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Articles: Testing

According to the “SAT Report on College & Career Readiness” released in September, only 43 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2012 were academically prepared for college by their high school graduation. This number represents the percentage of students who met the SAT benchmark score of 1550. Research shows these students are more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, and have higher first-year college GPAs and higher rates of retention. The class of 2011 also had only 43 percent of SAT takers hit the benchmark.

When it comes to transitioning to the Common Core, this is not the time for hesitation. There is too much at stake and too much to accomplish in the very short time before the 2014-2015 assessments are administered by SMARTER Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Of course, no one wants to hurry into a mistake that would be costly. So what do you do if you haven’t yet put all of the pieces together to transition to the Common Core State Standards?

Project-based learning looks different, and may seem messier, than traditional instruction. Administrators visiting PBL classrooms shouldn’t expect to see orderly rows of students moving through the curriculum together. Instead, they’re likely to find small teams of students working on investigations of open-ended questions. Students should be able to explain what they’re doing and how activities relate to the project goals.

Ask high school juniors at Da Vinci Charter Academy in the Davis (Calif.) Joint Unified School District, to explain the causes and consequences of war in American history, and you won’t get a rote recitation of dates and places.

Instead, these students are able to demonstrate their learning by screening the preview for a feature film they produced on the conflict in Afghanistan through the eyes of a young American soldier. They can offer highlights of their interviews with Vietnam veterans, which they contributed to the Library of Congress as primary source material.

ACT announced recently it will expand its assessment reach to students across K12. ACT’s “next generation” of assessments, as it is called, will assess students in grades 3 to 12 beginning in 2014 and then expand to include all students, beginning in kindergarten. The plan was met with mixed reviews from those resistant to more testing. However, with the latest 2012 ACT score results, released Aug. 22, revealing that 60 percent of graduates are not prepared for college and careers, the additional assessments seem to have merit.

A De Soto (Ill.) Grade School teacher helps a student with an assignment last fall. Illinois’ standardized test results show that the achievement gap among elementary school students is narrowing.

A friend of mine is in the midst of a yearlong quest to lose 20 pounds before her high school reunion. She starts each day by stepping onto a bathroom scale to measure her progress. The results are not coming as quickly as she would like. Of course, my friend could just stop her daily weigh-ins or convince herself that the scale is of no use in her effort because it isn’t as accurate as it could be. But she knows better. So she continues the slow, tough, unglamorous work of changing her eating and exercise habits to reach her goal.

Resistance to High Stakes Testing Spreads

A rising tide of protest is sweeping across the nation as growing numbers of parents, teachers, administrators and academics take action against high-stakes testing. Instead of test-and-punish policies, which have failed to improve academic performance or equity, the movement is pressing for broader forms of assessment. From Texas to New York and Florida to Washington, reform activists are pressing to reduce the number of standardized exams.

Every time I get a chance to talk to parents, I ask them this question. “What do you most want your children to get out of their school experience?” The answers, by and large, are not surprising.

On July 30, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap, released a study that, according to David Keeling, vice president of communications, tells a story of systemic neglect for our nation’s best teachers.

Parents fight for and win with Parent Trigger Law.

Since the law went into effect in December 2010, the trigger had yet to be pulled on California’s Parent Trigger Law—that is, until a Southern California Superior Court ruled July 23 in favor of a group of parents from the Desert Trails Elementary School, part of the Adelanto (Calif.) School District.

The Whittier Union High School District administrators who organized the Whatever It Takes campaign.

In 1969, a concern with the deep inequity of students’ experiences and opportunities in traditional school systems first drove social studies teacher Rick DuFour to begin advocating for the kind of reforms that would jell into his transformative model, Professional Learning Communities at Work, some 16 years later. The core belief of the PLC at Work model—that all students should have access to the most rigorous curriculum and that all students should learn, was counter to common practices in the era when DuFour taught.

0ne in four students under the age of six comes from an immigrant family in which at least one parent does not speak English, says Maki Park, early education policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).

07/2012 to 08/2012
Saying Goodbye
After six years, Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, has decided to step down. Wilhoit was a key in working with the National Governors Association to develop the Common Core State Standards.

A new survey of Louisiana schools reveals a critical issue facing most states nationwide: schools are lacking the technology needed to conduct online testing required by the Common Core State Standards. Although the looming requirement that all testing be conducted online has been discussed, the degree to which states are unprepared has not been known. And only five school systems meet the requirements.

There was a time when it seemed a day didn’t go by without reading about Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, known for her passion for raising student achievement—and for her aggressive style—became a symbol for the new school reform movement.