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Thread: Are Our Children Better Educated Because of MCAS Testing?

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  1. #1
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    Default Are Our Children Better Educated Because of MCAS Testing?

    I wonder if the School Committee and Superintendent think that MCAS creates smarter (or "better") students. The number students in the Advanced level could also be a reflection of good test takers with good inherent knowledge. The number of students in the Warning or Needs Improvement level could be a testament to hard work for pupils who have special needs.

    An excellent teacher could feasibly have many poorly performing students in his/her class and a bad teacher could have students who attain Advanced levels.

    A poor student can achieve high scores and an excellent student could perform poorly -

    So I think that general lessons can gleaned from the results. It appears that math is weak area in the elementary school.

    It seems that if a tenured teacher consistantly has failing pupils, the MCAS results are a way to get around union rules and fire them. I would perfer that the administration be in charge of hiring and firing teachers and not our children's test results.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
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    As standardized tests go, MCAS is generally well-regarded.

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    Default No Child Left Behind

    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth Price View Post
    What do you think?
    The no child left behind act of 2001 is the driving force behind the reaction from the states to devise a way to standardize and measure the progress of learning in the school systems.

    I will quote Wiki...
    NCLB is the latest federal legislation that enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state.

    I will quote the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System
    Overview

    The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is designed to meet the requirements of the Education Reform Law of 1993. This law specifies that the testing program must

    * test all public school students in Massachusetts, including students with disabilities and limited English proficient students;
    * measure performance based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework learning standards;
    * report on the performance of individual students, schools, and districts.

    As required by the Education Reform Law, students must pass the grade 10 tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics as one condition of eligibility for a high school diploma (in addition to fulfilling local requirements).

    In addition, the MCAS program is used to hold schools and districts accountable, on a yearly basis, for the progress they have made toward the objective of the No Child Left Behind Law that all students be proficient in Reading and Mathematics by 2014.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    There are many factors that go into how well learning takes place in the classroom. Some of these are... but not limited to

    -- Socio economic environment of the household and parental involvement
    -- Experience and certification of the teachers
    -- Curriculum content, relevance and organization
    -- School safe environment
    -- School density vs. facilities
    -- Amount and type of ancillary help and support given by non-teaching staff
    -- Others...

    MCAS is a standardized testing battery based on expected learning norms.
    The expectation is that if quality learning is taking place then one does not have to teach to the test to get quality results.

    I suspect that the MCAS metric is less a metric of judgment of individual teachers and more a metric of how well the overall school performs its function. So I don't believe that this is a mechanism to fire.

    That being said, all professions have some degree of accountability and/or some metric used to measure performance and worthiness.

    There is no reason why teaching should be any different and, by law, its not.

    Some say that SAT's are biased and irrelevant. But if you don't take your SAT's you don't get into college (or most colleges).

    MCAS is a statewide accepted metric that is here and most probably here to stay in one form or another.

    Its good that we have such a standardized metric to gain some visibility into the performance of our schools.

    I agree with with Jeff when he says...
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As standardized tests go, MCAS is generally well-regarded.
    So yes I think our children are better educated because of MCAS testing and will continue to be better educated into the future as long as 'well-regarded' metrics exist to measure progress and provide a feedback mechanism.

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    Default

    Note that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) consists of reading, math, writing, and science assessments administered to 4th and 8th graders across the country.

    The National Center for Education Statistics has compared scores from individual state tests against scores on the NAEP. As a result, they are able to provide a measure of the difficulty of the individual state tests relative to one another.

    NAEP scores are available here. Here's a summary of how MA ranked.

    GRADE 4
    - Reading: 1st (2007: score of 236)
    - Math: 1st (2007: score of 252)
    - Writing: 2nd (2002: score of 170; 1st was 174)
    - Science: 4th (2005: score of 160; 1st was 161)

    GRADE 8
    - Reading: 1st (2007: score of 273)
    - Math: 1st (2007: score of 51)
    - Writing: 3rd (2007: score of 167; 1st was 175)
    - Science: 6th (2005: score of 35; 1st was 41)

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    Default Good Stuff

    I just love this type of discussion (which includes the related thread about CH/HH Elementary MCAS scores). Good question Elizabeth and I do think it appropriate and good that people try to come to terms with “education” and “testing”. That people can even think like this is amazing, and their personalities come through too. It’s great.

    Embarrassingly, who I am comes through too. I always feel, well, so simple, and like a digression. MCAS tests, aren’t they multiple-choice tests? And aren’t we actually testing the children’s skill in taking multiple-choice tests? Is this skill one of those 21st century process skills? Me, I used to do well on these type tests, but have I used this skill much as an adult? Need I answer. I’ve also wondered at what values people hold that might prompt them to want for their children, this test-taking skill above all else. I have thought a bit about how I would assess the student’s progress/success at school.

    If I was a parent tonight, I’d ask my child to write a one or two page paper on anything they were interested in. Take as long as desired, use resources, etc. but do it by themselves. Then I’d see what I think. I’d also ask to see them balance their checkbook. See how simple I am, but it might be illuminating.

    An aside: Alan, you said that SATs were required. I’ve found that people’s fears often limit what they think is possible. And I’m not the only eccentric person in my family. My son refused to take SATs and got into a good college (the one of his choice). He just said he wouldn’t, and they said OK. (I do understand that this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I think it’s instructive.) The possible!

    Oh, I do love those little charts, it makes things so easy to “see”. Thanks

    donBustin@verizon.net

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    Don, I'm not sure that I understand your point. Are you saying that there's no role for a test like MCAS?

    A Wayland Public School education is certainly much more than MCAS, and I haven't heard anyone suggest that it should be otherwise.

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    I said the following to imply that I wasn't totally against testing and saw some benefits for school committees and educators when evaluating their success or failure in comparison with others. And I also meant in my usual way that people might also profit from thinking about what they want from education for their children and whether, or how, testing fits into this thinking.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    ... I do think it appropriate and good that people try to come to terms with “education” and “testing”.
    Like with the “paper” proposal, I imagine one usual, first response by students to the request for a paper would be, “What do you want me to write about?” Sometimes, I think schooling can take away an individual's initiative. As a parent, will testing help me come to terms with this? Have I even thought about it? There are many, what I'd call, “institutionalized structural agendas”, that testing doesn't help illuminate.

    Jeff, what do MCAS test scores actually tell me about a student's ability to do what? (Other than as I said before about skill in taking multiple-choice tests.)

    donBustin@verizon.net

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    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Jeff, what do MCAS test scores actually tell me about a student's ability to do what? (Other than as I said before about skill in taking multiple-choice tests.)
    Among other things, the MCAS tests measure reading comprehension, ability to do math, writing, and content area understanding. The test format includes true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and open response items. You can find sample MCAS questions here.

    Except perhaps indirectly, MCAS doesn't really attempt to address process skills (although one might argue that reading and math are more like process skills than content skills). In my 9/23 post in this thread, I referenced some resources in the area of process skills and process skill assessment. I don't know if any of these should be considered definitive, though. Nor do I know of any process skill tests that are well-regarded in the way that MCAS is, but that's not to say that they don't exist. I'd certainly like to learn more on this topic.

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