Tag Archives: Testing

What Happened in Your State This August?

During August, thirteen policy analysts published reports about what occurred in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

Delaware: Zoi Philippakos shared the Approval of ESSA Plan for Delaware with “an ambitious and rigorous plan addressing graduation rates, ELA and math goals, and English Language Learners.”

Louisiana: Jalissa Bates also reported that Louisiana’s ESSA plan was approved.

Montana: Anna Baldwin described Montana’s ESSA Plan as relying on test scores and emphasizing graduation rates and school quality. Anna describes the disconnect over the treatment of English language learners and the bottom 5% of schools.

Ohio: In her Status Update on ESSA Implementation, Robin Holland relayed that after review by Governor Kasich, Ohio will submit its ESSA application to the US Department of Education in September.

Texas: In her ESSA Update, Teri Lesesne noted that despite stakeholders emphasizing critical thinking, raising salaries, and funding as important, the plan under review “relies on the same old, same old measures of ‘excellence,’ namely, test scores.”

Vermont: Anne Slonaker listed the additional information and revisions that the US Department of Education requested of Vermont.

Virginia: Leila Christenbury described the Accountability Plan Proposed for Struggling Virginia Schools as “far less draconian and also less prescriptive than previous Virginia-recommended school interventions.”


California: Laurie Stowell presented both sides of the Assembly Bill to delay middle and high school start times, concluding that if it passed, California would be the first to legislate statewide school start times.

Pennsylvania: Aileen Hower reported on the introduction of a bill to expand Pennsylvania’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program to provide funding for low-income students at private schools. She then provided a rebuttal by critics who claim that ESAs are “just vouchers by another name.” Aileen shared that Governor Tom Wolf announced a reduction in PSSA testing.

Texas: Teri Lesesne shared that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has created a new “parent portal” that provides information about the state test (STAAR) and Lexiles. She referred to Shona Rose’s blog post describing her phone call with TEA about the writing portion of STAAR. Teri also reported that school finance would wait two years until the Texas legislature convenes again.

Higher Education

California: Referring to the 2017 IES report, Carol Olson highlighted that “context (e.g., type of institution, SAT/ACT scores, age, and race) matters when it comes to remaining enrolled or graduating from programs.”

Florida: Jeffrey Kaplan delineated the struggle in Florida over Online Higher Education, with the governor wanting to expand the number of students taking virtual courses and legislators viewing such an expansion as detrimental to Florida having an “elite” higher education system.

New Mexico: Kate Mangelsdorf noted that New Mexico is “one of ten states in the country with the highest reductions in spending per student in higher education,” even though the “value . . . for students in New Mexico remains high.” She continued that Budget Cuts Affect University Writing Programs, with fewer students being served and successful initiatives being curtailed.

Both PreK–12 and Higher Education

Connecticut: In English Language Learners in Connecticut, Stephen Ferruci described the challenges that English language learners face in light of new ESSA requirements. He referenced H.B. 3865 that would have required bilingual education, but was never brought up on the floor, and a study concluding that dual-language programs are successful. He raised concerns over Connecticut loosening requirements for certification and employing the “use of the Relay Graduate School of Education, a program that fast-tracks certification . . . and . . . that has been rejected by Connecticut’s Board of Higher Education.”

New Mexico: Kate Mangelsdorf provided an Educational Equity Court Case Update regarding the lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty claiming that ELL, Native American, and low-income students were not receiving the “educational opportunities guaranteed by the New Mexico Constitution.”

“Toxic Testing is Taking Its Toll”

The following is excerpted from Dawn Kirby’s piece on the blog Writers Who Care, reprinted here by permission:


apple9Some school administrators are beginning to see that testing is harming education and are saying so, publicly.  Some teachers are resigning to protest their pay and an over-emphasis on testing, and are saying so, publicly. What thoughts might be relevant to desperate, demoralized, and concerned teachers everywhere?

Considerations for Frustrated Teachers, Parents, and Administrators

Several ideas come to mind.

First, educators and those who support true education must speak with their vote. Elect school board members, superintendents, and others who know education as a profession, not just as something they endured as a child. Those with experience, integrity, and grit need to be in charge of educational policy.

Second, we all need to read.  What are the issues? What facts do we need to know to enter the conversation with more than righteous indignation, regardless of our stance? What is the language of reform, policy, accountability, and assessment? Start with Diane Ravitch’s recent articles, books, and blogs. She has shifted her opinions lately about educational policy, and for good reason. Let’s read to learn.

Third, educators need support from colleagues, parents, and governmental and educational officials. The vast majority of teachers work hard to adhere to sound instructional literacy practice; they benefit from parents and administrators who support their efforts. So much occurs that is beyond a classroom teacher’s control. For example, educational officials decide to cut class time and give teachers more students to educate daily. What’s a teacher to do?

Fourth, educators need the support to speak out on issues vital to quality education. Although tenure is a controversial topic right now, the security of not being fired without strong justification allows beginning and experienced teachers to voice new ideas, enter the professional dialogue, try innovative instructional strategies, and find their terra firma as professionals. Education is a dynamic, not static, complex process that deserves careful consideration and exploration. If you think your job is on the line for disagreeing with your boss, how free will you feel to express new ideas? Most of us can answer that question easily.

This atmosphere of toxic testing, lack of public support for teachers, and uninformed policy and practice mandates is having an effect not just on individual teachers and their students trying to learn to read and write, but also on our national education rankings. We are not the global educational leaders we once were.

The World’s Top 20 Countries for Education

The U.S. educational system once led global ratings. No more. What happened?

Sometimes the emperor simply has no clothes. Having standards and accountability makes sense; but what started out as a potentially good idea veered off track badly, as despairing teachers illustrate. How will we know where we went wrong if no one raises questions and proposes alternate ideas? In a democracy, free speech and the exchange of ideas are crucial. Part of what literacy education does is teach students how to reason, think critically, and engage in dialogue. In our rush to assess, to hold teachers accountable, we’re losing sight of these literacy goals.

Which countries’ educational systems are  top-rated now and why? We benefit from looking at other models through which students’ achievements and learning soar.

Teachers of the Future, The Future of Teaching

We all need our best teachers to stick with the job. If we have an educational system in which the submissive and downtrodden are the only ones who survive working in it, we all lose. If our best and brightest aren’t becoming teachers and staying in the profession, who will the teachers of the future be?

Let these questions simmer in your brain a while.

In 1971, long before our newest teachers were born, we learned from Neal Postman and Charles Weingartner that teaching is a subversive activity. It is true now more than ever. We have the responsibility to speak out and to do what is right to educate our students, to give them authentic literacy experiences in the classroom, and to assess their achievements in meaningful ways. If students are to write well, they need the opportunity to write often and receive feedback on their writing. Teachers struggling with restrictive testing, huge classes, and demoralization simply cannot be expected to teach writing as they know they should, as they know students need to be taught. Our entire national educational standing is suffering, in part, because our students and teachers are not receiving support for teaching with authentic literacy experiences.


Is the Assessment Tail Wagging the Dog?

An article in today’s Washington Post entitled ScDogtailhool standardized testing is under growing attack, leaders pledge changes points to the rising discontent around the country with standardized testing. Here’s a telling quote:

“Testing is an important part of education, and of life,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, which represents 67 urban school systems. “But it’s time that we step back and see if the tail is wagging the dog.”

The article also illuminates something important about where the testing craze began that sometimes gets lost in the rhetoric. These assessments – flawed though they are – pointed out disparities in our educational system that previously had been largely anecdotal.

Another quote from the article, this time from John White, Louisiana’s superintendent of education:

“We should always be conscious we still have a country and a society that is rife with injustices. We must commit to an annual measurement of our delivery of an education so we can lay bare the honest truth as to whether we’re succeeding in educating every child.”

Whether or not you agree that this is the best way to measure our progress, it has become increasingly clear that something different needs to be done. NCTE and IRA came up with a better way to think about assessment way back in 1994 (updated in 2009). Perhaps it’s time to revisit the Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing.

The issues around alternative forms of and approaches to assessment are complicated, but so is learning.  Check out these other resources from NCLE on the topic:

Differentiated Assessment and Grading: Fair Isn’t Always Equal

Getting Started with Questions about Using Evidence to Guide Teaching and Learning