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Test - Small FeaturedAs we debate too much testing in schools and the Common Core curriculum, it’s worth noting the merits of standardized tests.

After writing about the apparent lack of immediate consequences to boycotting the state exams, I received this text message from a local school administrator:

It is to the advantage of urban youth to take the exams. The state calibrated based on performance. If the exams are only calibrated based on high performing suburban and rural districts, the cut scores will be that much more difficult.

Parents who have college bound students know that.

K-8 exams are being calibrated to be a predictor of HS exams.

I graduated from John Marshall High School, which was a low-performing school with a high drop-out rate. I never would have gotten into Cornell University without SATs, APs and Regents exams showing I was on par with my peers at high-performing suburban schools. Without those measurements, Cornell would have assumed I went to a crappy school and wouldn’t have been able to do quality work.

(Perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten into Cornell had I attended Brighton, where 40 kids probably applied versus Marshall, where I was the only one who applied. If you want your kid to go to an Ivy League school, perhaps the answer is send them to a school where there isn’t so much internal competition!)

It’s important that tests be valid and accurate, and there’s much debate over whether New York’s tests achieve that goal. It’s also important to note many feel there’s simply too much testing and “teaching to the test.” But the point here is that good measurements are needed, especially in an educational system with so much inequality.

Links of the Day:

– Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski has only one job – to advocate for teachers. Blaming him for district problems is an exercise in teacher and union bashing.

– After deaths a jail medical provider, used by Monroe County and others, is under scrutiny. The medical director called inmate patients “train wrecks.”

– Too much traffic is not a reason to kill the Pittsford YMCA project. Drive slower.

– Upstate New York dairy farmers are in the middle of the immigration debate.

– The New York Times profiled Jenna Marbles, an Internet star with a “flat Rochester accent.”

– Does Sabres owner Terry Pegula think he’s above media criticism?

Seriously, Justin Bieber?

New banners are up on Main Street.

New banners are up on Main Street.

7 Responses to (Good) Tests ARE Important

  1. Yes tests are important for the reasons Rachel mentioned, but for many other reasons as well. There is an expression I learned early in my career. “What gets measured gets done.”So the important ingredient in testing is to measure the collective values that education develops, and that can involve oral skills and demonstrative skills as well.And why should teacher X teach different stuff to students than that of teacher Y?Shouldn’t all kids have similar opportunities?

    If standardized tests do indeed measure the content and skills we value and deem important for any well educated citizen, then there shouldn’t be a lot of discord.
    Certainly teachers can go beyond the testing level if there is time to do so, but the minimum standard is so crucial.

    I am still amazed at how many seventh graders cannot recite or know multiplication tables and write a cohesive three paragraph essay. Shouldn’t they be forced to have learned these things?

    That said, I am not a proponent of early cognitive skills being forced on kids. Seven years old is the time that formal reading should start, and we would see a huge learning level from that point on. Half the world waits until seven years old, with far fewer learning problems and a focus on language development and play in the early years.

  2. April 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm lynn e responds:

    Don’t be fooled by the GOOD test mentality. Standardized tests are created to make money and don’t tell where a student is at, in fact standard testing measures groups not individual achievement. The clear measures of standardized tests indicate household education and poverty level, but that is not where people manufacture these tests and politicians who promote them want to take us. They demand that we ignore them and look the other way. Let’s blame teachers although most teachers come from the same colleges and are no different than others in the suburbs. Research already done a hundred times about how people learn is ignored and called irrelevant. It doesn’t make money for the corporations funding these “reforms “. When teachers complain the public is told we are no good and that their education is irrelevant. Lets’s get TFA students to work instead. This school reform movement is a corporate takeover of schools using public funds. The began with the poor because they had less say and are hoping the wealthier districts will fall in line. It is resegregating schools because charter schools can choose who they want regarding state laws and “counsel ” out kids they don’t want. Special Education kids are being left out and charters are lobbying the federal government to weaken IDEA so fewer services will be given or they will be left in public schools. ESOL kids will not be accepted if they are perceived to be dragging test scores or the “high ” academic standards down. As for getting into college, Rachel you fattened Marshall but you were white, middle class with highly educated parents with Masters degrees. You had advantages of meney and education to go on vacation, interact with other educated people and know your fellow students were exactly like you. Universities and colleges like Cornell aren’t looking for poor people for students or a very small percentage just to say they are being charitable. In NYS, there are HEOP and EOP programs but they are in the discretionary budget and are always pegged for cuts. Few students are accepted and because politicians from NYC are the primary supporters, all college HEOP and EOP directors seem to make students from there the primary beneficiary. These programs allow poor students to skip community colleges (there are EOP programs there too) and go to colleges such as Cornell. The competition is large and only 25 usually get in. These programs could easily grow but the desire of the state and I suspect colleges is to keep the number low. Tuition isn’t rising to make sure poor kids get into college but often to keep them out. They are money making institutions too. But in terms of doing well in life and as a student, standardized testing does nothing and costs a lot. The best way to increase reading and writing is accessibility to books such as libraries. They poor need food, shelter and access to places outside of school to travel. I have a kid who would like to go to Nationals for track. Schools don’t pay and she wants to go to the Olympics someday.

