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theschoolboards
05-24-2011, 07:26 AM
From the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/education/24tests.html) by Sharon Otterman:
New York City education officials are developing more than a dozen new standardized tests, but in a sign of the times, their main purpose will be to grade teachers, not the students who take them.

Elementary school students would most likely take at least one or two additional tests every year, beginning in the third grade. High school students could take up to eight additional tests a year, and middle school students would also have extra tests. These would be in addition to the state English, math and Regents exams that students already take.

The exams, which would begin rolling out as early as next academic year, are being created as part of a statewide overhaul of how teachers are evaluated. Under a law passed last year that helped the state win $700 million in a federal grant competition, known as Race to the Top, each school district must find a way to evaluate teachers on a scale from “ineffective” to “highly effective,” with teachers facing potential firing if they are rated ineffective for two years in a row.

Under the law, 40 percent of a teacher’s grade will be based on standardized tests or other “rigorous, comparable” measures of student performance. Half of that should be based on state tests, and half on measures selected by local districts. The remaining 60 percent is to be based on more subjective measures, including principal observations.

Most districts will not create their own standardized tests, an expensive process that requires considerable expertise. The state does not require them to do so, instead permitting districts to set academic goals for teachers, broadly defined.

But New York City, which has made standardized tests a centerpiece of its school reform efforts, is pushing ahead. The city schools system is planning to use up to one-quarter of its $256 million share of the federal grant money for as many as 16 new standardized exams to cover science, math, social studies and English in the 3rd through 12th grades.

City officials want their tests to be different from the mostly multiple choice tests the state uses. A proposal given to testing companies for bids in April asks that the exams be based around tasks, like asking students to progress through a multistep math problem, modify a science experiment to get a different result, or write a persuasive essay. They should also reflect the more rigorous Common Core academic standards that New York and other states have adopted.

“How do you create an additional assessment that is actually going to strengthen instructional practice, rather than divert time away from instruction?” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city’s chief academic officer. “That is what we set out to solve.”

Despite the city’s optimism, the prospect of more tests, particularly ones that will have a direct influence on teachers, is causing dismay among those who believe that students already spend too much time preparing for exams and not enough on the broader goals of education, like social and emotional development.

“We are not focusing on teaching and learning anymore; we are focusing on collecting data,” said Lisa B. Donlan, a parent in Manhattan who has advocated against standardized testing.

Many tests, according to the latest thinking of the department, would be given in two parts — a pre-test early in the year, and a post-test at the end, to gauge how much the student learned from a teacher. Proposals from companies were due May 9.

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/education/24tests.html)