Friday, May 23, 2014

Kids can read during test time

There's a new N.C. twist to testing this year:  When students finish early, they can read books or magazines until the whole class is done.  State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a memo to superintendents this week reminding them of the change.

One might wonder why the state's top educator would bother calling attention to a relatively minor change buried deep in the state's 158-page testing manual.  The answer:  It's part of a complex negotiation between state officials and parents who plan to refuse to let their kids take exams.


As I reported earlier,  Deputy Superintendent Rebecca Garland wants to make it clear that North Carolina doesn't consider testing optional.  Parents may want to protest what they view as misuse of testing to rate teachers and schools,  but kids who refuse to answer questions will get a zero,  which could drop their class grade and bring other consequences.

After Garland's  "no opt-out"  memo went out,  parents with Mecklenburg ACTS met with Atkinson to argue that even if the kids get zeroes,  they shouldn't be forced to  "sit and stare"  if they're protesting.  The group suggested that Atkinson provide guidelines that note state disapproval of opting out but offer districts  "child-centered"  ways to handle refusals.

The message that went out doesn't specifically address test protesters,  but it's understood that some of the kids will be finishing very early.

"This is a good thing not just for students who are refusing the test,  but for those who finish the tests early.  Previously,  they had also been forced to sit and stare,  sometimes for a couple of hours,"  says Pamela Grundy,  one of the organizers of the opt-out push.

Duncan at EWA
North Carolina is part of a national testing resistance movement.  In New York City more than 30,000 students opted out this spring,  high school principal Carol Burris told education reporters at the Education Writers Association national seminar in Nashville earlier this week.

The uses and misuses of testing were a big topic there.  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized the importance of setting high standards and using rigorous tests to measure student progress:  "We had so many states that dummied down standards to make politicians look good."  The Obama administration's  Race to the Top grants have pushed the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers,  but he acknowledged that some states have gone overboard on testing.

"Where there's too much,  we need to have the honest conversation and scale it back,"  Duncan said,  without citing which states he referred to.

Tennessee officials were quick to credit tougher tests with the state's significant math gains on recent  "nation's report card"  tests.  Several speakers,  including Gov. Bill Haslam,  noted that the state went from a state testing system that labeled 90 percent of eighth-graders proficient in math,  earning the state an F in truth in advertising from the national Chamber of Commerce,  to one that more accurately reflects a bleaker reality.

Dennis Van Roekel,  president of the National Education Association,  said misuse of student scores to create  "value-added"  ratings of teachers has created rebellion among teachers and families.  "Teachers are not opposed to tests,"  he said.  "We invented them."

Tommy Bice,  Alabama's state superintendent,  talked about his state's rollout of a testing system for grades 3-12 based on the ACT.  The series of exams measure everything from basic reading and math skills to college and work readiness.  But Bice said Alabama has made a decision that sets it apart from many states:  It uses the scores only to shape instruction,  not to rate schools,  teachers or even students.

"Once we begin to use this powerful assessment tool for something other than what it was designed for,"  he said,  "it becomes something else."


Larry said...

How many times have I stated on here, my being a Proctor, and watching as some students finish a test early, and then have to try to take a nap, while the rest keep on working on it?

This is just more of the let's get back to rewarding students who work harder, and not hamstring them mentality at work.

A complete reverse of what we have tried for decades. For some reason I feel this will work.

Anonymous said...

They can ONLY do this if the SCHOOL has filed the appropriate paperwork...paperwork that was DUE before Atkinson's "memo". Most schools won't have this option this year as exams are upon us.

Wiley Coyote said...

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought... Keep your child absent that day, go protest in Raleigh with them, then on the makeup day have your child sleep. Problem solved. Oh, and make sure the TV camera's zoom in real close to make your group of 10 people look like a huge movement.

Anonymous said...

Oh I almost forgot... I am sure the bell schedule folks will chime in soon and claim that extra hour of sleep will have prevented this resistance to standardized testing. Because we all know that extra hour of sleep is preventing CMS students from their full potential.

After all its for the children.

Pamela Grundy said...

We appreciate Dr. Atkinson's willingness to meet with us, and her highlighting of the provision that allows students to read (which was in place before we spoke with her, but which most parents and we suspect many school administrators were not aware of).

