Category Archives: Testing

Pearl Clutching Over PISA

IT’S STILL POVERTY

The latest PISA scores have been released and edu-pundits are clutching their pearls because “our scores are terrible.” Yet hardly anyone has mentioned that, just like in the past, the scores in the US are lower than many others in the OECD because the US has a high rate of child poverty.

I wrote about this after the last release of PISA scores

The problem that DeVos and others don’t understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren’t achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.

North Carolina blogger Stu Egan (Caffeinated Rage) did notice it this time and posted…

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

Egan posted these graphs (along with others) from the latest PISA tests. They show that, within each quartile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status, the US scores are near the average for the rest of the OECD. Check out his entire post.

In reading, the US 15-year-olds scored a little above the OECD average at each quartile.

In math, the US 15-year-olds scored slightly below the OECD average at each quartile.

We’re not number one. But we’re not “failing” either. If our child poverty rate was lower, we wouldn’t have so many more scores in the lower quartiles and our average scores would be higher.

Egan also includes a long quote from the Economic Policy Institute (from an earlier version of the PISA) which explains things very well. Here’s part of it…

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.

We won’t be able to climb to the “top” of the PISA rankings as long as we are near the “bottom” of the OECD in child poverty. What we’ve been doing has actually been making things worse.

  • We spend too much time on testing and not enough on teaching.
  • We divert too much of our education funding to the privatization of public schools instead of supporting the common good.
  • We’re so focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy that we don’t have enough money to support our future.

Nothing has changed since I wrote the following in 2017

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,

…we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

🚌📚📝

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Filed under OECD, PISA, poverty, Testing

Time to Panic? The NAEP Scores Didn’t Go Up!

The NAEP scores are in and the “reformers,” or as Diane Ravitch has taken to calling them, the “Disrupters” are up in arms because the scores haven’t improved. The disrupters promised all of us that charter schools, testing, vouchers, and other “reforms” would solve the low achievement scores, but as we now can see, that didn’t happen. Perhaps there’s something else that might be affecting the achievement of the students in our classrooms…

When reading through the articles noted below it’s important to remember two things.

First, the National Reading Panel did not support heavy phonics instruction despite what “phonics-first” partisans might tell you. It’s true, the National Reading Panel Summary said that a phonics-based approach was supported, however, that was different than what was actually in the full National Reading Panel report! (See also I Told You So! The Misinterpretation and Misuse of The National Reading Panel Report by NRP Panel member, Joanne Yatvin and More Smoke and Mirrors: A Critique of the National Reading Panel (NRP) Report on “Fluency” by Stephen Krashen.)

The actual National Reading Panel Report says (p. 2-97),

…it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program. [emphasis added]

So…the NRP recommends something akin to Balanced Literacy…something the “phonics-firsters” decry as “unscientific.”

Second, as Steven Singer (Gadfly on the Wall Blog) reminds us, NAEP proficient level isn’t the same as grade-level. Diane Ravitch, who served on the NAEP Governing Board for seven years explains it this way

Proficient is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.

Basic is akin to a B or C level performance…

In other words, Proficient is the level where the highest-scoring students achieve. Basic is closer to what we think of as “grade-level.”

NAEP scores and “the science of reading”

The miniscule changes in reading scores since 2015 are interpreted in “National Reading Emergency” as a reason to embrace “the science of reading,” which is code for heavy phonics instruction. The real “science of reading,” based on a substantial amount of research, consistently shows that intensive phonics instruction produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. It has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.

The Big Lie about the “Science of Reading”: NAEP 2019 Edition

Paul Thomas’s bullet points below are a good summary of why the NAEP scores do not signal a “national emergency.”

With the release of 2019 NAEP data, as we should expect, the same folk are back at over-reacting and misunderstanding standardized reading test data (mostly mainstream media), and dyslexia/phonics advocates are cherry picking evidence to reinforce their ideological advocacy.

All in all, these responses to NAEP data are lazy, and incredibly harmful.

Broadly, responses by the media and advocates have been overly simplistic, and lacking even a modicum of effort to tease out in a scientific way (ironic, eh?) mere correlations from actual causal associations among student demographics, reading policy, reading programs, the fidelity of implementing policy/programs, NAEP testing quality (how valid a proxy is NAEP reading tests for critical reading ability?), etc.

…Only fair things to say about new round of NAEP reading scores:

• The US has never had a period over the last 100 years when we said “reading scores are where they should be.”

• There is always a claim of “reading crisis.”

