Archive for the ‘Academic Performance Index’ Category

SBAC Summative & Formative Assessments & Digital Library

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
From the SBAC Digital Library

From the SBAC Digital Library

Michelle Obama will travel to Japan and Cambodia in the middle of March 2015 to garner support for the Peace Corps and Japan’s Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (OCV). The visit will initiate USAID’s Let Girls Learn, “an international effort aimed at enabling millions of young women to attend, and stay in, school.” President Obama’s initiative introduced two weeks ago without much fanfare. Education opportunities for girls in eleven Balkan, Asian, and African nations are the Peace Corps’ and OCV’s focus in 2015. That means building school sites, finding books, purchasing uniforms.

Think about the United States. The states struggle over a new set of standards for learning called Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the assessments for the standards devised by two consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). These assessments need computers, laptops, or tablets to take the exams; professional development to implement the standards and learn how to instruct students to take the exams; servers and cables, cables, and more cables. Are $$ ca-chinging in your brain?

Our last post discussed the problems for PARCC with the development of assessments handed off to Pearson, a UK education corporation. Let’s see how the 21 SBAC states have fared in 2014 and soon this year, 2015 Will the cost be supported?

From the latest updated SBAC website, the most controversial of the assessments given once a year over a period of several days, is the summative test explanation. The site shows a summary of the content of the exams and description of the revisions and analysis of the Pilot and Field Tests. The Field Test Report outlines the 2014 results from the 13 field test states, used to gauge accuracy of questions and school readiness for 2015. It also describes support for students with learning disabilities, second language issues, and physical constraints like hearing and vision. Unlike the PARCC model, 65 teachers, administrators, and parents from 17 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands determined the achievement levels for 2015 exams.

Second, anyone who is interested can look over the practice tests and the Digital Library of teacher resources to prepare grade 3-12 students for the collaborative thinking and problem solving the assessments require. SBAC practice, however, is as sparing and confusing as PARCC practice critics claim.

When you look at the English/Language Arts practice tests, it is apparent that only some lucky students, but certainly not the majority, will be able to handle the punctuation, grammar, and formatting requirements asked of them. Think of your third grader. The parent can, however, buy as much practice as she can afford from a multitude of education companies. Browse the internet.

Last, the most vigorous outrage has unfurled over the numerous testing days, preparation for, stress for students, outcomes already long suspected, privacy of information analyzed and held on databases. Each state’s department of education, whether a PARCC or SBAC affiliate, will have to come to terms with the backlash generated, NOT by the standards, but by the lack of long-range planning before the actual implementation of assessments for CCSS.

However, roiling from budget cuts to its once outstanding school master plan, California has centered on new directives to forge an array of measures to gauge school success. For one, the California State Board of Education voted to suspend for another year the Academic Performance Index (API) that gave schools a score used to evaluate performance of teachers, students, and schools in boosting academic achievement. The API and the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) score, mandated by the federal NCLB legislation, had yearly distinguished success from failure.

In addition, the state’s “school quality” measures will take in not only assessment scores, but student attendance, English proficiency, access to educational materials, suspensions, graduation rate, dropout rates, and performance in college-level courses; all factors that indicate whether or not the achievement gap is closing. Hallelujah! The aspects that make up the climate for a succeeding school will be addressed.

You have most likely heard of “continuous improvement”-a way to examine how a school is improving. The strongest change for California is the State Board of Education’s decision to designate an agency of highly-qualified (recognize that term?) teachers, administrators, superintendents, and County Office of Education experts to form the California Collaborative of Educational Excellence (CCEE). Its duties are to support learning, share knowledge, evaluate a school’s needs, and provide sources of direct intervention so that California schools, public and charter, well-heeled and low income, succeed for every student. To come is the $$ assessment!

Fortunately, the United States doesn’t need the Let Girls Learn initiative. Think about it: teacher, parent, business person, Congress person! Our job is to suck up our complaints and embark on the long road to raise the educational stakes for all our children.




Mind Your Common Core Standards

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Defenders say Common Core Standards answer the common problem of differing education standards among states. How many students have matriculated to your California school from another state and have no idea about fractions, let’s say, when your class is in the middle of the unit? It doesn’t have to be another state, it could be another California county!