The "sit-and-stare" policy that applied to students who finished tests early was just another example of the convoluted mentality of high-stakes testing – the idea that if students were allowed to do anything even remotely interesting once they finished the test, they might rush through it and not hit the highest possible score.

It's good to see that sensible changes can be made, and to have been part of helping to spread the word about them.

The memo also pointed out another reasonable change: if every student in a room finishes the test early, the test session can end early.

Individual schools do have a choice about whether or not to apply these policies, so we recommend that parents who support the policies contact their principals to let them know of this support.

Shamash said...

So the kids can read instead of taking a reading test?


This is more reasonable, though.

"But Bice said Alabama has made a decision that sets it apart from many states: It uses the scores only to shape instruction, not to rate schools, teachers or even students."

H'mm. Almost makes too much sense.

It's tough when Alabama outthinks you in education.

Carol S. said...

Our elem school does not have this option unfortunately.

Geez people, let's use some common sense in Education. Of course a child should be able to read a book after testing.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the hoopla of all this testing stuffI in NC. Coming from NY, if you were in the advanced classes the entire state took the test at the exact time. So if you were 9th grade biology and need to take the 9th grade bio end of year state test, every 9th grade student in NY that needed to take the test took it a 9 am sharp. This was to ensure fairness. We sat in a big proctored room (usually a gym), and you were not allowed to even bring your own pencil. It was a privilege to take these test and a complete understanding in the start of the year their importance, the seriousness and respect for them. You had an allotted amount of time and if you were finished early you sat there.

So honestly stop whining about all this trivial testing stuff and making these test such a big deal because other states have been doing it for 30+ years! NC is just that far behind. These test prepared me for college because it taught me how to prepare and study for a large, important test, which usually is 70% of your grade in college. So whaaaaa little Johnny has to sit there for 15 mins with nothing to do and he can't bring a book, give me a break.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how colleges will view kids who 'opt out of testing' come application time? Will the parents ambush the Admissions Office?

Anonymous said...

Alabama is light years ahead of NC. Testing should be a tool to build instruction. Not a weapon to attack teachers. Good luck Mississippi, I mean North Carolina.

Anonymous said...

Many Universities have moved away from testing as the only predictor of student success. A recent study that was reported on NPR discussed a study that showed grades where a better indicator for student success. A question (that I was thinking myself) came up about students with good grades in underperforming schools or schools with less expectations. Do these student still perform well at university. Overall all they did. They would study hard or get torturing if they lacked some skill. I know there's a study for everything. To me this made sense. If you work hard and use the resources given to you well, you can succeed.

Larry said...

Pam Grundy:

Is it not strange how some folks want to talk about dogs when you want them to talk about a Maltese

But then again, we all have our own filters.

Pamela Grundy said...


We poor, benighted Southerners are indeed behind the enlightened citizens of the great state of New York, but not in the way that you suggest. This spring, 33,000 New York families refused to take state tests, because of the damage they saw being done to their children's education. They are starting to have a significant effect on testing policy. Some day, perhaps, we will catch up.


Many colleges are in fact dropping standardized test requirements, because it turns out that school grades do a better job of predicting college success than do test scores. So no "ambush" should be needed.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:18am,

"I wonder how colleges will view kids who 'opt out of testing' come application time? Will the parents ambush the Admissions Office?"

Dontcha know?

They're all going to colleges with "holistic admissions processes" that attempt to measure the "whole child" and don't use standardized tests.

At least for some kids.

Either that or they had better be really good at a sport or other "talent" or perhaps have rich parents.

According to media reports, schools not requiring the ACT/SAT are growing like weeds, or wildfire, or some other natural, holistic thingamajig.

Because that's just so much more fair than a simple number that LABELS YOU FOR LIFE!!!

And schools are nothing if not "fair".

In fact here's the "Fairtest" list of more than 800 schools:

Of course, some of those schools have requirements like being in the top 10% of your class, so that's pretty "high stakes" for 90% of the students.

I don't think these schools guarantee you that the "high stakes" testing will STOP once you enroll.

