Friday, November 1, 2013

Brace yourself for new test scores

There's a wild week ahead for supporters of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, with a bond vote, school board election and release of state test scores coming.

We'll get election results Tuesday night. My guess is that backers of the education bonds for CMS and Central Piedmont Community College will be celebrating.  I went to the North Regional Library in Huntersville Tuesday to talk to early voters,  then got pulled off for another story before I could flesh out a full report.  But that small sample was consistent:  The people I talked to knew little or nothing about the bonds going in,  but voted yes because they support education.

"I always support anything to do with the schools,"  said Tara McAlinn of Huntersville,  the mother of a 4-year-old.  It's a sentiment I heard repeatedly,  from young parents to retirees.

However the election goes,  Thursday morning will dash a bucket of cold water in people's faces when the N.C. Department of Public Instruction releases long-awaited results from 2013 end-of-grade exams.  State officials have made it clear that there's going to be a big drop in proficiency rates  --  not because kids got dumber or teachers got less effective,  but because there are more rigorous new tests, new  "cut scores"  for passing and no second try for students who fell below grade level.  Many schools will see hard-earned gains disappear.  If past changes in testing are any predictor,  gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing groups of students will widen.  (One interesting feature:  For the first time,  the state will break out performance for academically gifted kids.)

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison said this week that he supports tougher tests that are designed to more accurately reflect students' readiness for college and careers.  "Every time we set the bar higher,  our kids respond, our teachers respond."  But he worries that critics who tout the failure of public education will use the new results to say  "See,  I told you it was broken."

There are actually three phases of the test-score release.  Teachers have already started getting  "value-added"  ratings based on the new exams,  which is bound to be a source of some stress.  "You get this information and it's really confusing,"  said one caller,  who had just gotten her report and declined to give her name.  "It's hard to read and it's hard to understand."

Proficiency and growth for schools and districts come out Thursday.  And within 30 days of that,  families are supposed to get reports on how their own children did last year.

If you want to get prepared for the testing data,  DPI has a background brief posted.

If you want to prepare for Tuesday's election,  you can find details about the bonds and the candidates on the Observer's voter guide.

And if you've still got energy left at the end of that crazy week, you can turn your gaze to the future at a Nov. 9 forum on "What's next for public education in Charlotte metro?"  From 10 a.m. to noon at UNC Charlotte Center City,  panelists from CMS,  charter schools,  the state legislature and higher education will talk about choices,  challenges,  changes and coordination.  The session is sponsored by Staying Ahead Carolina and UNCC.  There's no charge,  but registration is required.


Anonymous said...

Hogwash. The tests are NOT more rigorous. They are " shots in the dark". My one hundred question ( teacher made) final I used to give was a lot more rigorous than this MSL/Common Exam ( whatever the name is this week!). It was 25 multiple choice questions ( could have been anything from five continents and 10,000 years of history), and six short essays ( same huge pool of knowledge). It was a guessing game to try and figure what MIGHT be on the exam. It was foolish. Some of the questions had wrong answer choices. These tests are not valid. They are a waste of taxpayer money. They were created as teacher punishment - one more way the politicians can say " we don't trust teachers". It is exactly why GOOD teachers are looking for a way out ASAP!

Wiley Coyote said...

...not because kids got dumber or teachers got less effective, but because there are more rigorous new tests, new "cut scores" for passing and no second try for students who fell below grade level. Many schools will see hard-earned gains disappear.

So, you mean they will no longer get a 50 for only putting their name on the test, or a do-over and will actually be required to know the subject they are being tested on?

The kids didn't get dumber. They still only know what they know. The state just did away with the dumb system/process of measurement.

So much for that 81% graduation rate attained by cutting the required credits to graduate.

Regarding the bonds, yes, they may pass, but I also remember pro-bond groups being very confident a previous bond package was going to pass and they were shocked when it didn't.

We shall see....

Anonymous said...

