Wednesday, August 21, 2019

From Chalkbeat--Unfounded Conclusions on Subpar State Tests

Well, the state test scores are not in yet, but the speculation on what exactly they mean has begun anyway over at Chalkbeat. They'll be in soon, and then we'll have some inkling what they are about, maybe. This notwithstanding, I'm left with more questions than answers.

For one thing, though it does not specifically say so, it appears the story does not consider high school exams. For years we'd read about how there is a moratorium on using test scores. At the same time, our students were not permitted to graduate without passing the tests. They were the same Common Core crapola elementary students were getting, but for some reason it was okay. For some reason, it was also okay to rate high school teachers on these same tests.

Challkbeat says the 2018-2019 tests are apples to apples for once and that we may therefore glean something or other from them. I'm not so sure. Years of skepticism over these tests have dominated press coverage. There's a statewide opt-out movement that's given Gates acolytes like MaryEllen Elia well-deserved screaming nightmares.

Haven't these tests been revised since last year? If so, the results are not, in fact, apples to apples. This notwithstanding, what exactly do we learn from measuring one year's test results to those of last year? If we're assuming that all the other tests are so flawed or inconsistent they don't measure examination, why on earth would we assume these two years' versions somehow have validity? We've struggled for years with an assumption these tests were problematic, and that's why a moratorium was imposed. What exactly has changed that we now presume these results to establish something? Twitter is not persuaded.

So are they the same or aren't they? As far as I can tell, even if they've been changed, the tests are the same nonsense they were last year, and that's why the opt-out movement is alive and well. Admittedly I'm unfamiliar with the elementary tests, Nonetheless, the tests to which I have access are all crap. The one that fundamentally screws up my life is the NYSESLAT test. This test places the English Language Learners (ELLs) I teach, and has done nothing to help either them or me.

Along with my colleagues, I note that the levels in ESL classes are lower and lower. As the geniuses in Albany strive to prove their latest revision of Part 154 (the one that strips ELLs of most direct English instruction) is working, they simply lower the standards. So beginners are often not only unfamiliar with English, but often unfamiliar with reading and writing in their first languages. Intermediate and advanced students are really beginners, and desperately in need of beginner level instruction that they most definitely will not receive.

We offer an English Regents exam that tests neither reading nor writing. It's all about this close reading nonsense, which in this case is not remotely challenging. It pretends to be about research, but actually spoon feeds students the information they need for said research. Passing it does not establish familiarity with reading or writing, and as for familiarity with literature, forget it. Were we trying to establish a generation of readers, we could not offer a worse test than this one.

In fact, the new Social Studies Global exam is a reading test. It requires no familiarity with history. I read it carefully and would have aced it. I am far from expert on global history, and I can't remember the last time I studied it. Because I'm a careful reader, I'd have done fine. Because we are not grooming our children to be readers, I have a lot less confidence in their success.

It's pathetic that the Regents place their titles on these exams without examining them even as carefully as I, a lowly teacher, do. Were I a Regent, I'd disclaim any and all responsibility for them. Then, I'd change my name and move into a lonely forest somewhere.

The current Regents couldn't care less, and will go to their gala luncheons oblivious and indifferent to what their utter negligence is doing the the children of New York State.
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