First grade teacher John O'Hickey, of Brooklyn School of Inquiry. Part of O'Hickey's evaluation will be based on state test scores from students in higher grades in the school.
When it comes to getting rid of standardized testing in early grades, the city and the teachers union are on the same page — both want them eliminated from their teacher evaluation plans.
But the two sides, whose toxic relationship seems to have reached new highs in Mayor Bloomberg's final year in office, are taking different approaches toward achieving the same end goal.
The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up its latest critique of teacher evaluations today by joining a statewide coalition that wants to ban standardized tests in any class below third grade. UFT President Michael Mulgrew first raised the issue two weeks ago, arguing that they are developmentally inappropriate because some students can barely hold a pencil, let alone fill in bubble sheets.
"To be using it at these young ages is just ridiculous," Mulgrew said today on a conference call with reporters.
In New York City, a small fraction of the city's roughly 800 elementary schools is supposed to administer the bubble tests this year because of how the city's evaluation plan was written, though parents at some schools are rebelling against the mandate.
Officials at the Department of Education agree with Mulgrew, but they are hoping a quieter discussion with state education Commissioner John King will lead to a solution. There is optimism that the strategy is working.
"The commissioner has indicated a willingness to look at this issue and consider some flexibility for the current school year," Polakow-Suransky said.
Attorney Kristie Anderson, left, representing State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education, debated with Michelle McKeown, right, an attorney for Gov. Mike Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, before the Indiana State Board of Education Friday.
The struggle between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence for control of Indiana's education policy reached a fever pitch Friday with dueling lawyers arguing over interpretations of Indiana's A to F rules before a sometimes befuddled Indiana State Board Education.
Kristie Anderson, representing Ritz and the the Indiana Department of Education, stood side-by-side with Michelle McKeown, an attorney for Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, offering competing interpretations of state law.
Board members, meanwhile, sparred over which advice to follow.
“It seems as if our debate is about the board’s role and when it should start,” Ritz said
The first meeting since tension boiled over last month into a lawsuit by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz against the other 10 members of the board lived up to its billing as another battle royale.
Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test, which released scores today.
Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test of reading and math known as the "nation's report card," according to data released today.
Indiana's 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. Eighth graders posted smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered.
"“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a statement. "This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools.”
The state's success instantly renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008.
Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said Bennett's fight for reform may have cost him his job but it appears to have yielded improvements.
"I think we're starting to see results," said Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "These battles are hard-fought, and if we didn't see any results, then we might wonder if it's worth it."
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, attributed the gains to standards reform in the early 2000s, specifically rejecting Bennett and Daniels' policies as a reason for the improvement.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew testifies at a state senate hearing in New York City. At right, Senator John Flanagan, chair of the education committee, listens.
The city wants to get rid of unpopular "bubble sheet" tests that some of its youngest students are required to take this year, a top Department of Education official said on Tuesday.
"There are better ways to do assessments of early childhood and I think that we can find a better way to do it," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told lawmakers in testimony at state Senate hearing. The hearing was planned by Senator John Flanagan in large part as an opportunity for people to air their frustration with the state's new standards and the tests associated with them.
The math tests in question, called Discovery Education Assessment, are being given to small portion of students in kindergarten through second grades as part of their teachers' evaluations, a portion of which must measure student learning over the course of a school year. Discovery's tests include elements, like No. 2 pencils and standardized bubble answers, that teachers and experts have panned as developmentally inappropriate.
Polakow-Suransky echoed that criticism on Tuesday and vowed to offer an alternative student learning measure soon to take effect for this school year.
It represents a somewhat sudden reversal for the city, which bought the Discovery tests from a vendor in August for this school year after declining to use its own elementary math assessments, an option that Commissioner John King preferred when he crafted DOE's new teacher evaluation rules. Polakow-Suransky's comments come as push back against testing policies from parents and teachers have escalated statewide in recent weeks, prompting the State Education Department to make a series of its own changes to curtail the role of testing requirements.
Political and logistical impediments could thwart New York’s participation in a multi-state consortium formed to improve the quality of standardized tests.
When New York adopted the Common Core learning standards in 2010, education officials also committed to participating in a federally funded consortium that would produce a computer-based assessment system tied to the standards.
The computer-based testing would allow tests finally to require the kinds of critical thinking that the Common Core asks students to do, advocates say. In the online tests dreamed up by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, screens replace bubble sheets, students type their essays, and math problems are solved by dragging and dropping answers. Expedited grading would return results to schools in weeks, offering teachers valuable feedback before the end of the year.
State officials have long signaled an intention to shift to the PARCC tests once they become available in the 2014-2015 school year. But they still have not formally committed to that plan, and State Education Commissioner John King suggested last week, in the wake of the state’s first round of Common Core-aligned tests, that the urgency had passed.
"I suspect that we will perhaps move more slowly than some other states since we know that we have in place very high-quality Common Core assessments," King said.
When state test scores come out in the next couple of weeks, one student who won’t count in the city’s averages is Matthew Sprowal. Encouraged by his mother Karen Sprowal, Matthew did not take the state tests, the first to be tied to new learning standards known as the Common Core, out of protest.
Nathan Place, a student at CUNY’s journalism school, filed this video report about the family and the movement against “high-stakes testing.” Writes Place:
Matthew, 10, was the one student at his school who “opted out” of the test. His mother, Karen Sprowal, told the school’s principal that he would be refusing the test as an act of protest, and while the rest of Matthew’s fourth-grade class took the tests, he sat in another classroom and read quietly.