Monday, June 24, 2013

Michigan Dept. of Ed. Committee Work

Last week, I was in Lansing (East Lansing, really- in an office building and a nice hotel room).  This was my second visit to do committee work for the Michigan Interim Assessment for K-2.  It is based on the Common Core and the first time the state is providing a standardized test for K-2 students.  You can read about it here:
I have an early childhood specialty, so for full disclosure.... you may filter my comments through those eyes :)
I may have mentioned before that I have issues with standardized testing being the sole measure of a child's growth in early elementary.  We all know that they come to us with varied educational experiences and home lives.  Sometimes, I think our legislators forget that fact.  Many do not have preschool (Michigan does not have universal Pre-K) or do not have the social experiences.  Sad to say, but there are many disadvantaged by their home-lives in general.  I believe students should be measured by growth during the school year, not whether or not they made the specific benchmark for that grade. 
This is where my theories get murky- I will admit it!  I believe that lower elementary students are capable of great things and should have a rigorous program.  Teacher must be held accountable.  No one I know, but I'm sure with any profession, there are some who have chosen the wrong career and are not making the impact that they should in their classrooms.  (Another rant for a different day!) 
My big issue is HOW we test (or will test) students.  I think technology will be a huge obstacle.  I know many other states are already doing it, but I really don't see the need for 5 year olds to take a test online.  At some point, for some students, we are testing their ability to navigate a computerized test.  Can we teach them how?  Sure.  But I ask, is that what we should be spending our limited and valuable teaching time doing?  I think this focus on technology for testing may cause an even greater gap in social and economically diverse students.
So, why did I serve on the committee?  To learn about the process and educate myself on the thoughts behind the tests.  I also wanted a say on what is considered developmentally appropriate as far as fine motor skills and cognitive accessibility.  The process is very interesting and they DO consult REAL teachers for multiple areas, specialties and grade levels for input.  The tests are field tested in cognitive labs, as well as through a pilot program, after teachers go through each question looking at content or bias (two separate committees). 
A few interesting facts that I learned last week:
  1. Michigan is leading the pack in online testing for K-2 students, based on the CCSS.  (I'm not sure whether to be proud or mortified!)
  2. At this time, it will be an optional test for districts in Michigan, beginning in Fall 2014.
  3. Some school districts may choose to use this pre/ post-test as part of the teacher evaluation.
  4. It will be in a PC/ desktop/ laptop format (using a mouse).  Tablets may be added in the future.
  5. We are not the only school district who does not have the technology in place to participate.
  6. The test will address every CCSS for math and literacy, in multiple ways/ format of question statements.
  7. REAL students tested portions in a lab setting before it went to pilot schools.
  8. Questions are continually being re-written in order to create the most precise language in order for all students to understand the objectives.
  9. I still don't like universal, technology-based testing for K-1 students.  I'm starting to accept it for 2nd grade students.
  10. Poncheros at M127 and Lansing Lake Road has AWESOME burritos!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you were there! It's good to know that "REAL" teachers are taking part in this planning. . . too many times we think it's some stuffed suit who has never been in a classroom. . . knowing you were there, makes me feel better.
    My 2nd grade buddy across the hall was there too. She worked on the 2nd grade math test. I don't know how big of a group it was, but maybe you met her. Her name is Cathie Thomasma from Sturgis.
    And while I have your attention. . . did you hear about the Michigan Meet Up this Saturday in Grand Rapids? If not check out Christina Bainbridge's blog and it has all the info.
    Second In Line