Tag Archive for 'testing'

Accommodations that don’t?

Many of us have probably heard anecdotes about accommodations that failed or even backfired. A summary of a state NEA survey of Washington state teachers indicated those teachers’ concern about students losing mandated IEP services because of administration of a Smarter Balanced Assessment, that state’s version of the Common Core.

A pair of two articles in the LA Times covers this topic, too. The lead one, “How new tools meant to help special education students take standardized tests actually made it harder” discussed one teacher’s experiences and some larger issues with references to Washington and Oregon. The second one summarized anecdotes from teachers about problems they encountered in administering California’s Common Core: “These are the problems some California teachers had when they tested students with disabilities.”

I encourage readers to be cautious about presuming that these stories and others like them indict the Common Core State Standards. There are many other players in the mix in these stories, too. Note how poorly designed or executed Universal Design for Learning might be at play in the representations of assessment materials, how the technologies themselves may be contributing to the difficulties, and of course, how these reports are only anecdotal. We have no idea how many other stories there are and how representative these may be of all the stories that could be told.

That does not mean educators should not try to address them, to fix them. Indeed, it’s important to examine problems carefully. Perhaps the National Center on Educational Outcomes, a respected US research and development group that provides technical assistance about the participation of students with disabilities and English language learners (and a collaborator with the Smarter Balanaced Assessment folks), is studying these issues.

One interesting way to study the problems might be to collect the anecdotes about problems in a systematic way…sort of crowd-source them into a data base: State test; student disability category; student age; testing area; accommodation…etc., problem encountered.

If there were a few 1000 examples, maybe some consistent patterns would be clear.

PISA results as Rorschach

The education press is abuzz about the release of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 results, so it’s a good time for some semi-snarky speculation about excuses for the less-than-stellar relative scores for US students and about proposals we’ll be hearing or reading regarding what the US education system should do to correct underlying problems leading to those scores. Here’s a start. Feel free to add your own in the comments. (For bonus points, drop in references to news stories, letters to the editor, and etc. where people actually express one of the prototypical positions!)
Continue reading ‘PISA results as Rorschach’

Teaching effectively and LD

Folks who are interested in effective teaching for students with Learning Disabilities (and other students as well) can learn a lot at the up-coming conference of the Division for Learning Disabilities in Baltimore (MD, US) later this month. Michael Gerber assembled a fine group of sessions, as shown at the end of this post.

Check out the all-star cast. Note the coverage of relevant topics ranging from RTI to math, primary to adolescent ages (with some adult interests included!), and skills to cognition. On top of the fine content, there will be excellent opportunities to mix and mingle with other people attending the conference as well as presenters and members of DLD’s executive board during social events that include breakfasts, a luncheon, and a reception. Lots of materials are included.

Learn more about the TeachingLD Conference 2010, including how to register on line.

  • Using Evidence-Based Interventions to Teach Primary Level Students Early Numeracy Concepts and Skills
    —Diane P. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin) & Brian R. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin)
  • The Math Learning Companion: An Individualized Intervention for Students with Math Learning Disabilities
    —Lindy Crawford (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) & Barbara Freeman (Digital Directions International)
  • Responsive, Comprehensive, and Intensive Intervention for Older Struggling Readers
    —Lynn M. Gelzheiser (University at Albany) & Laura Hallgren Flynn (University at Albany)
  • Adults with Learning Disabilities: Current Research, Evidence-based Conclusions, and Emerging Directions
    —Paul J. Gerber (Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • Effective Rime-Based Instruction to Improve the Decoding Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities
    —Sara J. Hines (Hunter College), Jennifer T. Klein (Hunter College), & Kathleen M. Ryan (The Churchill School)
  • The Essay Writing Strategy: Helping Students Write More Organized and Complete Responses to Essay Questions and Prompts
    —Charles A. Hughes (Penn State University) & Bill Therrien (University of Iowa)
  • Strategy Training, Problem Solving, and Working Memory in Children with Math Disabilities
    —Olga Jerman (Frostig Center), Amber Moran (University of California at Santa Barbara), Cathy Lussier (University of California at Riverside), Michael Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), & Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • The Technology and Pedagogy of Universal Design for Learning
    —Peggy King-Sears (George Mason University)
  • Early Reading Intervention for Struggling Readers
    —Jill Marie Leafstedt (CSU Channel Islands) & Catherine Richards-Tutor (CSU Long Beach)
  • Response to Intervention Screening and Progress-Monitoring Practices in 41 Local Schools
    —Daryl F. Mellard (University of Kansas)
  • Strategic Instruction for Building Vocabulary
    —J. Ron Nelson (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
  • Beyond Reading Words: Improving Reading Rate, Fluency, and Comprehension
    —Rollanda E. O’Connor (University of California at Riverside)
  • Growth in Literacy, Language, and Cognition in Children with Reading Disabilities who are English Language Learners
    —Michael J. Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara), & Danielle Guzman (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • Response to Intervention in Math: An Instructional Focus
    —Paul J. Riccomini (The Pennsylvania State University)
  • Developing Text Level Literacy Skills in Beginning Readers
    —Emily J. Solari (University of Texas Health Science Center Houston) & Alexis L. Filippini (San Francisco State University)
  • Reading Progress Monitoring for Secondary School Students: Reading-Aloud and Maze-Selection Measures
    —Renata Ticha (University of Minnesota) & Miya Miura Wayman (University of Minnesota)

Please note that I am compensated by DLD as its executive director so this is, indeed, a shameless promotion!

“Our teachers think they’re all effective.”

According to Stannis Steinbeck, principal of Broadus Elementary School in Pacoima (CA, US), this is the view of the members of her faculty. According to data about the teachers’ effects on student achievement, not all teachers are effective. It should come as no surprise that some are more effective than others and some are woefully ineffective.

