Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Assessment Standards Deja Vu ....All Over Again

Early in 2001 when NCLB was beginning to unleash its "new and improved" assessment requirements on our nation's schools, I expressed my fears to the Herald-Leader this way:

Richard Day, principal of Cassidy Elementary School in Fayette County, fears another test will create a "crazy quilt of assessment.""I would like to see a seamless, comprehensive testing system that flows from local to state [to] federal levels; that doesn't interfere with each other," Day said. "I'm afraid that what we're going to get instead is just another test layered on top of what we already have."
So please forgive me for reacting to this lead from an Education Week (subscription) story this week.

Is it possible that Kentucky's assessment problems might be improved, in part, by international standards?

Benchmarks Momentum on Increase
Governors’ group, state chiefs eyeing international yardsticks.

No longer content with the patchwork quilt of assessments used to measure states’ K-12 performance, top policy groups are pushing states toward international benchmarking as a way to better prepare students for a competitive global economy.

The National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and
the standards-advocacy group Achieve are working both independently and together to examine how well states are doing compared with other countries and to weigh which yardsticks would prove most useful. It remains to be decided whether states would participate in well-established international tests such as the Program for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, or would measure their academic standards against those of other countries...

The PISA covers math, science, and reading literacy, is given to 15-year-olds in 69 countries, and focuses on problem-solving and work- & college-ready skills. In 2006, American students ranked lower 17th out of 30 in science and fifth from the bottom in math.

  • NGA wants to present the case for international benchmarking to the governors this summer.
  • NGA & CCSSO are recruiting states for participation in PISA.
  • 32 states presently work with Achieve to align with international standards.
  • Some fear that comparisons based on international standards would be overly sensitive to poverty in a state rather than the quality of its teachers.
  • International workforce competitiveness is a concern for governors who see big jumps in the number of post-secondary degrees in other countries.
  • Former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit is now the executive director of the CCSSO.
But with many parents, teachers and legislators suffering from assessment fatigue already, as demonstrated by passage of Senate Bill 1, the idea of international standards might cause a political meltdown.

No comments: