Standardized Assessments: Fact vs #EdReform Talking Points
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Do you have concerns if the assessments used in your states and for students are valid and age appropriate? Your state can crow about *excellent* assessment results but as you as a parent can’t access the assessment questions (and neither can your school), how do you know these results are valid and your student is learning anything of value?
Gerri K. Songer published (September 2015) a study she performed on the ACT, SAT, PARCC and SBAC using Lexile scores. This is quite different than the nebulous *college and career ready* talking points we hear from ed reform NGOs and state/local educational bureaucrats touting why these assessments are critical to this readiness. Songer’s report deserves a response from supporters of the CCCSSI on why their reform, based on theory and not actual research/facts, is preferable to a study using a scientific method which in antithetical to the proponents’ talking points.
You can find more on her research regarding Common Core research (July 2015) in Gerri K. Songer Explains Why Common Core Tests Are Actually Harmful to Students:
I was asked by my EA President and the Superintendent of IL HS Township Dist. 214 to review Smarter Balanced, ACT, SAT, and PARCC. The following is a portion of my review:
“In terms of text complexity, ACT, SAT, and PARCC all use excessively high level text. PARCC is by far the worst assessment for many reasons, some of them including the use of multiple passages between which comparisons and contrasts are made; finite detail-oriented questions; and multi-step cognitive analysis. Yet, the ACT disseminated last March resembled PARCC in reading and mathematics, with the exception of multiple passage comparison/contrast. If the agenda of both ACT and SAT is to become more like PARCC, then one, in essence, wouldn’t be any better than another.
I’m still going through the SAT materials, so I’m not able to make any conclusions about this assessment yet. I don’t see anything strikingly different in Smarter Balanced, other than the listening portion of this assessment. Like PARCC, it contains multi-passage comparison/contrast, but at least the text used in these comparisons is shorter. Text is still excessively high. One significant difference ACT has over other assessments is the use of the following scaffolding: http://www.act.org/standard/planact/english/index.html This format is easier for teachers to work with, and it helps them target individual skills on which to focus in different level courses and grade levels.
There is no research I have come across that supports the use of archaic vocabulary used in primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence to “level the playing field” in terms of comprehension. In fact, research supports the opposite. The single most important component of reading comprehension is background knowledge. Even when students cannot understand vocabulary terms used in a reading passage, they can still glean meaning from text using context to compensate for words they don’t understand.
Using archaic vocabulary only favors high achieving, high socio-economic students who have the fortitude and patience to weed through confusing, complex, and unfamiliar text. To understand this from the students’ point of view, I have to ask myself, how intelligent would I appear if I were assessed using text written in Spanish? I know some Spanish, but I’m not fluent in it, and such an assessment certainly wouldn’t appropriately or adequately assess my ability to compare, contrast, synthesize, apply, etc., information for purpose of extracting meaning.
Not only do these assessments not assess what they claim to assess, but I’m also convinced, based on brain research, they are actually harmful to students. The brain only has so much neural support. If the brain is trained through repetition to narrow this neural support to a specific region of the brain, then neural activity will supply less support, or perhaps no longer support, other very important areas of the brain, specifically those areas allowing for the ability to think conceptually and creatively.
Read the entire article. She concludes: