Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Here we go: Board of Ed considers testing options

updating as we go...Note that they will do opening remarks, then the PARCC results, then the vote. I'm going to stick it all in one post, though.
The room is full, but only just (I've seen it much more so). What is full is the DESE staff section (to overflowing), and they don't all have to be here for the items on the agenda. Just getting a quorum now; Chair Paul Sagan just came in. He announced that they're still missing a few people "and one is stuck on a bridge" so they're going to wait a few minutes.

Sagan: glad to see so many people here after their public testimony last night
introductions; approval of minutes
Commissioner Chester: Foundation Budget Review Commission released its final report at end of October
"often the case that we get news about the effectiveness of our education system and don't sufficiently pause to take note of that"
2015 NAEP results: among top states in reading and math
"in all areas scored well above national average"
decline in eighth grade math of concern; quite a few states experienced declines in fourth or eighth grade math
"on virtually every disaggreagation on NAEP, our students outperform their counterparts nationally" MA students outperform counterparts
exception is in Hispanic 8th grade reading
continuing to move forward with organizational review: nearing conclusion
ACLU report on student privacy: reviewing report, most policies locally determined
Eighth annual fall summit: showcasing promising practices and resources
"very concerned about the status of Southbridge"
have conducted an on site district review; has made limited progress since identification as low performing
"You will be hearing more from me as the year progresses"

PARCC results: 
school and district results now released
Lee: we were the first state to release school and district results (around Veterans' Day)
some information put together to try to contextualize results
average school seeing about 60% of students in ELA3-8 meeting expectations; 41% of urban districts; 38% of Commissioner's Districts
"there was quite a lot of variation in these results"
in math, average district 54% meeting expectations;
Leominster exceeded state averages (!)
Chicopee, Framingham, and Revere greater than 50%
"and these are really excellent results" having seen other results around the country
Malden had a transitional growth percentile of 60 in math
in Newton, Mason Rice Elementary, 95% met expectations in ELA, 92% in math
"brand new test, brand new scales"
about 8% lower meeting expectations than MCAS, but it varies by grade
average scaled score is 750 (when average student is meeting expectations)
transitional student growth percentile (tSGP) about 25% showed high growth (greater than 60), about 25% showed low growth (less than 40)
they've created a transitional Composite Performance Index (which allows for comparison to MCAS)
and now they have charts, which I don't have...if someone grabs a photo, I'll add it
linking score from old MCAS score to scale on new PARCC scale: large representative samples allows for comparison of CPI over time
now having a quibble over "average/normal/typical"
academic peers score within a range; the question is how any single student does within that range of scores of his or her peers
Fryer: purely relative measure? if I stay the same and everyone goes down, then I show growth?
it's a little odd
Lee argues "we're educators and we're optimistic"
students generally are growing against their peers
Fryer: we should be more clear; if some students are doing the same, but some worse, that isn't growth
Noyce: "but this is a harder test...there's more content on it" At some point you're going to be able to say that we're doing better
Fryer: if everyone were to do fantastic on this growth, we'd see no growth
Chester: "it wasn't that long ago that we didn't have the growth statistic...felt that that measure in conjunction with achievement" gave a more complete perspective
"to provide a more nuanced & dimensional picture"
school by school results (is more or less a bell curve)
McKenna: concern I have is that PARCC originally had many more, and still it took to the middle of November to get results
Lee: standard setting process took til September
McKenna: suggestion is that would not happen again?
Lee: won't say we'll have results in June, but it will be a lot earlier

open responses will still be being scored in June and July
Chester: always these tensions and trade offs; two testing windows allowed for earlier open response and earlier results
expect results next summer, next time

