Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.
I am honored our district gives community members a chance to contribute to the conversation. My dual role as parent and educator drives me to encourage everyone to dig deeply into the reforms and ask the hard questions.
School Boards can make a huge difference. You are the first line of protection in regards to our children. What you approve or disapprove impacts each school and child vastly.
Action #1: Amplify Testing
Two weeks ago, I shared the 3rd Grade Math Benchmark Assessment given to 8 year olds. I hope you had the time to review the last item and its’ scoring guide, as well as the student responses, while keeping in mind the students were required to show their thinking using Microsoft Word.
I posed the problem: 5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2
The answer is 80 and was the first question on the 5th Grade Math Benchmark Test. I watched as children stared at their screens. Minutes went by. Already defeated, they went on to attempt other items. I pondered what we were told regarding Amplify being contracted to write custom assessments for our school district based on our pacing guide and content taught from EngageNY Mathematics. I reviewed the first two modules at 5th grade and the above item had not been taught to this extent, nor was it the focus of the first two units.
- How can we pay an outside source from our limited funds to write “custom assessments” and the items come back not aligned? After all, we do have a “shortfall”… correct?
- How can we ask teachers to replace their module assessments from EngageNY and use the Amplify Test for grades?
- How can we afford to lose precious instruction time to deliver this test, and for what purpose?
- Is it discriminating? Is it valid? Is it reliable? Is it the best measurement of student growth?
Exhibit A Arabic Multiple Choice / Constructed Response Sample Test
I’ve included 3 Multiple Choice Test Items in Arabic and one constructed response. I would like you to pretend you are a student, a non-Arabic speaker, and being asked to take this short “test”. (3 Multiple Choice Questions, one constructed Response) What you are looking at is simpler than what the non-english students in my school experienced.
- Not one word would be in English.
- The Multiple Choice letters would be Arabic.
- If an able body is available they would be able to read each item to you out loud in Arabic.
- 11 peers in your classroom speak 4 other languages and can have it read in Arabic too.
- There is one teacher in the classroom.
- This is the only accommodation.
- No translations are allowed.
- You observe 3 special education students at a table with the teacher, because she can read it out loud to them too. (All reading 2-3 grade levels below 5th grade)
- The other 7 Arabic speaking students raise their hands to ask questions periodically, in which the 5th grade teacher must leave her table to answer.
- The Special Education teacher is not available because she has 32 other qualified students she is expected to deliver individualized instruction to in other classrooms.
- The Arabic Language Teachers are also unavailable because they are in other classrooms delivering instruction to the over 100 students qualified as ALL. (Arabic Language Learners)
- You must type your answers into a machine you have had very little experience with because you had never seen one before or your family can not afford one.
- All the Keys on this foreign machine (keyboard) are in Arabic.
How well would you perform? How would this make you feel about school and learning?
Can you clearly see the issue and concerns teachers are having with this kind of testing zapping instructional hours which eventually turn into days of instruction?
Exhibit B 5th Grade ELA Interim Amplify Assessment
Now flip through the 31 Item, 23 page, 5th Grade ELA Interim 1 Amplify Assessment.
Imagine every single word, every single item, being written in Arabic. You face the computer screen and listen to your teacher say, “Just do your best”, or “all I can do for you is read it out loud in Arabic”, or “???????????????!” .
Exhibit C Item #31 Constructed Response.
Consider completing 30 items and then facing this Item. The students are expected to write a full story with eight criteria to include. During the WASL years, fourth graders were given a full day to complete a prompt like this. Even then, it was inappropriate and does not mirror the authentic writing process. Examine the scoring guide and then review the six anonymous student responses.
Action #1 Request
Please consider equitable ways in which we can assess our most struggling learners. I hope we can begin looking at ways to promote Assessment for Learning over Assessment of Learning.
Children’s brains are not standardized. Just like walking and talking, they learn at different rates and at different times. They have different passions and talents. They need learning experiences and expeditions. This, indeed, will close the “opportunity” gap.
Action Item Request #2 EngageNY (Eureka) Mathematics
I received the following quote from a veteran, dynamic, engaging 1st grade teacher in New York. After reading and considering her words, I urge the board to allow a committee to be formed ASAP to begin the process of finding a researched based math program with sound pedagogy embedding how young children learn mathematics. Please do not wait until next year.
Thank You and May This Season Bring You Never Ending Peace.
RAZ ON FIRE
- Wayne Au, University of Washington Professor, Author: Rethinking Multicultural Education
- Jesse Hagopian, Garfield High School, Author: More Than A Score
- Carol Burris, New York Principal of the Year, now Executive Director of NPE
- Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher, Author: Living in Dialogue & The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation
- Leonie Haimson, Co-Chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Founder and Executive Director of Class Size Matter
- Following The Common Core Money: Where are Millions of Dollars Going? (Valerie Strauss highlights Carol Burris. The history of EngageNY Math revealed)