High School Scores Rising

The Prichard Blog has the story on improving high school scores and an analysis of the results at all levels.

Here’s a key excerpt:

In Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning system, overall scores are the quickest summary of results for a public school, district, or the entire state. An overall score combines multiple measures to calculate a single number on a 0 to 100 scale that sums up student and program performance.

For our state as a whole, the high school overall score rose 1.5 points from 2014 to 2015, but the elementary and middle overall scores declined.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

A Kentucky Teacher Talks Poverty and Testing

Kentucky Education Report is always looking to highlight teacher voices on education policy issues. Too often, education debates leave out input from the frontline players: The teachers.

Today, teacher Tiffany Dunn shares with us her thoughts on two key issues: Poverty and testing.

About Tiffany Dunn:

I am a parent whose child (3rd grade) attends one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state (Kenwood Station – OCPS) and a teacher in one of the lowest performing middle schools in the state (Lassiter Middle – JCPS).  I am in my 6th year of teaching and this is my 2nd year as an ESL teacher at Lassiter, a “low performing” school.

How she became an education activist:

I became involved in education activism after starting my first year at Lassiter.  Going into the position (after seeing their KPREP scores – oh my!), I thought “great, I’ll stay here one year and get the heck out as soon as I can apply for a transfer!” BUT I soon found out that Lassiter is an amazing school with so many wonderful kids…poor kids.  I found out that Lassiter has many great teachers, that the reason for the “low performance” wasn’t the teachers, it was the socioeconomic status of our students.  Who knew all the bad teachers didn’t just congregate at all the “low performing” schools?!?!  Now I’m telling anyone who will listen about the real crisis in education, poverty.

How poverty impacts the kids Tiffany teaches:
Lassiter is over 85% free and reduced lunch.  We have a large ESL/LEP population.  These kids are at a disadvantage.  Most of them started school behind and they will stay behind because of the conditions they live in.  They worry.  They worry about food.  They worry about utility bills.  They worry about clothing.  No child thinking about these things can give their all in school.

Is all that testing and test prep helping the kids at Lassiter?

Unfortunately, we are not addressing this issue.  Instead of putting an assault on childhood poverty, we’re pumping money into ill-advised standards and testing.  We tests these kids ALL the time.  On top of all the state/federal mandated tests our district has its own mandated diagnostic and proficiency assessments.  They require us to teach certain CCSS standards each 9 weeks and then test them.  This is ON TOP of our own classroom and PLC assessments!  All in the name of the almighty KPREP.  The district uses these tests as a predictor as to how well kids will do on KPREP.  Because this ONE test is how we label our kids, our schools and our teachers.    As an ESL teacher, I can’t keep up with the teaching/testing schedule.  My kids are way too low.  It is educational malpractice to set kids in front a test knowing they are going to fail or move them along at a pace that is too fast.  Best practice would be to take all of this time testing and test prepping and put it into actual teaching.

On Labels from Tests and Opting Out:

I could go on and on about the wrong direction we’re taking in education.  I refuse to accept the labeling of our children and schools by one test score, by one set of standards.  Ranking, filing and pitting schools against one another is wrong.  There will always be a “loser” in this system.  I will be opting my own daughter out of any and all testing that does not guide classroom instruction; this includes KPREP.  Teachers and especially parents must speak up and demand more for our kids!

Are you a Kentucky teacher with a story to tell? Email me at andy@spearsstrategy.com

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

Beyond the Test: A Kentucky Experiment

Over at Tennessee Education Report there’s an article featuring highlights from a piece written by teacher Ezra Howard in Bluff City Ed. Howard notes that the current model of testing doesn’t work well for many students and argues for a move to a portfolio-based model of assessment.

Now, there’s this piece at NPR noting that in one school district in Kentucky, schools are moving toward a form of portfolio assessment.  Early results show this method of assessment holds some promise.

Here are the highlights from the NPR story:

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt the Common Core and the tests that align with it. This spring, the 1,700-student Danville district thinks it’s found a better way to teach the Core.

Danville has moved to performance-based assessments.  And at one middle school, here’s what that looks like:

The entire curriculum at this school has been redesigned around interdisciplinary projects, which take several weeks to complete. The English and social studies seventh-grade PBATs were group projects that took place in the fall.