And we all know how easy it is to "opt out" of those college exams.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure an extra hour of sleep would have prevented this resistance to standardized testing, but what I do know is that school district officials should be the ones making smart, healthy and safe choices for all of our kids (like being able to read after a test), so changing early school start times is absolutely part of that. Did you know that 36 school districts this year are changing school start times to 8am or later?

Have you sat in a HS class first period lately? Apparently not or you would understand the benefit to later school start times.

Anonymous said...

"the idea that if students were allowed to do anything even remotely interesting once they finished the test, they might rush through it and not hit the highest possible score."

That is funny because with the BYOT program at many of our CMS schools, that's exactly what is happening. The students are racing through their work so they can play on their Personal technology devices.

Anonymous said...

Once the kids get their test-free, late-bell schools I'm sure they'll all kick things up a notch and do much better. Or maybe they'll need something else after all that, too.

Anonymous said...

Shamash just pointed out something very interesting....what will the professors say when the kid tells them they are going to 'opt out' of their final exam? Better yet what is their first boss going to say when the kid wants to 'opt out' of a project because it is too time consuming?

Anonymous said...

So let me make sure I understand....My students can refuse to take the test, or just bubble all the same letter or random letters throughout the test as a form of protest, and I as their teacher am held accountable for it? No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

Pamela Grundy said...


I expect the young people who have trouble answering questions that aren't multiple choice will have a harder time both in college (where that is already very much a problem) and in the working world. I'd recommend you spend your time worrying about them.

Shamash said...

Anon 3:28pm.

"Better yet what is their first boss going to say when the kid wants to 'opt out' of a project because it is too time consuming?"

Or when they don't want to take a standardized test to get "certified" as competent in their profession?

Of course, I'm partially funning with the folks over the vague descriptions of WHICH "high stakes tests" they oppose.

But, still, some seem to be opposed to all kinds of "standardized" tests, not just the misapplication of tests to teacher evaluation (which I happen to agree with).

You can see that SOME of them are also concerned about tests to evaluate their kids (ACT/SAT).

But these tests exist simply because our schools are not "equal".

That was the problem before WWI when these types of "high stakes" tests were invented and it's STILL a problem today.

So I'd say it isn't going to change much because people can game the system by going to an "easy" school where they get higher grades just to get into a college.

If you let some percentage (such as the top 10% which they have in Texas) of any HS school go to college, then a lot of "smarter" kids might flock to the lower performing schools or cut back on taking "difficult" classes so they can get a higher GPA or whatever ELSE is being measured.

If the law of unintended consequences holds true as usual.

Anonymous said...

So when you go to take an AP exam do you get to bring in a book to read when you finish early? Here's a hint, NO! Before we change the policy why doesn't someone in the know go and ask the College Board why they have that policy.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about the bell times, studies show ambiguous results at best for urban schools, suburban showed no increase in test scores. But tie that in with the recent( Decemeber 2013 ) study with a longitudinal, statistically significant sample size by Maume and you can conclude the suburban parents decided to be parents for the short period after the bell changes. Baume confirmed what we all already knew when parents are parents children have healthy sleep habits.

Anonymous said...

If not taking exams is directed at the learning disabled kids then the author sure did a fine job of depicting that. I am sure the comments would have been different.

Kent said...

My school's staff was EXPLICITLY told that students could not read, nor even put their head down, after they completed their tests. Our administrators stated that this was CMS mandated.

My point being, I do not think this policy change is being followed in CMS. Perhaps clarification on this point, Ann?

Daddy Daycare said...

7:36 You are incorrect. There are several recent medical studies that found the benefits to later start times for students.

Do you really think it makes more sense to start high school at 7:15am or 8:30am? ALL the studies show improvement in emotional, mental, physical and academics when a child is able to get the extra sleep. Students will not stay up an extra hour, they are exhausted and will go to bed at the same time.

You obviously haven't been in a first period high school class (ZZZZZ) lately, or the 7:15am time works for your personal schedule.

Anonymous said...

Which school let kids read after taking EOGs? I'm not aware of any.

Anonymous said...

7:36 don't cross 'late start guy'. He is a one man band to start schools later and will hijack any thread no matter the subject.

Anonymous said...

