Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CATS Task Force Divided Over Writing Portfolios

If a vote had been taken today it is unclear whether Commissioner Draud's Assessment and Accountability panel would keep writing portfolios in the CATS assessment.

What was clear is that at least ten members are deeply divided on either side of the issue.

Acknowledging the divisiveness of the issue, the Commish, who attended the first bit of the meeting by phone due to a follow up doctor's appointment with his neurologist in Cincinnati, encouraged the Task Force to move on to consideration of Arts & Humanities and other issues. Citing a mid-November deadline so that the report could go to the state board for approval and be prepared in advance of the 30-day legislative session in January, Draud said,

"...if we can't reach a consensus on this issue, then I'd like to see us move on
and table the issue."
But the Task Force went a different way, some even doubting aloud whether the November deadline was necessary, and spent the entire meeting discussing writing portfolios and a proposal to substitute a "program review" without resolution.

The panel heard a list of 13 recommendations from writing consultant, Dr. Charles Whitaker, who recommended that Kentucky,
Retain a balanced writing assessment that includes Multiple-choice Items for Revising and Editing On-demand Writing Tests and Writing Assessment Portfolios.
Whitaker argued that these methods provide useful information and about students' writing and the effectiveness of schools' writing programs.

Sen Dan Kelly (R) Springfield outlined his concerns.
"...We've been at it for 18 years...We're not seeing that the program, as devised, is getting the results we want and we're hearing that nobody else in the country is doing it....and the problem I think is the worst problem, is...so many of the teachers are saying, 'We can't use the writing portfolio like we should because we've got these assessment restrictions, in order to try to make it a more valid assessment'."
Under questioning from Rep Harry Moberley (D) Richmond, Whitaker, said,
"I have to say to you, this bluntly, that if you take the writing portfolio from assessment, I think there will be a dramatic reduction of instruction in writing in the state."
Moberley argued that the problem wasn't a bad idea that was tried and failed, but rather, a good idea that was never supported enough to make it as effective as it might have been.
"We've never had the professional development that has really taught [teachers how to embed writing instruction into the portfolio to make class time efficient]; we've never had the administrative leadership or professional development for administrators to make that happen."
Wayne Roberts, representing the state assessment coordinators, suggested substituting a "working portfolio" with a "program review" for the existing assessment portfolio. The balance of the meeting was largely concerned with his proposal.
Whitaker opined about the program review, "...A lot would depend on the details of who's doing the reviewing, what are they reviewing ...and what are the criteria..on that program review.
And that can be slop, or it can be a high quality review.
I'd be very careful to ensure that we had a pretty clear idea of who's going to do it, what kind of training they've had. Do they know about writing? Have they served as scorers in writing portfolio work? Do they know the criteria of different types and forms of writing for different purposes - academic, analytic, technical? ...How skilled will they have to be to do a good program review?
...We'd better have conviction that whatever we do with a program review is going to result in good instruction and good curriculum for our kids...
I can see the same problems appearing in a program review...

1 comment:

Richard Innes said...

The four-hour stalemate on portfolios was regrettable, but probably not the most noteworthy thing to come from this meeting. For more on that: http://bluegrasspolicy-blog.blogspot.com/2008/10/cats-assessment-and-accountability-task_15.html