• This is irrespective of how reading is taught.

• NAEP scores, like all standardized test scores, are mostly (60% +) correlated to out-of-school factors.

• NAEP scores only marginally about student achievement/reading, teacher/teaching quality, reading program effectiveness.

• NAEP scores are very pale proxies of reading

This is a good place (see bullet #4, above) to remind you to read Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, by David C. Berliner. Unfortunately, little has changed since the report was first published in 2009.

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

The low scores are, as they always have been, just another excuse to blame teachers, label schools as “failing”, and promote the privatization of public education.

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

Reading instruction is the conduit for corporate school reformers to reach their privatization goals.

NAEP Test Scores Show How Stupid We Are… To Pay Attention to NAEP Test Scores

The US Education Secretary, she who must not be named, is, of course, ignorant about what testing in general means, what “grade-level” means, and what the NAEP scores mean specifically. It’s time we replace her with someone who actually knows something about the education of children.

[Note: While the current US Education Secretary is certainly the worst person we’ve ever had in charge of the nation’s K-12 public schools, she’s not the only Secretary of Education who displayed ignorance of the field of education. In fact, only three of the eleven Secretaries of Education had training and experience in the field of K-12 education.]

Education Blogger Peter Greene claims that this move is based on a reading comprehension problem the Education Secretary is having, herself.

She says that the NAEP results mean that 2/3 of American students read below grade level. However, Greene points out that she is conflating two different things – grade level proficiency and NAEP proficiency.

Here’s what the NAEP wrote:

“The NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade-level proficiency, but rather competency over challenging subject matter. NAEP Achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted and used with caution.”

Which kind of begs the question of why we need these scores in the first place.

📝🚌📝

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Listen to this – 2019 #2

Meaningful quotes…

RED FOR ED IN INDIANA

On November 19th, thousands of teachers across Indiana will converge on the state capital in Indianapolis, or gather in their local communities to draw attention to the lack of government support for public education in Indiana.

Indiana teachers, through the Indiana State Teachers Association, sponsors of the event, have several priorities.

  • Don’t blame Indiana teachers for student performance on tests. There are too many variables that have an impact on test scores to single out teachers as the only, or even the main cause. 
  • Repeal the requirement for teachers to spend their valuable time as business interns in their communities. 
  • Stop the move to grade school systems and schools based on what their students do after graduation. Again, there are too many variables in students’ lives to assume that schools are the only cause of their choices after they graduate.

Hundreds of school systems throughout the state have canceled classes for the day to allow teachers to participate including the largest district in the state, Fort Wayne Community Schools. When FWCS decided to close their Superintendent, Wendy Robinson, Indiana’s 2018 Superintendent of the Year, wrote a letter to teachers which was published locally. In it, she reminded teachers that a one-day march was not enough to change the culture of education in the state.

From Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools
FWCS to close for Red for Ed Day

The State did not reach this point with public education overnight, and it won’t be fixed in a day. There has been a long, concerted effort to systematically dismantle public education through standardized testing, constantly changing accountability systems and pouring money into private schools. We have been sounding the warnings for years. To change things now will require just as much planning and effort, if not more. True change will only come through legislative action, and that won’t happen if the same people continue to have control of the rule book.

PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

From Alfie Kohn
@alfiekohn

The late James Moffett suggested this slogan for elite, selective schools: “Send us winners and we’ll make winners out of them!”

From Heather DuBois Bourenane
Executive Director at Wisconsin Public Education Network

They call them ‘innovation schools” because they are an innovative way to remove local control, remove public oversight of public funds, place public property and decision-making under private control, and convince the public that failed old ideas are good and new ideas.

From William J. Mathis
in Beat the dead horse harder

…schools were mandated to solve the test score problem. The trouble was that the policymakers got it backwards. Poverty prevents learning. It is the threshold issue. Without resorting to what we knew, the dead horse was beaten once more with the No Child Left Behind Act. We adopted the Common Core curriculum, punished schools, and fired principals and teachers whose misfortune was being assigned to a school with high concentrations of needy children. It was literally expected that a child from a broken home, hungry and with ADHD would be ready to sit down and learn quadratic equations. Nevertheless, the test-based school accountability approach emerged and still remains the dominant school philosophy. While it is claimed that successful applications exist, the research has not been found that says poverty can be overcome by beating the dead horse. The irony is that the tests themselves show that a test based system is not a successful reform strategy.

