing as was the case under Bush.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Yeah, I figured out how to do the equations but also wondered whether I was doing what they wanted -- like could you just give the answer or did you have to show work? And Wiley, I was also stymied by the mechanics of Question 7. I couldn't turn off the line-drawing function to click the numbers, so I ended up with random lines on my answer. But that's the kind of mechanical/procedural stuff that teachers can explain and kids can learn quickly -- IF it's clear to the teachers in advance.

For what it's worth said...

In addition to what Wiley has noted, Obama administration is deep into additional testing from the RTTT funding. The administration is actively pushing charter schools, teacher testing, and on and on. So 8:59, tell me again how you think McCory is a disaster and even the Education Lottery started being pillaged under Gov Mike.

Anonymous said...

The main reason we have all the testing is that three generations later, black kids just aren't doing as well as the proponents of desegregation had thought they should.

Even black people thought that sending their kids to school with white kids (ensuring "equal" facilities) was all that was needed to make everyone "equal".

And everyone who thought that was apparently wrong.

So we still struggle with this.

And everything in education today centers around those "gaps".

And there are new "gaps" every day.

Between race, ethnicity, native languages, sex, economic background, learning disabilities, etc., etc.

All these "gaps" require tests to measure their size.

Meanwhile the "gap" between education in the US and the rest of the world is growing.

As we focus on our navels...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I wondered about some of the questions which required you to "draw" diagrams and put in expressions as answers.

What if the kid just put the dots and didn't connect them? Or connected three dots. Or had extraneous lines?

I had no problem figuring out the controls (former CADD support guy here...), but still thought that someone could KNOW the answer but not necessarily know how to input it correctly.

Also, I'd avoid drawing those boxes too close to the edge because it's hard to see the lines against the bold borders...

I'd hope these things were handled before the test.

In fact, I'd suggest a "pre-test" in which the kids were tested on the pure mechanics of answering these questions and require a 100% pass rate BEFORE they took the actual test.

Because what's the point of doing the work if you don't know how to present your answer correctly or are worried that you might be doing it wrong?

Anonymous said...

"I found the online format a bit random" and the other statement that you wanted to give teachers, parents etc... A feel for what is on the horizon... Again another Blog on what should otherwise be on the front page. All of these state and district tests are more than a bit random, they are beyond criminal. Poorly written questions that have no correct answers. No wonder they put out some Ethic Testing Sheet that says teachers should not read the test, it's because the test has so many misleading errors that the state does not want anyone to know how much private corporations are being paid to throw together a test for millions of dollars. I sat in on grading MSL tests and each school determined its own Rubric and scoring procedures because the district provided such gobbled gook that no one understood. Stop blogging this tragedy and start writing articles that inform the public about the tremendous waste in man hours, photocopies, and resources to race to the bottom. The crap you wrote last week had two downtown sources that shed little to no light on the Colette and utter waste of time and money in our schools.

Anonymous said...

to 11:21 Amen!

Ann Doss Helms said...

There was one teacher source who was quite outspoken about problems, but I agree more sources would have been better. Didn't get callbacks from other teachers and parents I tried to reach. Not sure why.

Wiley Coyote said...
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Wiley Coyote said...


Where have you been?

LEAs have been wasting money for decades not just on tests, but other projects as well.

Always spending and wasting tens of millions on the next big new-fangled mouse trap that is supposed to revolutionize education and learning. The problem is, they never catch any rats and move on to the next shiny object.

This testing issue is just a pimple on the rear of what's wrong public education as a whole.