Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doing the Math on Tests

Many high-stakes tests that are given in the Fall to test the previous year's teaching and learning do not get reported on until January or, even February of that school year.  In many schools and districts, Professional Development for teachers may already be set.  Even if it is not, the effect on classroom teaching (if that's what standardized tests are meant to effect) is not likely to come until February or March, and then in some more or less forced and improvised form in order to improve next year's results.

Let's say a school does not want to teach to the test in that way, but wants to take deficiencies uncovered in it's results seriously.  The teaching and learning that happened in 08-09 is being assessed on tests being given now in October of 09-10.  Results come back in January of this year and teachers, administrators, and curriculum coordinators meet over the remainder of the year to discuss systemic improvements to the curriculum, which they implement for the 10-11 school year.  The effects of those improvements on students will not show up on the test until students are tested in the 11-12 school year with the results coming back in January of 2012.  The students whose test scores  triggered the curriculum revisions will be four grades further along than they were in the year of the teaching and learning being assessed.  For example, 5th graders in 08-09 whose learning is being assessed and reported on as new 6th graders in 09-10 initiating a change to the curriculum when they will be 7th graders in 10-11, will be in the 8th grade in 11-12 when their learning from 10-11 will be assessed and reported on.

Complicate this further in an urban district with a transient student population.  Or a rural district that has a migrant population.  Or in a district that has two or three K-5 schools, a middle school, and a high school that may have to align its curriculum as part of the solution and you get a picture of what this kind of testing is doing to the sleep habits of principals and superintendents as the short term impact of the stakes moves faster than the long term impact of the solutions.

1 comment:

Marty Foley said...

Testify, brother.
One of the most hackneyed expressions that gets thrown around in education circles is that 'assessment drives instruction'. But when asked to explain what that means, how many educators can given a clear response? Too many bureaucratic edu-speak jingoists justify the over-emphasis in testing with catch-phrases that have no meaning.
OK, that's enough crankiness from me for one day.