  3. April 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm lynn e responds:

    Auto correct failure, attended Marshall!

  4. April 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm Animule responds:

    Rachel, you’re wrong about Urbanski. You are too young to remember when this happened in real time, when he and McWalters were crowing about their landmark deal that was long on promises, and ended up being short on results. Urbanski DID promise greater academic performance – something that never materialized, and he has never been held to account. Taxpayers got the shaft in the form of property taxes that have escalated to among the highest in the nation – this agreement was the trigger for that.

    The quote below is from an article on the agreement written in 1992. EVEN THEN the teachers union and teachers themselves did everything they could to evade any kind of objective measurement of performance. That continues today with the current pushback on testing, a long-term “rope-a-dope” to avoid any kind of accountability.

    “While Rochester has made significant gains, especially in attracting new teachers and in involving the business community, too often the relationships between key players and groups have not changed nearly enough. Even after five years, for example, union and management have been unable to agree on how to measure teacher accountability. Despite plans to give teachers a greater voice, much of the decision making still comes from district headquarters or the principal’s office. And for many children, parental involvement ends when they are dropped off at the bus stop in the morning.”


    Having parents as teachers may have colored your ability to view this issue objectively.

    • April 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm lellingw responds:

      The reason is that better academic results can’t come from closing schools, creating standards and making standardized tests. The McWalters/Urbanski pact was ignorant and just as ignorant at the continuation of ideas like these that persist today. The problem is poverty and the city has only gotten poorer and the population in public schools reflect that. Everyone else has left with a few exceptions and the people who are exceptions are touted as those who made it. Not a good measure of the overall student population. There will always be exceptions that can be held up as successes but education shouldn’t be looking exclusively looking at them as how to hold up school success. Since 1980, the US population has lost wages health care and shelter opportunities. Education is being privatized at an execrating rate, the wealthy are segregating into private schools and desiring high end schools. The poor are seeing their schools closed and public money used to enrich corporations that run private schools. It will get to what is left of the middle class soon because the Common Core Curriculum is designed to make people think public schools are failing and not desirable. It is copyrighted and every time they are used, mentioned , etc., a corporation gets money for using the term. NCLB was created with Ted Kennedy’s support because curriculum in Texas was selected by the state and many corporations for textbook companies make millions there, the Bushes are involved in it. Their desire was to create a national curriculum not for education’s sake but to easily sell their products with a minimum of cost. The textbook companies are highly involved in lobbying the President and Congress for more money via education and the Federal Education site welcomes corporations and vendors with open arms on their site. Race to the Top is actually worse than NCLB could ever be imagined and is often described as NCLB on steroids. Using NCLB as a hate tool, Democrats are gleeful at deflecting their own grab at selling off education to privatizers with the public focusing on RTTP at all. The unions were scared into accepting the Common Core standards and whine about the tests which were inherently in the whole program. I guess you can’t stand up to a Democratic president even when he is doing wrong. Chicago schools are terrible and have gotten much worse in recent years. Chicago has mainly been trying to deal with it by knocking down public housing and failing to rebuild comparable numbers of units. The poor are being diverted to Urbana and Champlain and probably Gary, Indiana. The man whom Obama made Secretary of Education was a professional basketball player and has no training in education. He was given the job of Superintendent of Schools in Chicago by a mayor. These education policies affect education at a time when minority children are the most common people in public schools and whites are leaving and going for private schools. Years ago when the McWalters/Urbanski deal was being debated I was doing an overnight shift at the Children’s Detention Center with the creator of the Black Seeds program. We discussed it while we were working and he stated simply and accurately that no one needed school choice, all schools needed to be good and he was right.

  5. April 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm Orielly responds:

    Yea Urbanski was right.. has been right for the last 30+ years. What a joke.

    Through Urbanski’s time teachers pay in the RCSD has skyrocketed, Edu standards have been lowered, price we pay per pupil has also skyrocketed and the results have been worse year after year, decade after decade. Today we pay close to the highest pupil spend for the worst results in the country.

    Yet super after super in the RCSD have gotten promoted to better paying larger school districts.

    Yep Urbanski’s been great for this area and “the children” . (*SARC)

    Poverty is the problem? Bull roar, poor asian, middle eastern, white and indian kids learn and do far better than their poor black counterparts in Urban schools across the country.

    The problem is the family or lack there of, and the lack of value placed on education.

    Even Oprah recognized it and put her money in South African schools vs US. She saw no need for money in US Schools only kids that don’t want to learn thanks to their lack of parenting.
    Thats the truth. But can we handle the truth?

  6. April 15, 2013 at 8:53 am lellingw responds:

    Oreilly. Are you trying to say that intelligence is based on the amount of melanin in people’s skin? I didn’t know that it was that powerful. Or are you recognizing the racism and marginalization that exists in this country? Especially when we based our slavery system on skin color.

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