These new tests are a joke. Rigorous my behind, same old multiple choice nonsense. DPI claims teachers need to get away from multiple choice and yet that is the way they test. The students already know they will not be held accountable for the tests so they do not take them seriously. By the way, does the public realize who grades the essay/short answer portion of the test? Their teacher and another teacher from that school. Yeah DPI, real rigorous.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Wiley these test are a joke for students. I really dont think the data is going to help teachers either. To prepare for the election that is taking place today vote no to any sitting BOE member and vote NO BONDS. Help hold people accountable for their actions ! Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

The tests are a joke. How can a student who takes the Civics and Economics MSL not have a single questions about the Constitution or the three branches of government. Not a single one! Of course the public will see the scores and say its the teachers fault. Its a joke. The students were told they didn't count towards their grade! Of course they did bad on it, they didn't even try!

Anonymous said...

Concerning the Civics and Economics test last year, if we as teachers followed DPI standard course of study, the Economics portion was not even taught when they took the test and yet 60% of the essay questions were about economics. How can DPI instruct teachers to follow a standard course of study and then test kids on material that has not even been taught yet? And these tests are to be used for Teacher accountability? The people at DPI all need to be fired because they are so out of touch with the real world. How are they held accountable? Oh that's right, they are not. Do as DPI says, not as DPI does.

Shelly said...

Totally correct, 8:57.

Anonymous said...

The Paxis 2 exam (which I'm taking before the end of December) is also changing to a more "rigorous" and (surprise, surprise!) far more expensive exam in July. Teaching candidates who do not graduate from an accredited NC Dept. of Public Instruction teacher preparation program by July, 2014 are not eligible to use current Paxis 2 test scores for licensure by the state.

It should be interesting to see the before and after pass rates of teaching candidates once this new and improved test is administered which I'm sure will solve everything including closing the achievement gap which already exists on the current Praxis 2 exam. I fully support improving the way teachers are taught but this is like putting the cart before the horse.


Anonymous said...

Teachers are expected adapt their instruction to meet the needs of all learners through differentiated lessons and tasks. They are evaluated on how well they individualize instruction for the students in their classes. Yet, our state demands that all of these students that learn in different ways, be pigeon-holed into taking an identical test that demands they show their learning in the exact same way. It's like asking a fish to climb a tree to prove how smart of a fish he is. The standardized testing movement in our country is systematically ruining education. You can't test our school systems into quality education, but it appears that's exactly what the expectation is.

Shamash said...


Have you seen the CAEP report on the changes they want in teacher education standards?

They say they are "poised to raise the bar" for the preparation of educators in the US.

But they seem to waver between doing the right thing and the usual political correctness garbage we see in education (so I guess things are still up in the air, or at least poised at the bar for now).

But the government is thinking about a solution.

And that's enough to motivate me to keep my passport updated.

Sadly, we have a friend whose daughter is a C-average student with an emphasis on volleyball.

I'm sure she has had a lot of fun in school. My wife and I were curious what someone like that expected to do with their life.

And, yes, she wants to become a teacher.

Oh well, I didn't hear what her SAT scores were just yet, but I think she just might need to change career choices if this CAEP plan goes through.

Or else she may become a highly-paid "coach" (if that's allowed in womens sports).

Of course, my children are all above average and will be doing quite well in whatever they choose to do, so I have little skin in this game.

Anonymous said...

I'm a full believer in the importance of having in-depth content knowledge of subject area in order to be deemed qualified to teach. Content knowledge is queen.

However, what I've learned so far:

Learning to teach 4th grade is and will continue be one of the hardest things I've ever tried to accomplish in my lifetime. Even then, a good teacher never fully accomplishes all that they set out to do because the variable factors that go into teaching continually change and develop from year to year. Those who can do, those who desire to soar with the humble teach. We've all had that horrible teacher who is brilliant in subject matter but lacks the ability to motivate, communicate, connect with, and inspire a classroom of students. There are critically intangible things that go into teaching that simply can't be measured on a standardized test. Teaching is also about carrying on the long held tradition of placing student teachers with experienced teacher mentors who serve as guides, saviors, heros and warriors as new teachers navigate classroom terrain. It seems this aspect of teacher training is rarely considered as part of the equation in public discussion forums. The difference between a kick-butt teacher mentor and a mediocre teacher mentor during the student teaching experience is make or break. I'm fortunate to have a kick-butt mentor who understands the importance of allowing me to almost drown before throwing me a lifejacket. Stay tuned...


Shamash said...

As an example of the typical bureaucratic non-thinking PC BS which pervades our educational system, read the CAEP report, starting p. 16, under:


I'll paraphrase (since this goes on for 4 pages)...

They want both "diverse" candidates and ALSO those with "high academic and achievement ability".

In fact, by 2020, they are expecting to have candidates whose "group average" is in the top 33% of those who take the ACT, SAT, and GRE.

They want this, of course, to help with the "achievement gap" and to offset the fact that all those white women are teaching in some schools when they need more brown and black people teaching there instead.

But, again, in a typical cart before the horse approach, they have no idea how they are going to find those HIGH ACADEMIC AND ACHIEVEMENT ABILITY minorities in the first place.

(I mean since we have an "achievement gap" and all that, isn't there going to be a problem finding such high-scoring minorities who want to teach?)

Sounds like they're going to have to offer some nice "incentives" to smart minorities me.

Maybe a little "discrimination" in hiring is in order?

But, then again, maybe not...

They waffle-speak their way around this little conundrum by saying that only the "averages" have to be good, not specific candidates!

Sounds like they're opening the door for a few "exceptional" teachers who meet other "special" criteria.

Ha, what a joke.

They give averages, but say nothing about standard deviations or outliers they will allow.

So, the more we change, the more we remain the same.

Even though the CAEP says this is NOT "business as usual".

People really need to read this report just to see how sloppy their thinking is.

So, teachers (and especially future teachers) expect to be put through the academic wringer for higher standards.

Unless you're the "exception" of course.

Anonymous said...


Glad life is serving you well in Lake Wobegon.

What does a "C" really mean? Isn't this why we standardized test in the first place? I scored a capital C in high school Chemistry. Some of my fellow classmates in this class went on to attend Brown, Cornell, CalTech, Dartmouth and Yale. I missed a lot of cheerleading practices to work with my chemistry teacher one-on-one in order to earn a C - which means average. I was average compared to those who went on to attend Brown, Cornell, CalTech, Dartmouth and Yale. Although - nowadays - being co-captain of the basketball cheerleading team counts as extra credit in "Leadership". So, I'll give myself an A in high school leadership ability. I was also class secretary and first flute which may not qualify me to teach 4th grade in your world but I've never desired to live along that part of the lake anyway.


Shamash said...

I'm sure your C in Chemistry was worth more than my A in Chemistry since at my school, kids could get extra points for bringing in Campbell's Soup labels (true).

However, given the push from CAEP for "high academic and achievement ability" for teachers, this will be a problem for many.

And we all know that grade inflation can be a good thing for many careers, but it's still gonna be hard to fake those ACT, SAT, and GRE scores.

Which is why we almost always fall back on standardized testing to see how things finally work out.

And FWIW, I never said you weren't qualified to teach fourth grade.

Maybe not high school Chemistry, but neither am I and neither was my high school Chemistry teacher, either.

And while you may have done well despite your C in Chemistry, I definitely think my A from a bad Chemistry teacher did not help me one bit.

In fact, people often have to make college and career choices based on how well or poorly they were taught in high school.

Which is why this is important.

Even on the shores of lake Wobegon.

Pamela Grundy said...

Actually, a number of schools have stopped emphasizing SAT scores in admissions, because school grades and other factors are better predictors of student success.

Anonymous said...

You are correct which is why more colleges (about 280) have adopted SAT/ACT optional admissions standards including Wake Forest. Because in the real word, work ethic and other things count.


Anonymous said...

