Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The latest twists in testing

Charlotte-Mecklenburg third-graders will have a broader menu of reading tests to help them earn promotion without summer school,  assuming the snow-crossed school board approves at a meeting this morning (after snow canceled the Jan. 28 meeting,  tonight's regularly scheduled meeting has been bumped up to 11 a.m. to avoid a repeat).

As you may recall,  districts around the state are trying to put the Read to Achieve law into practice without sending thousands of children to summer school or drowning them in exams. The goal is ensuring that students who move up to fourth grade have grade-level reading skills.

More than 2,500 of this year's CMS third-graders can relax:  They tested at third-grade level on new state reading exams given at the start of this year,  so they don't have to worry about being retained or sent to summer school based on an end-of-grade reading score. The rest,  about 78 percent of the class,  will have these options to demonstrate proficiency:

* MAP tests being given in most elementary schools.

*  Discovery Education reading tests being used at Project LIFT schools.

* Reading 3D tests created by Amplify  (where former Superintendent Peter Gorman went to work).

*  Or the state's "portfolio"  reading tests,  which sparked controversy because they require students to pass quizzes on 36 passages.

Students who don't make the grade on any of these options will have to see if they pass the End of Grade exam.  If not,  they'll have to take summer reading camp to be promoted.

The state granted the request of CMS and 15 other districts,  including Cabarrus,  Gaston,  Hickory,  Kannapolis,  Mooresville and Union County,  to have additional testing options.  But you can see why testing is such a thorny topic in the state,  with Gov. Pat McCrory saying the volume  "borders on the absolute ridiculous."

But former Gov. Jim Hunt, hosting an Emerging Issues Forum focused on teachers, warned against a knee-jerk reaction to overtesting.  He recalled a day when too many were oblivious to how little students were learning.

"The whole issue of testing is one that we've got to do a lot of hard thinking about,"  Hunt said.  "We must figure out whether students are learning and how to help them learn more."


Anonymous said...

Where is the parent piece in this puzzle? Can the district send home a reading booklet that must be read and completed by the child and parent before the child can be promoted to the 4th grade?

Anonymous said...

One can only assume that the Reading 3D tests provided by Amplify and Mr. Gorman will only be administered on tablets with broken screens returned by Guilford County ?

Shamash said...

Well, good for the 22% who already passed.

I still don't see why one set of nationally normed tests (MAP) isn't enough to determine grade level reading.

Especially since most kids should have a whole series of reading test results well before the third grade. Isn't there a pattern of failure or success by then?

MAP tests are given SEVERAL times a year, every year.

Parents, teachers, students, and administrators should know by SECOND GRADE, who is "at-risk" of not being at THIRD GRADE level by the third grade and work on them then.

Honestly. Is it THAT HARD?

We've been looking at our kid's MAP scores for the past few years and they're pretty consistent and show he has no problem reading at grade level. It's easy.

Why wait until the last minute to solve this problem?

And then curse the consequences of missing the deadline everyone knew was there.

It's only there because the ball has been dropped so many times before.

And I also have to wonder where the parents are in all this.

I know I get those MAP results and check my kid's progress and buckle down if they don't show enough improvement each year.

What are the other parents doing?

Isn't that the REAL problem?

Wiley Coyote said...


It's controlled chaos, controlled by inept, power hungry, control freak educrats...

Also interesting is that CMS can't provide demographic or school lunch data, yet Wake County has 2013/2014 data listed on their website.

You cannot trust CMS with anything.

I believe a FOIA request by the Observer is due. They have the data, they're just shuckin' and jivin' the public and won't release it.

So in that vein, why should we give a rat's rear what problems CMS is having with testing and the fact 78% can't read on grade level?

Anonymous said...

So we are going to take good legislation that actually does something good and water it down. Big Surprise! No child should be promoted in ANY GRADE if they are not reading at grade level. If you're not reading at grade level I would bet that every other subject is lacking! America, we just don't get it!

But, today parents will be worried about loosing some vacation time!

Shamash said...

If the kids WERE learning to read, this wouldn't even be a question, would it?

The 78% failure to read at grade level at the beginning of the year is a clue, but I'm curious just how far behind they are.

If only a year, then, technically, they have a year to get to third grade level.

If more than a year, then someone needs to question those second grade teachers.

Or at least look at the scores from the end of the second grade to see if they've dropped.

Maybe a summer reading program (or a booklet sent home to parents over the summer) might help.

(Assuming parental involvement, of course...)

Shelly said...

If only 22% are on level, is there a chance that the level is incorrect? That seems like a very low 'norm' percentage. Maybe the powers that be need to readjust their thinking and acknowledge that they may be wrong.

Wiley Coyote said...


I wonder how many of the 78% came from Bright Beginnings....