Discussion on next test
draft motion is Commissioner's recommendation
they just brought both finance and legal to the table for this
Chester: remind the Board
"there was a lot of talk before testing....if you turn the hands of time back not much more than two decades...incredible" gaps around funding and student achievement
gone a long way towards dimishing inequities
"no longer have schoolhouses that have sixty students with broken toilets" though he's sure that we'll find one now that he's said that
"grand bargain" more money "measuring ourselves against strong learning outcomes"
Have made tremendous progress
"in terms of students having a better chance in all corners of the Commonwealth"
"good old days were not very good for a lot of kids in the Commonwealth"
believe that MCAS has reached the point of diminishing returns
PARCC much more aspirational: linking writing and reading, applications of learning progressions in mathmatics
"can do a lot more neat things that are engaging for kids"
make assessment for accessible (using technology)
"we need to retain our agency over the assessment program as we go forward"
Chester's recommendation:
  1. RFP to undergo a next-generation assessment for spring 2017; uisng PARCC with augmentation
  2. in spring 2016, districts that used PARCC use PARCC again; districts that used MCAS can switch to PARCC. MCAS will have PARCC questions
  3. technical advisory committees representing K-12, higher ed, assessment experts for policies on tests (including adding history and science)
  4. review panels to review ELA and math frameworks
  5. commit to computer-based testing; statewide for 2019 testing; state to work with districts on funding; "and if we have to adjust that timeline, we will"
  6. districts using PARCC in 2016 will be held harmless  (note change: regardless of if it's the first or second time); this is true of teacher evaluation as well
  7. only current MCAS for grade 10 for spring 2016; graduation requirement through class of 2019
  8. new PARCC memorandum to fully protect Massachusetts use of PARCC intellectual property
  9. will remain in PARCC consortium "so long as it remains adventageous to the Commonwealth"
"important to me that Board feel confident and comfortable" with decision
Sagan: open to questions, then comments "as before controversial" votes
calls on Peyser to speak
Peyser: he's reading this, BTW
"not simply compromise, and certainly not a political decision"
stronger assessment system than would be possible for either on its own
must ensure assessment is "truly world class"
must maintain control
MCAS is broader than just ELA and math; plus science and alternatives
"not an inconsistent add-on"
test systems and administration rules
"would draw on PARCC and MCAS content that has been thoughtfully created and thoroughly vetted"
moratorium: "I think that this would a grave error...persistent achievement gaps...valid and fair assessments"
"redouble our sense of urgency"
support next year "as necessary bridge to MCAS 2.0"
should adopt Commissioner's recommendation

Stewart: technical advisory committee: assessment experts are who?
Chester: calls for multiple committees
"standard practice...technical advisory panel...largely academics who are experts in the area of assessment development and implementation...not industry represenatives"
Stewart: add superintendents to panel, suggestion
Chester: goal would be to be inclusive in implementation
maximum inclusiveness and keeping things rolling
Stewart: in addressing the digital divide, what else is actually out there to build infastructure?
Chester: state funds, bond bill, MSBA discussion

Noyce: how many districts do you think will elect to give MCAS this year?
and what is the reason for offering choice rather than only doing PARCC & holding all harmless
Chester: given that core of recommendation is new test in 2017, didn't make sense to make change knowing that we'll change again in 2017
I don't know how to anticipate how many districts will give PARCC rather than MCAS
Sagan: I think you're giving a clear direction that this is the direction
Chester: yes, that is what I am telling superintendents if they want to be ready for next generation

Craven: no perfect time to look at these changes
what is in front of us is a direct response to what we've heard about MCAS
a link to a company that is looking at new pedagogical options
but don't need to preserve link to Pearson
fully in our governance and direct accountability
think we need to preserve "hybrid optionality"
"not even an option" for no test
Foundation Budget Review also on table: this is the other leg of the grand bargain
isn't just a lot of resources in testing
getting to next part of the conversation "which is where those investments should be made"
asking district to measure what they teach children
"number one concern that I have is that what we also learned in the 90's is that when they were developing the last test" lots of grassroots building
"everybody was at the table"
praises staff to be able to "bring those coalitions back together"
Massachusetts "has been very good at bringing those coalitions together"
support the hybrid test

Doherty: relatively new on the Board
went to five out of six hearings
heard very sincere people telling me that PARCC is a better test; equal number test tell me that MCAS was better
better predictor of college success (both ways); research said no statistical difference between PARCC and MCAS " and you can throw in SAT, too"
"I have to say with all due modesty...I don't have a clue which is a better test, PARCC or MCAS"
since I have not been convinced that PARCC is better, I don't think we should give up MCAS
"why buy a pig in a poke?"
"sure we can revise MCAS"
opposed to abandoning MCAS and going through the upheaval and expense when we have a test that has served us well
"we really have to pay attention to what was said to us last night and at some of the other meetings'
"the use of these tests is wrong...firmly believe we're being led down a bad path by those who would push a test and punish mode"
have to take a hard look at how we use these test
"is anyone really surprised that the students in Lawrence and list of urban districts are not doing as well as students in Weston and other suburbs"
"the greatest predictor of student achievement is family income...and second is education level of the mother"
"we're not blaming the victim, we're stating what is the reality"
"I hope that we can support a moratorium on high stakes testing"

