Tag Archives: assessments

2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

HEA 1384 Various Education Matters

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This session, IAHE was asked to testify in the House and the Senate in regards to the “push out” problem where the public and some accredited private schools encouraged problem students to “homeschool” in order to protect the school’s A-F state accountability grade. A legislator claimed in committee meetings that 13,000 students/year had reported enrollment to homeschool in Indiana. Schools encouraged a number of these families to “homeschool,” even though the parent did not initiate it. IAHE has fielded many phone calls from these families who were classified by the school as a “homeschooler” and then given IAHE’s phone number to help them get started. As IAHE Regional Representatives counseled these families, and the parent came to understand what is involved in home education, many parents decided home education was not a good fit for their family. It is unlikely that these students were ever removed from the homeschool classification.

In an attempt to curtail this practice, HEA 1384 contains language that prohibits a school from classifying a student as a homeschooler unless the school has substantial evidence that the parent or guardian of the student initiated the student leaving the public high school or an accredited nonpublic high school. The Indiana Department of Education may require the school to produce this evidence if it is ever requested. It will be important for the school to have evidence in writing that the parent initiated a transfer to homeschooling.

The State Board will also consider the mobility of high school students who are credit deficient, and whether any high school should be rewarded for enrolling credit deficient students or penalized for transferring out credit deficient students. We hope this bill helps to curtail the practice of pushing out credit deficient students, so they can receive the help they need. As strong proponents of homeschooling, the IAHE knows the work and dedication it requires. We also recognize that it is not the appropriate choice for all students.

 

HEA 1003 Student Assessments

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

This bill replaces ISTEP after June 30, 2018, with a new statewide assessment to be known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). The original language in the bill required all students in public, charter, state accredited nonpublic, and voucher schools to take the assessment. The original language would have required any homeschooler who was enrolled for one class in a school listed above to take the assessment. IAHE Action worked with Representative Behning and Senator Kruse to amend the language to require full-time enrolled students to take the assessment instead of all enrolled students. Note that a homeschooler enrolled in a public school class must take the end of course assessment associated with the class.

 

HEA 1004 Pre-Kindergarten Education

Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis)

HEA 1004 is a preschool bill that expands taxpayer funding for institutional preschool. It expanded the state preschool program to an additional 15 counties and added a possible option for an in-home technology-based program for pre-k.

This bill:

  • “Requires the department of education…to approve an early learning development framework for prekindergarten.”
  • Develops a program to reimburse parents for technology-based, in-home early education services to a child. This program costs between $1,000 and $2,000/child depending if the family has internet access. (Homeschoolers informed us there is a similar preschool program that is free, and other programs that are much cheaper. Will these free/inexpensive programs continue to exist as companies see that they can instead choose to sell their software to the government for $1000 per child? How many parents will reduce their use of local libraries as they opt for an online program promoted by the state?)
  • This program uses personalized learning. The software assesses the child’s progress at key milestones to determine what type of instruction each child will receive. The program includes a parental engagement and involvement component. From the program’s website, it states, “Every family is partnered with a Personal Care Representative who monitors their child’s progress throughout the year. Families will be contacted if their child’s usage falls below guidelines.
  • Students who use the program will be required to be a part of a longitudinal study to determine achievement levels in kindergarten and later years. It must include a comparison of test and assessment results in grade 3 of the children who received in-home early education services; and a control group that consists of children who did not receive in-home early education services.

IAHE is concerned about the lack of long-term results from institutional preschool and particularly concerned about technology-based preschool. The increased use of taxpayer funding weakens communities by making it more difficult for those who take personal responsibility for teaching their own children to stay home on one income, and by replacing the use of libraries and local bookstores.

IAHE also has concerns about personalized learning via computer, especially for young children. Parents are fully capable of preparing their children for kindergarten without oversight. Families already have local libraries, which offer free books and multiple educational programs. We believe a parent who reads to his or her child on their lap will have better results than a child watching the pages of a book turning on a screen. We believe there would be long-term positive results if the State would encourage parents to prepare their young children for school without relying on institutional-based state support. Doing so would strengthen the family and strengthen our communities.

 

HEA 1005 Superintendent of Public Instruction

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis)

Before January 1, 2021, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will be elected. HEA 1005 abolishes the office of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction after January 10, 2025. The governor will then appoint a Secretary of Education who will serve at the pleasure of and at a salary determined by the governor. This does not require a change to the State Constitution.

