Monday, October 14, 2013

How do you test the tykes?

Remember the math, reading, science and social studies tests CMS created for grades K-2?  They required one-on-one work with an adult,  brought protests from parents and teachers who considered them a waste of time and were quickly dropped.

So we know how tough it is to design good tests for the youngest kids.  But N.C. education officials say it's a vital task to make sure students develop the skills they need before they fall behind.  The K-3 N.C. Assessment Think Tank,  a group of teachers,  parents and education experts convened by the state legislature and state Superintendent June Atkinson,  has released its first report on designing assessments that help young children learn.

"Now, more than ever, a major focus of education must turn to the early years of elementary school (kindergarten through grade 3) when children are poised to begin a trajectory toward success in school and life,"  the report says.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools exams were given at year end and were intended to generate ratings of teacher effectiveness.  These assessments will be given during the year,  with the goal of figuring out what kids need  (formative assessments, in eduspeak).  They'll include observations,  work samples and other measures,  in addition to any pencil-and-paper testing.

The first report outlines the type of skills that should be measured,  ranging from language to health and emotional development.  Another group will be convened to design the assessments.  The goal is to have kindergarten pilot exams in place in about half the state's districts in 2014 and a full program up by 2015-16,  according to the Public School Forum of North Carolina.


Betty Boop said...

And when are the teachers going to have time to do this?

Anonymous said...

Common Core flies in the face of all the established theories of how young children learn. Children's awareness of their own cognitive processes (on which the CC curriculum is based) happens on an individual time scale with each individual child. Just like potty training, learning how to walk, learning how to talk, along with many other early childhood milestones, forcing children to learn before they're ready will lead to stress, resistance, and negative behavioral outcomes. Put simply, kids are ready for meta-cognitive thinking at different times, and to force them through school "Standardization" will only lead to problems for those kids who aren't ready when the school (and school system) says they should be.

Pamela Grundy said...

A lot of thought clearly went into this report. As always, the devil will be in the details. I would call particular attention to this statement:

Design the K-3 formative assessment to achieve its purpose – to inform teaching and learning on a daily basis. It will not be designed for accountability or high-stakes purposes, nor will it be a valid means of evaluating teachers or schools or for accountability purposes.

Copious research has shown that the past decade of testing has not been a valid means of evaluating teachers or schools, and that current tests are not designed for high-stakes evaluation of teachers. Yet politicians have had no trouble using them for those purposes anyway. It will take some clever design to create assessments that can not be co-opted in this way.

Shamash said...

My Gawd, here we go with that "emotional development" BS again...

(As if the schools already have the BASICS down pat, and are just itching for something else more nebulous and ill-defined to excel in.)

Schools should just stop trying to be everything for everyone, especially since they underperform in the simple stuff.

The list of crap under "Claims" or "learning goals" on P. 4 of the Think Tank report crosses the border to ridiculous.

Just one example among many...

"Students can talk about and use strategies to regulate
responses to their own emotions."

Sure they can...

This is K-3. No one strategizes in K-3.

Probably not even the teacher.

At best, these kids will learn to repeat canned answers of what they should do when they "feel" certain ways, even if they don't have a clue what they're really talking about.

Good luck with all that, y'all.

I'm sure those tests are going to be real illuminating as well.

Anonymous said...

Here's a sample "emotional development" assessment task for K-3:

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands".

Scoring rubric left to reader...

Pamela Grundy said...


Seems from what you've said in the past that you have a rather bright child. Most kids I know were strategizing from an extremely early age. I expect yours was as well. If you haven't realized that yet, you might find it useful to change your perspective, parenting-wise.

Also, K-3 are the most difficult grades to teach, because it's a whole lot harder to teach small children the basics you are talking about than it is to teach more advanced classes. This is why the relatively untrained Teach for America corps does better in middle school than elementary school.

Not that I think these assessments will necessarily work, but a simplistic critique like that doesn't cut it.

Shamash said...

Yeah, "strategic thinking"...

Even monkeys can do it.

I'm sorry, but I'd rather NOT have the typical elementary school teacher and supporting educrats tackling that for my little monkeys.

