Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What does Mass General Law say we should be doing on testing?

I'm planning on putting this together at greater length and in greater detail for testimony before the Board of Ed, but Scott O'Connell called yesterday, so here's a start: 

If you read today's T&G article regarding the EAW's vote for a freeze on standardized testing, you may be wondering what I'm talking about here:
 Worcester School Committee member Tracy O’Connell Novick argues that trend is at odds with the state’s own laws, which prescribe a more broad-based approach to testing.
“That’s my issue – we’re not in line with Massachusetts General Laws, and we’re not going to be with PARCC, either,” she said. 

 Assessment is described in often-referenced (but seldom quoted) M.G.L. chapter 69, section 1l.  It begins the description with this (emphasis throughout is mine):
 With respect to individual schools, the system shall include instruments designed to assess the extent to which schools and districts succeed in improving or fail to improve student performance, as defined by student acquisition of the skills, competencies and knowledge called for by the academic standards and embodied in the curriculum frameworks established by the board pursuant to sections one D and one E in the areas of mathematics, science and technology, history and social science, English, foreign languages and the arts, as well as by other gauges of student learning judged by the board to be relevant and meaningful to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers.
Given that MCAS and now PARCC have only ever been in ELA and math, plus science, we already are well off of what is called for. While periodically the Pioneer Institute calls for some sort of MCAS in history, the sort of broad-based assessment envisioned here is not something that has really ever been worked on.

But it gets worse:
The system shall be designed both to measure outcomes and results regarding student performance, and to improve the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction. In its design and application, the system shall strike a balance among considerations of accuracy, fairness, expense and administration.
..debatable, at best
The system shall employ a variety of assessment instruments on either a comprehensive or statistically valid sampling basis.
This in particular has never happened. We have no such variety of assessment instruments. We have this standardized test--acronym whatever it is--which is the single assessment instrument.
Such instruments shall be criterion referenced, assessing whether students are meeting the academic standards described in this chapter. As much as is practicable, especially in the case of students whose performance is difficult to assess using conventional methods, such instruments shall include consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios, and shall facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance.
The MCAS-Alt is that which is used "in the case of students whose performance is difficult to assess using conventional methods," and moves towards something close to a portfolio of authentically-assessed work. This, though, is much more of what is laid out here: "as much as is practicable," assessment is to "facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance."
The assessment laid out here isn't supposed to take students away from the work they're doing (and tie up computer labs and eliminate recess and gym and interrupt lunch classes); it's supposed to BE the work they're doing!

That isn't PARCC.
That isn't MCAS.

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