...of course, we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand from my kids' school, those 2500 kids are exempt from needing to pass the EOG because they scored at or above the passing score for the 3rd grade EOG on the 3rd grade BOG (beginning of grade)test. So basically, those kids reading skills were at least a year ahead at the beginning of 3rd grade.

Shamash said...


It's at the beginning of the year.

I think the goal is to have them reading at third grade level by the end of the year.

That's why I was curious how far behind they were. If they were all at second grade level or between 2nd and 3rd, then probably not a huge problem.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...


Well, you know how those longitudinal studies go.

Times change and a WHOLE LOT can happen between Bright Beginnings and third grade...

One bad summer and the slate is wiped clean, so it's back to ground zero.

Of course, that doesn't mean that those increasingly important "soft skills" they gain (but never measure) don't transfer across generations or even centuries.

And, as an extra bonus, they can be safely claimed by every failed initiative in education.

Shamash said...

So Wiley,

When will they stop focusing on all this reading crap and pay more attention to the "whole child"?

(I want to know so we can leave the country.)

After all, shouldn't they be informing us about all our children's "intelligences"...

There are at least nine that I've heard of.

And I have no idea what my kids' "naturalistic" and "existential" intelligences are.

Next time my kid flunks a reading or math test, I'm asking the teacher if she knows.

Maybe there's an educational "specialist" who can help.

Wiley Coyote said...


You know my question was rhetorical, but still, it's a valid question.

In 2011/2012, there were 2,734 pre-K students and 68,276 students in K-5 grades. That's 11,380 average per grade K-5.

The number of pre-K students has been running about the same each year, so the ratio of pre-K to any given grade is 2,500 students or - 24% who have attended Bright Beginnings each year.

22% on grade level, 24% ratio of pre-K to 3rd graders.

Are all of the 22% on grade level from Bright Beginnings?

Are any of the 22% from Bright Beginnings?

A combination of BB and other pre-K programs outside CMS?

Any way you slice it, CMS is failing miserably, because they should know by the end of second grade who is on what level.

We're spinning our wheels getting hung up on 3rd grade reading when we should have an idea long before that 78% can't read on a 3rd grade level.

All the while taxpayers get hosed.

Anonymous said...

At my kids' school, all of the kids who are exempt are in the catalyst/TD class. Infact, I think the entire class is exempt.

Shamash said...


Well, I'm a bit slow today.

My rhetorical question is whether that 3-D Reading test comes with 3-D Reading glasses?

Or is it BYOT?

Wiley Coyote said...


BYOT... Bring Your Own Test?

Anonymous said...

To be clear, the 22% who earned a high enough score at the beginning of 3rd grade are students who started 3rd grade where students are expected to be by the end of 3rd grade. This does not indicate that the other 78% are below grade level, but that instead the 22% were performing well above where they were expected to be in September of their 3rd grade year. The pre-test and post-tests include similar content of similar difficulty and are used to measure growth from beginning of year to end of year.

Anonymous said...

Who cares anymore.. My freind just started teaching (we all tried to talk her out of it). She has students that wear the same clothes everyday. They have a washer and dryer at the school. She washes her students clothes. I am by no means a bleeding heart liberal. We have some serious poverty issues in this state. Students coming to school sick and nobody has a car to come get them. Students showing up to kindergarten and not potty trained. second graders that still have pacifiers. This state has issues. We can't pay our teachers. We have areas of extreme poverty. My sons school is awesome and I love his teacher. The school does very well on test scores. If they didn't, teachers would be to blame. At my friends school, the teachers are the only thing some of those kids have. Apples to oranges!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the 22 percent are kids who had already met the end-of- year bar at the START of the year. They're ahead; it doesn't mean the other 78 percent are behind.

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 6:00

46% of 3rd graders were "proficient" in reading at the end of 2012/2013.

How many were "proficient" at the beginning of that year?

22% are "proficient" this year so what will the end of the year bring? Another 46%?

Shamash said...

Anon 7:56pm,

Not quite clear about the connection between poverty and potty training and pacifiers.

Anonymous said...

Children are not starting school with basic social skills. They are not as prepared as other students to learn. Is this the smash and Wiley blog?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is.. When ever I check it, they are all over it. Its fine, you get the fox news opinion and a overeducated soccer mom. Jk lol

Anonymous said...

No it would not be an issue.. Would it... Inspiring

Anonymous said...

All of them

Anonymous said...

Stop the crap.. For the love of all that is holy in the universe, stop the crap

Anonymous said...

Not potty trained by kindergarten, pacifiers!! You don't get it? Surely you jest.

Anonymous said...

Jk. Dude,

When ever - like, spelled whenever? Not that I've when ever misspelled whenever.

So, you got a problem with overeducated soccer moms? Lol.

And for the record, not a fan of Fox. Not at all.