To 7:36pm - a school is not helping promote healthy sleeping habits and behaviors by starting classes early. Soon high schools will start at 10am - 4pm (as they have started to do in CA, with very good results).

Anonymous said...

What is happening to NC? Can anyone remember when NC teachers, parents, students administrators and politicians worked together on education? When did it become a political football? Why is South Carolina steeling our teachers? Why do 3/4 teachers come from out of state? Why does Carolina Can have NC legislators ears? They just got here. They are from some Washington think tank. Why are NC schools dropping education programs? What is going on? This is not New York!!! We are not kneejerk reactionaries from the left coast. I read this blog and think I am listing to fox news arguing with a teacher union leader. I like Fox but this is not Chicago. This is NC!!!! We can even give s test right. Why does CMS have over 200 test? Why do we have Obama education? I thought education was a state right.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:43 We were told that the new "you can read when you finish the test" procedure was optional for school systems and that CMS decided not to follow it. I'm also thinking that I heard there was paperwork that had to be completed in order to allow reading after finishing the test; not sure though.

I'm all for prohibiting reading after the test. It's a group test, and I don't want my students who struggle or who don't really care being distracted and thinking about how they would like to be reading a book instead of finishing their math test because that would be more fun. As a previous poster pointed out, when adults take tests (like the PRAXIS or MCAT, etc.) no one is allowed to pull out their novel or e-reader.

Anonymous said...

I have administered or proctored tests for almost 20 years, and I think people are assuming that those who are smarter finish faster.

Not true.

One of the best students in my class this year is consistently the last one to finish the test. This student is thorough and careful and realizes the benefit of using all the time needed to make the best effort.

Anonymous said...

"Soon high schools will start at 10am - 4pm (as they have started to do in CA, with very good results)."

That's to allow for cultural differences, such as Siesta time.

Anonymous said...

CMS policy - at least every school my children have attended - no reading, no drawing on the paper, no sleeping.

In my classroom - most of the students finished the three hour test in about 2 hours and four finished within the first 45 minutes and yes they will have decent scores and they had to sit and stare.

Anonymous said...

If Duncan can't even name the screwball states that test too much, how can he have a serious conversation? Why are Mcory and Duncan on the same education plan? I thought Mcory was a Republican.

Anonymous said...

Dead-End Job
A job with little or no hope of advancement or increased pay.
Until NC stops making teaching a dead end job. Hope is lost. In south Korea, teachers are called nation builders. In Pennsylvania, teachers in the small towns were known and respected. You could have the same high school math teacher as your dad. Here, your child's school looks different every year. I heard the local high school is loosing 4 math teachers and 5 science teachers. How can any organization be successful with such a turn over? We treat teachers in this state like companies treat computer techs. In China, teachers are treated like computer programmers. They are respected. We can't test ourselves into having better schools. Test should be a diagnostic tool. Teachers should be trained on how to use this tool. This state uses it as a weapon. The United States, is the greatest country on earth. We can work together and make our schools great. If all parties involved work together and planned together. Great things could happen in this state. Stop blaming each other and work together. If a child is disturbed and can't work within a normal school day, give him at home online courses. If s/he fails there. They and their family have made a choice. We all make choices and we all can do better.

Anonymous said...

There is no joke here. The joke is in you net paycheck.

Bonus neve paid and vision and dental lost NEVER to be seen again.


Truck drivers are paid a higher salary FOOLS

Anonymous said...



Dont give a damn about students and teaches. All we care about is the FEDERAL $

Anonymous said...

728, no college student would opt out of an exam because professors don't use other's tests and don't usually lower their standards to multiple choice tests either. Ap exams are like the sat, they are given in pieces so you cannot finish early

Anonymous said...

No student is going to go to college to teach in NC. Expect more implants.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the energy drink companies love our early morning start times. Don't change them.

Ann, when will CMS be releasing the bell schedule survey results? Thought I heard something on the radio about it last week.

Anonymous said...

9:40, those results were indeed released last week:

Carol S. said...

8:54 - I agree with the "late start" guy, and apparently so do 55% of the CMS survey responders.

Anonymous said...

55% of High School Parents agree...not all of CMS. Please read the article closely.