Laura Diaz

Educator, Omaha Public Schools

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Are excessive standardized state testing practices having an unforeseen negative effect?

My question stems from a conversation I had w/a teacher in an urban school under threat of closure due to low state tests. He said,"The schools that did well before mandates still do well.Ones that were low before,in some cases,are scoring even lower.Here,oversimplified,is what I see.First,we're not allowed to use state tests to grade students.Since the test has no personal impact on their grade the only students who care how they score are the ones that have parents holding them accountable.The state tests are abstract and mean nothing to them.Their is no concrete relevancy for them. Do well? So! Do poorly?So! To add even more mess to this we now have a majority of districts across the nation pushing 'no-zero' & 'no-fail' policies. Why get a good grade when all I want to do is pass anyway? The exams I give my students are based on best-practice, research driven formative and summative assessments.In other words,they have to master the lesson objective to pass them. That is MY standard. My unit exams are are sometimes more difficult than the state tests. And they pass them and do well! BUT,I will not pass them just for being a warm body.The states & districts pass them anyway & there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Ties my hands.Here we have our school possibly shutting down because of state tests. And it's not just our demographic!I 've seen hardworking AP students and college prep students when it comes to these tests click through without reading the question.Why? Because the test has no effect on them. If they do want to go to college they'll probably do well on the SAT& ACT because it'll matter.That's the thing.They are not stupid!They're prioritizing the craziness in their lives and putting effort into what matters. The socio-economic demographic they were born into slams them. If they didn't prioritize they wouldn't succeed.It seems to me that this state testing business,coupled with grading policies has fostered a fixed mindset resulting in apathy"

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    Feb 25 2014: Sometimes when I see the government forcing policy on it's citizens (for our own good), I like to look at the money. Who is getting paid from all this testing? Certainly not the teachers! Not the students. But the people who create and administer the tests are making big money. Their political power is behind a lot of this nonsense. Do we just let them continue?
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    Feb 23 2014: As this conversation rounds the bend to finish, I want to thank you for helping me muddle through it. There is still no definitive answer as how many of your amazing ideas could be implemented... unless somebody that had actual "power" to do so thought it was important enough to grace their attention. However, I did find the conversation meaningful and I truly appreciate all your ideas that sparked further research into the topic on my part.

    In addition, I really appreciate the comments from those who had taken the time to scroll through and read the "dialogue of our discourse" before perhaps, posting what could be a repetitive statement. It made for interesting pondering on my part. < ---- Fancy schmancy words there... but I actually do speak like that... sometimes... =+}

    Best to you~
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      Feb 23 2014: Laura, One last thing. As I dicussed earlier education is being driven by politics ... not educators. The advent of STEM, CORE, No Child Left Behind, PISA results, and the National Report Card the NAEP.

      As you say there is no definitive answer. But I think we can say that government intervention has not made a positive impact. It has carried with it threats of funding cuts for not implementing unfunded initatives. That high stakes testing are not valid indicators and should not be the basis for teacher evaluations.

      I revisit this not to beat up government (that was just a perk) but to invite all readers to get involved and make education a issue. We have a upcoming mid term election. It is time we confront the elected reps and demand a answer on were are we on education and where are we going. After he/she has answered then do your homework and find out how they voted ... ask them for options ... present ideas ... and generally get involved. Don't stop there ... get involved locally ... learn the facts .... look at budgets .... go to meetings ... etc ....

      Big things come from grassroots ... politicians have two goals 1: get elected and 2: get re-elected. If education become a hot rock and they feel the heat then the possibility of change is at hand. The time to start is now. Send letter to those getting ready for elections and make you case known and then follow up .. keep the heat on.

      Apathy is the killer here .... informed Involvement is the solution. Become a force for good education.

      I have enjoyed this discussion. Thank you. Be well my friend. Bob.
  • Feb 21 2014: As a British national going through high school, I have to say the American school system is broken. About 87% of my high school failed to pass Texas' STAAR standardised test. Not only are the students giving up on education, but I have had several teachers expressly tell me that they are going to quit at the end of the year because they cannot complete the job they were hired to do. The TEA has recently threatened to shut down tthe school due to unsatisfactory performance. America needs to rely on the properties of capitalism, to rely on the 'invisible hand' to enforce competitive education. Competitive pay and open enrollment should entice satisfactory performance, as opposed to the broken authoriarian process that is currently beiing dumped upon American society like rubbish.
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      Feb 22 2014: "Competitive pay and open enrollment should entice satisfactory performance, as opposed to the broken authoriarian process that is currently beiing dumped upon American society like rubbish."

      ~ I like that. :)
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      Feb 23 2014: Jason, I agree. We lived in Ft Worth and my kids were taught the test as a defense against failures ... they still happened at high rates.

      We currently live in Arizona and many of our teachers are also threatening to quit. I think this is national.

      I think that we are being set up for failure to meet a campaign goal to sole source education ... I think the same thing has happen in health care .. it is designed for failure to get sole source funding (the federal government).

      I am not sure you can buy "good" educators ... but there is no satisfation in the way things are or where they are going.

      Good post.

