No objection to testing if it’s relevant, informative and aligned with what was taught

The media has been reporting a lot this year on parents opting to pull their kids out of testing.

I am not among the parents who feel there’s too much testing in school. (However, I think there are too  many movies.)

Is there too much testing in Georgia schools?

Is there too much testing in Georgia schools?

I concede that my two high school sophomores take a lot of tests, but most are teacher-created, as is the case nationwide. My twins are in the midst of almost daily testing now because of the Georgia Milestones/End of Course Tests, AP exams and teacher-created finals.

Done right, testing provides information parents need. If testing matches what was taught, it should not be a paralyzing experience for kids.

That said, school districts need to communicate better about the purpose of their varied tests and what the results mean. That’s especially true this year as Georgia unveils new standardized exams called the Georgia Milestones in core classes and another set of  state-mandated but district-developed tests called Student Learning Objectives or SLOs in electives and classes without standardized exams. (There are complaints about the inconsistency and relevancy of the SLOs.)

The state should be more transparent about what scores signify. There should be a simple explanation attached to each student’s score that informs parents whether their child is performing to the standard expected for their grade and how their child stacked up to peers statewide. And, if the child is performing below the standard, the score report should outline what parents ought to do and what the district is obligated to do.

In an earlier post, we discussed how much easier it was to achieve a proficient level on Georgia’s CRCT compared to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

An example: On last year’s fourth grade reading CRCT, 94 percent of students in Georgia met the standard and were deemed proficient. However, only 34 percent of Georgia fourth graders were proficient on the 2013 NAEP, a gap of 60 points, the largest in the country.

I noted two possible reasons: 1. The CRCT was too easy. 2. The CRCT was an OK test, but the state set the proficiency level — how many items kids had to get right — too low.

Many folks have sent me emails agreeing the CRCT was too easy, which is why Georgia retired it and adopted the Milestones tests, which purportedly demand more problem-solving and critical thinking.

However, it isn’t just the content of the test that matters; it also matters how the state scores the test.

With that, I would like to share a note from our resident testing expert Jerry Eads, who teaches at Georgia Gwinnett College:

Choosing high pass rates on minimum competency tests has gone on in many states for a very long time. After all, they are MINIMUM competency tests. When I ran state testing in Virginia (a long time ago), the most difficult work we had was making questions on the high school graduation test simple enough so that enough kids could get them correct.

Several of Georgia’s CRCTs were that “easy,” with first time pass rates on some tests well over 90 percent. Unfortunately, no one downtown apparently every knew enough about the intersection of testing and learning to ever consider equalizing the difficulty of the tests across subjects or grades, so that a math test in a grade might have a pass rate of 70 percent, while the reading test in the same grade would have a rate of 90 percent, and the reading test in the very next grade might have a pass rate of 80 percent.

NONE of this had ANYTHING to do with amount of learning or quality of teaching, but only with the egregious lack of state leadership. John Barge did indeed want to change the testing but didn’t have the political horsepower; don’t know if Richard Woods can make much difference either, but their abilities seem light years beyond their truly (if sadly) comical predecessors.

That said, I much enjoyed when Maureen caught someone saying that Milestones would be “more rigorous” than the CRCT. Really? All one needed to do was ramp up the difficulty of the existing tests. We do hope that the CONTENT of Milestones is improved beyond the haphazard schizophrenia of the old CRCT. If it reflects the (from what I hear positive and extensive) work of the math and language VERY folks downtown, it will be.

None of that addresses the real problem with competency testing, however.

Fifty years of such testing has clearly shown that it is of absolutely no help to kids learning or teachers teaching. The ONLY impact of making these useless tests “more rigorous” is to make sure more lower performing kids drop out, Some of you think that’s a good thing. Keep that thought next time you come home to (just for example) a broken window and stolen flat screen. We DO need to figure out how to better help teachers and students get better, but you’d think after 50 years we’d have realized the way we’ve been using testing isn’t it.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

26 comments
BCW1
BCW1

Teacher created assessments are a much better gauge of what is being learned in the classrooms than state created ones. We use formative assessments consistently in our district. There is a place for standardized testing but not at the rate that we are doing them.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@BCW1 I agree...to a degree. I have been in classes where the teacher assessments are so ridiculously easy that one could train a possum to pass the assessment (though many students still fail...interesting.) On the other hand, I have been in classes where the assessments are far more challenging---maybe too challenging in some cases. Each year we have "gifted" and/or advanced level students from neighboring districts and these students struggled greatly in our advanced classes. Teacher assessments are great tools-if they are good assessments. I have seen a whole lot of really, really poorly designed assessments. But yes, our kids are tested far too much. I am afraid to calculate how much time I lost this year to MAP, GMAS prep, GA 411, and other standardized tests and surveys. I might start throwing things. 

