The Chalk Board: June 22, 2015

By Sally Absher

“You Work For Us.”

Frustrated with the high-stakes testing culture and the continued drain of highly qualified teachers (though retirement, resignation, and non-renewal), local parents are organizing a rally to send a message to the BOE and the Superintendent.

The rally is planned for immediately before the July 1 Regular BOE meeting (5 p.m., City County Building). Teachers, but especially parents and students are urged to attend. “Save Our Teachers” T-shirts are available for $9 through All Star Outfitters. You can order online at http://www.shopzonenow.com/index.php?route=product%2Fproduct&path=50&product_id=266. Note: DO NOT PAY SHIPPING. You can pick up your shirt on June 30th at Food City, 5941 Kingston Pike (6:30-8:30pm)

KCS 2015-2016 Calendar Raises Concerns.

Several parents have concerns about the testing information included on the Knox County Schools 2015-2016 calendar (available at knoxschools.org/Page/3011). Here are a few things that stood out to at least one parent:

Nov 2-20 High School PARCC PBA

Nov 30- Dec 18 High School PARCC EOY

Feb 15 – March 11 Grades 3- 8 PARCC PBA

April 18- May 13 PARCC EOY

Is PARCC the new TCAP? What does PBA mean? EOY? Why must we use these abbreviations? Aren’t we doing TNReady, not PARCC? What is this test in High School? Why so much time spent on testing?

We will provide a little explanation, because the KCS Central Office is all about transparency and improving communication (NOT). PARCC is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. PBA is “performance based assessment,” a combination of multiple choice, multiple answer, and constructed response (open-ended, written answers). EOY are “end of year” (aka “end of course”) tests for high school students and middle school students taking high school level courses.

PARCC is one of two large testing consortia that states initially signed on to for high stakes testing under RTTT and Common Core standards. The other is SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). Tennessee originally signed up for PARCC.

But then news started leaking out about the disastrous results of the PARCC test. Tennessee (and a number of other states) dropped out of the consortium. Originally 26 states were part of PARCC, the number now is down to 14 states plus D.C. Strangely, KCS didn’t bother to update their website with accurate information.

Tennessee filled the gap for two years (2013-14 and 2014-15) with the TCAP assessment. According to the TN Department of Education website, “Beginning in 2015-16, TNReady will become the state’s new and improved TCAP test for English language arts and math in grades 3-11. It will provide us with more and better information about our students’ progress. The new TNReady TCAP tests are designed to assess true student understanding and not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. TNReady will measure student understanding of our current state standards in English language arts and math…”

Like PARCC and SBAC, TNReady will be an online assessment. From TN DOE, “We know that in college, technical schools, and in most jobs, communication is done electronically – it is the way of our world. We must prepare students for their future and that will require comfort with technology. So TNReady will be taken online. The online test will be more engaging, and it will better match students’ individual needs.”

And, TN DOE assures us, “Still, with any new test – and especially one that moves beyond just the traditional multiple-choice tests to assess what students really know and can do – first-year test scores will drop when compared to the current TCAP assessment, as students and teachers rise to new expectations.” Did you catch that? YOUR CHILD’S SCORES WILL DROP. Wonder how that will impact teacher evaluations? Hmmmm.

TNReady is brought to us by Measurement Inc., replacing Pearson, which designed the TCAP. According to Chalkbeat.com, the American Institutes for Research will be a subcontractor on the project. Read how well they handled the state assessments in Idaho this year: http://www.idahoednews.org/news/isat-test-results-hit-a-series-of-delays/#.VYMoJEaK_nS (Hint: not very well).

 

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