Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Opting Out Has Never Looked Like a Better Idea

I recently wrote about standardized tests and the need to get rid of the High stakes attached to them. Several news articles came out this week that need a follow-up blog on standardized tests. There's good news and bad news.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first.
Some of the results from the PSSA were released this week that show declines in almost every area of every grade. Why? Two reasons -
1. They aligned the tests to follow the Common Core (PA calls it the PA Core, but it's practically the same) so they are more rigorous (I hate that word) and
2. they set the test scores too high so many students will fail.

Even though the state readily admits that the tests can't even be compared to last year's tests, they are still insisting on judging schools and teachers on whether their students made certain gains. Ninety percent of a school's performance score is based on these PSSA scores.

Read about that here:

Alison McDowell, and opt out organizer in Philadelphia writes:

"The state knew at this time last year that significant numbers of students would "fail" the new PA Core-aligned PSSA tests. Yes, even before the students took the test. They are "failing" because the cut scores are set AFTER students take the tests. They can set the scores to "fail" a predetermined number of students.  This is exactly what happened in New York state in 2013.

"Chris Shaffer from the District told me they would have the PSSA scores in about a week. The drops described in the article are not happening just in Philadelphia. I heard from the West Chester, PA superintendent that the results are the same in his high-performing district. Mr. Shaffer said letters would go home to parents in September, but scores might be available online in late August via the parent portal.

"If you are thinking about opting out this year, you can send in your intent to opt out letter at the beginning of the school year. Sample letters are available here:

"Sending in letters early will put the state department of education on notice that we do not accept these tests that are designed for failure as a valid measure of assessment for our children.

"Note that many high schools use 7th grade PSSAs as part of their admissions process (but not all). Also starting with the class of 2017 (unless the 2 year moratorium passes and it hasn't yet), students must pass English, Algebra, and Biology Keystones. Those that opt out of the tests are compelled to take a semester-long online course or Project-Based Assessment, which I cannot recommend. If the moratorium does pass, rising juniors and sophomores would not have the Keystones as a graduation requirement and could opt out without consequence. We'll have to see how things progress with the Keystone exams."
The good news is that Temple University in Philadelphia has joined hundreds of other colleges and universities in getting rid of the SAT/ACT requirement. So the whole purpose of getting your kids used to standardized testing so they'll do well on the SAT is now moot. Cue applause all around. For decades, college admission officers have been saying that high school performance is a much better indicator of future college success than SAT/ACT scores. Nice to know they're putting their convictions into policies.

There are many groups that are offshoots from the United Opt Out group. Facebook has bother National and state groups for opt out. Don't delay, have your letter ready the first week of school.

Still learning!

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