One by one, the students stand and give a 20-minute solo presentation with a PowerPoint or video. Separately, they’ve handed in 15-page research papers. They’re giving these presentations to panels of judges made up of teachers from other grades or the high school, officials from a neighboring district, education students from the University of Kentucky, and fellow students.

I watch as student after student confidently answers questions about the steps of the scientific method, experimental design, math concepts like mean and median, and, most impressively, how the project relates to his or her life. And they listen respectfully to each other, giving helpful feedback.

Most projects are graded “outstanding” or “competent.” A few are judged “needs revision,” which means the students will keep working on them until they pass muster.

Better than the PARCC?

What makes the Danville experiment particularly noteworthy is that Kentucky was out ahead of the nation on adoption of the Common Core State Standards for English and math. Swann believes the standards are worthwhile, but thinks schools can do better than the tests that go with them. Though the new Common Core tests have been touted as improvements over what they replaced, she says they are really “the same old multiple choice,” and adds, “I feel like on a standardized test you’re really showing what kids don’t know.”

If performance-based assessment is so good, why keep standardized tests?

Of course, there are reasons U.S. schools have gravitated toward standardized tests instead. They’re (relatively) cheap, easily administered, and they carry the promise of some kind of “objective” measure. In other words, they’re “standardized.”

Growing Support?

The chief state school officers in Kentucky and eight other states have formed a group known as the Innovation Lab Network. These states have adopted performance-based learning as one of their “critical attributes” for a successful school. (The other states are California, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin.)

Several of these states are moving to include a performance-assessment option in public schools. Vermont is taking similar steps, and there is a New England Secondary School Consortium of 400 high schools using it as well.

In other words, a state can have both Common Core State Standards AND “authentic assessment.”

And while for now, the kids in Danville still use the state test as well, there’s a move in the legislature to allow exemptions for districts that implement performance-based testing.

Moving toward a hybrid model, where performance-based assessment becomes the primary means of assessment and standardized tests are used at key checkpoints in a child’s educational career, could be the educational wave of the future.

Yes, there are costs associated with administering and grading these assessments.  And they don’t easily fit into existing statistical “growth models” for teacher evaluation. But, shifting toward performance-based testing could facilitate a shift in the way teachers are evaluated — where teachers are assessed based on the actual, demonstrated growth of the students they actually teach.

Much is said in the world of education policy about the importance of putting students first and not doing what is convenient or expedient for adults. Performance-based assessment is student-focused and sets a high standard for teachers and school leaders. As Kentucky continues its exploration of this model, surely there are lessons that can be applied across the country.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

Kicking PARCC to the Curb

Kentucky announced on Friday that it is withdrawing from the Common Core testing consortium known as PARCC.

Kentucky will allow PARCC (Pearson) to bid on new tests, but is also seeking alternate vendors to develop tests that meet the Common Core State Standards.  Kentucky was the first state to adopt the standards and implement testing based on them.

Kentucky will continue to use the CCSS to guide its curriculum, but will no longer use the common test, unless PARCC wins the contract.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

 

Breaking Down the Test Results

The Prichard Blog has a nice breakdown of the recently released testing results in Kentucky.

It’s hard to say it’s all good news – but, there’s plenty of good news.  And of course, room for improvement.

Here are the key takeaways:

Looking at group patterns, students with disabilities improved in every subject, and the Gap, free and reduced meal, and African American groups improved in all but one–with most of those results being quite strong.   Students with limited English proficiency declined in all but one subject, and Asian students declined in three of six.
For all students, the pattern is strong growth in science, social studies and writing, moderate growth in reading and a small uptick in language mechanics, but a disturbing decline in mathematics.
Looking at the whole sweeping picture, I think the spotlight developments are:

  • Successes for the Gap group, free and reduced meal students, and students with disabilities.
  • Weaknesses for students with limited English proficiency and African-American, Asian, Hispanic students.
  • Growth in elementary writing and language mechanics, middle school reading and language mechanics, and high school science and social studies.
  • Troubling declines in elementary reading and science, middle school mathematics and science, and high school mathematics.

It’s important, then, that Kentucky keep focusing on next steps — and that investment in schools keeps up with a clear need to move toward greater proficiency.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow us @KyEdReport