In This Week In Education, Alexander Russo shares a link to an article in The Nation by Dana Goldstein on the pre-K testing I shared about in yesterday’s post. The author sees the proposed federal program as a positive shift for the education department away from assessments used in teacher and principal evaluation and pay, and high stakes for students to assessment designed to support instruction.
While Obama’s K-12 education policy calls for student test scores to weigh heavily in teacher and principal evaluation and pay, the Department of Education’s new pre-K policy heeds the advice of leading psychometricians: use test scores to help teachers better target instruction toward individual children, not to reward or punish either individual children or adults in the system.
If this is indeed the focus for the assessment, I agree with Goldstein that this would be a welcome shift. Our teachers currently do a similar assessment to support them in planning and meeting the needs of individual students. Based on this assessment, we are putting together information for parents of pre-K children to assist them in preparing their children for successful transition into our kindergarten program. This may become one of the few components of Race to the Top that actually will be of benefit to and possible for all school systems to consider.
I learned about Campbell’s Law in the article that may be one of the drivers for the many adult cheating scandals recently in the news. If you haven’t followed this you may find the Atlanta case interesting. It contributed to the superintendent leaving and a former assistant, now a superintendent in Texas, is in jeopardy of losing that position because of the scandal. I can’t imagine creating the pressure that would result in these adult behaviors, but they are taking place in multiple places driven by the requirements of NCLB. This is another reason why the executive and legislative branches must come together and reach agreement on reauthorization that supports change while maintaining high expectations for increased student achievement for all young people.
This positive change, however, pales when compared to the $250 million given to two testing consortia, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium to develop summative assessments for the Common Core. Our state is a key player in the SMARTER work that will have the option to use formative assessments and other tools to support daily instructional decisions. You can read more about this work on the OSPI site here. This positive use of formative assessments will not remove the potential for the summative assessments to result in high stakes for kids and if the leadership in the education department is successful they may also be used to evaluate and pay teachers and principals.