Why then is NC spending SOOO MUCH on the ACT testing and why then are teachers losing SOOO much time having to train for and administer these tests?

Shamash said...

Well, Alicia and Pamela...

I guess those CAEP "standards" which specifically mention timelines, percentiles, and ACT/SAT/GRE scores are just another example of the disconnect between the "real world" and education.

I didn't make them up.

I guess those colleges which don't use the standardized tests are going to have problems proving their education degrees are up to the CAEP "standards".

But we'll see.

Since there are always "exceptions".

It's just part of America's "exceptionalism".

Anonymous said...

Yep. Test scores don't count for some people.

Neither do degrees or even grades. Look at Bill Gates.

But for some reason, they still matter for most people.

Wiley Coyote said...

ac·cept·a·ble (k-spt-bl)

~Adequate to satisfy a need, requirement, or standard; satisfactory.

A reasonable expectation of learning in a class isn't rocket science.

Assign the curriculum to a subject, decide what the average student should have learned by the end of the course, implement a test that will capture what each student has learned and move on.

The test would count as the other tests administered by the teacher, but the results for that specific test would be used to analize what students learned. Then the eggheads can slice and dice the numbers across the state to see how each group of students is performing.

The KISS method in education has been dead for years.

Shamash said...


The whole problem is that what starts out as "simple" gets so distorted by the educrats that it comes out laughable.

Take that CAEP report (please!).

A good portion of their talk (and it is TALK) about attracting good teachers from the top 1/3 of students is based on a McKinsey Consulting report.

THAT report basically says the top countries in education "recruit 100% of their teacher corps from the top 1/3 of the academic cohort".

OK, that's pretty cut and dried.

100% from the top 1/3.

McKinsey even refers to that group as the "top third+" to make it simple enough to remember (almost like George Orwell's doubleplusgood...)

So, let's make THAT A GOAL.


By the time it passes through the bowels of OUR edutopia, it becomes much more murky.

"HIRE THE TOP THIRD" becomes more like...

"Well, let's set a cohort "group average" somewhere around the top 33% based on standardized test scores such as the ACT/SAT/GRE for a while until we come up with a better way to decide who's really the best candidates for teaching.

And then let's add a a huge fudge factor by not specifying any particular standard deviation for that cohort just so we can add in the kind of people we REALLY want teaching (for the sake of diversity and other social problems) which we've decided is ALSO important.

And then let's also not forget about a dozen other different things we can't quite put our fingers on just yet but will keep tweaking until we satisfy every political pressure group which raises an issue".

And that's how this national group of education leaders thinks.

And that just ain't gonna cut it.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why it takes DPI 6 months to generate my 3rd graders results from a completely Multiple Choice test, all the while those who administered MSL's at the high school level for Civcs and Economics had to grade on the average no less than 600 short answer per teacher..... And then those same 600 per teacher were assessed by another teacher. For example, if 500 students took a Civcs and Economics test with 6 short answer at any given school that is 3,000 items to grade not once but twice for a total of 6,000 items PER SCHOOL. Teachers were given 3 days to complete the grading, while DPI took 6 months???? COMICAL!

Anonymous said...

BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH...... What does the FOX SAY!,,,,,,

Anonymous said...

So....... The scores are being released after Bond vote? That's convenient.

It would be extremely helpful if we could just separate those that want to learn with those that don't. The discipline problems are alarming.

Anonymous said...

Want to really know what is going on?
Read Diane Ravitch's book called Reign of Error, pay attention to what is happening in NY state where 70% of the students did not pass the test, discover how private companies are making a fortune on this testing mania, and
understand that you can opt your child out of these tests.

Anonymous said...

On the bight side, perhaps education reform efforts at the B.A. education degree level will place less emphasis on the latest changes to Bloom's Taxonomy and endless lesson planning that meets six or more integration goals with more realistic real world objectives.


Anonymous said...

