True Costs of Testing: Damaged Schools?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Tyler B., May 18, 2012.

  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 18, 2012

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/2012/05/17/gIQABH1NXU_blog.html

    This article is long, but if you scroll down to the part where it lists costs for schools, you get to the part I find most interesting.

    It basically says that the tests Florida gives their students have an enormous negative effect on schools.

    As teachers, I think we should advocate for the elimination of high-stakes testing. So the public doesn't view us a bunch of whiners, we should also advocate for a rigorous and fair teacher evaluation program.

    It's about time that education reform should actually do something to make schools better.





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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    May 19, 2012

    I would be very much in favor of that if someone could actually define it.

    I agree that there are too many standardized tests, and way too much pressure on the kids as a result-- though that's a function of the schools, not the tests themselves.

    My 2 older kids just came off four consecutive weeks that all involved state testing. That's an awful lot of time they weren't learning anything in those classes.
     
  4. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    May 19, 2012

    I agree with the article. Let's look at 8th graders in Florida in my county, since they get the worst deal, testing-wise.

    - FCAT Writing
    - FCAT Reading
    - FCAT Math
    - FCAT Science
    - Algebra I EOC OR Geometry EOC, depending on their math track
    - FAIR Testing 4 times a year
    - Benchmark testing 4 times a year in reading and math - however, since every child is taking a high school credit course in 8th grade, they have to take BOTH the Alg/Geo benchmark AND the Math 3 benchmark (for a total of 12 benchmark tests per year)
    - Semester exams in 7 classes (total 14 tests)
    - Required 4 tests per quarter in all 7 classes (total 112 tests) OR required EOC at the end of the year for all subject besides Reading/Language Arts.

    So we're looking at a total of 147 tests in one school year, with 6 being high-stakes state-wise, and 16 being used to track student progress FOR the high-stakes tests (benchmarks/FAIR).

    I wish I had kept track of just how much instructions time was lost this year on testing (excluding classroom tests and semester tests). It was a phenomenal disruption and a nightmare to coordinate.

    Also, let's not forget: Pearson is making a fortune off of these tests and interpretation of the results.

    Let's add in the fact that while the total developmental scale on the FCAT remains the same, the ranges for each level shift every year. We're comparing apples and oranges when they release blanket percentages of students on grade level compared to years past.

    The revamped FCAT 2.0 is a bit of a waste of money, as by the 2013-2014 school year, Florida should be switching to PARCC and whatever test they design to align to the Common Core Standards.

    Round up: We're testing our kids to death, losing instructional time, and throwing money at a private corporation... for what, exactly? To prove kids can take a test?
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    May 19, 2012

    What was going on in those weeks? Surely not 4 weeks of testing?
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    May 19, 2012

    NO, 2 weeks of serious testing. Then, apparently they rearranged the class schedules. Each day, there would be a different set of 3 hour-long periods so kids could take the standardized testing during that 3 hour period.

    But it was 4 weeks of disruption to the normal flow of classes and lessons.
     
  7. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    May 19, 2012

    I am of two minds on all this. On the one hand, I don't think that the goal of better instruction is much advanced except on a very (perhaps uninstructively) broad strategic level by analysis of test scores, nor do I see any legitimate way to link those scores to teacher assessment.

    On the other hand, If Florida has lousy schools or lousy students, I think the public is entitled to know that, and statewide tests can offer at least some insight into this question. Students at my school do very well on these things, first in the state as a rule in everything, and houses in our district are significantly more expensive as a result, realtors have told us. There is some perfectly honorable and rational decision-making going on by parents. I wish we had a full voucher system so that there could be more. In the meantime, I would look very closely at any Florida school in which my child might enroll. I regret that this might be painful for some to hear, I really do, but there it is. People go to quality, and they should.
     
  8. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May 19, 2012

    I really have a bone of contention with your argument. Have you ever worked in a school in Florida or are you basing your knowledge on articles you have read? We have excellent schools in Florida, excellent teachers, and highly successful students. I really get offended when people lump any state's schools as one.

    Of course there are schools that don't perform as well here, just as there is in any state (or country). But, don't go criticizing what happens in other places unless you have first hand knowledge and experience there.

    Ok...I'll come down off my soapbox now...
     
  9. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    May 19, 2012


    Wow. I don't live or teach in Florida, but that comment bothers me. Here's why. Have you considered that it's the socio-economic level of your students that is contributing greatly to their success?

    I'm tired of the attitude about the more affluent school districts in our area. No, their teachers are NOT better. There are good and bad teachers everywhere. No, their school districts are not inherently superior. If you fill their schools with students from low-socio-economic areas and fill the low-performing schools with their students, you will not find a significant difference in test scores. (No, I haven't conducted this study, but I would love to.)
     
  10. Tyler B.

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    May 19, 2012

    I moved from our district's lowest SES school to the highest. When the principal told a group of parents at an assembly that the school's high test scores were due to the fine staff, it made me furious. When I was teaching at the low school, our scores were terrible, but it wasn't due to the staff.






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  11. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 19, 2012

    I would love to do that study as well! The main inner city district of my home city actually tried to pay their most experienced, most highly rated teachers to go to the lowest SES schools of the district. There is one elementary in particular that's in a wealthy area of the city and of course does extremely well on the tests. Most of the other schools are very low SES. In the past in this district, teachers "earned" the right to teach in the high SES school based on years of experience in the district and high evaluation scores. I believe it was two years ago now, they tried to offer these older teachers literally up to $20,000 extra to go to the poorest schools and they would not even consider it! They knew they wouldn't have the same effect or be as "successful" (based on test scores) in the low SES schools. I remember reading one article in the paper where one of those teachers said that money wasn't important and that she had "earned the right to teach in a good school."
     
  12. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 19, 2012

    I find this fascinating. Teachers are generally more motivated by honor than money.

    Much of the school reform efforts over the last 12 years have worked on the assumption that lazy teachers are the problem. Solutions like merit pay, charters, vouchers, closing-failing-schools all claim to use competition to force us to do our jobs.





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  13. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 19, 2012

    I'm with Alice on this one - I'm certainly in favor of an assessment system that is more effective, but I am still in favor of an assessment system. I also believe that the negative effect of assessments are due to the emphasis schools place on them, though I do understand that once-a-year tests inappropriately are too high stakes, which very much sets up teachers, admins, and students to react the way they do, even if they don't have to make the choices they do about test stress.

    One reason we need a good evaluation system is that a number of guesses or overgeneralizations are made as to why good or bad scores exist in a particular classroom or school, such as ones on this thread:

    - There are a number of bad schools and teachers in Florida, as there are everywhere. How do we know which are bad or good without a good assessment?

    Some definitely are. Many good teachers attempt to leave low SES schools because there are a number of challenges that aren't directly associated with teaching. Some teachers like to deal with those challenges, but many do not, and would prefer to just teach. But again, how do we know if certain teachers are doing better or worse if we don't have a good system of assessment?

    I would very much challenge this, in part based on data analysis I did in a particular district examining the scores of low SES students who were bussed in to higher SES schools with a greater percentage of higher SES students. The lower SES students performed worse on average when in a school with a greater percentage of children from high SES backgrounds, though not by just an amazing amount.

    It also depends on which which school, how those kids are integrated/taught, which curricula are available in the new schools, level of social support available (as opposed to an expectation that home takes care of all of that), intervention services available, etc.

    ____

    Overall, I'm not trying to knock anyone's comments in particular, I'm just using some comments readily available to show the importance of assessment. How many false statements are made about teachers, schools, and students to us on a daily basis? The only way to go about disproving those is with data. It simply doesn't work to make the statement, "I take offense to that comment - our state has great schools." How do you know that? Why would we think that's true, as opposed to you just being proud and defensive? In other words, you may be extremely right in your comments, but without a good assessment, your statements just don't have weight.
     
  14. EdEd

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    Sorry - forgot to comment on the original article. I liked it, and think those in decision-making roles need to start assessing their assessments! I think if people held accountability systems to the same level of accountability that those systems were designed to measure, they wouldn't stand the test!

    I can only hope though that people realize the opposite of these tests is not NO assessments, but better assessments. Reading even some comments on this thread seem to indicate people do not find much value in assessments, which is troubling given the extremely crucial role of assessment in instruction.
     
  15. EdEd

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    I think this is great support that many excellent teachers who want to focus on teaching, rather than on social support, tend to try to move to higher SES schools and stay there, which of course lends support that lower SES schools will be left with teachers either waiting to leave, or unable to get jobs at higher SES schools.

    Of course, this isn't to knock every teacher at a low SES school, as I've seen a lot of great ones.
     
  16. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    First of all, let me say that I love teaching and couldn't dream of doing anything else. This is not aimed at anyone here, just tired of all the governments games!

    The government has it's hands in too many things right now. There are people making decisions about education that have NO CLUE what teaching is like. All they see is the data comparing the US to other countries and we don't meet the mark, we are not the best! Their decision is we must get better. In their mind, better means we test more in order to prove we can hold up and that we are pushing our students. However, testing is not the answer. Merit pay is not the answer. Charter schools are not the answer. And I won't even go into the fact that this society, as a whole, is in terrible shape. I never hear the government take that into consideration. I never in my life dreamt that I would be treated the way I am treated by parents, grandparents, and students. Betterment of society and all out reform is the ONLY answer, but no one wants in the government wants to admit this, let alone, lead it. No really even knows what it could or should look like. So for now, we plug the leak with all these little solutions that are actually making the problem worse!

    I'm sick of everyone blaming teachers for something that is not our fault (although I fully admit that there are bad teachers out there)!! If I'm told to teach something, I teach it to the best of my ability. I do everything in my power to make sure my students understand it. Adding more things to my curriculum is not going to make my kids smarter or perform better on a test. It only adds to the stress of everyone involved; parents, students, teachers, admin., etc.

    Someone needs to take a stand and make a major move before the education system implodes on itself!
     
  17. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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  18. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Sorry to hijack a little...but off of MyKroom's post...I really, really hate when people try to compare the US to other countries as "evidence" that the schools are doing so poorly. Most (all?) other countries don't educate every student like the US does. In many European countries, students must take tests around middle school age to determine if they'll be allowed to take those subjects in whatever they call "high school." If they don't show enough ability in math at the age of 11 or 12, they're not even allowed to take math classes after that. They can only take classes based on what tests they pass. Students that just don't do well on academics at all are automatically put into a career track rather than a higher education track. So when they're testing they're students, they're only testing the "college prep" students. I used to work at a summer camp as a counselor with people from all over the world. Due to the nature of the job many people were either teachers or in school to become teachers. I was absolutely shocked to hear about some of these things from people from other countries! I'd say our scores would look pretty good too if we did that! Not only do we test all students who are at any academic level, but we also test students with disabilities even to the moderate-severe cognitive level. That is unheard of in other countries. In many Asian cultures with high math abilities, they have a culture of studying 6-10 hours outside of school hours even as young children, and it's pretty much the norm to send the students to private tutoring as well if the family can afford it. So of course the students are doing well, but that's just not the kind of culture we have here in America. Do we really want our elementary kids spending their entire lives studying? I sure don't.
     
  19. tchr4evr

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    May 21, 2012

    The problem I see is that other cultures value education . . . we do not . . . our nation was built by those who did not have an education, they simply worked hard and got ahead--and how often do we hear about the success stories of those who dropped out high school or college, and are now multimillionaires - Zuckerberg and Gates.

    Also, many other countries are more realistic than us. We really beleive that anyone can achieve anything, and while to extent that is true--not everyone is qualifed to be a doctor, etc. We push too many students to achieve beyond their capabilities, instead of trying to train them for success.
     
  20. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2012

    Which is why our country has been so successful in leading the world in many ways. And it proves we value education but perhaps holds us back because we try to drag everyone into college prep sometimes
    causing mediocrity.
    btw I have taught in Fla for.....ever......in a small school in one of the poorest counties, with a free lunch population of almost 80%, earned an A 6 years in a row. This at a time where Fla raised the bar each year and had standards so ambiguous it would take a tax preparer to figure it out. In defense of Fla. we are the "go to die state" with a huge transient population. None of this is helpful to education. Also, the powers that be would be happier if all of our children went to private schools considering all the nonsense they have brought to bear the last decade or so.
     
  21. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Keep up the good work. Your school rocks!






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  22. peachacid

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    Can we define a set of skills we think students should master at the end of each grade? If we can define that, then we can have national tests that assess those skills. Then, we can say students may not pass until they pass that test. Unfortunately, agreeing on what students should know is difficult; in addition, it is problematic to say that students will not pass unless they pass the test. What if the test is biased? What about special education students?
     
  23. Aussiegirl

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    Wow! Great discussion. I skimmed through the article and the responses here and I think just about all of us are in the same boat to some degree or another. In VA we too are testing the kids into oblivion. In 8th grade this year we tested reading comp with the GATES test three times, Oral reading fluency three times, and had three writing prompts. That is nine tests plus the state exam in writing which is a two day exam (multiple choice first day, writing prompt the second) and a reading state exam. They also had math, science, and Civics benchmarks three times. Each of these subjects also had a state exam at the end. Eighteen tests before we get to the state exam! Crazy. What gets me is that the state exams are not normed/standardized. If a test question/series of questions are too easy or hard, they are dropped. 40% of our performance is based on the test results. Our students have to have shown improvement year to year. How is that fair when science and writing are tested every three years while others are yearly?

    I end up just keeping my nose to the grindstone, teaching the material needed to achieve each standard and then some because I don't want to limit the kids to the minimum the state thinks they should know.

    Our 8th grade writing exam is in early March. Our other exams started the first full week of May. School lets out the first week of June. The kids turned off as each state exam was completed, but we still had 3+ more weeks of school. Because of school-wide testing, our schedules, too, have been crazy, making it difficult to continue with educational materials. Difficult but not impossible, but the consistency is gone. Life as a teacher is truly challenging.:eek:hmy:
     

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