Presentation to Department of Ed public meeting on assessment

The June 10 USDE “Automated Scoring of Summative Assessments” public meeting in Chicago was eerily like a Pentagon briefing for vendors on the latest weapons technology.

USDE’s Ann Whelan, who chaired the meeting, actually wrapped up the day by saying, “We need to be bold and move the industry forward.” I wondered if we should all salute as she walked out.

The meeting was about creating computer-based and computer-scored assessments, a topic that seemed to be over the heads of many attendees (including me) but most seemed ready and willing (though not exactly able) to do whatever it takes to maintain their lucrative testing contracts.

The questions about using artificial intelligence (AI) to score tests raised many questions and evoked several assertions that multiple choice tests have “gotten a bad rap” and are still a “very good way” to test a lot of things: “Nothing is as valid or reliable as multiple choice.” And I’ll bet multiple choice will look even better to these guys as soon as we see a few examples of AI scores on student essays.

The most cogent comment, in my opinion, came from my son’s former kindergarten teacher, who happened to be there, much to my delight, and who said during public comment that she and other teachers considered  summative tests to be DOA – dead on arrival. They don’t help the student, they don’t help the teacher. She urged the USDE to focus on formative tests and forget about summative tests. Amen!

The testimony I prepared for this meeting is here. However, I was only given three minutes to present my comments, even though there were only four members of the public signed up, so I just ran over the main concerns that PURE and Parents Across America have about Obama and Duncan’s “better tests.”

I addressed the misuse and overuse of standardized tests, the false promise of better tests, how standardized tests narrow the curriculum, the way CPS and others only pretend to use multiple measures, bias in standardized tests, the failure of merit pay and other schemes to link teacher work to student scores, and the likelihood that the new national tests will be hugely expensive.

Prior to the public comment period, we were told that they would not respond or answer questions, but I asked anyway:

How will they prevent districts like Chicago from misusing tests for high-stakes purposes?

How much money will all this cost – do they have any projections?

Ann gave me a thin smile and repeated that they will not answer questions, but that I could e-mail the questions to them. I have since tried all versions of the e-mail address she mentioned, none working. I’m still working on finding that address.

Julie Woestehoff for PAA

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in News & Updates

3 Responses to Presentation to Department of Ed public meeting on assessment

  1. Bea

    Who is going to pay for all of this?!!

    When the SMARTTR and PARC (sp?) groups testified before the California State Board of Education, they confirmed that the average school district (10,000 students) would require at least five full time information technology employees to administer the tests. Districts would require high capacity broadband internet connections, with wireless infrastructure in every school. Every student would need to take these tests at a computer. Given the number of computers in our district, it will take nearly 12 weeks to test every student.

    In California, we are talking about $4-6 billion in new expenses for these assessments. At a time when we just laid of 20,000 teachers, raised class sizes, killed arts, music, athletics. The cost of implementation for this lunacy is equivalent to the last 3 years of budget cuts — or about 20% of the total funding for every child in our schools.

    Because this is likely to become a federal mandate, we will be required to pay for the testing infrastructure, texts, professional development, human resources and consultants before we can hire back classroom teachers, restore reasonable class sizes, re-open shuttered neighborhood schools, re-open libraries, bring back arts…this is insanity.

    You are exactly right: it’s about feeding the education industry, not about educating kids.

    Thank you for speaking up!

  2. Phillip Harris

    The recent book titled The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why they don’t tell you what you think needs to be presented to these folks and ask how the new tests will eliminate the problems that exist with this kind of measurement. We have to speak up and demand that those who continue to push this measurement tool have to be accountabil. The problems with standardized tests won’t go away with the label of new!

  3. Amy H

    The only people who profit from these standardized tests are the ones who make and sell them to the schools. I often wonder how many of our ‘representatives’ have stock in these businesses. We should stand up and say we are not going to put up with the continues misuse of funds at a time the schools need them most. I say educators should ban together with the public and refuse to open up the classrooms this fall until something positive has been done for the educational system in this country. They heard the voices in England….is this what it will take here for the lawmakers to hear us?