And if teaching those K-3 tots is such a challenge, how did I manage to have TWO children who "perform" so well according to the standards the educrats set?

Maybe it's genetics?

Or maybe I'm not the clueless twit you seem to think I am just because I don't have an "education" degree.

Really, "education" is not rocket science.

Even with all the fancy word they use.

Pamela Grundy said...

Just play one on this blog, do you?

I don't have an education degree either, but I've seen a lot of great elementary school teachers in action.

Shamash said...

Well, whatever.

I seriously doubt that the great teachers you've seen care one whit about the gobbledygook in that report.

And I also doubt that any of it would change the way they teach one bit.

But it sure looks like someone is doing some SERIOUS thinking about all the problems they're having teaching kids the basics.

Anonymous said...

Too late to put your personal immersion offspring into the Waddell language program to test their language acquisition skills. Try that with Mandarin, Japanese or any of the other languages in the other magnets. If you saw what teachers and assistants do to set these k-3 students up for a lifetime skill you might change your tune. Nah, on the other hand it's more than likely just not special enough..............

Wiley Coyote said...

So why have we wasted a few hundred million on Bright Beginnings (and continue to do so) when they can't even decide on how to teach and test kids in K-3?

If the NC high court rules against the state on pre-K, get ready for a train wreck.

What these little K-3 tykes are learning will be a moot point.

For what its worth said...

Test the kids? Test their parents!

Shamash said...

Geez, Anon 3:19.

There are probably TWO things our little insular nuclear family (with our excessive "personal immersion" programs) shouldn't be attacked on...

Math and Mandarin.

Our idea of "personal immersion" was to send my son to Beijing for six months to be with his grandparents when he was 3 years old.

Worked like a charm.

Along with several other visits back and forth with extended family as well.

So, duh, maybe we wouldn't be as impressed with those CMS Mandarin "immersion" classes as you think.

(Wow, you really stepped into deep doo-doo on that...)

Did I mention that I also taught EFL in China for a year?

So what's next?

Some slight against our "social skills" because we don't "fit in" to the CMS "standard"?

Yeah, since that's the way things are going based on what that report seems to say is so important to evaluate.

But, in my opinion...

People who cannot teach arithmetic should not be playing psychoanalyst with our children.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was trying to find total conscientiousness and went to study with the Tibetan monks for six months.

Shamash said...


I think what we're seeing is the classic bait and switch.

Since they can't teach reading, writing, and arithmetic worth a hoot, they're now going to develop the "whole child".

I just don't see how that exactly falls into their area of expertise, though.

And if they can't teach the "basics" due to overcrowding and lack of resources, then how good are they going to be at "whole child" development given the same resources?

It just seems that the schools are getting more and more off course.

And something will have to give.

And I suspect it will be the academics, as usual.

I'd just hate to be the teacher who gets evaluated on that load of carp.

Wiley Coyote said...


With universal pre-K looming, potty training by teachers is just around the corner....

Shamash said...

Well, I'm just having a little problem with the obvious disconnect between reality of the K-2 math, reading, science and social studies tests being a "waste of time" and these new tests to evaluate the "whole child".

Isn't it supposedly easier to develop tests for "hard" skills vs tests for "soft" skills?

And so they fail at the easy tasks, but somehow think they'll be successful at the more difficult tasks?

Not sure what they teach in those "education" courses, but that sounds bassackwards to me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that report on bell schedules-underwhelming at best. I won't hold my breathe waiting for anything to change.

Frankly, those with late bell schedules need to get over it!

Everyone should be concerned with the high school early start.

Anonymous said...

Focusing on teaching my first 4th grade science lesson on Thursday - NC Rocks and Minerals!

I appreciate any and all support because being an effective teacher is all about learning to sink and learning to swim.


Anonymous said...

Rock Cycle:
Sedimentary, Metamorphic, Igneous.

Gold star to anyone who can identify NC's state mineral AND state rock!


Pamela Grundy said...

Good luck Alicia! The biggest problem with fourth graders is usually boredom, and I'm sure you're never boring! There is a lot to learn, though. Not a job I'd have the guts to take on.

Anonymous said...

Teaching is a leap of faith and a commitment to public servitude. I appreciate your words of encouragement.


Anonymous said...

