Monday, April 23, 2012

Making State Tests Count For Students

One of the biggest flaws of our state standardized testing regimen is that there is no incentive, absent personal motivation, for students to do their best. The tests count for nothing to the students. When even the local (left-leaning) paper sounds the call for a change, that's significant:
This year may finally be the time to get a major overhaul in education – simpler, fairer, more flexible and accountable.

Two big proposals have lined up.

First is Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to change how schools are funded...

Second is Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's bill to overhaul the state's Academic Performance Index, a proposal tweaked after the governor vetoed his major education bill last year.

Brown said he wanted local panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview students and examine student work. Steinberg's Senate Bill 1458 has that.

Brown said he wanted to reduce time on testing. Steinberg's bill calls for a plan to "streamline and reduce state-mandated middle and secondary school testing, including, but not limited to, eliminating redundant assessments and assessments that lack tangible meaning for pupils." The number of tests doesn't look excessive. But the tests are sometimes too long and need to be revised.

The timing is perfect for this. California has adopted the voluntary, multistate Common Core State Standards. California's old STAR system, launched by the Legislature in 1997, sunsets and a new assessment system is supposed to be in place for the 2014-15 school year. Steinberg should make sure that the timelines in his bill match the timelines for the Common Core Standards.

To make sure tests have "tangible meaning" for students, especially in high school, Steinberg should consider linking them to UC/CSU entrance tests or noting results on transcripts. (boldface mine--Darren)
Yes, such a change would only effect college-bound students, but at least it's a start.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

not only does the tcap impact the teachers in tennessee it is 15% or more of the students second semester grade. sure hope the cut scores haven't been lowered to make everyone look good...

W.R. Chandler said...

I would welcome this accountability. It has always chapped me that I am held responsible for these students' test scores when I have so little control over their performance.

Scott mccall said...

Arizona offers free tuition to students who did well on their high school standardized tests. I think that's a good incentive.

maxutils said...

Gosh, Mr. Steinberg . . . that's just what we need. Another government program that puts people who know little about teaching in to rooms for 10 minutes to assess a teacher's skill . . . what an excellent use of tax money. And, then we teachers get to show off our student's work . . . or, parts of it. How on earth do you think you can afford this? As for making the test meaningful to the students? If you want to put a minimum score needed to go on to the next class, cool . . . but, I don't think putting a test that looks nothing like my other assessments in to their grade is an awful idea. Especially since the tests are terrible . . .

mazenko said...

Our state scores continue dropping as our ACT scores skyrocket. You think it has something to do with student accountability?

Because state's mandate that school rankings and teacher evaluations take state test scores into account, I'd like for states to rule that any state university or any higher ed school that takes state or federal money is required to take a students state test scores into account for admission.

They already look at ACT/SAT. There's no reason UCLA or Illinois of UMass, etc, should make state test scores part of their admission process.

Darren said...

Unless you meant there's no reason they *shouldn't* look at test scores, then I don't understand your point.

mazenko said...

Sorry, "shouldn't."

They should use state test scores - which arguably show more after accruing over years and containing writing and short answer - as much as a single ACT score.