WAY overeducated soccer mom

Anonymous said...

Whenever when ever, who cares it's a blog, but your a soccer mom.. Whatever

Anonymous said...

From readingrockets.org

"Other factors that influence learning to read

Our research continues to converge on the following findings.

Good readers are phonemically aware, understand the alphabetic principle, can apply these skills to the development and application of phonics skills when reading and spelling words, and can accomplish these applications in a fluent and accurate manner.

Given the ability to rapidly and automatically decode and recognize words, good readers bring strong vocabularies and good syntactic and grammatical skills to the reading comprehension process, and actively relate what is being read to their own background knowledge via a variety of strategies.

But what factors can provide a firm foundation for these skills to develop?

It is clear from research on emerging literacy that learning to read is a relatively lengthy process that begins very early in development and clearly before children enter formal schooling.

Children who receive stimulating literacy experiences from birth onward appear to have an edge when it comes to vocabulary development, understanding the goals of reading, and developing an awareness of print and literacy concepts.

Children who are read to frequently at very young ages become exposed in interesting and exciting ways to the sounds of our language, to the concept of rhyming, and to other word and language play activities that serve to provide the foundation for the development of phoneme awareness.

As children are exposed to literacy activities at young ages, they begin to recognize and discriminate letters. Without a doubt, children who have learned to recognize and print most letters as preschoolers will have less to learn upon school entry. The learning of letter names is also important because the names of many letters contain the sounds they most often represent, thus orienting youngsters early to the alphabetic principle or how letters and sounds connect.

Ultimately, children's ability to understand what they are reading is inextricably linked to their background knowledge. Very young children who are provided opportunities to learn, think, and talk about new areas of knowledge will gain much from the reading process. With understanding comes the clear desire to read more and to read frequently, ensuring that reading practice takes place."

Anonymous said...

11:45am agree, it's all about the child's upbringing before they start school and the environment they go home to every afternoon. I do not work in a Title 1 school but would imagine that the teacher is the only one that really cares about some of the students education. Very sad.

Dr. Bob said...

Another problem is that students have very little "quiet" time in their lives anymore. It is constant stimulation and distractions from screens. If you can’t concentrate you can’t learn. The ability to apply yourself undistracted and single-mindedly to a task or train of thought is fundamental to achieving almost anything. And that usually means quiet.

And yet we live in a world where the wherewithal to concentrate seems to be valued less and less.
Social media has a lot to answer for,and parents and teachers should be aware of this.

Quiet classrooms in which teachers talk and students listen attentively tend to be rather frowned upon in a culture which values ‘interactivity’ – aka flitting about like a manic butterfly from one thing to another, is valued above all else.

We are right to be worried about the effects of all this screen stimulation on the learning and education of children and young people. It does re-wire the brain.

Good schools, sensible teachers – and of course parents - impart these things integrally and develop them in children through everything they do at home and in school.

Last week I had a child, aged 3½, in the house. I was impressed by her ability to sit engrossed and unaided in a jigsaw puzzle for 20 minutes. Her mother tells me that the Daycare staff report she is the only child in their care who can concentrate in this way. Why? Probably because she has never been allowed to play with a smartphone or tablet and her parents have encouraged her since birth to look carefully at books and other simple things for as long as her growing concentration span lasts.

So what can schools do to promote attentiveness across the board? CMS should ban Iphones, etc from the classroom and enforce it strictly. There is no place in a child's life where they can have quiet and get away from such stimulation, not at home sadly or the classroom.

Anonymous said...

teachers, what do you see in your classrooms? Please shed some light on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with several of you with regards to parental involvement and reading. Also there is research that shows that a child who has educated parents, on average, does much better in school and in life. I feel for teachers, especially public school teachers, depending on the school, I suspect they get stuck with some really pitiful students/parents and are expected to work miracles!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we need more overeducated soccer moms.

Anonymous said...

Jk. Dude,
When ever, what ever, sowhat?

2 extra credit points for at least having a sense of humor - which we like here. Welcome.


Anonymous said...

Jk. Dude,
Just pointing out - as an overeducated soccer mom.

"but it's a blog your a soccer mom..."

Your and you're? May I suggest you look up "your" and "you're" on "you're" or "your" IPad or IPhone?

Because, we're - or wear? - just trying to help you.


Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for Soccer Moms!

We are the ones who donate our time and money to our childrens' schools.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

Just don't be "overeducated".

Because that bothers some people reading an education blog.

I guess it's because aren't all "equal" enough, yet.

Jay Perry said...

We want out kids to read at grade level, but I do not think one test should be dispositive. The test should be one piece of the puzzle. Along with - other tests, parent feedback, grades, school work, teacher feedback, independent psychological report
NO WAY - should we let a 3rd graders academic career be determined by one test. Just makes no sense