"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More testing...

ISTEP Bonanza for McGraw-Hill

Indiana has decided to move testing back to the Spring. The long experiment in Fall testing is over.

Originally the idea behind Fall testing was to give teachers the diagnostic information which the tests provided to improve instruction. Students came to school after the long summer recess and the teacher, after having gotten the results of the tests back, could direct her instruction to fill in those specific gaps the students needed. But there is a problem with that set up...

ISTEP is no longer used for diagnosis...in fact, very few states use their annual standardized tests for diagnosis...the purpose for the tests in the first place. Now, with the testing insanity which permeates our society, tests are used to rank schools, districts, states and even countries.

There is information about how the students do on the Indiana State Standards, to be sure, however, by the time the information is received by the teacher the school year is half over and most students are no longer at the same place they were when they took the test. It's a question of too little and tool late.

So...in an attempt to return honesty to testing...not reasonable educational practices, but at least honesty...the State of Indiana will now have the ISTEP tests in the Spring. Teachers will work all year to teach their students what is on the test - a questionable educational practice demanded by No Child Left Behind - and in the Spring the students will vomit it all back onto the test...in some cases, literally. The test will be used to rank and punish school systems, schools, administrators, teachers and students and the data from the test will be provided to teachers in the fall of the following year so they can see which standards the students didn't learn and start the process over again. Once again, the students will have changed between the time the tests are taken and the time teachers can use the information. Once again the curriculum will be determined by the test and things like history, citizenship, art and recess will be placed on the back burner so the test gods can be appeased.

The big news is that, in the 2008-2009 school year, the transition year, the students will be taking the test twice...once in the Fall and once again in the Spring. This is so the AYP can be computed for the year. If we waited until the Spring and only gave the test once, there would be no way to compare the new scores to the previous scores...the comparison would be invalid because the test had been taken at different times of the year.

More importantly, however, is the fact that it would have been nearly 20 months since the previous test. McGraw-Hill...the company founded by the family friends of the Bush's...would not get their annual millions from Indiana. The bottom line is money. As it is McGraw-Hill, the publisher of ISTEP will get to keep their annual windfall from Indiana, and in fact, the money they make from the 2008 school year will come earlier.

What's the educational purpose of taking the test twice in one year? The apologists will say it is so that we can track student progress. But teachers can track student progress (and do) every day. The only reasons for taking the test twice...the only reasons these days for giving the test at all, for that matter...are to rank and punish schools and to fill the pockets of the test publishers.

Teachers would just like to be able to do what they were trained to do. We don't need a script telling us what to say. We know how to reach our students. We don't need to be told when our students are struggling. We know when our students are having trouble. We don't need to be punished for teaching students what they need to live in the world instead of what is on "the test." We know that history, health, art and music, and physical education are important for children to learn. We know what to do.

Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

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