From Peter Greene…in answer to Betsy DeVos
in DeVosian NAEP Nonsense

No. For three decades you and many others have used aggressive chicken littling as leverage to remake education in your preferred image. You said, “Let us have our way and NAEP scores will shoot up like daisies in springtime.” Do not even pretend to suggest that you have somehow been hammering fruitlessly on the doors of education, wailing your warnings and being ignored. The current status quo in education is yours. You built it and you own it and you don’t get to pretend that’s not true as a way to avoid accountability for the results.

From Doug Masson
in Some thoughts on Red for Ed, Caleb Mills, and Indiana’s School Policies

The privatization fad isn’t working. Voucher and charter schools do not produce better results than traditional public schools and there is some evidence that they produce worse outcomes. A fractured approach to education cannot produce consistent results. If we’re looking to be responsible with our money, we can’t afford to have education dollars sucked up by self-dealing charter management companies with opaque accounting or vouchers sent to private institutions with books closed to the public. We can’t spend tens of millions of dollars on tests with arbitrary faulty metrics

LIFELONG LEARNING

Vlogger John Green talks about learning new things, communication, friendship, innocence, and connections.

From John Green
in still learning

…I still like learning even at my extremely advanced age because new learning can reshape old learning and because learning is a way of seeing connection. And all the little connections across time and space are reminders to me of how deeply connected we all are.

ON TEACHING

From Steven Singer
in Are Teachers Allowed to Think for Themselves?

Teaching may be the only profession where you are required to get an advanced degree including a rigorous internship only to be treated like you have no idea what you’re doing.

🎤🎧🎤

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Filed under DeVos, NAEP, Privatization, Quotes, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, Testing

2019 Medley #21

Retention-in-grade, Low Test Scores,
Reading wars, Charters and Choice,
Mississippi Strategy,
Vouchers and Discrimination, Poisoning Children

RETENTION HURTS CHILDREN

The Haunted Third Grade Classrooms Children Fear: Enter and… Stay Forever!

It’s time again for another article dealing with retention…complete with references.

In-grade retention doesn’t work. More often than not it harms students psychologically and emotionally, increases the chances of students dropping out, and doesn’t improve achievement. Yet we continue to do it in order to appease the gods of “test and punish.”

I’ve also collected dozens of articles, research articles, blog posts, and position papers on retention-in-grade, the vast majority of which document the damage done by this outdated and abusive practice.

Students who have academic struggles, but who move on, do better in the long run. Students who are retained might seem to do better at first, but they drop back to having difficulties later. Many students who are retained go on to drop out of school.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S FAILING SCHOOLS – LOW TEST SCORES

While I Wasn’t Paying Attention……

In a long, rambling blog post, John Merrow touches on a variety of topics. I disagree with one area he discussed in which he talks about how American students score poorly on the PISA test. Our students don’t “underperform their peers in most other countries”. We have a higher rate of child poverty, which lowers our average.

As I wrote in March of 2017,

American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don’t weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested…

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don’t achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty…

Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

Other topics covered by Merrow are…

  • How do you teach appropriate behaviors when the current President role models bullying and vulgarity?
  • the Secretary of Education’s assault on public education
  • What should we measure in our schools? We approach measurement the wrong way.
  • the value of play in education
  • the cost of testing
  • the poor quality of our standardized tests and our undemanding curriculum

A sampling…

A social studies teacher right now is a modern-day Hamlet. Should he or she embrace the chaos and encourage students to debate the morality of the flood of demonstrable lies coming from the Oval Office on a daily basis, knowing that doing so is guaranteed to incur the wrath of some parents, and perhaps some administrators as well? Or should the teacher studiously avoid controversy, knowing full well that doing that sends a powerful value-laden message? To teach, or not to teach, that is the question…..

Or suppose you were an elementary school teacher trying to model appropriate behavior for your impressionable students. How do you respond when one of your kids asks you why the President said Joe Biden was kissing Barack Obama’s ass? Or why Trump can say ‘bullshit’ but kids get punished for swearing?

…We have to learn to Measure What We Value, instead of simply Valuing What We Measure.

…Ironically, the PISA results revealed that American kids score high in ‘confidence in mathematical ability,’ despite underperforming their peers in most other countries…

NRP AND THE READING WARS

Problematic “Scientific Based” Phonics: The Flawed National Reading Panel

The “reading wars” have heated up again and the report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) is being hauled out as proof that we need to dump current methods of teaching reading (balanced literacy) and teach “systematic phonics.” However, the NRP didn’t actually find that “systematic phonics” worked better than other methods of teaching reading.

Metcalf mentions educational researchers who raised questions concerning the National Reading Panel.

Elaine Garan an education professor and author was one.

She believes there are wide discrepancies between what was reported to the public and what the panel actually found. Most blatantly, the summary proclaimed that “systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade,” while the report itself said, “There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above first grade.” [emphasis added]

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND CHOICE

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 1: The “I Didn’t Do It!” Excuse

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 2: The “EVERYONE’S DOING IT!” Excuse

An excellent summary of the problem with charter schools in two blog posts by Steven Singer.

It takes a certain kind of hypocrite to be a charter school champion.

You have to deny any wrongdoing one minute. And then admit you’re guilty but explain it away with the excuse “Everyone’s doing it!” the next.

Take cherry picking – one of the most common admonishments leveled against the school privatization industry.

Detractors claim that charter schools keep enrollment low and then out of those who apply, they pick and choose which students to accept.

Charters are run by private enterprise but funded with public tax dollars. So they are supposed to accept all comers just like the authentic public schools in the same neighborhoods.

But charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as authentic public schools. They pretty much just have to abide by whatever was agreed upon in their charter contracts. Even then states rarely check up on them to make sure they’re in compliance.

So critics say many of these institutions are circumventing enrollment procedures. They’re welcoming the easiest kids to teach and dissuading others from enrolling – even to the extent of kicking out hard to teach children or pretending that an “unbiased” selection process just so happened to pick only the most motivated students.

WORKERS OR EDUCATED CITIZENS?

Indiana’s “Mississippi Strategy” for Education Will Bear Bitter Fruit

Should we raise and educate our children to supply the economy with workers (the Mississippi strategy) or should we teach our children to be educated citizens? Our goal should be towards citizens who think, rather than workers for a corporate state. In The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark, Carl Sagan wrote,

If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

In this post, Doug Masson agrees…

I think there is a fundamental difference between policymakers with respect to whether they see people as liabilities or assets. When we see people as liabilities, then the goal of government is to spend as few resources on them as possible, getting them from cradle to grave with as little fuss as possible. When we see people as assets, then the goal of government is to maximize their potential as efficiently as possible, knowing that the return on that investment will exceed the expenditure as the children become productive, well-rounded citizens contributing to the community. The Mississippi Strategy takes the former approach.

FREE EXERCISE VS. ESTABLISHMENT

Vouchers And Federally-Supported Discrimination

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment gives religious groups the right to hire and fire at will even if they choose to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. However, when the religious group takes government money, then they ought to follow the secular laws of the nation as required by the establishment clause.

…in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural address said, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs.

There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.

POISONING OUR CHILDREN

NC got an ‘F’ for unsafe school drinking water. Activists want the lead out of schools.

North Carolina got an “F” when it comes to protecting its children against lead poisoning.

Environmental activists have launched a new campaign to protect children from drinking lead-contaminated water in schools following a national report that gave North Carolina a failing grade for safe school drinking water.

North Carolina was among 22 states that got an “F” grade for not getting rid of lead from school drinking water, according to Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. This week, Environment North Carolina released a back-to-school toolkit that gives the public information on how to get the lead out of schools.

“There is no safe level of lead for our citizens but especially for our children,” Krista Early, clean water advocate for Environment NC, said at a news conference at Moore Square. “North Carolina does not currently require testing of drinking water in our children’s schools.

Indiana also got an “F”.

There is no safe level of lead for children. Lead in the environment damages children…permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

We’re still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children…and we’re still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can’t afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.

📖🚌📚

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Choice, Lead, reading, retention, Testing, vouchers

Stop the Misuse of Tests

Chalkbeat, whose sponsors include such pro-privatization groups as the Gates Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, ran this piece about Indiana’s ILEARN test was.

Schools were quick to downplay ILEARN results, but experts stand by the test. Here’s why.

While school leaders and lawmakers were quick to reason away concerns over shockingly low ILEARN scores, some testing experts and state education leaders are standing by Indiana’s new exam.

Calls to shield schools and teachers from any negative consequences of the low ILEARN scores were swift, after it was revealed that only one-third of students in grades 3-8 passed both the math and English portions of the exam. But when detangled from the question of accountability, experts say the results provide a valid measure of what students know.

Low 2019 scores weren’t a sign of a faulty exam, said Ed Roeber, Michigan’s former testing director and a consultant on Indiana’s technical advisory committee for assessments, said. Rather, Roeber said, it’s a reflection of “what instruction is or is not taking place in our schools.”

“I’m not discouraged by low performance,” he said. “I think it could be a real rallying cry for Indiana schools to evaluate what they are teaching and what students are learning.”

The experts said that the test was “a valid measure of what students know.” If experts said that, they were not using precise language and were promoting invalid uses of tests. Actual tests and measurements experts ought to know better.

VALIDITY: WHETHER OR NOT A TEST MEASURES WHAT IT CLAIMS TO MEASURE

What might actually be true is that ILEARN was a valid measure of how much of the test content students knew…because that’s what a test measures. A test can be a valid and reliable measure of its content, but that’s as far as it goes. Student standardized achievement tests don’t measure everything students need to learn.

But you say the test covered Indiana’s State Standards? Even if it covered all of the standards, that’s still not everything children should learn in school.

Tests don’t measure what managers want from their employees, such as honesty, enthusiasm, growth, or the ability to work collaboratively in a group. They don’t measure creativity or loyalty or perseverance.

In fact, our standardized tests measure only a fraction of what we send our children to school for.

One important reason for not holding schools and teachers responsible for ILEARN is because ILEARN is a student achievement test, not a test of school or teacher effectiveness. Using a student achievement test to measure school or teacher effectiveness is like using a teaspoon to measure temperature. ILEARN wasn’t made to measure anything other than a student’s knowledge of its content. Using the test for anything else is invalid.

ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

In an op-ed for IndyStar, Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust, said the results show persistent racial gaps. While 43% of white students statewide passed both portions of ILEARN, 15% of black students did the same.

We know that poverty has an impact on student achievement and test scores. Could the fact that 42% of Indiana’s black children live in poor families have anything to do with the “achievement gap?” Maybe we ought to hold legislators and policymakers (looking at you, Governors Daniels, Pence, and Holcomb) accountable for not providing equal education and employment opportunities or sufficient resources for all of the state’s public schools.

A VALID USE OF TESTS

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association said that we ought to use the test as a baseline. We ought to use the test to “plan a course” for our students.

“The results from that should be a baseline,” said Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gambill. “It is time now for educators to sit down with the results from that, now knowing how the test operates and how to best plan a course for students moving forward so in years to come the results are a true reflection of the growth of that student.”

That’s exactly what standardized tests should be used for…to “plan a course” for students. Standardized tests should be used as instructional guides while keeping in mind that their results are skewed by student poverty and racial bias.

They should not be used to grade or punish communities, school systems, schools, teachers, and students. We ought to stop misusing standardized tests instead of just shielding “schools and teachers from negative consequences.”

Until we stop the misuse and overuse of standardized tests we’re throwing our tax dollars away. We’re wasting student and teacher time better used for something with actual value, like recess, fine arts, and physical education.

📝🚌📝

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Filed under iLearn, poverty, Testing

Random Numbers

October 16, 2019

POLITICAL

  • Day 1000 of the current U.S. presidential administration. Time to register to vote!

GENERAL WORLDWIDE

EDUCATION IN THE U.S. AND INDIANA

Testing

Privatization

Population

  • 56.6 million – The number of students attending elementary, middle, and high schools across the US.

Poverty

15% (168,028) of white children live in poor families.
42% (69,537) of black children live in poor families.
35% (56,560) of Hispanic children live in poor families.
17% (5,237) of Asian children live in poor families.

Homelessness

Graduation

Overall Poverty rate 20.56%

Overall Poverty rate 11.98%

Overall Poverty rate 14.56%

Lead

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Filed under Homeless Children, Lead, Politics, poverty, Privatization, Testing

2019 Medley #20: Poverty and Testing

Poverty and Testing

IT’S POVERTY, STUPID

The connection between family income and school achievement has been well documented (see the links at the end of this post ) yet policymakers and the media continue to blame schools, teachers, and the students themselves for low achievement.

David Berliner notes that there are out-of-school factors to student achievement including medical care, food insecurity, family and community characteristics, and environmental pollutants. Included among the latter is lead poisoning, which contributes to low achievement levels and is more damaging to children of poverty.

Policymakers, however, have a vested interest in deflecting the blame for low achievement onto schools, teachers, and students. If poverty and its side effects are ignored, then those who are tasked with helping reduce poverty and, by extension, its side effects, are not to blame.

The articles in this post discuss the effects of poverty on student achievement. Achievement, in nearly all the articles, is measured solely by standardized test scores. Standardized test scores, aside from keeping testing companies in business, “measure what matters least.” Alfie Kohn wrote,

What generally passes for a test of reading comprehension is a series of separate questions about short passages on random topics. These questions “rarely examine how students interrelate parts of the text and do not require justifications that support the interpretations”; indeed, the whole point is the “quick finding of answers rather than reflective interpretation.”