Jason Felch, Jason Song, and Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Times aggregated achievement test data over seven years and across many students assigned to 6000 teachers to assess which teachers consistently improved and which consistently diminished their students’ outcomes.
Continue reading ‘“Our teachers think they’re all effective.”’

New test results [from KTM]

Over on Kitchen Table Math the contributor who identifies himself as SteveH has a delightful post about some new test results. Here’s the lead:

Recent testing has shown improvement in shoe tying by fourth and eighth graders over the past two years, although the growth has been stagnant in some districts. Urban school activists, however, can be encouraged by the statistical improvement in areas with populations of 250,000 or more. This continues an upward trend that started 6 years ago when this testing began.

Jump over to Testing Shows Improvement in Shoe Tying.

Duncan: Effective teachers

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the National Education Association today, calling on its members to work with him toward the goal of ensuring that “every child in America is learning from an effective teacher—no matter what it takes.”

That’s a noble goal. In my view, it requires that educators shed their allegiance to theory and adopt effective teaching practices. That’s what it takes.

To be sure, there is a lot of emphasis on high-stakes testing. Mr. Duncan even discussed it as one of the four features of his plan for reforming education. The effective teacher idea is another of the four. High-stakes tests (which need reform of their own, in my view—that’s another post) are only part of the game. Another is using evidence to guide instruction.

But even in the absence of results on high-stakes tests and from pristine research projects, educators can ascertain whether they’re using effective methods. That is, we can devise our own means of ascertaining whether teaching practices are effective at a more micro level. In a lot of ways, the process is relatively simple:

  1. Identify goals and objectives in objectively measurable terms. How will we know if the students have learned X?
  2. Identify the skills and knowledge that students will need to demonstrate mastery of those goals and objectives. What is required to show that a student can competently and independently do X?
  3. Devise teaching algorithms for leading students to acquire the skills and knowledge identified in (ii).
    • Model: Demonstrate the skills for the students or tell them the knowledge;
    • Test: Have the students perform the skill or state the knowledge;
    • Coach: Reinforce and correct their performance;
    • Practice to mastery: Have them perform the skill or repeat the knowledge until they are facile with it and can do it under different, increasingly more challenging conditions.
  4. Assess students’ competence according to the goals and objectives specified in (i).

Sure, I’ve simplified it here. Sure, the goals and objectives would need to be integrated in a fashion consistent with an epistemology of various subject areas. And, you’ll have to cut me a little slack about my use of words such as “tell” and “correct”; telling would need to include providing materials to read, for example. But the idea is just about as simple as I’ve sketched it here.

The area of early reading has been mapped according to this perspective on teaching. We can say how we would recognize a competent reader (i), what the component skills are (ii), and how to teach those skills. But the to-be-learned material doesn’t have to be elementary level reading. If the area is chemistry and the objectives were conducting an experiment using electrophoresis, I think we could perform a similar analysis.

Of course, the real trick will be to get people on board with such thinking. Mr. Duncan seems to want to do something like that, but he’s talking about things at a much grander scale.

Remarks of Arne Duncan to the National Education Association—Partners in Reform

Progress on US standards

I took considerable pleasure today in reading an article by Maria Glod of the Washington Post in which she reported about plans to develop national standards in reading and mathematics for students in US schools. In her article, entitled “46 States, D.C. Plan to Draft Common Education Standards,” Ms. Glod described efforts by the governors of most US states to describe a framework of knowledge and skills that would characterize a high-school diplomate who is ready for the world of work or higher education or, ideally, both.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia today will announce an effort to craft a single vision for what children should learn each year from kindergarten through high school graduation, an unprecedented step toward a uniform definition of success in American schools.

The push for common reading and math standards marks a turning point in a movement to judge U.S. children using one yardstick that reflects expectations set for students in countries around the world at a time of global competition. Today, each state decides what to teach in third-grade reading, fifth-grade math and every other class. Critics think some set a bar so that students can pass tests but, ultimately, are ill-prepared.
Continue reading ‘Progress on US standards’

One best way?

The current Bogus Bowl (it’s number 5) raised questions about the professorate, with one alternative mentioning the belief that there is no one best way to teach. The answer to the question, “Is there one best way to teach?,” is surely, “No.” There are actually something like, oh, a few million ways to teach. But some of them are better than others.

Better? Yes, better. That is, some ways of teaching lead to students who score higher on trustworthy measures of declarative and procedural knowledge than the students taught using some other ways of teaching. [Some people will complain that (a) declarative and procedural knowledge are not appropriate foci for education or (b) that trustworthy measurement is impossible; those are arguments for another discussion.] Of course, Teach Effectively is about identifying and employing, and preparing others to employ those methods that meet this standard.

Fortunately, TE is not alone in the quest for use of evidence-based education. Here’s a resource that some readers will find useful. It’s from the IllinoisLoop, a source that’s been over there in the blog roll for much of the tenure of TE.

Is There ONE Best Way to Run a School?

Is there only one way to run a school?

Does rhetoric about “best practices” point to a single “best” way to teach children?

Of course not.

But ed school theorists insist that there is one “best” method. Not only that, they claim that they know exactly what it is!

Consequently, most American schools have moved to that “constructivist” approach and continue to expand its usage further in their classrooms. But mounting evidence calls the whole constructivist framework into question.

The page goes on to integrate a couple of score or a few dozen sources related to the idea in the lead that I’ve reproduced here. There’s plenty of links to good sources. The page would serve admirably as a syllabus for a course on cutting through gobbledygook and identifying clearly reasoned arguments for teaching effectively. Here’s the link. Study hard. There will be quizzes.

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