Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Invisible Damage

Sheila Resseger:

Before the current era of standardized testing, the RI School for the Deaf was fortunate to have on staff two exceptional educational linguists who were knowledgeable about the developmental needs of deaf students in regard to the mastery of English grammatical structures and English literacy. These two highly knowledgeable and articulate linguists developed, through a rigorous process, assessments of receptive and expressive English competence. They further developed and suggested valid reading evaluations for our students. Due to my background in English, language development, and linguistics, I was fortunate to be trained by them to administer these assessments. These assessments are given one-on-one and provide teachers and families with a thorough understanding of the student's mastery (or lack thereof) of English structures such as embedded relative clauses and passive voice, structures that are essential for understanding complex English text (a stated goal of the Common Core boosters). Such assessments are time- and labor-intensive and generate a narrative report of many pages.

As pressure on the school increased, the meticulously developed diagnostic assessments--thorough, meaningful, and informative for designing lessons to meet students' individual learning needs--went by the wayside. The school hit on a better idea--the (now infamous) NWEA MAP testing to measure growth! Administered on a computer, results available almost instantaneously! Never mind that the Language Usage and Math portions (not the Reading, obviously) are allowed to be interpreted into sign language for students, a laborious process. Picture this: even though classes are small, one teacher or test administer has to sit with each student (granted small groups of 4 - 6) and be available to interpret every item and answer choice. Once the answer is clicked, there's no going back. How can this process possibly give any insights into why the student chose the answer, whether or not the answer was correct? But the graphs are beautiful (not to mention expensive). This is like trying to do brain surgery with a hammer and chisel.

How many stories like this are there in Rhode Island? I'd think hundreds, 'cause I can easily come up with a dozen or so, and I don't get out much, but nobody knows.

It is always Year Zero for school reform.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Tom that was a devastating article. The NWEA is a particularly nasty test.

It doesn't provide item analysis (so they can continuously re-bank items). It puts schools with limited infrastructure on edge. Teachers cannot easily make sense of the reports.