Morton: agree with much of what Ed has shared except for moratorium
think that what Commissioner has proposed does that
"Various aspects of the proposal will give us what was asked for last night"
concern we have to put into our analysis on number of tests, duration of tests
"have to give some thought to the test conditions we're putting children through"
concerned about age-appropriateness of questions
one concern is timeline: we may need more time for implementation of timeline
equity: "I don't want to add yet another challenge for low-income children that don't have level of technology that other children do"
"I don't want this to be another obstacle that low income children need to overcome" in order to achieve on the exam

Moriarity: have been following conversation from before time on Board
"I regret the conversation, to a certain extent"
wish that we had worked from the base there (before PARCC) in 2010
support recommendation
"our district does not pay for its own schools"
support comes from state
can't come from a system like Holyoke and not know that poor kids can learn
couldn't compare from one poor community to the next
"have had five years of intensive, well-intentioned work to advance the Commonwealth"
won't be tethered to Common Core in ELA or math, but will work with stakeholders, but build our own way going forward
(kind of a contradiction there)
Chester: shouldn't be afraid to refine and change
"don't want to signal that we're levelling the field and starting from scratch"

McKenna: "there's a lot of things I've heard that I agree with"
good work that was done on Chapter 70 and what resulted from it
"but I think the pendulum has swung and the national discourse on testing has recognized it as well"
"what was a good thing and what is accountability...has somehow taken the ting of punative"
should not be punative, but not the tone we hear in the public discourse
results have to come in a way that can help learning
"have to hear the results on the test, on items, so they can be formative, and we haven't done a very good job of that either"
"I wonder how much good we've done with testing to close the achievement gap"
"I would argue not much, if any"
if there's anyone who should be able to figure how to close the achievement gap, we should
if it's a new test, we can't do it by 2017
even if it's a combination of MCAS and PARCC, it's a new test
depending on what you pick, how you combine it, you have to beta test it, test it again
"I'm not opposed to doing that...I think we've learned a great deal from giving PARCC"
"and if we were giving PARCC again, we might be able to fix those"
"owe it to our students to really do what we've learned from giving tests"
teacher test "was just horrendious"
"can't do it right if we're going to try to create a test in Sept 2016 and try to have it available spring 2017"
"if we were going to do this, we should have had this conversation six months ago, nine months ago"
don't think it's fair to children and districts
McKenna will vote NO
something in Commissioner's memo about performance based assessments; "could we be the first state to use performance based assessments?"
"what an opportunity"
some back and forth here about if she asked a question
Chester: typical test development need a three year lead time, some would argue for four
four years of item development
argues that they have time given test questions that exist
McKenna: I'm saying using all of the items in MCAS and PARCC and you reorder them, and figure out timing: you have to beta test it, and you have to set standards
"I don't think you can do it by 2017 and do it well"
hope that given more time, we could provide more time and resources for the kids who don't have the same access to technology
Sagan: if we get close and discover we need more time, we could hold harmless again, right?
McKenna; would be unfair for us to say we're going to try for 2017 but then not make it
"we should be better advice before we make this decision"
Chester: "this is not my recommendation in a vacuum"
did a fair amount of research
Craven: have been lessons learned and experience over how such tests have been administered
"Ground rules for districts on how they're going to administer the tests is better to get to them sooner rather than later"


Sagan: reminder to speak with your mics on
promises a break after the vote
invites Chester to talk about timeline and research done into it; also what's the backup plan
Chester: starts by telling this story, though he says it was soccer
advisory panel to advise us on our assessment
over to...someone: challenging timeline, having discussed with panel and testing vendors
"we're confident that we could develop a test to give to our students by 2017 that would be technically sound"
would be standard setting process as there was this year but would have more control over that timeline

