Tag Archives: Assessments

What Happened in Your State this September?

capitol buildingThis past month, fifteen policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Higher Education

Stephen Ferruci previews a bill in Connecticut that would help undocumented students “access institutional financial assistance.”

Dan Melzer describes legislation that passed in California, awaiting the governor’s signature, in AB 1690 Outlines Minimum Standards for Adjunct Instructors at California Community Colleges.

Michael Gos continues his series in Campus Carry Law VI, noting that the injunction requested by three professors against enforcement of the new University of Texas campus carry policy was denied while the lawsuit moves forward.

Higher Education/P–12 Education

As part of a trend all over the United States, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Adopts Emergency Teacher Licensing Rules to Address Teacher Shortage. Donna Pasternak notes that softening licensing requirements for K–12 teachers will impact not only school districts but also schools of education and departments of English.

Derek Kulnis describes New York City’s efforts to diversify its teaching force through a program called NYC Men Teach, which recruits men of color through mentoring programs or alternative pathways.

Michael Gos outlines the budget cuts, requested by Texas leaders, to all state agencies, including K–12 and higher education, noting the particular impact on community colleges.

P–12 Education

In Keystone Test No Longer an Exit Exam, Aileen Hower notes that Pennsylvania is reviewing alternative assessments. New Jersey, on the other hand, will “triple the weight of PARCC scores in teacher evaluations,” according to Kristen Turner.

Again in Pennsylvania, Aileen Hower shares Katie Meyer’s article about the National Labor Relations Board ruling that a virtual charter school should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. Aileen also published Judge: Lower Merion Schools Misled Taxpayers, Must Revoke Tax Hike, revealing that the Merion school district had a budget surplus.

Darlene Dyer writes about Mastery Education a Reality in Idaho; in mastery education, students “advance from grade to grade based on mastering concepts instead of seat time or a passing grade.”

Karen Henderson reports that MATELA (the Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts) will have a “significant presence” at the Montana Educators’ Conference in October through a number of presentations.

In response to a Montana State Board of Education ruling on writing programs, MATELA issued its own policy statement, which Anna Baldwin describes in Policy Assistance Offered for Significant Writing Programs.

Tiffany Rehbein reports from Wyoming that ACT Scores Increase[d] and Town Hall Meetings Give Wyoming Residents Voice on ESSA Implementation.

Robin Holland has been following teachers in Cleveland, posting these two reports: Cleveland Teachers Set to Strike in Ohio and Teacher Strike Averted in Cleveland, Ohio.

Clancy Ratliff describes the release by the Louisiana State Board of Education of a Digital Literacy Guide. Jalissa Bates shares that Louisiana Children with Disabilities Receive Boost with Federal Grant of $7 million.

Pamela Doiley questions whether Massachusetts will pass financial literacy legislation.

Derek Kulnis reports that New York City will revise the way it tests water for lead in all of its schools.

Theme II: Assessments and Accountability, a Competitive, Punitive System

Alex Valencic, 4th grade teacher

Last month, 24 teachers and school leaders, mostly NCTE members and ranging from early childhood educators to high school technology coaches, gathered at NCTE Headquarters in Urbana, Illinois to share their concerns. They were joined by one of the US Department of Education’s Teacher Ambassadors, Matt Presser, a literacy instructional coach from New Haven, Connecticut, who was in town as part of the Secretary of Education’s annual Back-to-School Bus Tour. (See my previous blog, Bringing Washington to the Teachers.)

Tara Olsen
Tara Olsen, Elementary Instructional Coach

 The conversation began with teachers from all levels expressing concerns about the way that assessments are being used for accountability purposes. Too much time is being spent on testing, with results slow to arrive and of little practical use in improving instruction. When new tests are added, old ones often don’t go away. For example, educator Scott Filkins, English teacher, Champaign Central High School, noted that improving ACT scores at the high school level is still stressed in Illinois despite the addition of the PARC assessment, yet ACT and PARC value writing in differing ways. So teachers feel pressured not only to teach writing to the test, but to teach to two different tests. Many of the teachers felt that they had to “play the game” rather than “do what’s right for kids,” amounting to “educational malpractice.”

These teachers certainly aren’t opposed to assessment. Formative assessment is integral to their practice. However, they diagnosed the model of assessment being imposed upon them and their students as a symptom of a larger disease, a punitive and competitive model of education fundamentally incompatible with teaching as a profession. Schemes that judge schools and teachers purely on the basis of a single test score demonstrate a lack of trust in teachers to use their professional expertise to develop curriculum and choose instructional strategies that best support students’ learning. Funding educational programs through competitive grants rather than according to equitable formulas leaves many schools without the resources they need to innovate and improve.

NCTE has a number of position statements on assessment. They range in topic from machine scoring to formative assessment that truly informs instruction. NCTE has issued standards for the assessment of reading and writing at the K-12 level and a white paper on writing assessment in higher education.

NCTE is working on several fronts to capitalize on opportunities to improve assessment and to address the underlying issues of harmful competition and de-professionalization (which I’ll address in a later blog.) NCTE’s Assessment Story Project is collecting and analyzing the actual experiences of teachers across the country with assessment, surfacing both challenges requiring innovative policy solutions and powerful practices developed by educators at the local level.

During Connected Educator Month in October, NCTE is leading the Innovations in Assessment theme to help showcase assessment practices that truly support powerful literacy learning. NCTE is issuing a challenge during the month for participants to envision a transformed accountability system that addresses the crucial need to identify inequities across schools, districts, and student subgroups while also aligning with the practice of expert teachers. This dialogue will begin in October but continue throughout the year.