Archive for Monday, August 2, 2010

‘New path’ sought for student assessments

August 2, 2010


The Kansas State Board of Education is all for letting one of its school districts opt out of the No Child Left Behind testing standards, in favor of ones based on national ACT exams they consider better for preparing students for college and careers.

Report cards

The latest results from state assessments for schools in the Lawrence school district are set to be discussed Aug. 9 by members of the Lawrence school board.

Such information is used to guide decisions about finances, personnel and other issues, said Diane DeBacker, interim Kansas education commissioner. Results in schools’ Adequate Yearly Progress reports are important for many people across the state, including those deciding where they want to live within particular communities.

“They may not know what the ‘A’ or the ‘Y’ or the ‘P’ stand for, but they know it is really the schools’ report card,” DeBacker said. “It’s a big deal.”

Soon it’ll be up to the federal government to decide whether that’s OK.

The McPherson school district is preparing to ask the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from the pervasive No Child Left Behind requirements, ones that have forced school districts across Kansas and the country to assess their students using standardized tests in reading, math and other basic subjects.

While other states and districts have sought and received exemptions to certain aspects of the federal legislation, never before has a Kansas district pushed to choose its own standards. And failing to comply with standards can cost states and districts federal money for education.

In case anyone’s wondering what’s at stake: Kansas schools received $413.6 million from Washington in 2008-09, enough to cover 7.3 percent of the state’s education bills.

“It’s a big deal in that they’re willing to blaze a new path,” said Diane DeBacker, the state’s interim education commissioner, regarding McPherson’s efforts. “Other school districts are looking now and saying, ‘If McPherson can do it, maybe we can.’

“What everybody else is doing in a traditional manner, they’re taking a more innovative approach. They’re sticking their necks out there, and everybody else is waiting to see what happens.”

In Lawrence, educators and administrators are following the McPherson district’s drive to transition to the ACT model.

Rick Doll, superintendent of Lawrence public schools, admits being frustrated with the limits imposed by No Child Left Behind — especially when it comes to the inevitable “narrowing” of curriculum, moves designed to give students the best chances of scoring well on the annual tests.

But the Obama administration will be expected to revise the federal legislation next year, and those changes could offer a more effective and lasting solution than simply “switching tests,” Doll said. Students, for example, could be tested once in the beginning of the school year and again at the end, to show what they’ve learned and where they’re headed.

“I think it’s interesting what McPherson’s doing, but basically what they’re doing is just substituting the ACT for the Kansas assessment test,” said Doll, who once worked as an assistant superintendent in the McPherson district. “I’d like to move to a growth model, so we change the paradigm of testing so that it’s not a one-point-in-time test. It should be an assessment model that shows growth, or lack of growth.”

The McPherson district’s plan — known as “Citizenship, College and Career Ready,” or C3 — came together during the past year. The district has 2,400 students north of Hutchinson in south central Kansas.

Teachers, administrators, business leaders and others in the district agreed that they wanted their students to graduate with an ability to succeed in college and in their chosen careers.

That would mean finding a different way to assess success, said Randy Watson, superintendent of McPherson public schools. The evidence: While McPherson eighth-graders last year achieved the highest standard on state reading assessments that comply with No Child Left Behind, only 43 percent of those same students qualified as on track to be “ready for college” as determined by the reading portion of the ACT Explore test.

Acing a state assessment test shouldn’t be the goal, Watson said. Succeeding in college or a career should be.

“We’re working really hard, but we’re working in the wrong place,” Watson said. “We’re in the forest, chopping down trees, but we’re in the wrong forest. We’re over here measuring (standards for state assessments), but it’s not something that leads to anything.

“We’re looking for a higher standard.”

State support

The district took its plan to Topeka, and on June 8 presented it to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Board members listened intently to the process, methods and goals of the program, and offered their personal and professional support. While members did not take a formal vote, DeBacker said, they did indicate a willingness to adjust accreditation rules in support of the plan.

They also would assist the district in seeking approval in Washington.

“If there’s anytime there’s a likelihood this could happen, it’s now,” DeBacker said.

McPherson officials plan to send in their application sometime this fall. The district already will be paying to have its older students take various ACT tests this fall; the hope is that students in grades 6 through 12 won’t need to take state assessments come spring.

