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Showing posts from January, 2013

We Know Better (Part II): No More Research!

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Previously, I wrote about our failure to learn from the successes of other countries, namely Finland, and their educational reform efforts that now provide international models for success. Our competitive nature got the best of us, and we missed the true lessons in our quest to be #1.

Not only have we ignored the important lessons in international practice, we have also dismissed research conducted over the last several decades that gives us powerful methods with sound reasoning to improve teaching and increase learning. Maya Angelou says, "We do what we know to do. When we know better, we do better." This is not the case in education.

Long before we started racing to the top, ranking educational systems by state, and comparing ourselves to Finland and Singapore, we were provided with some very compelling research and meta-analyses that show how to increase student achievement scores on standardized tests without using standardized tests. Yes, we have almost 40 years of e…

We Know Better (Part I): No Need for Competition!

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Over the past few years or so, and with increasing frequency, international comparisons have been made about student achievement, and thus, the quality of schools, across the globe. The American response to these comparisons reflects two very different perspectives.

On one hand, our lawmakers have used these comparisons to note the weaknesses of our system. They then propose reform efforts that race to the top in order to leave no child behind. Over the last 10 years, we have watched how our policymakers have moved from looking at student achievement to looking at individual states and now to individual schools and teachers. In Michigan we went from the Michigan Curriculum Framework to Grade-Level Content Expectations (GLCEs) and now to the Common Core State Standards in less than 20 years. The Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), our measure of quality, has morphed over the last decade, reflecting these changing standards. Now, we anticipate yet another standardized test…

Where Is Our Outrage Over Non-Writing Writing Assessment?

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When someone enters the teaching profession as an English language arts teacher, it is with eyes wide open. One of the biggest challenges these teachers face is learning to manage the paper load; essays that are frequently traded from teacher to student and back come with this territory. ELA teachers are known for taking stacks of papers with them on vacations. Report card markings are brutal, and marathon essay grading at the end of semesters are common. While teachers do become more efficient in grading essays over time, the process of evaluating writing consumes much of their time.

Despite the time and effort involved in evaluation, ELA teachers continue to require students to write. It remains one of the important methods by which students show how they understand logic and organization and how they connect with literature. In writing students show more than knowledge of the rules, they demonstrate this ability within a context. Because most of the writing in ELA is literature b…

Data: A Love Story

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I was recently engaged in a lively #edchat on Twitter, and one of my Tweeps asked if the term data means the same thing as the term information. This is the gist of my not-so-reverent response:

Once upon a time, we made good decisions based on solid evidence. Then one day, someone said, "Data." The End.
Oh, how we are enamored with data. We love collecting them, talking about them, and using them to drive decision making. We aggregate, analyze, and map them. We are so in love with data that we use them to rationalize every major decision made in education, from the classroom to the board room.
Unfortunately, our love affair and extended honeymoon with data have blinded us to the realities and limitations of data. We have yet to wake up during an item analysis and ask ourselves, "What in the world have we done?" We need to separate ourselves from the allure of data and the presumed answers they provide, and take a step back to look at data with fresh eyes.

For exam…

Abuse, Misuse, and Overuse of Standardized Tests

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Fifty years ago American students and teachers were subjected to the administration of standardized assessments on a semi-regular basis. A portion of a school day was repurposed for the administration of the test. Most understood the need for standardized assessments; these tests had a particular purpose and provided meaningful information to policy makers and chief educational leaders. Furthermore, the results of these tests provided the means to make comparisons across buildings, districts, and even across states. The test results could be also be filtered by categories such as gender, ethnicity, and special populations. The information was general, but powerful at the bird's eye level only. After all, if a teacher wanted to know how she could improve her practice to better meet the needs of her individual students, she would be looking at evidence of learning at the classroom level.

Something alarming happened, though, over the last 15-plus years that caused a shift in how we …

Multiple Issues About Multiple-Choice Items

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It's amazing how a late-night email to Diane Ravitchgrew into a charge for me. As I wrote before, my friend Christine asked me why I was upset about the use of the NWEA MAP , especially when it would likely replace the MEAP, Michigan's statewide assessment. I wrote to her the following statements:

The NWEA MAP is a computer adaptive, standardized test that uses selected-response items that were written from national standards. The test items are aligned post hoc to state standards and the test results are used to measurestudent growth in language, reading, and mathematics.
I underlined the concerns I had about the claims attached to tests like the NWEA MAP and the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP). In hindsight, I omitted many other issues, such as teacher evaluation, cut scores, data, and proficiency. I will return to all of these in time. Today's topic for consideration is the selected-response item, also known as the multiple-choice item.

Assessment experts,…

Concerns about Online Assessment? Yes! It's CAT.

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When I forwarded my desperate email to Diane Ravitch to my good friends and kind listeners, my friend, Christine, always so observant and such a careful reader, wondered what my concerns were with the NWEA MAP assessment. I realized that I had about 100 concerns within that email, and that if I am to help grow the national conversation, I need to take my rant down a notch. In this first blog, I am going to try to clarify my concerns with online tests, such as the NWEA MAP test because of computer adaptive tests.

Advocates of computer adaptive tests (CAT) say that the program behind the assessment tailors the test to the student's ability. No longer are students frustrated by an exam with items that are too difficult. Teachers and students are given immediate results; no longer do we have to wait for months before test results are given. The tests have RIT reporting that allows all to see how student learning grows over time and over years. Educator evaluation is required by law for…