Monday, August 24, 2015

Testing Doesn't Measure Up for Americans

Heavy Opposition to Two Key Elements of NCLB:
Accountability and Teacher Evaluation based  on Test Scores

This from Gallup:
The verdict is in, and test scores are out as the ultimate measure of school effectiveness, according to more than three-quarters of U.S. adults surveyed for the 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Instead, more U.S. adults believe engagement with class work and feeling hopeful about the future are important indicators of school effectiveness.

PDK, a professional association for educators, and Gallup have partnered on this important education poll work for decades, and these current findings reveal an intense desire for a new measure of what makes schools great. About one in 10 U.S. adults say students' scores on standardized tests are very important measures of school effectiveness.

Still, test scores continue to be central to any conversation about school performance. They inform strategies on how to close the achievement gap and are a straightforward tool for reporting outcomes and comparing schools. But test scores -- as different as they may look from student to student and school to school -- fall short in helping us understand what makes schools great and students successful.

Test scores cannot be the sole common denominator by which we understand or describe diverse student bodies and school systems. School is not only where students learn and apply information, but also where they can discover and practice what they do best and learn to be a better version of themselves. Schools should be places where students are excited about learning and where they begin to build the foundation for their own unique future.

The public's overwhelming support of the importance of engagement with class work and student hopefulness about the future mirrors the direction that many schools nationwide are taking by adopting positive behavior and positive school culture programs. Many of these programs focus on noncognitive learning domains that are critical to student success.

Adding positive measures to the school effectiveness equation is a core value of the Gallup Student Poll -- an annual Web survey for fifth- through 12th-graders that measures student engagement with school and hope for the future, among other elements that help schools make students ready for the future. The results from this survey complement test scores and other metrics tracked by schools.

Like thousands of other parents around the nation, I'll soon be registering my oldest daughter for her first college entrance exam. I will encourage her to plan ahead, prepare well and perform the best that she can. But before she receives her score, I will remind her of three important truths: her value is not determined by test scores; the opportunity to do good in this world is not measured by the exam; and her potential exceeds the parameters of the exam to tell the tale of her unique talents. Remind a student of these three truths today, so they know that test scores, while important, are not the full measure of a person or an education.
 This from the Washington Post:
Americans overwhelmingly think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in public schools and that test scores are not the best way to judge schools, teachers or students, according to a national poll.

The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the longest-running survey of Americans’ views on public education.
The survey showed that the public rejects school accountability built on standardized tests, which has been federal policy through No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush.

Signed into law in 2002, No Child mandated annual tests in reading and math and required schools to raise scores every year or face penalties. Through its own policies and grant programs, the Obama administration has further emphasized testing by requiring states to evaluate teachers based on test scores.
“You see a solid public rejection of [testing] as a primary policy,” said Linda Darling Hammond, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, after reviewing the poll.
A majority of respondents — 64 percent — said too much emphasis has been placed on testing, and a majority also said the best way to measure the success of a school is not through tests but by whether students are engaged and feel hopeful about the future.

“Too many kids in too many schools are bored,” said Joshua P. Starr, a former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland who is now chief executive of PDK International, a network of education professionals. “Parents maybe see that and they want their kids to be engaged in schools.”

Many Americans also said they think students should be judged by multiple measures, including student work, written teacher observations and grades. And they overwhelmingly think teacher quality is the best way to improve education, followed by high academic standards and effective principals.

Although the national debate over public education has become polarized during the past several years, with bitter divisions inside and between political parties, the PDK/Gallup poll showed a surprising level of agreement in the public at large.

The 2015 survey, based on telephone and Internet polling performed in May, includes for the first time a breakdown of responses to some questions by racial groups as well as political parties.
A majority of respondents — regardless of political affiliation — opposed the notion of evaluating teachers based in part on test scores, an idea heavily promoted by the Obama administration and fought by teachers unions.

When it comes to the role of the federal government in public schools, a majority of respondents said Washington should play no role in holding schools accountable, paying for schools or deciding the amount of testing. Seven out of 10 respondents said they wanted state and local districts to have those responsibilities.

Regarding academic standards, more than six out of 10 said the expectations for what students should learn is important to school improvement. But a majority — 54 percent — is opposed to the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 academic benchmarks adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia that have been under fire by critics on the left and right.

Despite the view that there is too much standardized testing, a majority of respondents said parents should not excuse their children from tests. A majority also said they think test scores are “somewhat important” in judging the effectiveness of their local schools.

In a rebuttal to those who say states should use common tests so that the public can compare how students perform across state boundaries, fewer than one in five public school parents said it was important to know how children in their communities performed on standardized tests compared with students in other districts, states or countries.

But nearly one in three blacks said using standardized tests to compare their local schools with schools in other districts and other states is “very important.” Just 15 percent of whites gave the same response.

Overall, the public is happy with local schools, with 57 percent of public school parents giving their school an A or a B for performance. But just 19 percent had that opinion of public schools nationwide.

“Clearly, there is anxiety about what’s happening in teaching and learning,” said Andres Alonso, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former chief executive of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Respondents said they support charter schools, and more than six out of 10 say parents should be able to choose any school for their children within their school district.

Overall, 57 percent of respondents were opposed to vouchers and 31 percent were in favor. Public school parents split in a similar way.

But by political party, Republicans were divided on vouchers, with 46 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Democrats were strongly opposed to vouchers, with 71 percent against and 16 percent in favor. Independents opposed vouchers by a margin of about 3 to 2.

On some issues, there were clear differences of opinion along racial lines. Blacks tended to be more supportive of the Common Core and standardized testing than whites, and a majority of blacks — 55 percent — gave President Obama an A or a B for his support of public schools, compared with 17 percent of whites.

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