In mathematics, the story is much the same. An analysis of the most widely used standardized math rests found that only 3 percent of the questions required “high level conceptual knowledge” and only 5 percent tested “high level thinking skills such as problem solving and reasoning.” Typically the rests aim to make sure that students have memorized a series of procedures, not that they understand what they are doing.

It’s been nearly two decades since the US Congress passed No Child Left Behind, yet we’re still overusing and misusing standardized tests.

New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem

Core problems of poverty and underemployment are also discussed in this post…as well as how the federal share of funding for education has declined.

The correlation of academic achievement with family income has been demonstrated now for half a century, but policymakers, like those in the Ohio legislature who are debating punitive school district takeovers, prefer to blame public school teachers and administrators instead of using the resources of government to assist struggling families who need better access to healthcare, quality childcare, better jobs, and food assistance.

…child poverty affects academic achievement. Policy makers, however, in the spirit of test-based, sanctions-based school accountability, are instead determined to impose punishments on the school districts serving poor children. They imagine that if they shift the blame onto teachers, nobody will notice that they are themselves failing to invest the resources and power of government in programs to support the needs of America’s poorest children.

STANDARDIZED TESTING 101

New Test, Same Results: ILEARN Reflects Family Income

Indiana’s new ILEARN test yields results similar to the old tests — poor students score lower than more affluent students. The scatter-plot graph included shows the tendency towards high achievement and higher socioeconomic status.

The big news about ILEARN has been that local schools and teachers should not be held accountable for the low test scores. Implied by this is the assumption that schools and teachers, under different circumstances, should be held accountable for ILEARN test scores.

Student test scores should be used diagnostically — to drive instruction. But because out-of-school factors have an impact on test scores, teachers should not be held solely accountable for student test scores. Because of those same out-of-school factors, schools should not be held solely accountable either. There are just too many outside variables that impact student test scores. Some of those variables, by the way, are the responsibility of policymakers. For example, are teachers responsible for the effect of lead on their students’ learning because then-governor Mike Pence ignored lead contamination affecting East Chicago’s children?

Additionally, student achievement tests have not been developed to evaluate schools and teachers. Doing so is an invalid use of the tests. The assumption that student test scores are the sole result of teacher or school quality is simply mistaken.

Among the [many] things that Indiana policymakers need to fix when it comes to our schools are 1), they need to assume their own share of responsibility for out-of-school factors affecting Indiana students’ school achievement, and 2), they need to end the misuse and overuse of standardized tests.

Indiana’s new standardized test, ILEARN, may be new and even “computer adaptive,” but it has at least one thing in common with its predecessor ISTEP+. Scores on ILEARN correspond to socioeconomic status. Put simply: The poorer the families served by your school, the poorer your school will perform on the test. Shocking, we know.

Some news reports about the test talk just about the overall low scores. Others go skin deep by comparing the average scores of schools and districts  But scratch the surface, and you’ll find that this test—despite its price tag of $45 million—delivers more of the same. 

GAPS

Proficiency gaps deserve a look

How much money do we spend on our schools? Is there a difference between how much is spent on schools filled with black, Asian, multiracial, or Hispanic students? How much segregation is there in Indiana schools?

The disparities are stark. Statewide, 43.3% of white students were proficient on both the ILEARN math and English/language arts assessments compared to 14.8% of black students. Proficiency rates were 56.7% for Asian students, 31.8% for multiracial students and 24.2% for Hispanic students.

And yes, poverty matters. Just 22.9% of students who qualified by family income for free or reduced-price meals scored proficient, compared to 50.9% of students who didn’t qualify. (Gaps are similar, overall, for public, private and charter schools, according to my calculations).

Achievement gaps in schools driven by poverty, study finds

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps, you have to take on segregation.” — Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families.

“Racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools,” concluded the paper by academics, led by Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

…because race and poverty are so closely related, the only way to close the gap is to racially integrate schools. He pointed to those who advocate that schools think less about integration and instead try to improve all schools. That hasn’t worked, he said.

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps,” he said, “you have to take on segregation.”

MIT STUDY

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

I’ve included this 2015 report on an MIT study showing that poverty has an impact on children’s brain development…which might account for a portion of the economic test score gap.

A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”

Relationship between SES and Academic Achievement

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Article Medleys, iLearn, poverty, Testing