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Articles: Testing

L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.

With a windstorm of constant changes in education, are we forgetting some of the basics? I’m not talking about readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic.

Have we, through the fog of technology and the pressures of highstakes testing, simply forgotten some of the basic concepts that veteran educators once took for granted?

Some parents argue high school final exams prepare students for college, but several universities including Harvard are phasing out such tests.

Maryland’s largest district dropped final exams for many high school students this fall, with more of the state’s schools following suit to cut back on time students spend preparing for and taking tests.

Students from Burton Hill Elementary School, part of Forth Worth ISD in Texas, get hands-on learning opportunities for all academic subjects using an outdoor garden and classroom.
Nationwide, some 94 percent of teachers in the school garden program reported seeing increased engagement from their students.
Burton Hill Elementary teachers attend professional development sessions to learn how to connect their lessons to activities in their school garden.
Over the past 12 years, REAL School Gardens has worked with more than 100 schools and trained 3,500 teachers.

School gardens used for instruction are on the rise nationwide, and with them, student engagement and test scores, according to a recent study.

The nonprofit REAL School Gardens works with corporations to build outdoor classrooms at low-income schools. The gardens include 150 square feet of vegetable beds, perennial and herb beds, rainwater collection systems, composting bins, earth science stations, and animal habitats.

Testing companies find themselves competing on a tougher playing field for state assessment contracts after a rocky first round of Common Core exams spurred new expectations from state and district education leaders.

In the past year, Pearson has lost testing contracts in Florida (to American Institutes for Research, or AIR), Texas (to Educational Testing Service, or ETS), Ohio (to AIR), and, most recently, New York (to Questar Assessment Inc.), according to each state’s department of education.

Ken Robinson proposes a transformation of the nation’s schools from an outmoded industrial system to a highly personalized, organic model.

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education


Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential, proposes a transformation of the nation’s schools from an outmoded industrial system to a highly personalized, organic model.

In 2012, nearly every state was part of either PARCC or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. As of this July, only 28 remained.

Public outcry over new standards-aligned tests led some states to cut funding, changing the exam landscape for 2015-16.

In 2012, nearly every state was part of either PARCC or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. As of this July, just 18 states remained in Smarter Balanced, and 10 (plus Washington, D.C.) had stuck with PARCC. Twenty-two states opted to use their own assessments.

At the Legacy Traditional School District in Arizona, Chief Academic Officer Bill Bressler is trying to bump up the number of computers for his students to just take the tests. Above, a teacher instructs a lesson including Common Core standards.

Given the lack of concrete data, savvy administrators are analyzing their districts’ experiences with the assessments to improve the testing process and communications next year.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart has tried to instill greater pride in his district’s urban schools.
Des Moines Public Schools celebrates its diversity in a state that remains predominantly white. A quarter of its students are Hispanic and nearly 18 percent are African American. About 100 different languages are spoken among the student body that includes refugees from Myanmar and Nepal.
Students created and set up colorful poles on the lawn of Findley Elementary, a high poverty school where many students receive free or reduced-price lunch.
Art teacher Lisa Hesse shows off Findley Elementary’s movable “Living Wall,” where students have combined arts and gardening in an eye-pleasing project examining how plants grow.
Des Moines’ Central Campus, a regional technical high school, offers a wide range of career-focused programs, including an extensive marine biology lab that students tend to 365 days a year.
Graduation rates have been rising steadily during Ahart’s tenure. The Class of 2014 hit an all-time high of nearly 82 percent, a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year.
About 100 different languages are spoken among the student body that includes refugees from Myanmar and Nepal.
Technology has played a major role in Des Moines' turnaround. It was one of the first district's in Iowa to launch a high school 1-to-1 program.
Art teacher Lisa Hesse leads students through movements to help them pay better attention during instruction time.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart strives to bring equity, pride and higher achievement to a once-struggling district that is far more diverse than the rest of Iowa. A garden of multicolored poles students have installed outside one low-income school taunt would-be vandals and represents Ahart's belief in the transformative power of education.

In Clear Lake Middle School, part of Clear Lake Community School District in northern Iowa, teachers have time every week to access student data and tailor instruction.

A northern Iowa principal has set aside time for teachers to dig into test data so they can adjust instruction and improve achievement on state tests.

Warren Berger's new books explores why questioning is neither taught nor rewarded in most schools.

In his book A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger says the art of inquiry is the foundation of advancements in science, medicine, mathematics and more. Yet, in our schools—the one place that should emphasize questioning—we value rote answers to standardized tests over challenging inquiry.

David Browne is superintendent of the Randolph, New Jersey public schools, a suburban K12 district of 4,800 students.

Student assessment in public education has taken on an unprecedented primacy during the 2014-15 school year, as states scramble to administer one of two new national assessments.

An ASCD survey found only a small number of people sensed a strong Common Core opt-out movement. (Click to enlarge_

Millions of students took Common Core tests this spring—and while it was business as usual in many districts, the spreading opt-out movement left some administrators caught between concerned parents and state requirements.

Murky state policies leave administrators in the lurch as more parents opt their children out of Common Core testing, according to a March report from the Education Commission of the States.

In many states, education departments remain silent on how districts should handle parent requests for opting students out of PARCC or Smarter Balanced testing, according to the report “Assessment Opt-Out Policies: State responses to parent pushback.”

When 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators were convicted in March of racketeering for altering student standardized test scores in a systemic cheating scandal uncovered six years ago, it left many shocked and others concerned about the tests themselves.

State investigators concluded that cheating had occurred in at least 44 schools, with nearly 180 employees accused of fixing students’ incorrect answers and inflating test scores.

Predictive analytics is becoming more common in both public- and private-sector hiring.

Big data and analytics now offer districts some clues about which teacher candidates will be the most effective in the classroom.

These programs are designed to accurately gauge the impact teacher candidates will have on student test scores. Analytics companies such as TeacherMatch and Hanover Research are working with hundreds of districts nationwide to aid in the hiring process.