Friday, February 15, 2008

What fresh hell is this? ...CATS Now Penalizing Students for Following Test Directions?

Educators complain of lost time
and bad information from KDE

Some Kentucky teachers are mad.

Not your run-of-the-mill kind of mad, but the kind that comes from feelings of betrayal; like when you boss gives you bad information that only serves to keep you from reaching your goals - the goals your boss will later blame you for missing.

Some think KDE has withheld vital information on the CATS assessment - information about questionable assessment practices. Others have welcomed the news, as though they just received insider information that might give them a competitive edge against other schools.

Kentucky School News and Commentary started hearing concerns from teachers yesterday that the scoring directions being provided to the schools by KDE is in error; and following KDE's directions would prevent students from receiving high scores on their open response questions (ORQ).

As one Kentucky principal explained it,

"...Here is what KDE is not telling you... we sent a team straight to the testing source (Measured Progress) and found out that the way we have been told to do ORQs by KDE will get us no higher than a 2 with this new company. To get higher -- students MUST make connections, inferences, and extensions."

And, the spectre of ethical concerns was raised by the approach being used by Measured Progress. Some Grant County teachers learned that,
"The question does not always mean what it says. There is hidden meaning in some of the questions...List does not just mean list. The hidden meaning is list and explain or list and describe."

This means that Kentucky students (some as young as 9-years old) will be asked to do one thing...but will be assessed on something else - some secret rubric. How is a student to know which questions have a secret rubric, and which do not? What are the ethics of penalizing students for following instructions?

Measured Progress told the Grant Countians that,

"We must coach the students up on this. As a matter of routine, students must do more than what is asked of them by the question prompt."

So, they ask the kids a question, and if a compliant student answers precisely as instructed, they get a weaker score.

This is NOT how Kentucky teachers have been instructed to prepare students or score ORQs. KDE's Tips for designing Open Response Questions directs teachers to,

"specify exactly what you want students to answer... as opposed to ambiguous terms ... Use simple and direct language. You are evaluating what students know rather than attempting to determine if they can decipher the question."

Measured Progress not only requires students to decipher the questions, but to divine them.

This is lousy enough. But if that's the way its going to be, why didn't Kentucky teachers learn about it much earlier, and from KDE?

The National Council on Measurement in Education's Code of Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement says,

"Those who prepare individuals to take assessments and those who are directly or indirectly involved in the administration ... including teachers, administrators, and assessment personnel, have an important role in making sure that the assessments are administered in a fair and accurate manner. Persons who prepare others for, and those who administer, assessments have a professional responsibility to...inform the examinees about the assessment prior to its administration, including the assessment information will be judged or scored..."

Well, it's now mid February (weeks away from the CATS testing window) and Kentucky teachers are just now learning how they must prepare their students to score well - and not from KDE.

NCME's ethical code also states,

"Persons who educate or inform others about assessment have a professional responsibility to...remain competent and current in the areas in which they teach and reflect that in their instruction..."

"provide reasonable opportunities for individuals to ask questions about the assessment procedures or directions prior to and at prescribed times during the administration of the assessment." ...

Kentucky teachers have apparently had some opportunity to ask questions, but have been given wrong answers by the folks in charge.

Did KDE know about this...but not say?

Or, did KDE not know what Measured Progress was up to?

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