Look. If the ISTEP were about how well a kid could play a round of 9 holes of golf, it wouldn't stop it from being the focus. The teachers would break down a kid's golf swing into tiny practiced pieces and take data point after data point about the intricacies of the kid's stroke and putt and whatever (I don't know golf so it's a bad analogy). They might read a little about golf, but mostly they would practice strokes and putts over and over. They would lift weights and run and do exercise to ensure that they were in golf shape.
The kids who had never touched a golf club in their lives would do poorly. The kids who weren't developmentally ready for that kind of motor development ability would do poorly. The kids who were blind would be forced to hit at an invisible ball because to do otherwise would be to "lower expectations."
Everything else would go by the wayside. Math, reading, science, you name it.
Wealthy schools and their teachers would be fine. Kids could hit the golf course. Poor kids would have no clubs, no place to practice at home, no private instructors. Because the rich kids would already know how to play the game well, teachers and administrators would not be as worried about how they did on everything. They would allow kids to play many rounds of golf for the fun of it. Kids would get to create their own games of golf, invent their own rules. Some kids would be stressed, though; the kids who weren't physically dexterous or capable, would feel terrible. They would be worried about it. Kids who had anxiety issues might just not be able to hit the ball on cue.
Meanwhile, poor kids would only do drills and drills. Teachers would give them gold stars for jobs well done (per admin request) and would be stressing about it: "You can do it! Get that putt! Sink it!"
Above all else, many kids would simply have no love left for the game of golf.
This is probably a bad analogy. Forgive me. It's oversimplifying and stereotyping a complicated situation. But my point is:
Tying a test to the fear of state takeover is the problem. Branding kids and teachers within schools..with scarlet letters of shame is the problem. Equating test scores with "success" (despite all research to the contrary) is the problem. Tying teacher evaluations, job security and pay to the scores is the problem.
There is no neat formula to show learning and teaching success per say. Unless it's using developmentally appropriate, high-interest activities and practice. It's one of the most human activities and it is so nuanced and art-like and individual to do well, that we need to evaluate this in the same way.
As a mom, the most important thing to me is that my child is exposed to a vast array of subjects and experiences that engage him intellectually, physically, emotionally. I want him to be cared for and to thus feel good about himself above all else, because I know if he is confident, he will be willing to make mistakes and explore. If he is willing to do that, then I know that he will learn. I want him to be able to get along with his peers and to think deeply about all different subjects from differing points of view. I want him to be able to express himself well verbally, in writing and even in art! There are so many ways that I gauge the success of his school experiences and effectiveness of his teachers.
The quantifying of the unquantifiable is not done because people care about our kids. They have no research to back their moves. These are people funded by those who would like public education to fail and who are succeeding at slowly killing it by a death of a thousand cuts, as they say. Some may be well-intentioned. Many believe that public education is for the poor people of color and they don't want their kids in school with them. Some believe if their children attend public school, they will learn socialist ideas because they think these "government-run" schools are socialist in and of themselves. They don't want public schools to succeed.
High stakes testing is the weapon they are using to destroy public education. My kids and yours will be collateral damage. The worst casualty will be our democracy. If we lose sight of the common good, we lose sight of what we are here for.
I received this thoughtful commentary from a teacher.
"I wanted to pass along to you a Craigslist link that was shared with me yesterday.
Craigslist's ad is looking for standardized test scorers (Test Evaluators):
The link on the Craigslist site: www.kellyservices.us/ctb takes you to another website at Kelly Services hiring on behalf of CTB McGraw Hill (which writes our state standardized test) in Indianapolis, IN/Lake Mary, FL/Sacramento, CA. (Yes, take a deep breath, they are advertising on Craigslist.)
There are job description and work schedule explanations. The compensation is $11.05/hour. It is very difficult to reconcile how much time we are spending on the following: interpretation of standards, unpacking standards, teaching and assessing standards mastery, writing our own assessments because there aren't any resources for the Indiana standards that were unveiled in July.
It is difficult to reconcile because this culminates in an on-the-spot, on-demand, timed scenario for children ages 8-15 who are evaluated by someone who is paid $11.05/hour and knows that child only by a number. I can tell you which children have mastered the standard and which have not mastered the standard before they ever take the ISTEP+ test. I have no doubt that my colleagues can do the same.
Please understand that I am not opposed to high and rigorous standards. I am not opposed to testing or assessment. They serve a purpose and they are very useful for me as a classroom teacher. It helps me help my students, but I don't think I can make educationally sound decisions knowing that someone with any four-year college degree and "knowledge of standard writing conventions and mechanics" is being paid $11.05 an hour to score test answers for children who are nothing more than a number and words on a computer screen.
My concerns and questions are:
This is just another example in the quagmire that has become the profit-driven test mania on the backs of children. Part of this quagmire is indeed the company that writes, scores and holds the pass key to funding, public scrutiny and perception, and the future educational choices of students, but also part of that quagmire are individuals who are part of an agenda.