To overcome that reality, for a while California students had to be enrolled in a school district for a specified number of days or their yearly state test was not counted in the final record for the school and district. That happened when Adequate Yearly Progress federal scores were the important measure. After a while, teachers, schools, and districts, in California anyway, stopped fretting about the federal scores and concentrated on curriculum that would improve student success measured by the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) system. You know California’s ambition to take the lead in accountability even when it had no money.

Now that money is available to school budgets, the California Department of Education and the California Teachers Association have begun professional development for the implementation of California’s version of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2014-2015.

When collaboration occurs, many teachers look forward to professional development before the transition to CCSS use. Those who promote the transition focus on the goals of fewer topics and greater depth. The CCSS website stresses that teaching methods are not dictated. Who wouldn’t be attracted to teaching more about one topic, and not worry about all those pages not covered in the textbook? What teacher does not welcome with a good heart the “cycle of inquiry,” leading to strategies that are best practices?

Faultfinderss are now coming forward to name the flaws for the 45 states who agreed to upgrade the curriculum and standards that allow a huge country of more than 50 million children have a chance at better college and career, whether vocational or professional. Critics claim parents have not had the opportunity to understand the education changes. There has not been enough public discussion country-wide. New demanding tests by some states before adequate implementation means student success doesn’t pan out. The House of Representatives bill to finally revise the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” (ESEA) leaves standards to the states, thereby wiping out the work of the National Governors Association attempt to improve learning.

Change takes time and perseverance. Teachers have long been criticized as unwilling to try change and rely on their unions to back them up. However, both national teachers’ unions are strong supporters of Common Core State Standards.

So mind your p’s and q’s. Keep a stiff upper lip! Watch the world through rose-colored glasses.

For more detail, see “Who’s Minding the Schools?” by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreyfus, New York Times, June 9, 2013. See articles on CCSS in California Educator, March 2013 and June/July 2013.

Coming Nigh: More Change

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Consider the April 2013 San Francisco Chronicle article about real estate agents being asked to show homes in the ‘right’ peninsula areas. Peruse the April New York Times article about Utah schools offering dual-language classes. The education-oriented reader bites her lip to keep from smirking.

The ‘right’ area to California teachers means one near a school with high scores for the California Academic Performance Index because the home can be sold later for more money than homes by schools with low scores. Utah wants all those public school kids to make money when they grow up by speaking another language so they can be Mormon missionaries to foreign countries first and then high earners in the global market forever after. Bilingual education finally gets its due.

But make no mistake! The major school district business across the nation, high-scoring or bilingual, is to establish new teacher and administrator evaluation models. Just google ‘school evaluation’ and an abundance of ‘for and against’ articles come forward. Keep in mind: the conflict heats up when a plan is devised, and the percent of student test success is built-in. Must the teacher’s evaluation show that 30% or 10% or 50% of her students have reached proficiency for the year? Who cares except those who want a number, the higher the better? Is that proof of a good teacher?

The controversy gets more complex because, at the same time, 45 of the fifty states in the union are preparing to establish Common Core State Standards (CCS). In California the curriculum content goal is to transition by 2014-2015. You can figure that teachers are not uneasy about real estate values near their school, but may agonize over changes to dual-language policies and procedures in order to account for CCS. Or be troubled by imminent changes to the assessment tools used for evaluation.

The top need, however, is long-term professional development for teachers before changes are made. Roll your eyes if one-day workshops are all the school gets for the implementation being asked. Raise your eyebrows when no coaches model what is being suggested for the classroom. Pinch your thumb against your finger if funds are skimpy for the tools you will need. Shake your head if piles of papers are handed out, but no time is given for collaboration.

How about professional development at your school that uses “inquiry teams” which meet often during the year to learn, practice, question, and promote change?

No Money Withdrawn Yet, But Schools Not Safe

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The California school year still exists with no further furloughs than those already negotiated. State legislators and school personnel await funding dollar signs to evaporate. All the while a number of school foundations still join together to pursue reform goals, putting together research and reports on possible ways to help weak students get the most for their education greenbacks.

Edsource, a California forum, recently announced collaboration with five other groups in the country. The goal is to update information on expanded learning time, especially in low-income neighborhood schools, the ones affected most by poor resources to achieve student success. The research will examine after-school programs, health services, and other social services to elevate student chances for graduation from high school. For a number of years, critics of public schools and charter school promoters have endorsed the expansion of school learning time, not a favorite of long-term teacher’s union negotiators. Funds have been granted from the Ford Foundation, which has made “More and Better Learning Time” a priority in its philanthropy.