At Work For You

 

SEA 198 Career and Technical Education

Senator Ryan Mishler (R – Bremen)

IAHE and IAHE Action vigilantly watch for opportunities to prevent discrimination of homeschool graduates. SEA 198 presented an avenue to allow high school seniors or graduates of nonaccredited, nonpublic schools to have equal standing with high school seniors or graduates of other Indiana schools to apply for a high-value Workforce Ready Grant. The student must be enrolled in an eligible certificate program at Ivy Tech or Vincennes University at least half-time. They must be financially independent of their parents, not eligible for any state financial aid program, and maintain adequate academic progress. The applicant must not have previously received a baccalaureate degree, an associate degree, or an eligible certificate.

The amount of a high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant is equal to the amount of the educational costs of the institution that the applicant is attending excluding other financial assistance. An applicant may use the high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant only to pay the educational costs of courses required for the applicant’s certificate program. The duration may not exceed the lesser of two undergraduate academic years; or the number of credit hours required by the eligible certificate program in which the student is enrolled. A high-value workforce ready credit-bearing grant may be renewed if the student maintains satisfactory academic progress while receiving the grant, and is enrolled in an eligible certificate program that requires more than twelve (12) credit hours or its equivalent.

 

SEA 175 Healthcare Consent

Senator Jean Leising (R – Rushville)

IAHE Action amended this bill to protect parental rights. This bill would have allowed a grandparent to sign a health care consent instead of a parent if a parent is not reasonably available. We believed the original language was not strong enough. IAHE Action included an amendment that stated one must first ascertain a parent, guardian or adult sibling is unavailable.

 

Nothing in this post shall be construed as legal advice.

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Rigged Assessments

As a follow-up to Mary Black’s post about assessments, we’ve asked Wendy Hart, a friend of IAHE Action, to share how they may be rigged.

 

We all know that polls can be skewed and that ‘what everybody knows’ may not be so. Similarly, assessments and assessment data can be gathered, used, and presented in various ways to feed an agenda.  Just because a child is said to be proficient on a state assessment doesn’t mean he or she actually is ‘proficient’ in the way parents want him or her to be.

When I was in school, my teachers would give us tests to help figure out how much of what they were teaching we had actually learned.  Then, the state stepped in and started giving assessments to make sure teachers were teaching what the state wanted them to teach.  And now?  We’re told the assessments are great, but we are just supposed to trust.  We can’t see the assessment questions.  The algorithms (mathematical formulas) determining which questions come next or whether you have a higher or a lower score are kept secret. The State Boards of Education or the assessment vendors, themselves, can move and change the ‘proficiency’ levels at will. 

We take it on faith when a student passes a math assessment it means the student is proficient.  Is it possible to rig an assessment?  Not only is it possible, but it’s also being done all the time.  I have four examples of how the assessments are and have been manipulated to provide different results than most people expect.  This is being done without oversight, without insight into what is occurring, and certainly without permission from parents.

The first example is assessing not just what a student is supposed to know but making them do the problem in a particular way. Ask yourself, does this create a disadvantage for a child who knows the math facts but hasn’t been shown a particular way of doing things?

 

mathaddtoten

 

This problem is an example of a Common Core Math Standard from First Grade:

Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).   

This question doesn’t just assess whether a student knows how to do an addition word problem, but it assesses whether a student has been trained on the Making Ten Strategy as outlined in the standard.  Could a student solve 8+6 without knowing the Making Ten Strategy?  Yes, of course.  Does using the Making Ten Strategy indicate critical thinking?  Or does it simply indicate a student has been instructed in this strategy?  Would you be able to succeed as a mathematician without learning this Making Ten Strategy in First Grade? Have you successfully used addition in your life without thinking about the Making Ten Strategy?

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Many parent complaints about Common Core Math come from having to show the various methods for getting the answer or having to explain why an answer is correct.

Parent:“When I was in school, we did it this way.”

Child: “I have to do it this other way or it will be marked wrong.”

One mother asked her child’s teacher if he could simply do the standard algorithm on all his math homework because the multiple strategies were causing him stress.  The teacher said if he didn’t learn the strategies, he wouldn’t do well on the state assessment.  Once the mother indicated her child would not be taking the assessment, the teacher readily agreed to give credit for just the standard algorithms.  The reason for the multiple methods?  To do well on the assessment.  