Does North Carolina have an opt-out clause - because I don't think they do. I wish parents would rise up against this testing mania. It is all about money and educational bureaucrats maintaining their well-heeled positions. The amount of money that has gone into testing in CMS - who gives not only state tests, but creates their own extra tests, is enormous. The amount of money going to Pearson, Amplify ( Dr. Gorman's new gig) and Apple is also ridiculous. Meanwhile, my kids have to print out their own notes, because the teachers don't have copy paper. MADNESS!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

@ 9:13 Just Google National Opt-Out websites or search for their Facebook pages.

Shamash said...

A lot of Ravitch's books are on Google Books, including parts of Reign of Error.

Some of what she says is OK, and some is crap. One problem I have with her is her 180 degree change in recent years.

So is everything she said before WRONG or has she just flip-flopped for some other reason?

We may never know for sure, but she is taking a definite "liberal" stance today.

Personally, I'd like to see the profession improved with tighter standards and improved pay and other incentives as well such as greater autonomy in the classroom.

The direction we are going now seems just a bit nutty.

I don't think we'll get there because we always make exceptions which means that there will always be some justifiable doubts about teacher quality.

We really need to get more teachers from the top 1/3 of college graduates, and less from the bottom half.

And it's just bad for everyone that we don't.

Shamash said...

Of course, the REAL unanswered problem is how you are going to get the "right kind" of teachers from the top 1/3 for the "urban" crowd.

Especially with people fighting so hard to keep misbehaving kids in the classroom as Fannie Flono's rant about the "school to prison" pipeline seems to support.

Yeah, you are going to find "smart" teachers flocking to THAT work environment.

We just keep making too many excuses and exceptions for our own good.

Anonymous said...

What I find unbelievable is the mom who decided to withhold her child's ADHD meds on two out of three of the EOG days. The child's inability to focus and successfully complete the test was quite obvious. Now that scores are back, my predictions are confirmed. So how can you seriously hold a teacher accountable for that?

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at the facts? Public education in this country is doing great despite the fact that nearly half of students live in poverty. We do not need corporate reformers dictating what educators should do as they line their pockets with money. Do you know that Pearson, who makes billions on the Common Core Curriculum and standardized testing is not even an American company? The NC tests have been normed so that most students will fail and the blame will be on the teachers, all by corporate design. Stay tuned.

Wiley Coyote said...


Define "doing great".

Occtober 10, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimated that 82% of this country's public schools are not passing the test in educating our children.

According to an article in the New York Times, Duncan has told congress that more than 80,000 of the nation's 100,000 public schools will receive failing grades this year under the NCLB act.

The US has yet to match its highest graduation rate since 1969/1970.

Anonymous said...

What does this mean?
"Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimated that 82% of this country's public schools are not passing the test in educating our children."
If it means students are not passing the common core standardized tests which are unproven, poorly researched, and so secretive in allowing anyone see the test or understand the scoring process, then there is no scientific basis for this statement. Also his graduation rate figures only include those who graduate in four years. What about those who do it in 4.5 or 5. Actually 90% of young adults in this country between the ages. Of 18 and 24 have a high school diploma.

Shamash said...

The "corporate reformer" question is different from the "doing great" question.

I know Diane Ravitch's crusade now is against corporate education, but she has rocks in her head if she thinks we are doing great.

Sure, if you're white or Asian and at least middle class (or lower if Asian), you're doing fine.

Otherwise, you're in Fannie Flono's pipeline to prison.

And yes, I've looked at "the facts".

Many of South Koreans poor do well, unlike ours, so how are we doing great?

Wiley Coyote said...


You seem to have only read the first sentence in my post. Read the second one and you'll find your answer.

Regarding the graduation rate, the highest attained rate was in 1969/1970 at 79%.

Feel free to monkey with the numbers anyway you wish to make you feel better.

The US Department of Education uses a 4 year graduation rate.

National public high school graduation rate at a four-decade high

By Lyndsey Layton,January 22, 2013

The percentage of students at public high schools who graduate on time has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years, according to the most recent federal government estimates released Tuesday.

Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78 percent of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974, officials said.

The bottom line is, since the mid-60's with forced busing to achieve integration, political correctness and a diversity driven programs at all cost crusade, politicians and educrats have forgotten to do one thing - educate the child.

Shamash said...

Yeah, 90% graduation rate sounds a bit optimistic to me as well.

Does that include the glorious GED?

If so, then you need to look into how well the GED serves its recipients.

As for other sources, it looks like 75% is the agreed upon grad rate.

In fact, we're apparently bragging about that new "high".

Even though a HS diploma is hardly the accomplishment it used to be 40 years ago.

Here's the grad rate by ethnicity.

Asian 81%
White 80%
Latino 68%
Black 62%
Native Amer. 51%

Yeah, we're doing great, alright.

Considering that a HS diploma is the bare minimum needed for even most low-level jobs.

Shamash said...

More importantly, we aren't just living in a vacuum.

The rest of the world is improving while we're just standing still.

The United States used to be number one for high school graduation. But times have changed. In 2009, the U.S. ranked 21st out of 26 OECD countries when it came to high school graduation rate, according to Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"Basically the completion rate is pretty low, by international standards, in the United States," Schleicher says. Portugal and Slovenia were tied for first in the rankings, Japan and Finland hold the number two spot, and the Czech Republic ranks 17th.


Again, I see nothing "great" about this.

Wiley Coyote said...


To your point:

80 Percent of NYC High School Graduates Can’t Read but they Eat Salads for Lunch

...New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is concerned about the people of New York. He’s banned sugary drinks in containers larger than 32 ounces, salt, and polystyrene foam products. Smokers were no longer allowed to light up in New York parks. In order to cut down on elementary and middle school obesity rates, Bloomberg initiated the Salads in Schools program. In 2007, Bloomberg introduced an initiative for chain restaurants to display calorie information on menus and menu boards.

Here’s the problem. The majority of young people graduating from high school won’t be able to read the regulations or know what a 62-ounce drink is since 80 percent of them are deficient in reading and math skills:

“Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system. . . . [T]hose who graduate from city high schools arrived at City University’s community college system without having mastered the skills to do college-level work.

“In sheer numbers it means that nearly 11,000 kids who got diplomas from city high schools needed remedial courses to re-learn the basics. . . .

“They had to re-learn basic skills — reading, writing and math — first before they could begin college courses.”

As I said earlier, so much political and educrat BS for decades has led to this.

Look at CMS' magical increase in graduation rates last year.

We don't need Common Core. We need Common Sense.

Anonymous said...

why should anyone be surprised by this? this is what happens when the Government gets involved....just wait for the healthcare debacle to hit. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

So true! What is even more interesting is that fact that the local districts don't have to implement Common Core (Obamacore). But of course Heath Morrison thinks CC is great! My kids are moving backwards not forwards this school year.

Shamash said...

Yeah, Obamacare is a real stinker.

Even the CO is having to admit that the libs got that wrong and that the president lied.

Unfortunately, it's the "law of the land" because we got scammed.

My own family's employer provided plan premiums have gone up 300% for next year, so we are having to switch from a PPO we liked to a high deductible plan.

Of course, that's just a "coincidence" with Obamacare.

Because Obama promised us we would save money and could keep our old plans.

He never mentioned that our costs would triple.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the electorate now think we can ALL get free or reduced price stuff and that costs for everyone will go down.

Because they really are ignorant.

Maybe that's what is really behind school failure.

Our system of government now depends on ignorance.

And there will be a greater push to deliver more social services through our schools.

To "lower costs", of course...

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to take responsibility for anything anymore. Just look at our Commander and Chief. Our next generation is doomed if we continue on this trajectory.

The only control we have as parents is what happens in our home. You either instill a love of learning, personal responsibility and work ethic there or you don't. Most people nowadays are choosing the latter because it is easier not to do those things.

Anonymous said...

And much easier when you've been told "the village" has your back.