Noyce: reflect on testimony we've heard over past several months
share concern over "high stakes punative test"
"continue to ask for whom?"
only high stakes in high school "which one has to consider a high-stakes time of life"
think if we look at impact on schools and districts of accountability
majority has been "assistance, targeted assistance"
"think there are few of us that would look at Lawrence and think that kids are worse off than they were before"
"a test can't eliminate an achievement gap"
"has empowered parents...has moved dial towards justice, I believe"
if we could figure out how to get poor kids to perform well on tests, we would do it;"we're not mean people, and we're not that stingy"
"That's my general statement in favor of high stakes testing"
thinks time spend on testing is misguided adult response
difference between formative assessment and interim assessment
"however we go forward, I would urge the department to work through...with districts to say 'any other assessments you do besides the one at the end of the year should be formative assessment; kids should be learning from them'"
"we need to push administrators towards them, too"
never clear whether assessment system meant a bunch of other things
"worth looking back towards this...opening towards history and social studies"
"I think that if we made that available to educators it would show that we are listening to their concerns"
possibly a way forward in ELA and math
independent investigation in high school could replace science MCAS
Noyce in favor
would support two year hold harmless (including 2017)
"I think it would create goodwill"
think working of frameworks "has been a tremendous piece" of success of Massachusetts
"with or without that, I intend to vote for this proposal"
Chester: "One thing I worry about having a moratorium on accountability for too long, is there are schools where students are systematically receiving the short end of the stick"
"would worry about waiting too long about calling out those schools, not for the purposes of punishing them, but for getting those students out of those situtations"

Stewart: Board has a mission statement to improve and strengthen the Commonwealth's system of education
"I agree that we have to get this right, but how do we do that?"
set up right conditions for all learners and for teachers
"it's not through a standardized test"
"this is the rub, how do we do it"
"there's certainly a lot of other places we should be putting our time and energy thinking about this"
"we're promoting another generation of that same style of testing"
"I think that's a mistake; I think we need to talk a pause"
need to take ownership about punative nature of accountability
I think that's a no

Willyard: ran for this seat
"can and should be impeached if I go against how the students feel about this particular issue"
feel uncomfortable going against these students and how they feel
"assessment should be rigorous, but should be" to intentionally set limits on students
speaking on behalf of students in the Commonwealth
"I learned that we go to school to learn; unfortunately, that isn't the case anymore. I'm going to school to pass, and that's unacceptable to me"

Fryer: Feel like we missed an opportunity
would be great to have a better test, that engenders great instruction
quibbling over a lot of things, this is about assessments that are going to give them opporunitites in their schools
deep concerns about the timeline
"drives me a little nuts...poverty is not destiny..."
which overall set of practices is going to give kids that opportunity
concerned about timeline, but don't want to hold schools harmless too long
asserts that achievement gap has been cut in half "by numbers I've looked at"
how to be sure that hybrid test truly becomes hybrid
"think it's dangerous for this board or any other to throw our hands up and say there's nothing we can do"
would like specifics on how we're going to get the hybrid by 2017 and how we'll get the governance structure
Chester: work with chair on creating subcommittee to keep Board informed
start RFP process, convene advisory panels to look at frameworks, existing assessments
what would ideal consitution of 2017 MCAS look like?
beginning of summer for starting work with contractors; will know by then when they say they'll be able to deliver
"if we're not hitting any of those benchmarks, would certainly work through Board to keep you informed"
McKenna: no one here thinks that poverty is destiny...
amendment to hold harmless 2016 and 2017 to what Penny said
"it's not like DESE's taking a vacation because we don't have the final" piece
"does give breathing room and gives us all that breathing room"
Doherty: on the advisory committee, have you considered makeup? classroom personnel? district personnel?
Chester: would be committees plural, wouldn't even be one for ELA and one for math
anticipate a strong representation of our educators
"will be very interested in recommendations from professional organizations" regarding who is on them

Peyser: thinks hold harmless primarily involves Level 3
Level 4 and 5 is at Commissioner's discretion
"declaring that you're held harmless if you take PARCC seems to me to send the wrong signal"
if you're hold harmless from those in Level 2 from falling into Level 3, you're locking in those in Level 3 from climbing out
only MCAS districts then can fall in
Wulfson: bottom 20% might not necessarily be 20%; you could move out
Peyser: longer this goes forward, more anomolies we'll see

Sagan: thanks Commissioner
"Clearly can look at the same things and interpret it differently" (regarding Board)
Governor asked us to make this a very open process "and I think we did"
prepared to accept Commissioner's recommendation
"can't walk away from where we have failed and let kids down"
"going to do something about"
"Creating comprehensive assessments is really, really hard"
think a moratorium would be to back away from "our obligation"
to hold adults in system accountable for the opportunities they provide to children
to provide tools to adults to do so
"a long time ago we started this process of having assessments...and we didn't rush to judgment then and I don't think we have either"
"think we're up to it"
"should really look at how we're testing kids"
"digital learning is here to stay; it's not a fad"
have to figure out how to make the testing modern and affordable
don't think anyone thinks we're going to throw the test out and start over
thinks that overtesting "is a town problem, a district problem"
what can we learn from each other "so the joy of learning isn't squeezed out of these classroom"
"same experience happening so differently"
he's speaking here of the difference in testinomy between teachers testifying
will ask to form a special committee of Board

