NM Education

TESTING, TESTING. TESTING 1–2–3

20July2015

Here's my Jersey on standardized testing in public schools.

WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?
Standardized testing is supposed to assess the aptitude of a student and direct them into a vocation that is suited just for them. But by all objective measurements, these tests themselves have failed. Does there exist a battery of tests that can do a proper assessment, and can these tests not cost the taxpayer billions of dollars? We believe that the answer is yes, which is to say, we have discovered a solution to high stakes testing that is realistic, affordable, and accurate at gauging student learning.

The title of this article makes it seem like we are against some sort of standardized test to assess student learning. Au contraire; we actually believe in tests that are standardized, as long as it is done right and for the right reasons. Which is to say, that it truly assesses student learning and growth, is not ongoing, and is not used to bash teachers. By ongoing, we mean ad infinitum.

To be perfectly clear, we endorse standardized testing, as long as its principles are done correctly (why does it just HAVE to be for-profit?). We feel that testing is not being done correctly in American schools, and that the tests themselves are not an accurate reflection of student learning. We do know, however, how to fix it. It just so happens there is one particular standardized test that is being done correctly, i.e. tests that we feel are a better, more accurate assessment of student learning. We therefore advocate using this particular standardized test over all other for-profit standardized tests. Listed below are some of the reasons why we stand by this particular test.

The ideal standardized test that we have in mind contains the following features (this list is by all means not inclusive):
  • A student that scores above a certain level on these tests is universally considered by all employers on planet Earth to be a High School Graduate
  • The test assesses both technical and communication skills
    • The tests identifies what S.T.E.M.-related vocation a student might be good at, e.g., general science, mechanical comprehension, electronics information, etc.
    • The tests also covers non-S.T.E.M.-related topics such as word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, etc.
    • The tests consists of over 200 questions total
    • The tests can be taken old school (that is, on paper) or on a computer
    • The computerized version of the tests are adaptive:
      • "the exam seems to tailor itself to their level of ability. For example, if an examinee performs well on an item of intermediate difficulty, they will then be presented with a more difficult question. Or, if they performed poorly, they would be presented with a simpler question." – Wikipedia
    • The tests are created by Americans for Americans
    • Professional educators create and update the tests
    • The tests have been around for many decades, always improving its credibility and accuracy
    • These tests are not designed to be used to beat up on teachers and to hold them accountable for things that are beyond their control
    • The tests are already paid for by the US taxpayers, so schools would not have to budget for them
    We believe that the last bullet item is probably the best one. We currently are giving money to big for-profit companies to create a mediocre test when there already exists a world–class test that all schools can access virtually free. Less money spent on testing equals more money spent on teachers, EAs, textbooks, computer labs, etc. We believe that this particular battery of tests to be the best in the world at identifying student's strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying who can claim High School Graduate status and who cannot. Yes, the tests are really that good. And yes, these test are, and always has been, universally accepted as being that good for many decades!

    We would even go so far as to very forcefully advocate using these tests as a sort of National High School Exit Exam (NHSEE), and even as a replacement to the G.E.D. That's how much we absolutely endorse these tests. That's how valid we think they are.

    Meanwhile, questions abound:
    • How is the for-profit testing industry supposed to make money without legislatively-mandated standardized testing?
    • Wouldn't it be more cost effective to give money to the for-profit testing industry anyway? That way they would be obligated to the shareholders rather than to the students. Oh wait...
    • How are we supposed to hold teachers accountable? It's not like they are professionals that can more accurately gauge a student's ability and growth by actually being there in the classroom day after day, week after week, month after month, sometimes year after year, etc.
    • Why would we ever use tests that have already been paid for? That would be like accomplishing the same thing, only of better quality and cheaper. How can any good come out of something like that?
    Our (serious) answer to all of that: What, do we as a society not want to truly gauge a student's aptitude with world-recognized world-class tests that are already paid for? Why not? Because it doesn't bash teachers? Because it doesn't enrich education reform know-nothings? Because it doesn't test the student's ability to successfully run a rat maze? Please. Our point is that these for-profit standardized tests are not only expensive, they do not realistically and accurately assess whether a student is ready to enter the real world.

    Don't believe this? What follows might be more convincing.

    Common Core is a national set of standards that theoretically provides for commonality of student learning (BTW, we don't have a beef with Common Core per se since we too believe in commonality. We instead have a beef with the Common Core tests). Are the tests that are based on these standards an accurate reflection of a student's readiness to face the real world? If so, then every adult who is a High School Graduate should at minimum be able to score a perfect 100% on any standardized 8th grade exam (which, of course, is pre-High School). If not, then we have a extremely serious problem on our hands, no? Let's try a math test.

    Below is a link where anyone on the planet can take a 10-question sample of a typical standardized test for mathematics knowledge (our favorite subject!) for 8th grade. Remember, if you consider yourself a fully functional, ordinarily normal adult who graduated High School, then this test should accurately reflect that assessment. Good luck!


    So, how did you do? Our resident Math Dude got a 90% because he missed the first problem due to the typo on the test. Oh, snap: did we forget to tell you about the typo? Sorry about that! They were actually asking you to convert a repeating decimal into a fraction. Too bad for the student too, huh? How convenient. BTW, Math Dude, 90% is less than 100%. Just saying.

    He was also pretty amazed at what 8th graders are required to know. He asked incredulously if, for example, all adults readily know how to take a negative exponent of a fraction as part of being a normal, healthy adult functioning successfully in the 21st Century. We of course all had a long and vigorous laugh at his expense.

    In the end, however, he ended up having the last laugh: the staff here scored abysmally...

    So? How did you do? Did you scored low, just like any sane, regular, normal, ordinary human being who is a High School graduate would? (sorry, Math Dude!) If you scored low, would you consider yourself not ready to enter the real world? That's patently ridiculous, isn't it? If you scored low, how does that make you feel?

    It sure did humble our staff.

    A better question is: how does an 8th grader feel about themselves, especially after, ironically, having scored the same as any other functional, ordinary, normal, High School graduated adult?

    And we're paying how much money again for all of this? What's going on here? Are these for-profit tests really an accurate reflection of what students need to survive in the world?

    As we said, we're not against standardized testing. But, come on, there isn't a battery of tests out there, already paid for by the overly-generous US taxpayer, that can assess the aptitude of a student and direct them into a vocation that is suited just for them?

    Sure there is!

    ::

    YOU WANT THE SOLUTION OR WHAT?
    It's call the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Go ahead, Click on the link, and verify for yourself that it matches everything mentioned in the bulleted list above. We have always been advocates of mandatory military service after high school anyway, so this was a no-brainer for us.

    Of course, there are even sample ASVAB questions online. Try taking the Mathematics Knowledge (MK) test. Come on, it's only ten (10) questions, and you get instant feedback:


    How'd you do this time? Isn't this a better indicator of how high up the food chain you can climb? Can you imagine how pumped a student would feel when they find out that they actually qualify for, say, a career as a C-17 Loadmaster? Or how about a position as a helmsman (helmsperson) on a spaceship-like nuclear submarine? Or how about a job as a corpsman (corpsperson) saving lives in the medical field? How's that for a student starting out a long and promising life as an honorable, decent, and intelligent human being? You gotta problem with that?

    By mandating the ASVAB as a NHSEE, we get to accomplish three things:
    1. Determine for prospective employers whether a student can authentically claim the title of High School Graduate
    2. Assesses the strengths and weaknesses of students in ten (10) different S.T.E.M. and non-S.T.E.M. related fields that are essential for survival in the real world
    3. If military service is to be an option, then the tests have already been completed
    We also think that that these tests can give a better indicator of where students are in their learning. Here's how: if the tests are administered starting in the 8th grade, and students take the tests at the end of every school year, then we get a 5 year learning growth chart.

    Of course, the for-profit testing industry will be lobbying as all hell against the ideas presented in this article. Which begs a very interesting question: why lobby in the first place against using a universally accepted, world-class standardized test that is already paid for by the taxpayer, which does not take money away from schools, and is a better indicator of a student's aptitude and growth? Is this really about the children, or i$ thi$ really about $omething el$e, hmm? It just takes a little political courage, that's all.

    And as far as teacher accountability goes, we would rather they be held accountable to students being able to pass the ASVAB than for any and all other for-profit standardized tests out there. If it's good enough for the armed services, then it's good enough. Period.

    The ASVAB. It's not just for our military any more.

    Now that' how to take a righteous standardized test. How 'bout youse guys?

    ::

    <>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>

    LET'S FINNISH EDUCATION

    20July2015

    Here's my Jersey on public education reform.

    WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?
    No, that is not a misspelling in the title of this article and you will see why in a moment. This subject matter is all about education in our public schools. Specifically, there's a right and wrong way to go about its process. And some feel we're going about it in the wrong way in our county. That being said we are not writing this post merely to criticize. Rather, the intention is to show cause why and how the education system in this country can be revamped, starting with the machination of the "system."

    ::

    YOU WANT THE SOLUTION OR WHAT?
    The following steps manifest how to absolutely guarantee that the United States becomes number one in the world in education. By no means is the list inclusive, but these points highlight the marrow of the matter and provide a likely start to get us finally headed in the right direction.