      Be well. Bob.
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    Feb 16 2014: You know that if the test to determine an elephant's IQ is to climb a tree, then we would say the elephant is stupid because he failed the test. We miss a lot of genius minds because that is how we test..
  • Feb 13 2014: It is ridiculous Laura.......and tragic when you consider millions of kids are graduating from public schools every year without the skills they needed to succeed in school or get a good job. I've come to believe our failure to require our kids to master reading, writing and math (at each grade level) before they move on to the next grade is the cause of many problems in our society, not the least of which is our dysfunctional government. If the 'no fail policy you describe is prevalent, aren't those schools subject to disciplinary action from their state superintendent for failing to honor existing curriculum standards? What am I missing here?

    If the situation is common as you describe I'm surprised the ALCU hasn't filed a class action discrimination suit on behalf of the kids being shortchanged. This is an obvious example of the have's (who send their kids to private schools) knowingly depriving poor and disadvantaged kids of the state mandated education they deserve. That may be a little strong but most wealthy people I know could care less if kids from disadvantaged homes get a good education or not. It's more than tragic, it's criminal. And shortsighted from a cost perspective as the taxes required to take care of these kids as they fill our jails and welfare rolls.

    I sense you feel this is a big deal too. Makes you wonder why nobody seems to care!
  • Feb 12 2014: I agree with this part of the discussion. Let me suggest an alternative approach as to how should we write or design a (standardized) test that would be both relevant, practical and welcomed by the student:
    First we should collect a bunch of ordinary test questions given by the teachers in almost all the schools for their own testing and evaluation of what the students have learned in the class. Then the group or committee which are responsible for the standardized test for each grade to choose and pick a set of questions from the combined materials, with only some revisions on the wording or metrics on the questions selected. The committee is allowed to supplement no more than one (new), out of every 10 questions, which is not chosen from the collection of the normal in-class questions.
    Second, all the questions chosen in the standardized test must be considered to conform to what an average student should have the basic understanding for the teaching textbook or materials within the state. And most of the questions should have relevance to the students' future life experience.
    In essence, if the main purpose of the standardized test is to make sure that the students should satisfy the objective of learning the knowledge and skill for their future life, then why shouldn't we ask for their LEARNING EXPERIENCE FROM THE TEACHERS IN THEIR CLASS, RATHER THAN SOME ONES SITTING IN AN IVORY TOWER OR IN AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE. IF THE NEW CHOSEN QUESTIONS DO NOT REPRESENT ANYTHING PRACTICAL OR WHAT THE STUDENTS SHOULD BE LEARNING, THEN WE SHOULD REVISE THE TEACHING MATERIALS CURRENTLY USED IN THE SCHOOLS.
  • Feb 11 2014: No, absolutely not. They are not having an UNFORESEEN negative effect. They are having a 100% FORESEEN negative effect. The problem is that the morons and lunatics who propagated and cheerleaded these tests intentionally CHOSE TO IGNORE the predictions of the negative effect. Now they are pretending (since they are egotists, as well) that these problems could never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever have been predicted, not in umpty-gazillion years of predictions. Otherwise, they would have to admit that (GASP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) they, as self-appointed arbiters of all that is TRUTH, might actually not be infallible.
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    Feb 10 2014: As a recent high school graduate I personally know the negative affects of the dreaded standardized tests. The standardized test focuses on the teaching of useless information, which is what teaching should avoid. Teaching should help a student develop the skills to critically think without prompt, and should help train/develop the students brain rather than stuffing it with information they will never need. I believe the standardized test should go the way of the Dodo bird, and be replaced with more practical and real world tests.
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    Feb 9 2014: Definitely. People should learn for the interest, curiosity and understanding, not merely to pass a test. I find myself that when I learn purely for testing purposes I don't process the information, I just simply repeat what I've been taught without a second thought, alike a robot reciting a piece of work. Whereas when I learn things purely for the interest, curiosity and understanding I find them to be profoundly more insightful, intriguing and inspiring.

    In my life I have had some teachers who have taught mundanely around the aspect of passing tests, but then I have had other teachers who've had a real passion for their subject and were able to share this passion and teach with great enthusiasm and success.

    In my experience a good teacher can make you forget about any test and be concerned only with the subject, after all that is all that really matters.
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    Feb 5 2014: This seems to be symptomatic of centralized government.

    The whole idea is fallacious, there should not be a federal department of education and the tax money should not go to the feds they do not "know best" and are not a value.

    They are bypassing the teacher. The individual learns by being engaged.

    That being said what is the metric that should be used for teachers? As no metric also does not work.
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      Feb 5 2014: Yes! Very well-spoken. (typed :) ) The statement that seems to resonate for me is when you say, "They are bypassing the teacher." And the more I think on it, the more that I believe you are absolutely correct. I ask myself, why? And the only reason I can think is -what seems like- a distrust of teachers. Initially, holding teachers accountable and the media honing in on that issue, was good. Things changed. Requirements to get certified to become a teacher are stringent. (and that's a good thing!) But we (fed by the media) are still holding educators (unfairly) at a position of distrust.
      Now, even Para-educators have to pass PPST. Most states require para-educators to have at least 2 years (AA) of college and pass the PPST, but some districts hold them to having a BA in education AND pass the PPST. We no longer have "room mothers" ,TA's, etc.
      Teachers may be hired on with a BA and certification -but- they are highly encouraged and pressed to get their MA or start working on it by year 2 of teaching. The pressure comes from many districts only hiring a few new teachers if all they have is a BA. This is because, with the hiring pool of new teachers being so full, they are more inclined to hire those coming to them with a MA. You'll find that (even in elementary schools) most of those teachers have their Masters already. Or if they are new, are working towards it. The requirement to have your MA or higher is even more of an (unspoken) requirement for Middle School and High school Teachers.
      Oh! And it takes them longer to pay off those students loans because they don't get paid enough.
      Now- we have a problem with retention. NEA (National Educators Alliance) released data that 3 out of 5 new teachers quit by their third year teaching. So, we have a huge pool of highly educated and highly trained newbies, but there is a problem with keeping them. I don't know the answer to that either. Or, maybe I do, but the "powers that be" don't seem to know- or care.
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        Feb 5 2014: What should the metric be?