McKenna wants to amend motion to hold harmless until spring 2018; thus hold harmless in 2016 and 2017
note that this will throw off the vote from previous counts, as some will object to this who otherwise support
McKenna would suggest that new test be 2018
Sagan: under a waiver which will be at risk in one more year says Fed
don't think we should leave option for one more year
McKenna: would disagree with you about the waiver situation
CA has gotten a waiver from testing for three years; ESEA going to renewal
"a lot of balls in the air at the moment"
Noyce propose amendment only be schools and districts and teachers be held harmless until 2017
and use new test in 2017
"think that the sooner we move to the new test, the better"
legal: accept Commissioner's recommendation with amendment "provided the Department shall hold schools and districts harmless in the accountability system in 2016 and 2017"
Noyce's motion, McKenna's second
Chester: "I definitely am not supportive of it"
"their future is being harmed"
"more than just putting a school in receivership"
McKenna: "it's really hard to create a comprehensive test"
have already agreed that there be one year, "this is not like out of the blue"
"we're not talking about A test; we're talking about NINETEEN tests!"
"we need this time to do it right"
"it's one more year than you suggested"
Peyser: run the risk of losing the momentium
has been described in an overly broad way
"need to wrestle with any technical anomolies" on not showing reality of schools
"should not let ourselves off the hook" on that judgment
Sagan: agree with Secretary
'can be careful without taking the pressure off"
"I don't think we should slow down that process"
Willyard: our competency determinations are still set in stone until 2019
would that be affected by the waiver expiring in 2019
Fryer: what contraints are for additional year?
Chester: "our accountability regime is set up with a graduated classification"
increased levels of state intervention with higher levels
"my understanding is that this would take out of our hands" the ability to intervene in districts
Fryer: but Peyser said that Level 4 and 5 are at your discretion?
Chester: sense of amendment is there is no discretion
Fryer: any sense of how many schools that is?
Chester: think of two classes of schools: schools currently in Level 3 that we'd be considering moving into Level 4 status
smaller set of Level 4 schools that despite a number of years in Level 4 intervention, maybe 7 or 8, I'm very concerned about them
Morton: going from one level to the next: my understanding is that it's not only on basis on test scores
Chester: one place it is determinative is Level 3: lowest 20% of state
Sagan: "without the scores you can't put someone in Level 3"
Noyce: can't go down based on this year's test scores
Sagan: how many kids therefore are really at risk, since you can move schools that are Level 3 to Level 4 or 5
Noyce: a new test will be given in 2017; even schools that have done PARCC don't know what test is going to look like, we don't know how smoothly that implementation will go;
"I feel that we could garner goodwill among educators of the Commonwealth, without them thinking we could just sit on our laurels another year"
schools would be moving towards strong implementation
"I believe that you have other data besides what happens to come out from 2017 as evidence for moving forward with them"
Peyser: people don't like labels
"there's no penalty for Level 3, perhaps access to more resources" (huh?)
running outside statutory authority since Level 3 is bottom 20%
memo had hold harmless only for those making shift to PARCC
Moriarty: very mindful of what I'm listening to schools that are in a great deal of trouble
('though he'd like a great majority of the board)
could you move ahead given discussion here today?
Chester: "accountability system has been very effective at getting people's attention"
"does take off the table a very effective tool in the toolbox for getting the attention of schools and districts"
McKenna: Commissioner's recommendation held harmless those taking PARCC
"this amendment holds harmless those who are taking a new test for the first time"
Willyard: "on the basis of test scores" added?
Peyser: districts that are currently in Level 3 will continue to be in Level 3 throughout this time?
Wulfson: "they could move up"
Morton: "there must be some language that we come up with to address the Commissioner's concern while still gettting the relief we're looking for"
legal: one suggestion is to vote Commissioner's motion as presented
then return to 2017 next month
Sagan: thinks we could do it several times
Craven: look at how far we've gone in this week
go back to earlier comment on administrative pieces of this
"think we're rushing in to potentially amend the amendment"
why are we making this determination right now when we meet next month?
crash course in parliamentary procedure!
Sagan thought they could vote the whole thing at once: have to vote on the amendment alone

VOTE ON THE AMENDMENT: this is just the hold harmless amendment
to hold schools and districts harmless in the accountability system "based on test scores"
Amendment carries 7-4


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