Accountability Common Core Testing

Mercedes Schneider: The Fordham Assessment Study Did Not Consider Readability of the Tests

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One more view of the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the “next generation assessments,” this one from the indispensable Mercedes Schneider.

Mercedes, as you would expect, questions the independence of TBF. She reprints a statement from ACT, which did not agree that their tests were less valuable that the Common Core tests funded by the federal government.

And she includes a statement by Louise Law, director of elementary education for a middle-income district in western Massachusetts, who believes that the test complexity of PARCC makes it an inappropriate and flawed instrument.

In her commentary, Law writes:

The reading passages found in PARCC are far beyond grade levels of the students being tested, and it is difficult to believe that the evaluators were unaware of that fact. The reading difficulty level of any text depends on such qualitative variables as sequencing, language complexity, topic and theme and quantitative factors such as word and sentence length. Teachers know this principle — and so do the writers and editors who choose the reading passages and compose the questions for all these tests. A variety of well established research-based formulas readily available online can be used to determine the readability level of a given text. By any number of such formulas, several reading passages in the 2015 PARCC test are beyond the grade level being tested, some by several years.

She analyzes both the reading and math portion of the PARCC and concludes:

Passages that students cannot read are not a useful educational tool. Tests designed this way create anxiety for children as young as eight years old and frustrate teachers. Meanwhile, as students, teachers and schools are insidiously and incorrectly identified as “failing,” publishers will reap tremendous profits selling remedial and test prep materials to school districts eager to help their students score satisfactorily. At the same time, as the public is convinced of the false narrative that our public schools are failing, the proliferation of for-profit businesses that manage charter schools will continue, and the march to privatization of our schools will accelerate.

Assessments based on PARCC should be suspended until the questions have been more carefully vetted and the tests have been validated by education professionals who are not even remotely affiliated with organizations funded by those promoting a particular agenda. Until that time, we are serving the interests of corporate profit rather than of students’ academic and emotional growth, and we are wasting our time with an exercise that undermines teaching and learning.

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