5:56 I couldn't agree more. All the hoopla for that?

At least CMS did away with the 7:30am elementary start time. Now they need to do some serious work and get rid of the ridiculous 7:15am high school start time. It would only benefit our high school students.

Anonymous said...

Tackling the bell schedule is just a warmup for solving the "whole child" learning problems in CMS.

For what its worth said...

If you want to read something else to let you know that disaster is on the horizon for our students, read the proposed CMS Strategic Plan 2018.

And there it is again, Cultural Competency.

Need to reword and call it Cultural Incompetency and get the focus on getting some students to act civilized.

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about computerized MAP testing which began this year and has been inflicted on every student, including 5-year-old Kindergartners. What a wonderful introduction to what NC schools have become.

Little kids crying in frustration, bored out of their minds, feeling like failures because they can't make heads or tails out of many of the questions - which are notoriously ill-designed. Teachers are just sick about it, recognizing that week after week of testing young children in a silent room, hour after hour, is abusive and does nothing to instill a love of learning.

It's no exaggeration to say that most schools spent the first six weeks of this school year rotating classes in and out of computer labs, lost time which could have been spent actually teaching and learning.

Consider also that all instruction will cease again sometime in early April, as once again teachers are forced to drill students on what they can only suppose might be on the end of grade tests. That leaves us with roughly seven months' of content learning - leaving our kids that much further behind states which haven't succumbed to testing madness.

Note that it is currently illegal for a NC parent to opt their child out of these tests, upon which now rest a significant part of every teacher and principal's compensation for the year. No matter if your child is hospitalized or severely disabled and incapable of speech, he or she WILL be forced to take this test.

Does no one see how this scenario is a recipe for disaster? Students will be bullied and abused and, as tests scores have been monetized, cheating by WILL happen by teachers and administrators whose value as educators is now based in large part on student test scores.

This is my last year as a NC teacher. My job is to help each of my students learn a broad curriculum and develop into responsible, caring, contributing members of society. I can't stomach what all this testing is doing to them - primarily robbing them of their right to an education.

Parents, I urge you to volunteer in your child's school, and to drop in as often as you can. CMS has some amazing teachers who care deeply about their students as individuals. If current trends continue, these teachers will be pushed out of the profession. Carefully watch your school's calendar for the dozen or more state or federally required standardized tests your child will take over the course of the year. Question the necessity and purpose of these tests, and don't settle for the lie that they "measure student learning" or "measure growth".

They simply exist to line the pockets of testing companies like Pearson and give NC legislators the satisfaction of once again sticking it to teachers and students. An uneducated population is easier to control, and that's what it all boils down to.

Carol S. said...

6:13am You hit the nail on the head! Thanks for enlightening the rest of us with your teacher perspective. Good luck this year to all of the concerned, competent and caring teachers.

It would help us more if the Teachers stood up and complained about this, seeing that they are the ones on the front line and see what it is doing, and how it is affecting our students. Most parents are just out of the loop on this one.

Shamash said...

Anon 6:13.

So, given your experiences with MAP testing, how confident are you that CMS (or NC for that matter) will successfully design "assessments that help young children learn."

Keep in mind that we're talking about the "whole child" here, not just a few academic subjects.

(I suspect they won't be too good at it, but that's just from my insular perspective).

Maybe they can throw in a little "Cultural Competency" testing as well.

And maybe a few remedial lessons in Mandarin for the "Culturally Challenged".

(Oh, I forgot, "Cultural Competency" is probably NOT about THAT culture of over a billion people since THEY don't have lobbyists preaching and protesting on the capitol doorsteps.)

Anonymous said...

Clearly, Shamash should be in charge of Dept. of Ed.
Clearly, Shamash should take over June Atkinson's job.
Clearly, Shamash should be in charge of CMS.
Clearly, Shamash should be in charge of teacher education programs.
Clearly, Shamash should be in charge of our individual classrooms.
Clearly, Shamash should write a parenting manual.
Heck...Clearly, Shamash should be the only one allowed to have kids.

Anonymous said...

Shamash for President!

Shamash said...

Thanks for all your support.

Maybe when that Bumgarner fellow steps aside, I'll consider filling the void.