PJ25
PJ25

Unless something dramatically changed, I could sleep through the CRCT testing and get a 98 or 99 on them. 

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@Outer Marker

I'm not a hug fan of the CRCT, however, it was designed to be a BASIC test of knowledge, not an advanced test. In my class, I teach 6 major units and 1 minor unit in the 150 or so days I have to complete the curriculum before the CRCT. That is an enormous amount of information for a middle school student to process. The CRCT asks only 60 questions (70, but 10 are ungraded "survey" questions). These questions are primarily level 1 or 2 questions rather than 3 or 4. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Outer Marker


LOL.  Well, something must have changed because if you were making a 98 or 99 on your CRCT scores, it would not be something you would be bragging about. That might actually be about what you would get if you DID sleep through them.

Moreofthesame
Moreofthesame

Too much testing, EOC, SLO and finals...is this really necessary?  Especially when my high school freshman tells me the EOC testing was rife with editing and spelling errors.  She's also a fairly fast test taker and just has to sit there and do NOTHING until everyone finishes.  No reading, drawing, nothing, what a waste of time.

panthergir88
panthergir88

I think the timing issue with the CRCT was that school basically ended in the middle of April.  In Forsyth county, the teachers finished the year's curriculum before spring break.  Nothing new was taught for the last 6 weeks of school.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

Is the cat not "out of the bag" so to speak...in regards to testing....attacks on the teaching profession...failing schools...charter schools...and governors taking over schools ? If one reads the news, reads the blogs and thinks....I cannot imagine how the public has not caught on.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@jezel

Jezel---Gov. Deal's wife was a teacher for 15 years- in the late 60s and 70s. She seems like a lovely lady and was almost certainly a wonderful teacher, but a whole lot has changed in the past 30 years. The Governor simply comes off looking silly trying to leverage her experience in the classroom so many years ago to make it seem like he understands what is best for students. I desperately hope that he will listen to the counsel of his new Secretary of Education, Richard Woods,  who has much more recent classroom experience and whose wife, Lisha, also spent 30 years in education. More recently. I think. Otherwise my entire argument falls apart. 

TicTacs
TicTacs

Can a good student may a bad teacher look good ? 


Can a dumb student make a good teacher look bad ? 


Can a test make a student look dumb ?


Can a test make a student look smart ?


Pop quiz at 2 ....

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

So tests are OK, as long as they only measure student proficiency - but aren't used to determine which teachers are actually helping their students learn.  Got it......


My experience (3 kids, one spouse who was a teacher) is bad teachers often give good grades, to 1) cover for the fact that they don't teach, and 2) keep parents from raising heck with them - resulting in more work and hassle for that teacher.  Then, when the students take AP or other tests, they bomb the material.  But that's OK, since they got an A.


Student Standardized Tests are essential for figuring out which teachers are actually teaching, vs just handing out grades like candy.  Anyone who argues against that is blind to reality.  And any actual good teacher knows that, and knows who the bad ones are in their dept - and what damage those teachers are doing to their students and to the school.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@dcdcdc Had to laugh when I read your second paragraph.  True story:  Years ago, I went to an awards ceremony at the elementary school.  The fourth grade teachers were announcing their all A/B students.  The majority of the teachers had only 8-10 students in their classes with that distinction, but... one teacher had an entire class of all A's and B's.  The other teachers just stared at her in disbelief.  The following year, that teacher was GONE.  I found out that a group of parents complained that their kids weren't learning what they should have.  Karma sometimes bites you in the butt.

