Testing & Standards

300 California Groups Back Common Core

Just as CTA members are reading their latest California Educator magazine all about the value and challenges of the Common Core State Standards, there is good news that more than 300 California business, nonprofit and children’s groups have signed a statement supporting the landmark new standards.

Circulated by the nonprofit children’s group Children Now, the full statement of signers represents an impressive array of community and business groups, including the California State PTA and various chambers of commerce, the San Diego NAACP, several urban school district superintendents, and various chapters of United Way. Read this EdSource story about the outpouring of support.

The statement says Common Core “will benefit students by having fewer, clearer, and deeper standards and require a greater use of analysis, critical thinking and real-world skills.” The petition also backs the Smarter Balanced assessments of the standards because the tests “are designed to help educators and parents know if students are progressing and understanding what they are supposed to be learning.”

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Board of Education Approves Science Standards

The California State Board of Education this month adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are designed to bring science instruction up to date.

NGSS emphasizes a deeper focus on understanding the cross-cutting concepts within and across scientific disciplines. These new standards integrate engineering practices with science practices to help students understand the workings of science and the natural world. They also provide a coherent progression of learning from Kindergarten through grade 12, so students learn step by step the knowledge and skills they need for college and careers.

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Bill to Suspend STAR Tests Up for a Vote

Lawmakers are finalizing a few key bills -- some that impact educators and students -- as they prepare to recess this Friday.

Among the many bills is AB 484 by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and sponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, which overhauls the state's accountability system in preparation for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. CTA continues to have a support position on the bill. It is also supported by the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Education, educators and parents.

In general, AB 484 provides a transition to new computer-based assessments that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards by suspending the state's current Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program for one year and replacing it with the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP). The goal is to clear the decks of the outdated and out-of-sync tests this year. The bill phases in the new assessments and accountability system through 2016-17 to ensure student and educator readiness for the new standards. It also eliminates second grade testing.

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Aligning Teacher Prep With Common Core State Standards

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) has made a series of changes to better align teacher preparation requirements with the demands of teaching the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Specific changes in three key areas are outlined below, and more are expected in the coming months in further alignment to the new science standards, as well as reviewing Special Education Teaching Performance Expectations to ensure compatibility with the CCSS. The CCTC:

  • Adopted revised Subject Matter Requirements (SMFs) for the California Standards Examination for Teachers (CSET) in Multiple Subject, Single Subject English, and Single Subject Mathematics.
  • Adopted revised California Teaching Performance Expectations (TPEs) so that they are aligned with the CCSS. Accredited colleges and universities design their teacher preparation programs so that credential candidates meet the expectations in the TPEs. The teaching performance assessment that every teacher-candidate has to pass before gaining their preliminary credential is also based on the TPEs. Full implementation of the TPEs is expected by 2014-15.
  • Clarified that induction programs must also use the CCSS as the definition of “standards of pupil performance.” Induction programs are charged with supporting new teachers’ professional skills in relation to pupil performance. Further, induction programs may provide CCSS professional development to beginning teachers to help strengthen a teacher’s ability to apply pedagogical skills beyond what may have been demonstrated for the preliminary credential. This clarification is designed to allow for the use of CCSS professional development funds to be used by induction programs.

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Record Number of Educators Take Part in Workshop at Annual Summer Institute

A lot is on the minds of educators as they prepare for the 2013-14 school year in addition to all it takes to get ready to welcome a school full of students. But this year, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the implementation of the mandates seem to be weighing heavily on the minds of educators.

A major draw of this year’s Summer Institute has been the training about how the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards will impact students, classrooms, and educators’ professional lives.

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Rhee ignored warnings of widespread cheating in DC

From Education Votes:

The release of a confidential memo showing that Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst founder and CEO and former Chancellor of DC Public Schools, was made aware of widespread cheating on standardized tests as early as 2009 but made no attempt to discipline the cheaters, is prompting parents and educators to take a second look at public schools’ overreliance on standardized testing. While only a single teacher was let go for cheating, Rhee fired more than 600 teachers for low test scores, sending a strong message that her priority was higher test scores at any cost.
Read John Merrow's detailed coverage of the cheating scandal.

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CTA supports the MAP test boycott

Teachers at Garfield High School and other Seattle Public Schools have gained national attention and support for their stand against the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test for its invalidity, waste of time and resources and its scandalous arrival to Seattle. We have demonstrated our support to Garfield and the other schools by sending a letter on behalf of our 325,000 members last month.

In California, we share many of the same concerns about tests used as an evaluation tool when they do not line up width state standards or district curriculum and are not designed at all to measure teacher quality. We also share the deep concerns about the overemphasis on standardized tests as an indicator of student achievement.

TODAY is the National Day of Action to Support Seattle MAP Test Boycott. CTA will be joining NEA and the other organizations and individuals whom have expressed their support. We encourage you to join us in taking action to Scrap the Map. As educators we know what's best for our students and that's why we support our fellow educators in Seattle in calling for well-designed assessment tools that can help students evaluate their own strengths and needs and help teachers improve. Off-the-shelf assessments that are not aligned width the curriculum or goals of the schools are not the answer.

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New Study Refutes LA Times Teacher Ranking

A study released this week confirms what CTA has been saying since the Los Angeles Times first published teacher rankings based on standard test scores two years ago:  that the Times methodology was flawed and the resulting rankings were of little value in actually rating or predicting a teacher’s effectiveness.  The study by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice calls out the Times for its analysis and subsequent overreaching conclusions about who is a good or bad teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

CTA members were appalled when the Times decided it would be the new arbiter of effective teaching in Los Angeles, and its decision to publish teacher names and Times-assigned rankings was irresponsible.  The new study not only points why the Times was wrong, but it reinforces concerns CTA and others have been pointing out about using test scores to rate teachers long before the Times started this project.

Since No Child Left Behind was passed over a decade ago, the emphasis on standardized testing has gotten completely out of control. What was once a valuable tool to help teachers determine how well their students were learning has become a high stakes (high stakes for everyone except the students actually taking the test, and most of them know it) performance measure on which funding and even sometimes  jobs now depend.

Standardized tests cover only a fraction of the content taught by teachers. English and math scores don’t tell us much about how a student will do in science or social studies, and even those scores are just a snapshot of where a student was on a particular day in relation to that particular test. The tests were never designed to measure teacher effectiveness, but  they’ve been hijacked for a whole new purpose so in many cases they are now viewed as more about the teachers than they are about the students.

The Times attempted to make their reliance on test scores more fair or accurate by using a “value-added” model that tries to take into account factors like a student’s previous testing history. But the value-added concept in teacher evaluation has been questioned or  debunked by many researchers, as there are too many unaccounted for factors, including the types of students a teacher receives over a period of years. The Great Lakes study reasserts that a value-added ranking is of little or no help to parents.

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The Daily Show Meets Arne Duncan

CTA VP Heins to Address Teaching Quality and California’s Future Forum in Sacramento

CTA Vice President Eric Heins

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