A review written in 2011 by Dr. Stephen Wilson of Johns Hopkins University states the following about the Common Core SBAC test (then under development).  He says, “It appears that the assessments will focus on communication skills and Mathematical Practices over content knowledge.”  

Furthermore, “Mathematical Practices, or what was usually called ‘process’ standards in most states, do little more than describe how someone pretty good at mathematics seems to approach mathematics problems. As stand-alone standards, they are neither teachable nor testable. Mathematics is about solving problems, and anyone who can solve a complex multi-step problem using mathematics automatically demonstrates their skill with the Mathematical Practices, (whether they can communicate well or not).”

In short, we see Dr. Wilson’s concerns demonstrated in the above example: the process of getting the answer is of greater importance than the actual mathematical abilities most people think the assessment should be assessing.

A second example comes from Utah’s SAGE (end-of-year) sample assessment for Third Grade. This question is supposed to assess a deeper understanding of division than simply asking if a child knows the answer to 12 ÷ 4. Unfortunately, in creating a more convoluted problem, the assessment question can be solved without knowing anything more than how to count and how to write a division problem. Division facts, themselves, are not necessary.

sagemathdivision

There are lots of kids who can divide things equally by putting them in different boxes without knowing 12 ÷ 4 = 3.  Supposedly, by dragging the stars and dragging the numbers, you are assessing higher-order thinking.  But what you are really assessing is the child’s familiarity with the software interface, the format of the problem, and whether they can count and relate counting to division.  But they don’t have to know 12 ÷ 4 = 3.

Would a child who knows her division facts be able to do this problem anyway?  Most likely.  However, it is also true this question doesn’t distinguish the child who does know her math facts from the one who does not.

A third example has to do with reading comprehension.  It dates back to the 1980’s but illustrates that what is on an assessment and how it is asked can be used to manipulate and ‘direct’ a student’s thought processes.  I quote Dr. Peg Luksik who worked for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.  From her video :

‘A sample question said: “There’s a group called the Midnight Marauders and they went out at night and did vandalism. I (the child) would join the group IF…”

“…my best friend was in the group.”

“…my mother wouldn’t find out.”

There was no place to say they would not join the group. They had to say they would join the group.’

Dr. Luksik states that while this was listed as a citizenship assessment, the internal documents stated, “We’re not testing objective knowledge. We are testing and scoring for the child’s threshold for behavior change without protest.”

Additionally, Dr. Luksik discusses another state’s Reading Assessment question: “If you found a wallet with money in it, would you take it?”

She asked, ‘Do you read better if you say “yes”? Or do you read better if you say “no”? Or were they assessing a child’s honesty on a state assessment with their name on it…?’

Clearly, these are examples of assessment questions that were not assessing either citizenship or reading as you and I would define them.

And finally, before a single Utah student took the state’s SAGE assessment in 2014, the head of state assessments warned local school board members that student test scores were going to drop by 10 or 20 points.  He also stated there was no way to correlate the previous test results with the SAGE results.  So, how did he know this?  The point was they knew what the target proficiency rate was.  Utah was looking for a proficiency rate in the 40’s.  And as they went through the process of setting those proficiency scores, they did so after the first round of testing. Then they modified the scoring to make sure the result fell within that 40% range*.  So, in one year, did Utah kids lose 20 points of knowledge?  Or does it simply mean the Powers That Be decided only 40% of the kids got to be labeled ‘proficient’ regardless of what they actually knew?

The only sure way of knowing an assessment is truly measuring academic content and grading it appropriately requires transparency with the assessment questions, the assessment methodology, and independent verification procedures.

Instead of wondering how kids are doing on state assessments and whether a school is “good” based on the assessment scores, we need to be asking what are these assessments supposed to be measuring and how do we know they really are measuring what they claim?

*Alpine School Board Study Session Audio September 23, 2014, Additional Media->Study Session @ 45 minutes. http://board.alpineschools.org/2014/09/18/september-23-2014-board-meeting/

 

Wendy Hart is the mother of three children.  She and her husband Scott have lived in Highland, UT for 17 years.  She was raised in Cupertino, CA, and moved to Utah to pursue her B.S. in Mathematics from Brigham Young University.  She has worked as a programmer and manager in several hi-tech companies in Utah, and owns her own database migration company.  Wendy is honored to serve the citizens of Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills, UT as a member of the Alpine School District Board of Education.