Friday, November 22, 2013

No second chance on 2013-14 exams

N.C. students won't get a second chance if they flunk state exams this year, Vanessa Jeter of the Department of Public Instruction told me this week.

Before the new exams rolled out in 2012-13,  students who fell short were required to take the tests again  (different questions on the same material). If they passed on the second try,  it counted toward school proficiency rates, a significant bump for many struggling schools.

This year,  the only students who will be retested are those who fail third-grade reading exams.  The state's new Read to Achieve program spells out a series of actions that are triggered by failure on those tests,  starting with retesting and potentially leading to summer school and retention. (See the process on page 4 of this guide.)   Based on this year's results,  a lot of children aren't clearing the bar at the end of third grade.  See elementary school proficiency rates,  including the percent who passed third-grade reading,  on this new results map.

A second year of one-shot testing could be bad news for schools facing state-issued letter grades in 2014 (see 2013 results for all Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and Mecklenburg charter schools in the rail at right).  The same goes for CMS high school students,  who will see 25 percent of their final grades in math I, English II and biology shaped by their score on the state tests.

But Superintendent Heath Morrison argues it will be good news for people trying to monitor how much progress schools make this year.  Before the state made it clear whether retesting would be revived this year,  he argued against it for the sake of having two consecutive years of comparable results.  In 2014-15,  the state is slated to switch tests again,  introducing Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams designed to reflect national Common Core standards and provide a consistent testing system among participating states.

"We would prefer to keep the testing as similar as possible,"  Morrison told the school board.


Anonymous said...

If one looks hard enough, especially at the "good cause" provisions, there is enough "wiggle room" for administrators and the educational hierarchy to socially promote non-proficient students therefore raking in the "bonus bucks" while filling the next grade level with substandard students who will not have the capability to even read the final exam. This is where the "overpaid" and "underworked" teachers will be again scapegoated. "Politically based" scheduling will be employed by Guidance "clown-sellors" in which certain "undesirable" teachers will be saddled with the functionally illiterate promoted via "good cause" loopholes and thus will be fired because the students did not pass the exam. Truth is- the students never should have been promoted to that grade anyway.

Unknown said...

Why on earth would we expect kids to be given a "second chance" to take a test? Did any kid's parents get "second chances" to take exams? Would anyone in the real world (exclude government) get a "second chance" at an interview.....or a job.....or be able to keep their job if they repeatedly fail? I can hear it now...."this is discrimination, I'm supposed to have a chance for a do-over." Pleeeeeease.

Shamash said...

I hope this works.

Personally, I think the parents should probably spend more time reading with their kids if they're still having problems by the third grade.

The idea that schools and teachers should be held responsible for this is silly that late in the game.

But maybe holding the kids back will send a message to parents and kids that reading is important.

I would suggest that they implement a "reading at home" program with the parents LONG BEFORE they fail TWICE (as the flowchart on pg.4 says).

Of course, I expect all kinds of excuses why this can't be done and why there will be plenty of "good cause exemptions" to go around.

In particular, the fifth excuse (p. 9) for a "good cause exemption" is most suspicious.

Simply keep failing by the third grade (1 reading intervention, and 2 grade repeats) and they will cave in and give you a "pass".

To me that is a SERIOUS FAIL.

amyo said...

Willy Loman said "Why on earth would we expect kids to be given a "second chance" to take a test?" Surely you didn't think that comment through. The assumption behind standardized testing is that it accurately measures what has been taught, but there are lots of additional assumptions embedded into that broad belief. Most of them are too complicated to get into here (including the idea that the tests we're administering are good tests, and that any standardized multiple-choice test can accurately measure what we WANT our kids to be able to do). But on the subject of retesting--when a young student (and we're talking about kids as young as 8-9 years old here) takes such a test, there are literally dozens of factors not related to how much he or she knows that can affect that test performance. Messing up one line on a bubble sheet will cause all your answers to be wrong, etc. To hold a student back without a chance to retest is ridiculous. If we spend approximately $6000 per student per year, that's an extra $6000 we will spend for every child who is retained. But beyond that are the human costs--retention has many negative impacts, and these are amplified, the older the child is. When a child's teacher agrees that retention would be useful--that's one thing. But to be told so by a scan-tron scanner, without any additional information about what a child is capable of--that's not acceptable.

--Amy Overbay

Anonymous said...

Mr. Death of a Salesman (perhaps having attended a good school that valued great American playwrights and not a disenfranchised, suicidal, 63-year-old?),

Your comment reminds me of the old joke:

Q - "What do you call someone who graduates last in their medical class"?

A - "Doctor".

There are many professions that allow a person to take a standardized test more than once. Think teachers, doctors, lawyers and plumbers. Even the sunny people behind the counter at Charlotte's Brookshire Blvd. DMV allow people a do-over driving test.


Wiley Coyote said...


The problem is not getting a Mulligan to take an EOG test.

The problem is having an EOG test be the end all of deciding what the child knows and whether to hold them back or promote them.

Does the entire year and their performance throughout the year not count for anything?

That's the problem with this testing crap.

A child's final grade at the end of the year should dictate whether they move on or not.

