Ever More Complicit in NC’s Testing Culture – Our State Superintendent’s Empty Promise to Curb “Over-testing”

With a new school year starting in North Carolina, it usually is customary for leaders of school systems and individual schools to offer words of encouragement and support to teachers to help inaugurate classes.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson offered a “Welcome Back to School” video to teachers last August, and while it seems to say all of the “right” things, listening closely to what he does actually state and claim is a very good indication of the intentional disconnect that he has with our state’s public school system.

Here is the link: https://youtu.be/B5Dwf–SoVs.

As he talks throughout the 3 and ½ minutes of the video, the transcript of his words are shown.

johnson video

Mark Johnson ran a campaign during his election in 2016 (and since then) of reducing “over-testing.” Actually he’s been more than complicit in extending North Carolina’s testing culture.

In that video message above, he says, “We have already eliminated tests such as the ASW’s, PISA, duplicative math tests.”

To claim that he has spearheaded the elimination of the ASW’s and the PISA is laughable. Why? Because the ASW’s were not a test. ASW was the Assessment of Student Work evaluation component for teachers of subjects that were not tested by state tests. In fact, ASW’s were eliminated because of budget cuts.

I personally was on the ASW evaluation system. Right after I turned in my portfolio of year-long reflection in the summer of 2017, I received this notification:

This notification will likely come as bittersweet news to many of you. While much of your feedback indicates that the ASW process allowed many teachers to dig more deeply into their standards, engage in more reflective teaching practices, and receive the same “validation” as tested subject areas, I recognize that participating in the ASW process also pushed the boundaries of some individuals’ technological comfort zones and was a time-intensive endeavor.

 Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, the paid component of the 2016-17 review process ended on June 23.  A small cadre of reviewers are reviewing the remaining Evidence Collections for CEU credit.  We will review as many 2016-17 Evidence Collections as possible this summer.  If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  

At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.  Teachers who formerly participated in the ASW process or locally developed plans will not have a growth measure moving forward.  Teachers who participated in the ASW process will not receive school-level growth.

Thank you for your dedication in learning and implementing the ASW process over the past 4 years. The ASW process was one of continuous improvement, driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations for yourselves and your peers.  To support you in continuing professional learning, many of the current ASW resources will remain available to you or be adapted and posted either on the ASW wikispace or specific content area wikispaces.  ASW training materials are, at their core, about excellent instructional practices in our performance-based classrooms and we want to ensure your access to these helpful materials in the future. 

Best wishes,XXXXX

What Johnson was taking credit for was his actions to curb “overtesting” but the fact that he is perfectly fine with budget cuts. He has shown that even more in the year since this ridiculous claim.

And the PISA? That’s the Program for International Student Assessment that is regarded as one of the best measures of how US students compare to their global counterparts. Only 5-6 thousand US students take the test per year. So, what Johnson is saying is that he stopped 150 students (approximately) in NC from taking a two-hour test that many in his political party use to argue their viewpoints about the deficiencies of public education.

Consider also that the state now requires every high school junior to take the ACT and according to what was mandated last year, if a student does not make a high enough score and have a certain GPA, then those students will have to take a remediation component their senior year on top of what his/her academic load is already.

Talk about reliance on testing and paying someone else to measure our kids.

Fast forward to December of 2017. That was when Johnson presented a new school report card interface and “updated features” so that the public can view school report cards (https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/index). It has a lot of bells and whistles.

The letter attached to that new release by Johnson seems well-meaning. The text can be found here – http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/welcome/.

Yet, no matter how much glitter and glam can be used to create an interface that appeals to the eyes, it doesn’t cover up the fact that there really is so much more that makes up a school than a school report card in this state chooses to measure. And those measurements the state uses come from …………… STANDARDIZED TESTS!

Look at the web address for the school report cards – https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/. That “sas” represents SAS, the same SAS that controls EVAAS which measures schools by a secret algorithm. That “.com” means it’s maintained by a commercial entity. It gets paid taxpayer money.

It is rather mind-boggling to think that a measurement which comes from EVAAS is so shrouded in so much opaqueness. With the power to sway school report cards and school performance grades, it would make sense that there be so much transparency in how it calculates its data so that all parties involved would have the ability to act on whatever needs more attention.

If Johnson or SAS wants to argue that standardized tests are not the primary variables that are plugged into their invisible algorithms, then they should prove it. But until that admission comes then what Johnson’s actions really state are that he wants to maintain the status quo in keeping testing in the forefront.

One thought on “Ever More Complicit in NC’s Testing Culture – Our State Superintendent’s Empty Promise to Curb “Over-testing”

  1. Let’s not forget that his continued push this year is based on HB986, passed by the NCGA to “study and make recommendations on ways to reduce testing not otherwise required by State or federal law in kindergarten through twelfth grade.” So the entire mandate is to reduce local control over testing. Does anyone really believe that’s where the problem lies?


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