        This is not a rhetorical question.
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    Feb 5 2014: Laura, I think that it is apathy to a certain extent. When I went to school (stone slate and chisel in hand) the onus was on the student. My teacher taught my parents ... the principal came over on the Mayflower and immediately went to our town and has been there every since. Schools were "owned" by the town .. and they took pride in it. Get a swat at school and you caught ned when you went home ... the whole church ask if you could sit through the sermon ... and laughed at and with you.

    Times have changed ... In Arizona the teachers evaluation is based on high stakes tests .. school ratings are also based on those exams ... which affects all funding and grants ... The textbook writers and test developers are in the drivers seat ... they provide us with the syllabus and schedule to follow ... the federal government gives mandates with the threat of loss of funding if you fail to comply ... it has become necessary to teach the test to protect your job and the school itself.

    Tests should be a tool to assure that you are on track to meeting goals and objectives ... instead they are weapons to be used against you and even the administration.

    I don't agree that the effects are unforeseen ... I think that they arrive in the form of threats. The student is not dumb. They know that this test is to evaluate the teachers and the school ... it has a minimal impact on them.

    To further exacerbate the problem .. the parents you need to talk to never come to meetings .. they do however come to school when the little darling gets into trouble and they threaten a lawsuit ... which works with the administration .. and little Johnny is back with us. You cannot even fail him because it would reflect badly on the school and affect the "grade" given to the school.

    I would love to see dual curriculum 1) College prep and 2) Manual arts and trades. I think this could make teachers and student happy and be more productive.

    Be well. Bob
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      Feb 5 2014: I really appreciate your comments. I found it interesting that even though the gentlemen (teacher)I was having the conversation with ( which sparked my pondering enough to pose this question) that he said the exams he gave his students are sometimes harder that the state tests, and yet, they'll pass those with flying colors and the state tests won't even try. Yet, it's the state test scores that are shutting down the school. What a predicament for him to be in! I asked him, isn't there someone that he could show his course exams to (so that they could verify the validity & effectiveness) and also the student's results... since the results are so vastly different than what the kids are doing on the state tests. He just shook his head ( kind of looked exasperated) and said he tried. And that he still documents everything his students are learning and documents all formative and summative assessments. He said , if anyone was really concerned about what the kids were learning and if they were mastering the material, he has all the documentation saved. But he said that they must not care how the kids are really doing because they are more concerned with those state tests. And then, I started thinking about how all I ever hear in the media is about how bad schools are doing(based on those tests) and how the media promotes this bad-mouthing and dis-trust of teachers in general based on those tests.
      As I weigh that against the information I am hearing from the actual teachers in those (alleged) "bad" schools,I'm thinking that those test are ineffective ( and therefore a waste of valuable instruction time) in two ways. One, it truly does NOT assess how effective the teacher is. And two, it (in an almost ridiculous way) does not assess the students mastery of the core material -which was supposed to be the point of it, right? The more I think on the issue the more disheartening it is. No wonder 3 out 5 new teachers quit after two years.
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        Feb 5 2014: Laura, Is it okay to use the term "high stakes" testing as the subject we are discussing? I think it serves little or no purpose and is or could be destructive. I feel that much of this is a knee jerk reaction to the USA being in the bottom third of the bottom third in the PISA exams. This is the same embarrassment that President Eisenhower had when Russia put a vehicle in space and we lacked the engineers to compete. We went on a full launch to educate as many engineers as possible to catch up. Then as in today we suffered a national shame. Secretary of Education Duncan has used this as a tool to have the government control education ... I think this is the wrong approach. The top scorers in PISA were the Singapore schools. They use practicums ... they immediately apply the lesson to the real world. In the USA we continue to reward the selection of "C" as the correct result. Sample PISA questions can be found at

        A sample test from the 1800's required the student to determine the amount of bushels of wheat in a wagon with the following dimensions. A real world application showing a need for the math. The method was rote and we "mastered" the formula through repetition ... just like we do the times tables. I you did not "get" the times tables you stayed with it until you did .. it was called failure. Perhaps we advance student without the "tools" to succeed. In part this can be traced to Dr Spock and the child raising philosophy from the late 40's ... we stopped most form of discipline and said all kids are good and their egos fragile. My dad found the quickest way to my brain was through the switch he applied to my bottom. We need discipline in the home and schools ... We need teachers to be able to fail kids ... we need the government out of the Ed business ... we need kids to take ownership .... we need to support teachers who care. From the ranting of a old guy (70).

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          Feb 5 2014: I agree with you. Have you seen this Ted Talk by Seth Godin:
          Stop Stealing Dreams!

          His statement that stuck with me was: "Grades are an illusion. What is school for? Until we can agree on what school is for we are not going to get the results we need.”
          I disagree with a couple of things he said in the Talk, but for the most part he had some interesting ideas and was pretty accurate.
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        Feb 14 2014: Laura, With all of the tests in place and all of the high pressure tests given ... the only one that Sec Arne Duncan accepts is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It is also called the national report card for that very reason.

        Knowing this, I qustion why all of the other tests ... why all of the varying criteria .... if my boss only looks at one thing then all the rest is rubish .... things like money per stuent ... graduation rates ... average family income .... or that over 50% are now eligable for free food at school ...

        Perhaps we have all been using the incorrect measuring stick .... he also seems to dwell on the PISA results.

        Coming from one of the worst school systems in the United States (Chicago Public School System) I have issues with following that type of past experience and results. However, his record at the state and federal levels are consistant.

        Just say'n .... Bob.
  • Feb 5 2014: If life were a standardized test, then teaching to the standardized test would be an excellent teaching method.

    Life is not a standardized test where the goal is to pick the best of the 4 simplified answers.

    We need to be teaching our children how to think for themselves, and you can't test that on a multiple choice, fill in the bubble, standardized test.
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      Feb 5 2014: That is EXACTLY it and boiled down into perfect points. Thank-you! Very valid points. Why aren't the "powers that be" listening?
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    Feb 5 2014: I think you are right that many students don't take standardized tests seriously, which attitude I think is mostly a good thing, as they can then concentrate on their learning. I don't know that I would call this apathy.
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      Feb 5 2014: I can see that. I was thinking along those same lines. (and in our conversation told him that) Just for the fact that he still does work with AP Honors students at all. If he didn't, if the school was doing so poorly and ALL the students were apathetic learners then they wouldn't do well in their courses at all. It's just those state tests. On the other hand, I could see his point if it was in regard to the students who were already teetering in motivation. But, I don't think the state tests "causes" the apathy in those students. The way it's being done, does however take away from valuable time and energy that teachers could be using instead to re-engage and connect with that "teetering" student. They are test 4 times a year. In between those test are documented pre-assessment state test. This is all on top of actual instruction time and actual tests that count for the students grade. And getting good results on them is only important to to the teachers and schools. I heard someone ask, How can we get the kids motivated to care about the testing and the standards?" For me, that's an empty question. Possibly, because I am an individual that must have a purpose ( if at all possible) in everything I do, and they can't answer the WHY? WHY should we work hard to motivate the kids to pass a state test that effects their grade in no way? When at the heart of it , the students who are at the "low-performing" schools are usually in an inner-city urban setting and they've got more "real" problems to deal with than a state test. You know that phrase we keep hearing? "I've got 99 problems but this aint one of them." That kind of says it all for those students. If there is a student that is mastering the material and you know in your heart that this kid is motivated and working his butt off to get into college, I think that I would also be reluctant to distract them from their focus. It's a hard situation. I don't have any answers.
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        Feb 5 2014: I worked in a district that became increasingly test happy in this way, with testing four times per year outside of what teachers did through their own initiative. And the tests had no connection to the curriculum the district was teaching. The honors students in particular tended not to show any growth over the year in a test of basic literacy.

        A couple of years ago the teachers at the flagship high school simply refused to administer the test. Their claim was that it did not measure anything they were trying to do. The district backed down and committed to sit down with teachers to determine a better testing vehicle.
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        Feb 9 2014: Laura / Fritzie, Perhaps we are seeing an educational problem that is in fact a political issue. Much of this testing goes back to the "No Student Left Behind" project that was passed into law. One of the requirements was that the state must develop a standardized test in which to measure learning. I would have to do some research, however I think that requirement is still in effect and very much determines funding and grants. Compounding the requirements are CORE and STEM with federal tests so the state superintendents to get the funds / grants/ etc... just say to the districts DO IT. As parents we have access to teachers and blame them ... teachers tell their principals they are hampering their efforts .... principals tell the superintendent that there ain't no one happy parents, teachers, or students the superintendent tell the State Super it ain't working ... and he asks if the district is complying? Yep. Then what is the problem?

        One of the BIG contributors to this "image" issue is a media that without the benefit of research follows the political press releases which has a agenda ... not the best interests of the student. So the result is that the teacher is the focal point. Good job of "spin doctoring" and political posturing. So where are the teachers unions to point out the blame game and identify the real issues. Must be in Chicago planning another strike. LOL.

        It is a wonder that more administrators are not in rehab for drinking.

        Just a thought ... ask the district lawyers (on salary) to see where all of these requirements come from ... then work to eliminate the out dated ... but still on the books laws ... that are making unrealistic demands that serve little or no purpose.

        In Arizona Chapter 15 of the state code is L O N G and just keeps growing. It needs to be reviewed and pared down into a workable and meaningful document. And yes I am working on that.

        Just a thought. All the best .... Bob.
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    Feb 15 2014: Here is a related NYTimes op-ed piece from yesterday:
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      Feb 16 2014: It seems like a topic that is at the front of many people's mind these days. Here is one that had me do a quick jaw-drop when I read it from Education Week. The thing that did that was not the article itself. The information is stuff we all know. Or should. It's the fact that it was published in 2000 and still nothing has changed and truly only made worse. One quote from the article said, "The current situation is also unusual from an international perspective: Few countries use standardized tests for children below high school age—or multiple-choice tests for students of any age."
      "Current situation" 2000. And 2014.... no change. What's up with that?

      And this one made me go, huh? "Fact # 3. Norm-referenced tests were never intended to measure the quality of learning or teaching. The Stanford, Metropolitan, and California Achievement Tests (SAT, MAT, and CAT), as well as the Iowa and Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS and CTBS), are designed so that only about half the test-takers will respond correctly to most items. The main objective of these tests is to rank, not to rate; to spread out the scores, not to gauge the quality of a given student or school."

      In fact, they are made that so when 80% of the people taking the test get a question right- they remove the question! They are made as a "weeding-out" tool instead of the purpose for which we are using them.

      And then this one: "As Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., put it in a speech delivered last spring: "Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker, and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high-stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity."
      Standardized Testing and Its Victims EDUCATION WEEK September 27, 2000
      By Alfie Kohn
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        Feb 16 2014: All educators know that multiple choice tests do not convey very much about students' learning. If you cannot see the supporting work when a student does a math problem,for example,you do not know if the child absolutely understood how to solve the problem but made a minor calculation error or whether he totally didn't know how to set up the problem and either did something completely wrong or made a wild guess.

        The only reason many, though definitely not all, standardized tests are multiple choice is that they can then be graded quickly and inexpensively by machine.

        In my state when I taught secondary the standardized tests were not multiple choice. As a result they needed to hire teachers, train them in the use of the grading rubrics, and then have them grade each and every question on each test.

        States need to decide whether they prefer this very labor intensive scenario or not. And even in that, the feedback teachers or students got did not identify where they lost their points.

        Though standardized tests definitely were widely used even in the 1950s, the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is very recent. One issue there is that only a measure of year over year growth would conceivably connect to what a teacher might be able to control. A simple end of year score reflects the combined input of all the teachers a student has had to that point as well as all the other influences on a student's understanding of the topic. One cannot split out analytically the impact of one teacher when there isn't any sort of pretest/post-test.

        Some standardized test programs do involve a pretest and post-test so that there is some control for what the student could do on arrival.

        Still, until people start offering good substitute measures that do not cost a fortune more to implement, it is hard to be surprised that different forms of standardized tests are used by state administrators or in international comparisons.
  • Feb 14 2014: Could not agree more. If there are no rewards/penalties, then most students will not take the test seriously. The only time when students will perform under those conditions are when their pride is involved.

    I have talked to a lot of teachers, some great, some reasonable, some bad - the high school teachers blame the administration, middle school teachers and the parents, the middle school teachers blame the administration, elementary teachers and the parents, and the elementary teachers blame administration and parents.
  • Feb 13 2014: Your response is disappointing Bart. Although I can understand Laura's frustration, you suggesting to (re)design the 'standardized test' so each school can insure the learning they 'impart' is the 'learning' measured by the test. The normal "in class" questions you propose would comprise 90% of the test. Wow. It's my understanding your version of these 'standardized tests' would be written so a student who passed to their current grade because he or she MASTERED the subject at their previous grade. I'm not sure how your definition of a 'average student' would fit into this scenario.

    Laura, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I too wish the 'public' could be exposed to the average trials and tribulations of a K-12 teacher. Only then can we expect their support for the changes needed to insure our kids get what they 'should' before their passed onto the next grade. There's no tougher job in America than teaching and the all to common lack of support from school boards, administrators and parents must make it very hard to come to work everyday.

    I must admit I'm confused by your statement that kids who have ''mastered' a subject at grade level still have a very tough time 'passing' the standardized test for that subject. Is it because we've 'dumbed down' our local curriculum to avoid confrontations with parents? Why else would this problem occur? Look forward to hearing from you.
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      Feb 13 2014: Kent, It is because they don't care if they pass or not. See, we are not allowed to make the results of the state tests part of their grade. So since it doesn't effect their grade it doesn't effect them.

      Of course, another ingredient in that pot of stew is the fact that most schools across the nation now have a "no-fail" policy. There is no motivation at all since they've done that. I don't see that 'as much' (It's there but not as much) in the elementary and middle school levels. But that is what I see in the high schools.

      You see,by that time they have figured out the system and figured out that no matter how bad they do they will still pass.

      The friend whom I had the conversation with (that spurred my questioning) said as much. That he documents everything keeps all the kids tests and exams for proof- but they still get passed on. It's ridiculous.

      Here is an article on that situation:

      What I did not know is that this is not just a U.S. thing. Did not know that . That countries around the world have held to the no-fail policy for over 60 years..... ?????? Here is an article an examination of both sides of the issue from a 2nd grade teacher in Thailand
      • Feb 13 2014: As I'll be out of touch for a while I want to respond to your initial question re: excessive standardized tests. I think two things stand out: (1) Three hour tests given 3-4 times a year is excessive, especially for elementary kids. (2) the unintended consequence of failing to demonstrate the importance (need?) of these 'standardized' tests to the kids taking them is tacit approval for them to 'falsify' the results.

        Falsifying the test results isn't too harsh a term if the kids knowingly answer incorrectly! There should be a consequence and by failing to provide one 'we' acknowledge it's OK to scuttle a program if it's 'inconvenient' to do 'play ball', so to speak. I'm sure many, if not most, of the kids don't act this way on their own. It seems probable that the all to common practice of bashing federal interference in our local schools is being encouraged by many parents AND teachers. This 'head in the sand' philosophy guarantees we can all continue to assume the 'good' caring people serving on local school boards as well as paid administrators and teachers who obviously 'love' our kids and would never do anything to hurt them ARE GIVING OUR KIDS THE EDUCATION THEY DESERVE!

        This is not the case!
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          Feb 14 2014: "It seems probable that the all to common practice of bashing federal interference in our local schools is being encouraged by many parents AND teachers. This 'head in the sand' philosophy guarantees we can all continue to assume the 'good' caring people serving on local school boards as well as paid administrators and teachers who obviously 'love' our kids and would never do anything to hurt them ARE GIVING OUR KIDS THE EDUCATION THEY DESERVE!This is not the case!"

          :) Hmmmmm... I think that last part is worrisome and perhaps a tad-bit contradictory to previous comments. :)
          Putting it altogether, it sounds as if you're saying that although excessive state testing is harmful and ineffective.......our students are not getting the education they deserve. Sound about right?
          Along side this however---the 2nd sentence --the long one with CAPITALS-- seems to imply that it is still the teacher's fault. Is that the gist? Online forums are so sketchy when determining true meaning sometimes. ;)

          By the way, did you read the article from Thailand I provided? How countries all over the world have had these no-fail policies for over 60 years?

          We continue to compare our students' successes -or lack of-to other countries but it seems that those other countries are really no better off.

          One more thought, your statement about "'head in the sand' philosophy" was confusing for me. Whom are you speaking of?

          ~Best wishes~
  • Feb 12 2014: Laura, I see many responses reflect the tragic failure of public education. It's amazing how intimidating "standardized tests" are to teachers! Common sense suggests this kind of assessment is intended to permit a comparison of one school with another or most importantly one state with another as K-12 education is a state, not federal responsibility. Why wouldn't any parent want to know how their children's achievement compares with others around the country? Passing isn't the issue................mastery of reading, writing and math at grade level is already a requirement of most curriculums. A requirement ignored by most schools. A failure that places our kids at a real disadvantage as they proceed through school. Every year we allow millions of kids to graduate without anything close to mastery of the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.......reading, writing, math. I've been told if a child fails to learn to read (well) by the time they hit middle school, they will never catch up with those that do.

    Students must have a reason to do their best or any measurement is useless. Kids need not repeat a grade if they're 'behind', but their must be consequences of the 'apathy' you describe i.e. mandatory Saturday or after school 'make up' sessions to work on 'trouble' areas. No Child Left Behind is a good example of how good, bipartisan efforts can fail if implementation is poor. We must do better but eliminating 'measuring sticks' like standardized testing is like throwing out the baby with the bath water.
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      Feb 12 2014: I see what you are saying, Kent. However I really do not believe that Saturday school is going to help. Most of the urban students that aren't doing well on those tests,yet are doing well in mastery, are the ones that are probably working after school and on Saturdays. State testing four times a year, 3 or more hours ( each time) of real learning sucked away by a test that doesn't count for their grade and therefore wont help them get into college, isn't relevant for those students. They'll click through hardly reading the questions just so they can get back to something that really has an impact on their lives.
      Now, in those same schools you'll have students who are going home to a life of poverty drugs and violence. They feel they have no hope and have checked out by middle school.
      For 9 years I worked. in an urban elementary school, i noticed that in elementary school these kids hadnt lost "hope" yet. In the last three years, I have been observing these kids transitions through middle school. When I see how the ones I knew were (just hanging on by a thread), but just loved to come to i saw that even that little spark I had nurtured and encourage was gone,I realized that middle school was my calling. But you know, the ones who are living that life, and have checked out,barely see the point of school anyway by high school,so testing them wont tell you how effective the teachers in those schools are. They don't lose hope in elementary, because it is there that you will see teachers bringing food for them, clothing them, brushing their hair for them, and tearing up when they say, Ms.D. can I come home with you? At that level we have numerous teachers who will even go out of their way to pick up kids for school on their way in to work. Why? Busses don't run unless you live a mile away from the school you're attending. They are to walk to school in all weather in this neighborhood starting at 5 years old. I think its more complicated that some believe.
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      Feb 12 2014: ....continued ....No, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, but closing down the schools and firing or relocating the teachers wont help either. I tell you this, almost all of the teachers that work in those schools are not there because they have to be. They are there because they see a need and realize that teaching is not just a job, it is a calling. Teachers who work in schools that don't face the challenges these teachers do, you can here people say, " oh, look how well their students are doing, that teacher must be really good!" But maybe, just maybe, perhaps, those kids would've succeeded anyway because of the safe and secure environment they have been raised in?
      . The law makers who think the state tests are a measurement of an effective teacher are sadly mistaken. I also believe that is one of the reasons there is such a high turn over in those areas. Move to a middle class school and you don't have that same kind of pressure, or emotional burn out. Yes, effective measurement of quality education still needs to be done. But this? This is making it worse. As scores have shown, those areas are now getting worse scores than before the excessive testing began.
      People are so fond of those stupid (fake) reality shows ,right? They should do a show where a teacher from a middle class and above school exchanges places with a teacher from an urban school. That would be more interesting than that ridiculous bachelor whatever show. :)
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        Feb 12 2014: Laura, Found this article that may interest you. I found the calculator of great interest. It will not provide an answer until you submit your answer and then will provide both the answer and the formula used ... appears to be a positive tool for learning.

        The rest is quite interesting ... I took this from Great

        Be well .... Bob.
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          Feb 12 2014: I know you mean the calculator as a promising tool for children, but the idea of making an estimate first gives even more leverage for adults.

          Many adults who struggle with mathematics in a classroom context can steer themselves to much better results by tapping into the daily computational skills they have pretty well mastered just to function in normal adult life.
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          Feb 13 2014: That was very interesting. Yesterday I watched a TED talk about Math. Not my subject...but eye-opening. Very interesting ideas.

          I like the Khan academy also. Our district has been giving all the parents handouts about it because we always hear that they can't help their kid with his math cause they don't understand it. Now we've pulled in some parents that are just gushing over how they finally get math and couldn't when they were i school. I don't see us going fully flipped. Mostly because that rides on the assumption that the kid has access to a computer with internet, but most of kids in my 6th grade class don't. I believe maybe one family (out of the 23 students) has a computer with internet. And none of them have cell phones of their own, so they couldn't even watch the lesson from their smart phone like some other kids do.
          I think that flipped classroom idea is awesome though. I can see how if I had had that when I was a kid that I would've probably done better at math. :)
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    Feb 11 2014: Bryan, Haha! Thank you! I needed that giggle this morning. :) I guess I was giving them (whomever them is) the benefit of the doubt when I said "unforseen." Somebody ,somewhere on here wrote that it all goes back to $$$. Ican see that. Whomever holds the cash not only gets the candy but decides what kind of candy goes in the machine...for better or for worse in this case, I guess. :)
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    Feb 6 2014: What is your idea of success?
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    Feb 5 2014: Pat raises an important point. Should no metric apart from the teachers own measures be used to verify that students are progressing in their literacy? If there is to be a metric that provides a secondary measure, how does one strike a balance so that the vehicles used for assessment do not drain off the entire educational budget in that activity, diverting dollars from the classroom?

    Teachers, of course, assess their own students and probably more often than not believe that what their students are learning from them vastly exceeds in challenge and importance what anyone else might expect or test. In view of this possibility, at least, is a system in which there is no outside evaluation practical and likely accurate? And again, if there is outside evaluation, how might that be organized so as to measure things that are meaningful to measure without exorbitant cost?

    Everyone hates standardized testing- kids, teachers, and administrators, and everyone recognizes that such tests measure only one aspect of what education aims to accomplish- typically some types of literacy in reading and math. As Pat asks, what should replace them - without breaking the bank?

    As a baseline assumption, we might assume that teachers actually vary in how effectively they teach students, the quality of the formative and summative assessments they use, and their students' readiness to learn. One teacher's A is another teacher's D. One teacher's exuberant narrative comment might not match the comment offered by a teacher with higher expectations.
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      Feb 5 2014: I really don't know. Like I said though, the one good thing about all the testing and such is that we have an educator workforce that are held to a higher standard than previous decades- just to even get hired or certified at all. Some people complain that the educational requirements to become a teacher are too stringent now, but I don't see that at all. I like that we are held to a higher standard than before and are expected to not only come to the table(so to speak) qualified, but are expected to continue educating yourself and growing as an educator. And that speaks not only about continual professional development courses but through that (although unspoken) expectation of the district that you pursue a higher degree of expertise in your certification field. I don't know about any other states, but with the testing,exams, and grades that teachers here give there students, the teachers are required to document all formative and summative assessments in order to validate any grade the student earns. At any time, someone should be able to walk in your room and should they ask you, you need to be able to provide them with your lesson plan, the lesson objective and how it relates to the State standards. Here in Nebraska, we are one of the hold out states when it comes to Common Core. Their reasoning is that they believe the State Standards we have outlined here are even more stringent than than the CCS. I went online and looked up both to compare them, and they are actually quite similar and yes in a few courses expecting more than the CCS. None of our State Standards are expecting less than CCS however. The requirement that the teacher be able to "back up" and produce evidence is probably because of the pressure being put on Nebraska to bend and join the CCS movement
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        Feb 5 2014: I agree with you that the requirements to enter teaching are higher than they were when many of the current stock of teachers got their certification.

        There is an expectation also that teachers document the assessments that affect a student's grade and in many cases post grades on individual assignments online so that parents can monitor their children's progress.

        I am not aware of instances in which administrators ask for documentation of the support for grades unless a parent demands it. In that case, teachers would seldom be called to support the As they give.

        In the state where I taught lower ed, only beginning teachers might be asked to hand over a written lesson plan on demand. Would your grade school teachers, then, be expected to write out an elaborated written lesson plan for every subject they teach during the day?

        I remember Massachusetts balked at adopting Common Core because they believed their standards to be higher.
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      Feb 5 2014: I found something else interesting also.I found that if you get certified in Nebraska and say, have to move to another state, you probably will be able to transfer your teacher certification with no problem. On the other hand, it is very rare that you can move here with an out-of-state certification and be able to teach right away. I have colleagues that have moved here from Oklahoma, California, Nevada and Colorado, and they have told me that when they moved here they were told their accreditation fell short and were required to take a few extra College/University courses to fill in the gaps. I think I'm going to research this more and compare certification requirements of all the states. That would be interesting. It may take me awhile though. :)
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        Feb 5 2014: That's interesting. Here is research published by Montana State University that compares the states along various dimensions of educational performance:
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          Feb 6 2014: I liked your link it will help in my research. Here is another one from Education Next Journal

          After breezing through similar articles and sites I am seeing no common markings and each of their lists seems to vary. With so many variables I am not sure I can fully trust anything I have pulled up about Measuring Qality Education and Teacher Effectiveness

          I;m starting to lean more with Pat Gilbert and that it should be the responsibility of each state and leave the gov. out of it. :)
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        Feb 6 2014: RE: Who can we get to listen to it ... not many ... it would eliminate the need for the textbook publishers and test developers as educational maps and modules would be used ... it would also eliminate the federal and state involvement ... the major obstacles being money, power, control, and super egos.

        These being the major objectives and the students being a adjunct consideration while the teachers are seen as a obstruction to the completion of their political goals.

        Just as a side note ... Nebraska has never joined in the CORE initiative ... In Arizona we have now proposed by SB1310 to be released from the CORE pledge. Perhaps there is hope for us yet ... now if we only had the foresight and not relied on hindsight. LOL.

        I appreciate you and your conversations ... thank you ... Bob.
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          Feb 6 2014: Actually, I think your model is widely, widely accepted across the field as a way for teachers to assess students. That is, are they able to apply their understanding in an authentic context? I don't see this standard as a bit controversial on any level.

          If we want to advance thinking, however, about the question to which standardized testing is a common and almost universally hated solution, we need to ask what might replace it that still offers a **secondary** measurement beyond the one a teacher or her principal might offer in support of her effectiveness and which can be implemented for every student in the school district or state at a cost that does not break the bank.

          There are about 50 million students in elementary or secondary public schools in the United States, so we should be interested in how each is doing. In my experience districts may choose their own tests or have no standardized test at that level but there is typically also an additional state mandated test for some grades, often 4th, 7th or 8th, and tenth. In my state when I was teaching secondary, the state test was not a bubble test but consisted mostly of short and page-length open ended sorts of questions. For example, in science students might have to design an experiment to determine how light affects plant growth. They would be required to comment on their experimental and control variables and sources of error. They would need to indicate materials and sketch the arrangement of apparatus.

          I mention this example because to some people "standardized" brings to mind bubbles to fill. Standardized only means that everyone in a certain cohort gets the same test and is scored/graded using the same rubric.
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      Feb 6 2014: So no metric?

      Not that I have one either, it is tricky.

      The market would say happy parents. But they would be an indirect object?

      Ultimately it would be how well the student does in life. But that would be impossible to put to a metric.

      I would seem to me that it would be a comparison of the student from one year to the next, but as you say he has no motivation to do well on a ancillary test.

      As Bob says if you divided the students into college bound and trade school bound it might make more sense?

      I read a book years ago that talked about breaking it down this way. "Rethinking America", in it he indicated that this is the way Germany and Japan handled this situation.

      At the end of the day education is about application, application is where education becomes objective. Education should be aligned to this end and the metric should reflect that .
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        Feb 6 2014: The only metric that makes any sense to me is Application ... demonstration ... performance. If the goal is to bake a cake then four multiple choice answers to select the one with the proper ingredients does not assure me that the person can bake a cake. The only way to achieve that goal is to bake a cake.

        Given a car that will not run ... the only acceptable grade is if you can make the car run.

        These are measurable and meet expectations that will be required in those fields were you to pursue that endeavor.

        The grade is either competent or non competent. You either can or cannot. This takes away the grades 1 - 4 or A thru F and places the onus on the student where it should be to either pass or fail. It also has the built in remedial to redo the module/event until competent and allowed to proceed to the next level/module/event.

        In this manner students can work at their pace and can be monitored and proctored by the instructor. It allows the student to advance while remaining with his peers for social development.

        This provides a level playing field and keeps parents, students, and instructors on the same team without needless argument and conflict.

        Just a thought. Bob.
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          Feb 6 2014: I really like that idea. It makes sense. Now who can we get to listen to us. :)
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          Feb 6 2014: How would that work for college bound students?
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        Feb 7 2014: As a freshman I would elect to follow the college prep curriculum. I would be given a course map comprised of all available courses and their modules. As a example STEM classes (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) may have modules such as SB1 thru SB 50 SB being Science Biology SC for Chemistry etc .... The student would work at their own pace and upon completion of a module be advanced to the next ensuring that all prerequisites are met as required. Completed modules would be initialed off by the instructor and he would enter them on the computer. The computer may flag you that you are out of balance ... to much science and not enough Math. You would have to achieve a balance before being allowed to enter a new science module.

        Science may include .. earth sciences (SE), biology (SB), chemistry (SC), physics (SP), etc ...

        By working at their own pace they may complete two complete course in one year. Like SE and SBI.

        Ideally modules would be approved by the college system and students could complete college credits while attending high school.

        Graduation requirement may be 30 modules ... however a student could complete 30+ and the course modules completed would be the transcript sent to the University for class placement and credits honored.

        If you get sick there is no make up work ... Basketball tournament no missed classes ... vacation not an issue ... you are where you are in the system. A school lap top that is dedicated to the school computer network would make the modules available to you 24 / 7.

        The computer would show failures in module SB 21 and notify the instructor that intervention is needed. Or the student could request assistance.

        There is nothing complicated ... all well documented ... building blocks are designed in ... the onus is on the student ... allows for advancement at their pace ... and makes social development easy and interaction available plus college work is credited.

        Thanks Bob
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          Feb 7 2014: Ok I'm sold, that makes 3 of us, just 150 million or so more and it will happen.

          I think with the advent of Kiva and similar the market will create this anyway. The employer says bake this cake, you have a job or next.