Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Standardized Testing Research In Progress

While mired in my recent look at APS middle school websites (a task now, finally, finished) I took breaks by looking into what is, I think, a little-known fact.

Back in 2008, The N.M. Public Education Department made a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education. The proposal centered on inclusion of an "Individual Student Academic Change" (ISAC) growth model calculation (proposal documentation here), instead of the "let's just look at schools year by year and see how many kids are proficient" model that's been in place since No Child Left Behind was created.

Now the proposal was rejected, for reasons outlined in this massively bureaucratic "decision letter", but I find intriguing both the proposal, and the fact that 99.9% percent of those in NM K-12 education field have no idea this proposal ever existed.

In one of my typical half-assed research occurrences, I can't even tell you exactly how I ran across this thing. I think it started when I went to the U.S. Department of Ed. site looking to hook my financial teeth into some of the billions of new dollars the DoEd is filling everybody's wheelbarrow with these days. One thing led to another and pretty soon I'm finding an obscure remark buried by NM PED Secretary Veronica Garcia in her AYP 2008 "Why Our Scores Suck" (WOSS) report:

In 2008, the PED submitted a growth model proposal. Unfortunately, under proposal guidelines,
New Mexico had a difficult time making the growth-based model fair for our small schools and our proposal was not accepted.

Now I know it's very possible every single person in New Mexico already knows all this, and that I've basically uncovering the patently obvious here. That happens all the time. But if so I sure haven't heard anybody talking about it in the last 18 months.

And that's a bit strange because just about every single K-12 education colleague I've spoken to in the last 18 months hasn't taken more than four seconds from our intitial greeting before apoplectically gryating into a long tirade about how much "standardized testing is Satan" and "it's all a sham" and "I swear I'm going to quit and become a tax attorney or night manager at Wendy's because of this standardized testing crap".

Yet here's a proposal from our good 'ol Public Education Department that would have, at least on the surface, gone quite a ways toward making the whole AYP/standardized testing thing make sense.

In fact, it's the kind of proposal (and rejection) that if I was PED Secretary I'd want every single teacher, school adminstrator and janitor to know about every second of every working day. I would make constant references to it as proof the PED was doing something about an unfair system and would most certainly do so again the very next chance we get. In fact, if I were PED Secretary I'd put the following message on my voice mail and make sure everyone who called me got to hear:

"Hi, I'm the Secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department. And yes the term 'Secretary' is antiquated and sort of bothers me, but I'm in charge here and that's what counts. Did you know we made a proposal to blow up the stupid way AYP is calculated and replace it with a system that actually addresses individual student needs? Well we did. And don't you forget it. Meanwhile, I'm gone right now trying to actually blow up a federal building because they turned us down. Bastards. So leave a message."

I've sent out a few emails to folks in the past few weeks trying to get more information, but, to be honest, haven't heard much of anything back. I also sent an email to Senator Cynthia Nava, guru of all things education in the NM Legislature, but she hasn't written me back either. I wrote to her in particular about...

Sen. Nava — creates a six-year voluntary school accountability pilot project based on a
student growth model for grades 4 through 8 that is separate from but complementary to the
existing school accountability system; and phases in the project over two years. (For the

that I found looking through "Bill Finder" at the NM Legislative site. Hmm..."growth model....pilot project..grades 4 through 8...." Hmmm....

The bottom line is that I'm just like Dylan's "Mr. Jones" (as per normal). Something is most definitely happening and I don't know what it is.

Which is fine and normal...but it does strike me that it would seem to be in quite a few people's best interest for myself and my K-12 educational colleagues to be informed about this stuff. It would seem that, if properly educated on the issue, that my colleagues and I would be enthused and inspired that something was being done/attempted. It would seem to be quite the Public Relations bonanza for a Department woefully short of PR success.

But what do I know. Truth be told, not a Hell of a lot. Sure would like to know more though.

P.S.: Attention middle school teachers: Did you know that neither the State nor Feds absolutely require any sort of assessments for grades 3-8. Well, that's what this long, long document (look at Attachment 1) from the NM Legislative Study Committee appears to indicate. I say we pile up all the Gates, A2L/DBA and SBA tests for middle schoolers on the school soccer field and set them on fire. Today.


Robin said...

that actually gives me hope...
I think?

SydTheSkeptic said...

I've got some matches...

Robin said...

Scot do know what a DIBEL and/or KDPR test is? I asked my daughters Kindergarten teacher who mentioned these tests in her newletter but I have yet to receive response...

jscotkey said...

Robin: I'm lucky to have one of those jobs where others, largely, administer all the placement tests. As such, I get to miss tons of acronyms like DIBEL and KDPR (and instead get to focus on SBA and DBA, which used to be called A2L and is still called A2L by just about everyone but is now supposed to be called DBA).

I did a google search on DIBEL and saw a bunch of stuff. I guess another reason I don't hear much about that is it's an Kindergarten/Elementary sort of thing. KDPR didn't pull up I'm sure you already know from checking yourself.

So, in other words, I'm no help atall. Anybody else?

Anonymous said...

Scot, I hate to burst your bubble, but the LESC document you linked to actually does list NMSBA/NMAPA as a federal requirement for "school accountability" in grades 3-8.

jscotkey said...

Anon: It's very possible that somewhere in that mass o' text there's a confirmation of that...I was just referring to "Attachment 1".

I'll go back through the whole thing when the mood strikes me (which may be quite some time off) to see where it does. Btw, could you help my "mood" by citing a page number where it does mention a federal mandate?

Anonymous said...

In addition to a listing for grades 3-8 under the "Federal Requirements" column in Attachment 1, the following quote appears on page 2 of the main document: "Requirements:
State standards-based assessments: Yearly, school districts must administer uniform, highquality
student academic assessments aligned with the state’s academic content and student
academic achievement standards in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science. The
assessments must be administered in each grade 3-8 and once in high school to satisfy the
accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the
state Assessment and Accountability Act."

jscotkey said...


Thanks for looking that up. To be honest, we all know of that requirement and I was just making a joke because there is a hole in the 3rd-8th box on this "attachment 1".

I admit it's not much of a joke, but these days we teachers need to find humor any way we can. Even if its missing data on tables attached to terribly long, unremittingly boring, governmental reports.

Sad I know, but can't the same be said for the entire process at this point?

Again thanks for taking time to find this out, and for dropping by this neck of the Internet woods.