DeBacker will be waiting to see whether her department might be able to build off the McPherson district’s plan.

“We know, under the (Obama) reauthorization, we will have another way of measuring student success,” DeBacker said. “If this works, why not take this approach across the state?”


cato_the_elder 5 years ago

So public educators in Kansas are awaiting "permission from the Obama administration" to change their standards? Good grief, folks, what ever happened to local control over public education? The only reason Bush's worst idea, "No Child Left Behind," ever got inflicted on public education in the first place was the fact that since the Eisenhower administration, the federal government has gradually taken over control of public education in America - and with what results? The federal Department of Education should either be abolished or strictly limited to administering direct aid grants to states, with the states doing the same for local school districts. No one in Washington ever should have been given the right to tell Lawrencians how to educate their children, period. Too entrenched ever to change? After close to two years of Obama, has the American public finally awakened to what politicians are doing to cement the role of Washington as overseer of all aspects of our lives? Let's see what happens after November.

Jimo 5 years ago

Kansas is free to give the Feds the boot - any time they're willing to give up the (borrowed) money.

If you want control, raise the revenues necessary to be independent. When you cut taxes on the wealthy, you give up your freedom to act.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Jimo, when you raise taxes on anyone, we all lose part of our freedom.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Hey, Jimo, way to go - you've just demonstrated that you have the effective maturity of a six-year old. For some years now I've wondered how hard leftists like you ever could survive without being able to dredge up Timothy McVeigh's name whenever they want to showcase their ignorance. Given your hero Barack's long-standing ties with convicted homegrown terrorists who go back way farther than McVeigh, I suggest that you peer through the window of your glass house before ever again making such a reprehensible statement.

weeslicket 5 years ago

once again ljworld: examples of bullying behaviors from cato the elder. to whit:: "you've just demonstrated that you have the effective maturity of a six-year old. For some years now I've wondered how hard leftists like you ever could survive without being able to dredge up Timothy McVeigh's name whenever they want to showcase their ignorance. Given your hero Barack's long-standing ties with convicted homegrown terrorists who go back way farther than McVeigh, I suggest that you peer through the window of your glass house before ever again making such a reprehensible statement."

really, ljworld, how much more of this nasty talk must we endure in our community. do you have no tools at your availability?

Jimo 5 years ago

I'm less worried by the "nasty" nature than the nihilism: even 1 dollar of tax equates to becoming a slave to the government. What???? Cato should just visit any one of several places on earth where there's no gov't to tax him. This remains a free country (leave if you don't like it!). He'll end up like Eric Cartman wandering the deserts of Ethiopia while the buzzards gather.

mom_of_three 5 years ago

you mean with those "homegrown terrorists" from the 1970's. Obama was 8 years old when those acts were committed, and during a time of great turmoil in the country. And I believe those "ties" were in recent years, after Ayers became an English professor, and not when he was out bombing anybody.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Mom_of _three, do you know who avowed communist Frank Marshall Davis was? Do you know of his role as Obama's acknowledged mentor? If you don't, you should.

Jimo 5 years ago

One of millions of hard leftists who've voted Republican before your were born. Get a life, nihilist.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Jimo, the effrontery of far-left cretins like you who have the temerity to talk about America still being a "free country" now that Obama and his liberal Democrat buddies have taken over our health care system, our financial system, two major auto manufacturers and more, with still more government controls of all kinds on their plate, is galling. No honest person could ever say that America is not less free since the advent of Obama and his pals. If that's the kind of "freedom" you like, Jimo, then you have no more respect for the underpinnings of our Constitution than Obama does.

Weeslicket, you need to grow a pair.

Jimo 5 years ago

Of course we haven't "taken over" health, finance, or anything else. How do you get this non-responsive wackjob lie from "when you raise taxes on anyone, we all lose part of our freedom.when you raise taxes on anyone, we all lose part of our freedom"???

"Far left" = conservatives who show me up to be a fascist nut. Sorry, I'm far more conservative than you reveal yourself to be.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Jimo, by saying "we," does that mean that you're employed by the federal government? If you're not, why do you say "we?" Whatever you do for a living, if anything, denying that the federal government has at least for now taken over our health care is the biggest lie of all.

By the way, have you ever employed anyone? Do you have a job? If you do have a job, is it in the private or public sector?

weeslicket 5 years ago

By the way, have you ever employed anyone? Do you have a job? If you do have a job, is it in the private or public sector?

same old crap from cato.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Yes; yes; very gainfully employed in the private sector, and paying plenty of taxes that the government takes from us to support those who don't.

Jimo 5 years ago

Really dude? Are you like in third grade?

We. You know, Americans. Reading comprehension isn't your strength, is it?

I am well-compensated for providing advice for private sector clients about their business decisions (although some of them do business with a variety of governments). Unlike teaching, I might note, I either produce quantifiable results or don't work.

Even 1 dollar of tax equates to becoming a slave to the government. Hmmm...sorry, but you got called out on your silly nonsense. Just like a wingnut: no justification, no apology, no matter how over the top - just move on to irrelevant jabbering on other topics (apparently thinking you've made us forget your initial stupid commentary).

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Jimo, do you call your alleged private-sector clients "dude?" If I were your client, it would be the last time. The same applies to the phrase "like in third grade," which betrays your immaturity. I stand by what I said: Whenever taxes are increased on anyone, we all lose part of our freedom. If you are either stupid or masochistic enough to enjoy having your own taxes raised by irresponsible politicians, then that's your business. I suspect, however, that in reality you aren't "well-compensated" enough to be that concerned about it.

Jimo 5 years ago

"do you call your alleged private-sector clients "dude?"

Just the immature ones - just at the point they're about to be disinvited from the meeting, or any other meeting, forever.

"I stand by what I said."

No, one "stands by" a statement until after providing justification for it. You've merely repeated yourself -- after wasting your last 24 hours (and mine) on gossamer irrelevancies for the purpose of avoiding the embarrassment of being called out on making one of the more incredibly stupid statements on here in 2010. Just as for Fox News so also for you: repeating hyperbole doesn't make it any more true. If you had any justification for such an inane claim, you would have made it a hundred words ago so I shall leave you to your temper tantrum.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Jimo, you've clearly demonstrated that you don't have the intellect or maturity to appreciate what I've said. People such as you who use phrases such as "Are you like in third grade" are the same naive, juvenile, wet-behind-the-ears lemmings who elected Obama. You don't understand taxation, period, and you're too young to realize what confiscatory taxation portends for your own future. Did you vote for Obama hoping that you could steal your health insurance from the taxpayers and thus cop a trip to Cabo that you otherwise couldn't afford if you had to pay for health insurance? It is, however, rewarding to see that I upset you to the extent that after you provided a silly response, you then stewed about it to the extent that you fired another blank. Based on the drivel you've spewed forth so far, if you really "provide advice for private-sector clients about their business decisions," that must mean that you advise private citizens who shop at the Merc about their business decisions as to which type of organic produce to buy.

weeslicket 5 years ago

ooooohhhhhh.... how will i ever be able to sleep tonight?

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Try Ambien. I hear from my liberal friends, who can't sleep from all the guilt they choose to bear, that it works well.

weeslicket 5 years ago

i slept fine last night. thank your for your concern.

KSManimal 5 years ago

Let's pretend for a minute that NCLB wasn't an insidious plan to destroy public education and open the market to for-profit charter school operators....

How can the federal gov't say "this is so important to do, we're going to make it law"; and then promptly fail to fund the law? I'd love to see a clause in the revised ESEA stating that all 50 states are exempt from any requirements within the law in the event that the federal government fails to provide full funding for it. Unfunded mandates are either 1) simple political stunts from those who don't care about education; or 2) deliberate attempts to undermine the success of public schools in order to clear the way for privatization.

That being said, the Bush-era revisions of ESEA - placing 100% of the blame for society's problems on schools & teachers, while mandating statistically-impossible perfection by 2014.........Google "adequate yearly diddily poop" for a reality check.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

The current regime will want students to show willingness to inform on their parents for passing along "fishy" information. The ability to sing the "mmm, mmm, mmm" song will also be required.

weeslicket 5 years ago

if you want, i'll give you a description of the differences between in-puts based models, and out-comes based models. it's informative, but very very boring.

anywhos, right now in kansas and in the us, we have an outcomes view of the educational world. so, let me posit the following link for you to the kansas standards: (click on any subject, peruse by grade level, etc)

agree with these standards, disagree with them, dabble about in them as you might. but, at lease please argue from factual knowledge.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.