I also found it interesting that Western Governors University (http://indiana.wgu.edu/education/online_teaching_degree) developed by governors across the country and brought to Indiana by Mitch Daniels, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, and a training ground for teacher licensing is completely "competency-based" via assessments written by Pearson and CTB McGraw-Hill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Governors_University). Competency-based assessments is their methodology. It most likely is not a coincidence that President Mitch Daniels of Purdue University is doubling down on the faculty of Purdue to require a standardized test for all Purdue graduates. This multiple-choice standardized thinking will continue to choke the K-12 schools as they begin the cultivation of a new era of standardized testing in the state college system."
Diane Ravitch has actually written about our Craigslist ISTEP scorers issue on her blog. And there have been many articles written about the business of scoring these exams.
If any of you can help find some of the answers to the questions raised by this teacher and can write about it, it seems that now would be a good time to expose the nature of how scores are determined! Share with your legislator and write a letter to the editor. Speak up. As we keep saying, this is about the money, not the kids.
Vic’s Statehouse Notes #205 – February 22, 2015 Dear Friends,
On Thursday (February 19th), the Senate Appropriations Committee modified Senate Bill 470, a damaging bill that would have allowed voucher schools to ignore ISTEP and instructed the State Board set up an alternative school letter grade system just for private voucher schools based on a test of their choice. This bill which obviously favored voucher schools over public schools was amended Thursday.
The amendment approved turned the whole bill into a summer study committee proposal that would study “issues related to the development by the state board of education of acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test that meets the requirements of IC 20-32,” which is the article in Indiana law on student assessments.
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee should be thanked for their actions to amend the bill, which in its original form would have reduced accountability for voucher schools without equal treatment for public schools.
Senate Bill 470
The news that Senate Bill 470 passed in the February 11th Senate Education Committee on a party line vote surprised and angered public school advocates. The bill when passed by the committee clearly favored private voucher schools, giving them an opportunity to use an alternative “norm-referenced” test in place of ISTEP and not giving the same opportunity to public schools. Then the bill went further to empower the State Board to establish a school letter grade only for private voucher schools based on the alternative assessment allowed for voucher schools.
The bill had passed the Senate Education Committee 7 to 3. All Republicans had voted yes; all Democrats had voted no.
By the time SB 470 got to the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on February 19th, the last meeting of the committee for the first part of the session, the majority clearly saw the need to back up and give this concept further study. Amendment 4 written by Senator Kenley to study assessments this summer was offered by Senator Schneider, the bill’s sponsor, in his presentation of the bill before the committee. The amendment was accepted by consent. The amended bill to study assessments this summer passed 10-3.
Private school voucher advocates testified on February 11th that they don’t like the way Indiana standards and ISTEP assessments control the curriculum and instruction in their private schools. Public school parents and educators have complained about the same problem in public schools.
Private schools have an option that public schools don’t have. If they simply decline the public tax money and withdraw from the voucher program, then they are free to use any assessment whatsoever to measure student achievement. Instead, they want to change the terms of accountability that they signed on to in the 2011 voucher legislation by changing to an optional test, but they still want to keep the voucher money. This backward step on accountability should be a non-starter.
One would think that Governor Pence would see the crucial nature of accountability for private schools in the state’s voucher program and resist their overture to opt out of ISTEP. The Governor, however, didn’t do that. Instead, he strongly endorsed the original version of Senate Bill 470, instructing his representative to support the bill and to say private voucher schools should be able “choose their own test.”
Once again Governor Pence has confirmed that he favors private schools over public schools. He has apparently not realized that in the marketplace of school choice that he helped to create in Indiana, all schools whether public or private receiving public tax dollars must be treated equally and fairly.
The language of the amendment to have a summer study on “acceptable tests from which all schools may select a test” that meets state requirements fits well with Senate Bill 566 sponsored by Senator Mishler and Senator Kenley which contemplates a new kind of assessment system. Senate Bill 566 is still moving in the Senate.
Committee meetings have now ended for the first part of the session. All bills must pass a third reading floor vote by Wednesday, February 25th.
Thanks to all who contacted legislators about making changes to the original version of Senate 470. You have been heard.
Thanks for your advocacy for strong public education!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand is again serving as our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.
We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which began on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
We wanted to share some of the photos from the internet of the crowds--an estimated number of over 1,000 teachers, parents, and other citizens from all walks of life gathered on Monday February 16th!
Our ICPE -- Monroe County & south Central Indiana's chairperson, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer's speech (text found on previous blog post) resonated so much that versions of it went viral on the internet. You can watch it if you click HERE.
Our friend of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, Phyllis Bush, had a wonderful speech which started things off and gave her a standing ovation. See it HERE.
Many more speakers had wonderful things to say! One of the highlights was the arrival of Glenda Ritz midway through a teacher's speech to a cheering crowd-- it was as if she were a rock star! Glenda Ritz represents so much to so many...it's not a surprise.
Enjoy our slide show.