    Realistic and authentic education reform should include the following features:
    • View education as nation-building
    • Allow only former teachers to be superintendents
    • Have parents induce a culture of reading with their children
    • Have regular parental contact with their teachers
    • Make the teaching field itself very prestigious, on the level of a doctor
    • Make primary school start at age seven
    • Combine Primary schools and Secondary schools, so that there are no interruptions at age thirteen
    • No standardized tests
    • Have less instruction time per year
    • Have ninety-eight percent (98%) of teachers belong to a union
    • Place two (2) teachers into every classroom
    Pretty amazing, huh? I think that last bullet item is the best one. Can you imagine all the learning that would take place with two qualified teachers in every classroom?

    Meanwhile, questions abound.

    • What about the cost?
    • Wouldn't implementing the list hurt education? For instance, isn't it more cost effective to have 40 students per teacher? That way a teacher can give even more time for each student, right?
    • What about the cost?
    • You really want two unionized teachers? In every classroom?
    • What about those added costs?
    • Won't taxes have to be raised? I mean, it's not like taxes are the price we all have to pay to live in a civilization, right? Right?
    • Wouldn't it be more cost effective to give the money to for-profit charter schools? That way schools would be obligated to the shareholders rather than to the students. Oh wait...
    • How is the testing industry supposed to make money without legislatively-mandated standardized testing?
    • What about the cost? Again.
    Our answer to all that: What – we don't want to be number one in the world in education? Why not? Do you think the reason possibly relates to money, as in we don't have the funds to do? Please. Private schools cost a lot of money, and nobody blinks an eye.

    As a matter of fact, there is plenty of money for education. And here's proof for the proverbial pudding... Right at this very moment, affluent people in the United States of America are avoiding paying their taxes by hiding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts; We should take back all the money that is rightfully owed to the American people, and at the same time allow these conniving, criminal types to do the right thing. It seems that we have a win-win situation here, no?

    Regardless what we do, however, the inescapable fact is that these offshore accounts really do SPEAK VOLUMES about our national priorities: our country cares more about billionaires than it does about children. Is this hyperbole and high drama on our part? Our proof is in the previous paragraph. You gotta problem with that?

    Of course, this sort of thing is called an investment for all those still concerned about money (read, "obsessed and covetous"). All investments cost money, don't they? And granted, all investments demand a reasonable rate of return. OK, so how about a bad ass educated populace that eventually builds the first FTL spacecraft? That good enough of a return that embraces rather than sequesters?

    ::

    So, you might be wondering how can we be so sure that all of the bullet items listed above would actually work. First, let me say that it's not like there's a country somewhere on the planet that has implemented every single item on the list above, and is now ranked number one in the world in education, right?

    Second... there really is. Finland has already implemented every single item on the list above, and they are consistently ranked near the top of the world in education.

    Go ahead. Click on the links above, and verify for yourself that everything on that list is mentioned in the articles. Implementing the list actually works. Education in Finland actually works. There's the proof. It just takes a little political courage, that's all.

    To be fair, it did take Finland 40 years to reform. Logistically, and assuming the creation of legislation dealing with the practice of sheltering money overseas, it may take us just as long, or even longer than that. Still, it seems like the powers that be in Finland's government are doing something right. Absolutely right. Well then, why not try out something that has actually worked in another place and tweak it for our nation?

    Now that's how public education reform is done! How 'bout youse guys?

    ::

    <>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>~<>

    THE ART OF THE DEAL

    20July2015

    Here is my Jersey on having music and other arts education in public schools.

    WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?
    Some people say that learning the arts (and any other non-core classes) are a waste of time. Students need to instead be focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic. These are the necessary tools to guarantee survival in the real world. Get the basics done first, then later you can do all the music and theater you want.

    On the surface, this argument seems sound. I mean why are kids wasting their time learning to play an instrument instead of learning how to balance a chemical equation, right? But as you dig deeper, something very interesting emerges.

    ::

    YOU WANT THE SOLUTION OR WHAT?
    Now being the objective (and humble) guy that I am, I am going to do a little bit of research FIRST, and then let the data influence my thinking on this subject (Oh nos! NMMitch is going to use data and research before coming to a conclusion!! The horror!).

    So let's see what was found, shall we?
    I could go on and on (and on) with this, but you get the idea. You gotta problem with that?

    Here's another way to look at it: would we cut the equipment needed for a military unit if they lost a battle? No: we would get them everything that they needed to get the job done right, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

    So, (you know what's coming, right?) what do we do in our state? Why we CUT, of course.

    We need to stand with the children of NM, and provide them the very BEST education that we can give them, whether it be a Republican or Democratic initiative. The best part is that most people are unselfish enough to not even mind paying a little more for it. It just takes a little political courage, that's all.

    Now that's how you strike the band up here in the Land on Enchantment. How 'bout youse guys?

    ::

    No comments:

    Post a Comment