Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Viewpoint: SB 1 and Bob's four testing ideas

SB 1 uses all four ideas Bob Sexton recommended on the first day of this blog (here).

Balanced Assessment
This idea for continuous classroom looks at how each student is moving toward standards, regular school/program looks at which content is being learned, and annual outside tests to be sure whole schools and districts are on track. SB 1 aims for fewer, clearer standards, which should make the classroom and school level work easier. SB 1 also expects the new statewide tests to provide stronger data on individual students--which will provide a better check on whether classrooms and schools are right about how fast students are moving. Finally, the bill specifically requires teacher preparation programs to equip new teachers to organize instruction around the new standards. It isn't the full support we need for balanced assessment, but it's an important downpayment. (Other Prich-posts on the balanced assessment idea are here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

International Benchmarking
The new standards to be developed by the end of 2010 must "focus on critical knowledge, skills, and capacities needed for success in the global economy" and "consider international benchmarks." Further, the schedule for the standards will allow the Department to participate in multi-state work aimed at a sharper, more judicious approach to developing strong standards, including consideration of competing nations.

End-of-Course Exams
They're an option. The Kentucky Board of Education can decide to use them in place of criterion-referenced tests in one or more high subjects. When good tests are available that fit our standards, SB 1 allows them to be implemented without further legislation.

Program Reviews
Bob's post spoke only to using this approach in arts and humanities, based on good discussion about pencil-and-paper testing trying to measure ability to create and perform in the arts. SB 1 will make that happen.

SB 1 pushes the same approach further, using it for practical/career studies and for the sustained writing seen in the writing portfolio. I don't know that Bob supports those other two changes.

For myself, though, I can live with both even though they aren't what I'd do if I got to make the decision on my own. Practical/career content overlaps heavily with biology and economics content, so we'll still have relevant tested learning on much of it. I'm saddened by the writing change, and I think it's a mistake, but I'm less disturbed than I'd be if I thought that the accountable portfolio was getting us very close to good writing instruction statewide (fitting the thoughts I shared here.)

These four points are an important part of why I think it's a good long-term bill. If they're implemented well, they'l provide important steps forward once we get through the next few weak-accountability years.

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