PJ25
PJ25

@dcdcdc In HS we had a well liked coach who taught "accelerated" 11th or 12th grade history (I forget) and the class watched COPS every day except the few days of testing each quarter.  The day before testing, he would review the questions on the test (the exact same ones) and those were applicable to whatever history class he was supposed to be teaching at the time.  One would have to have been pretty stupid to make less than a B in that class.

taylor48
taylor48

@dcdcdc When students are allowed to retake classroom tests over and over and over until they get the grade their parents are happy with, then, no, the standardized assessment will NOT match the grade.  And, yes, that is the policy in schools these days.  And, no, it does NOT come from the teachers.

And the beat goes on...
And the beat goes on...

@class80olddog "My issues with testing?  It is not done on the last day of class (takes some kind of stupid to schedule it before then - did all administrators graduate from APS?). "


By administrators, I hope you are questioning the intelligence of state administrators because they are the ones who tell schools when they have to give the Milestones or any of the standardized tests.  There is a two-week window, but that window is always two to three weeks before the end of school.  Administrators and teachers at the county and school levels have been complaining about this for years.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

I also agree that the teacher in the classroom knows whether the student has gained proficiency - unfortunately the grades that teachers GIVE don't reflect that.  There  are kids that are reading at two grade levels behind (should obviously be given an "F") and are GIVEN a passing grade!  Look at the girl that had a 3.4 GPA and could not even pass the basic GHSGT!!!


Teachers are FORCED to give grades the students did not earn by parents and their pet administrators (administrators need to grow some gonads).


So until teachers' grades actually match reality - standardized testing is here to stay.


My issues with testing?  It is not done on the last day of class (takes some kind of stupid to schedule it before then - did all administrators graduate from APS?).  The RESULTS of the testing are not used (students are not retained when they fail the CRCT/EOCT/ Milestone.  They don't use a nationally normed test like the ITBS to see where your child compares in the school, the state, and nationally. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@class80olddog I have heard that complaint -- tests come too early and some material on the tests has not been covered in class yet -- in reference to the AP tests. I did not hear that lament as much from students about the state exams -- the CRCT or End of Course tests.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@MaureenDowney @class80olddog My daughter said that some of the material on the Milestones tests weren't covered either.  I'll have to check with other parents to find out if her perception is accurate.

Enoch19
Enoch19

I agree that teacher in the classroom is in the best position to gauge the success of a child.  Period. 


I also know from experience  that assessment is often unreliable and wrong.  Some of the reasons are the responsibility of the teacher and some are not.  Being in the best position to evaluate the progress of the student has historically not produced good, or even acceptable, outcomes. Not even close.

Mary G
Mary G

  •  Your headline here has been the mantra of teachers everywhere for years. 
  • To be of any value at all , tests of any kind MUST be aligned with the material taught. Otherwise, it is like taking a class in Spanish and being tested on French.  The "teaching to the test" would be a moot point ~~ !!  It would never be an issue, because teaching the material put forth in the course description, would be teaching the material on which the student will be tested.  
  • I can remember some of the standardized tests i had to give to my students covered material that either was not designated for the course, and/or the test was given BEFORE a particular part of the curriculum had been covered. 
  • The fact that those running the schools in Georgia do not now, nor have they EVER considered this AND refuse to allow teachers to make the major decisions is , a powerful and compelling commentary on the qualifications of those in the Ivory Towers who do run the school systems in Georgia

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

I doubt many parents are pulling their kids out of testing, though there clearly are those who would like us to think so. Such devotion to contrarian thinking is an annoying characteristic of modern society—except when it's promulgated by those simply seeking to avoid evaluation.

Every occupation has them.

As for your friend Jerry: if what he did as a testing honcho elsewhere was so pointless, then why did he accept paychecks for it?

Astropig
Astropig

@Kvinnan2


"As for your friend Jerry: if what he did as a testing honcho elsewhere was so pointless, then why did he accept paychecks for it?"


If you've ever read his hateful screeds here, you'd know that he has the ethics of Bonnie & Clyde.

gactzn2
gactzn2

I believe that a good teacher, using a variety of assessments, is able to gauge where their students are.  The end of the year test is usually confirmation of what was demonstrated all year long- if you have been teaching and monitoring the progress of your students.  So much makes up a test score- mostly student habits.  Those that routinely complete assignments and do them well typically do well on the end of the year test and the reverse is true.