A variety of California programs to expand learning time have been tried for many years, especially under the gun of California’s Academic Performance Index and the current unrevised federal No Child Left Behind Act. However, the plans have been underfunded and not analyzed for successful practices although a variety of ways to help students have been tried. Read more in “Expanded Learning Time in Action” from the Center for American Progress.

Speaking of the phrase “under the gun”, arguments about weapons control have not abated nor led to consensus across the country. Last week South Dakota’s legislature authorized school employees to carry guns. The legislation, reported in the March 9, 2013, edition of The New York Times, is riddled with details to make the bill palatable. For example, South Dakota school districts decide whether to permit firearms. Four other states were mentioned that have some variation of laws to carry guns in schools.

On the other hand, Colorado is about to take a final vote to legislate background checks for private and gun show sales, limits to magazine size, and provisions to keep guns from domestic abusers. None of the Colorado bills specifically pertain to laws about firearms in schools, still being debated vociferously after Colorado local laws were upheld by the courts last year.

At the same time, a surprising survey by the General Social Survey shows that the number of American households with firearms has dropped. No matter whether the comparison is between rural and suburban families, houses with children or without, happy vs. unhappy households, gun ownership has fallen by an average of 50% since the 1970’s to 2012. Indeed, households in the South and the West have shown the greatest decline.

Let’s hope that America can make a turnaround in gun control beliefs as much as education experts are looking high and low for long-term provisions to turn around the chance for student achievement. The latest is finding the most successful strategies to extend learning time.

Tenure Intrudes Just as School Year Begins

Monday, August 20th, 2012

So far school begins a few days earlier each year. I’m still ready to teach fourth grade, but the hitch that disturbs a smooth opening is student overflow. Too many new third graders have enrolled in the attendance area for my school. In consequence, the question is which students will move in with fourth graders. Next, the same number of fourth graders must be moved to a fifth grade.

Unless the district can be persuaded of the disadvantages, there will be one three-four combination and a four-five combination classroom. Some schools, however, are not filled with the maximum number of students so newcomers could attend those schools-if the district makes that decision.

Advantage: by staying close to the nearby school the student has less travel time and has the chance to become friends with more neighborhood children of a similar age.

Disadvantage: no parent or teacher wants to mix their child in a combination grade level if possible; it’s difficult to find time to teach each grade’s curriculum so no child is shortchanged. In my school district third graders have 24/1 student/teacher ratio, so a three-four combination has 24 students, thus forcing the move for fourth graders into a four-five combination class  with 33 students (maximum classroom size allowed) and less individual attention.

With the nationwide attention to Common Core Standards and yearly exams geared to the curriculum covered for the student’s grade level, any lay person can see the difficulty for student learning. In addition, unless you have worked with third grade or fourth grade or fifth grade age children in a classroom, you don’t recognize the differences in children’s social maturity and thus the ability to absorb academic learning.

Now, I think I’ve covered the reasons I dread the possibility of a combination grade, even though I consider myself highly-qualified to accommodate the circumstances if necessary. Teachers in many schools have had to adjust to such peculiarities of the public or private or parochial school.

In the meantime, I follow the news media, grasping onto new school year stories. The big one is “tenure.” The issue is a big time feature of teacher’s financial reward and classroom effort. State departments of education and teachers’ unions have finally found ways to compromise on the issue. The two factions have faced the fear for teacher security, wrenched from the hands of authoritarian school administrators, and the inability to dismiss “poor” teachers, constantly on the minds of education policy makers.

New York, New Jersey, Idaho, Florida and 14 other state legislatures have developed some type of tenure resolution, usually based on evaluation of class students’ academic growth shown by score improvement on yearly tests and administration’s rigorous teacher observation plans-with some variations.

My school district hasn’t yet had staff development on any change in tenure policy, but I’m thinking ahead about two difficulties. What about the school’s position on state records of improvement, like California’s Academic Performance Index? What will the teacher’s individual evaluation for tenure be like? With all the variables that indicate student learning, combination classrooms add one more possible hurdle for students and teachers.

Nevertheless, I know to wear my welcome smile when I pick up my new students on the first day.