Shamash said...

The problem with grades is that there is no standard.

Which is why we are in this testing mess to begin with.

Unfortunately, no one can trust the grades anymore.

Or even the diplomas for that matter.

And even the term "proficient" has changed from test to test and state to state in the past.

No one seems to really know what any of these kids can do until they try to get into college and come up against those requirements.

And even then, many are accepted under remedial studies programs.

Wiley Coyote said...


I still believe grading isn't rocket science and educrats are over-thinking this to death.

Standards can be implemented by the state for every subject at every grade level.

For each subject, come up with a test for the first half of the year and one for the second half, which would encompass what the teacher teaches in class.

Those two tests would be generated by the state and would contain questions regarding the subject and what the students at those points in time should have learned. Use those to track progress across the state.

The teacher would have control over the remaining tests, homework, projects, etc. so all those grades would count towards a final grade.

No beefing up on the two state tests, no taking 3 days before and cramming and stressing over taking the tests. They would be no different than the other teacher tests and would count towards a grade as any other test.

The state gets information as to what the kids are learning at two different times of the year to slice and dice, the teacher gets to actually teach and stress is eliminated.

This country seemed to do fine for the first 200 years without high stakes testing. The past 40 years is a different story.

The next 40 to 200 years is anyone's guess.

Shamash said...

Grading is still "high stakes" when you consider that colleges look at those grades (and they are still used for graduation).

I still don't see a way out of some standardized testing given the general lack of trust in our society today.

Not that we haven't earned it, though.

I am still reminded of my son's school's quarterly parade of the stars in which about half the kids are on the A/B Honor Roll.

(Here in Lake Wobegon...)

I can remember when grades meant something, but I can also remember when they started replacing "absolute" A-F with grades that were supposed to measure "progress" instead.

Meaning that the worst performing kid in the class could get a "most improved" rating while the best kids got something like "satisfactory".

This caused all kinds of confusion when report cards were sent home.

As for the last 40 years, I still remember having to read History tests to ninth graders who had somehow "passed" elementary school.

So something wasn't working at some schools with some kids even back then.

It was just accepted that they would be illiterates, I guess.

Wiley Coyote said...


People went to college prior to all this mess based on SAT scores and other factors. Even then, not all kids went to college. Some went to work and others to technical schools and then on to jobs they trained for.

As I said, put a statewide curriculum in place, insert two state tests at either end of the semesters and move on. If at the end of the year a kid still fails, either have summer school in place to try and catch up or they repeat the grade.

Again, state tests are not the only things kids should be pass/failed on.

Anonymous said...

Heath , Be careful what you ask for on this one. It maybe a rude awakening with ground breaking numbers from the data. From you comment it sounds like your preparing us for that. Certainly would not be a graduation increase indicator for years to come. Dont cook the data you have a chance to start clean as none of this is in your closet yet. Your first year has been a PR/visit campaign. Now your familiar so next year is really on you so go in with open eyes and clean data. Keith W. Hurley

Shamash said...

True, kids went to schools based on something. But what did grades mean?

My HS Physics teacher gave people extra points (and even some A's) based on bringing in Campbells Soup can labels.

What did those grades mean?

And some colleges automatically accept the Valedictorians from ANY school.

But often it was a standardized test such as the ACT/SAT (maybe PSAT) that got many kids admitted or considered as serious possibilities for college.

So most kids only saw ONE really high stakes standardized test for most of their HS years.

And a lot got rude awakenings when they went from being on the local Honor Roll to flunking out of their nearest (community) college.

It's better to know you don't measure up to some national standard before you nearly graduate.

Just as I think it's better to know you CAN'T READ before you flunk third grade.

I don't think people should "teach to the test", but they should test something.

And unfortunately, I've been to some schools where you couldn't trust the teachers or the grades.

And I've met students who came from even worse schools than I did and thought they were doing fine.

Anonymous said...

Has the Board decided on Dr. Morrison's bonus yet?

Anonymous said...

Nope, that's Monday.

Anonymous said...

ACT, AP and SAT exams (and, hopefully, Common Core exams), are stronger markers for gauging student performance than state-made exams written by teachers. I don't mind an EOC do-over as long as the student attends/passes summer school. Teachers can retake the PRAXIS, so why not give students the chance?

Anonymous said...

Sure MOrrison likes this idea. It will skew the scores from previous data. It just kicks the can down the endless road of wasted money (MILLIONS) by CMS with NO RESULTS. This will allow MOrrison a few more years to receive his million dollar pension (vested). Sell some more Amway snake oil door to door, then disappear from NC will the taxpayer provided pension.

Start over again with the next BROAD (remember him?) bozo. Repeat steps util the exodus of truly qualified teachers is complete.

Anonymous said...

Has the board voted on his bonus? Yep when they hired him ! Come on man that is not even a question they already eat from his hand. I am trying to be nice , but don't waste time asking questions like that. Of course no real results from his first year other than a huge gas bill from trips on a PR campaign , but it was needed. Year two hopefully some change and accountability in store. If not year three is a coast thru and year four onto a new city. Change the bell schedule make educated decisions ! Keith W. Hurley