Sunday, September 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 27: PSSA Scores Tank; Researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank PA students as among the best in the nation.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup September 27, 2015:
PSSA Scores Tank; Researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank PA students as among the best in the nation.

This is a limited weekend edition of the PA Ed Policy Roundup, focused primarily on standardized testing issues…

Ironically, while the state implements a new test which scores over 70 percent of its eighth graders at either basic or below basic in math and 40 percent of its fourth graders in basic or below basic in reading, researchers from the National Center for Educational Statistics rank Pennsylvania students as among the best in the nation. Pennsylvania’s students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and math rate them among the top in the country.
According to the (2013) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only three states have statistically significant higher fourth-grade reading scores than Pennsylvania and only two states have statistically significant higher eighth-grade reading scores than PA; only seven states have statistically significant higher fourth-grade math scores than PA, and only five states have statistically significant higher eighth-grade math scores than PA.
The researchers also performed a study that statistically linked state performance on the NAEP eighth-grade mathematics and science tests with international performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) eighth-grade mathematics and science tests.
— Science: Pennsylvania’s NAEP performance would rank it below only six education systems (Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan, Finland, Alberta-Canada), comparable to four, and above 37.
— Math: Pennsylvania ranked below only six education systems (Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, and Russia), comparable to Quebec, and above 40.
“You look at how our Chester County students compare in Pennsylvania to those in the rest of the nation and by all objective measures, our students are outperforming their peers nationally and internationally,” said Dr. Joseph O’Brien, executive director, Chester County Intermediate Unit. “We need to keep our perspective when looking at these latest results. They are but one measure of our students’ ability and of the quality education students receive in public schools in Chester County and throughout the Commonwealth.”

PSSA scores expected to take heavy hit
West Chester Daily Local By Staff Report  POSTED: 09/25/15, 6:26 PM EDT
DOWNINGTOWN >> Chester County superintendents and their counterparts across the commonwealth are warning parents that their children’s state assessment scores, known as the PSSAs, may drop when they receive their student’s official scores this September. Preliminary results of test scores released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to school districts indicate that scores statewide have plummeted. According to the Department of Education, this is a result of the first-time administration of a Pennsylvania State System of Assessment (PSSA) aligned to the Pennsylvania (PA) Core Standards, which were adopted in 2013.
The new test prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Education to obtain a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in using the 2015 PSSA scores to calculate School Performance Profiles (SPP) for schools with students in grades 3-8. The SPP is used to provide the community with an overall rating of their public schools performance as well as used in the teacher effectiveness ratings in public school teachers’ evaluations. As a result, most public and charter elementary and middle schools will not recieve an SPP score this year. High schools will still receive an SPP score as high school students take the Keystone Exams and not the PSSAs.

The Nation's Report Card State Snapshot Report for Pennsylvania
2013 4th Grade Reading
US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics

The Nation's Report Card State Snapshot Report for Pennsylvania
2013 8th Grade Reading
US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics

The Nation's Report Card State Snapshot Report for Pennsylvania
2013 4th Grade Mathematics
US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics

The Nation's Report Card State Snapshot Report for Pennsylvania
2013 8th Grade Mathematics
US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics

StudentsFirstPA: Here's an argument for why teacher evaluations are a good idea: Ashley DeMauro
PennLive Op-Ed  By Ashley DeMauro on September 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM, updated September 25, 2015 at 10:06 AM
Ashley DeMauro is the State Director of StudentsFirst in Pennsylvania, a nonprofit advocacy group.
When I saw Lloyd E. Sheaffer's  Aug. 27 PennLive column about Pennsylvania's teacher evaluation system, I was glad to see this important initiative being discussed.
After all, we know that teachers are the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement.  Unfortunately, I disagreed with much of what Sheaffer had to say about the state's Educator Effectiveness System.  Contrary to what he believes, it plays an important role in policies that can elevate the teaching profession in Pennsylvania.   In his column, Sheaffer voices a preference for an evaluation system that uses classroom observation to gauge how well teachers are impacting their students.  I agree that this in-person assessment is a very valuable tool, and as he notes in his column, it's the one factor that makes up the largest portion of the new system.  It is important to note, however, that using one type of evaluation only tells one part of a story with many chapters.   While the old system was 100 percent based on observation, the new system bases 50 percent on observation by school leaders.

How is this fair? Art teacher is evaluated by students’ math standardized test scores
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 25, 2015
Among the most absurd hallmarks of the high-stakes standardized testing era are teacher evaluation systems that assess teachers on the test scores of students they don’t have and/or subjects they don’t teach. Why has this practice has been going on for years? High-stakes standardized tests are only given in math and English language arts. So complicated — and invalid  — mathematical formulas are concocted to figure out how teachers who don’t teach math and English can be judged by those test scores anyway. ( In fact, for a few years in Washington D.C., every adult in every public school building, including custodians and lunchroom workers, were evaluated in part by the school’s average test scores.) Teachers in some states have sued to stop this practice.  In the following post, a New York City teacher relates his experience of being evaluated by the scores of students he doesn’t have. Jake Jacobs is in his eighth year as an art teacher, currently in a high-needs public school in New York City.

"Teachers won an end to the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate them — and now, teachers will be included in decisions on the amount of standardized testing for students. This evaluation practice has been slammed by assessment experts as invalid and unreliable, and has led to the narrowing of curriculum, with emphasis on the two subjects for which there are standardized tests, math and English Language arts."
The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 25 at 12:03 PM  
Seattle teachers went on strike for a week this month with a list of goals for a new contract. By the time the strike officially ended this week, teachers had won some of the usual stuff of contract negotiations — for example, the first cost-of-living raises in six years — but also less standard objectives.  For one thing, teachers demanded, and won, guaranteed daily recess for all elementary school students — 30 minutes each day. In an era when recess for many students has become limited or non-existent despite the known benefits of physical activity, this is a big deal, and something parents had sought.

Experts predict the opt-out movement will get some of what it wants
New survey suggests education “insiders” are listening to the opt-out movement
Hechinger Report by EMMANUEL FELTON September 25, 2015
Dolores Ramos, 16, right, joins dozens of Highland High School students in Albuquerque, N.M., as students staged a walkout Monday March 2, 2015, to protest a new standardized test they say isn’t an accurate measurement of their education. Students frustrated over the new exam walked out of schools across the state Monday in protest as the new exam was being given. The backlash came as millions of U.S. students start taking more rigorous exams aligned with Common Core standards. AP Photo/Russell Contreras
With up to 80 percent of students refusing to take federally mandated tests in some districts, politicians and education policymakers are paying attention to the national opt-out movement.
A survey conducted this month by the consulting firm Whiteboard Advisors revealed that education policy and political “insiders” think that the opt-out movement will likely sway many state legislatures, but will struggle to change things in Washington.
Only 47 percent of those surveyed, including current and former U.S. Department of Education leaders, Congressional staffers, state school chiefs and experts at think tanks, expect to see any change to federal law. By comparison, 70 percent say they think the thousands of students refusing to take exams will force states to rethink what tests they give and how they use the results of those tests to judge students, educators and schools.

Florida superintendents revolt: We have ‘lost confidence’ in state’s school accountability system
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss September 26 at 11:28 AM  
Florida’s school superintendents are revolting against the state’s accountability system that uses standardized test scores to measure students, teachers and schools. They just issued a statement saying that they “have lost confidence” in the system’s accuracy and are calling for a suspension and a review of the system.  The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, which represents the state’s 67 district leaders, issued the statement after most of the school chiefs met in Tampa with state schools Commissioner Pam Stewart. They expressed their concerns about the accountability system, which is based on the scores students receive on the Florida Standards Assessments, but she apparently did nothing to temper their concerns and they issued the statement that bluntly says:  Florida district school superintendents have lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the State of Florida.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: September 16 - 22, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on September 22, 2015 - 12:43pm 
Another week with even more assessment reform victories to report as the "Enough is enough!" movement against test misuse and overuse continues to accelerate across the nation.

Pope Francis visit: Spring-Ford school board member Joe Ciresi is part of choir
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 09/25/15, 3:05 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
PHILADELPHIA >> Keep a close eye on the faces performing before the pope this weekend. Chances are you may see someone you know.  Two Montgomery County singers say they are thrilled to be given the chance to sing before Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia Saturday and Sunday. Mike Klenk, a music teacher at Bridle Path Elementary School, in Lansdale, and Joe Ciresi, a Spring-Ford Area School Board member, will be among the many voices lending their talents on stage during the papal visit.  “I’m just thrilled,” Klenk said. “It’s really exciting preparing for the Holy Father.”  “It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Ciresi said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to sing with a choir of this magnitude with this group before the pope.”

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