One issue that seems to be getting lost in all of the turmoil in Raleigh is that there was a lot of talk about reducing testing for public schools this year.
There has been the iStation contract debacle, the 31 days of no budget negotiations, a large veto, the Medicaid expansion standoff, an ultimatum to hospitals by the state treasurer, and even layoffs at the largest school in the state (NC Virtual Public).
Remember that Mark Johnson ran on a platform to reduce testing. He has not really said much about it of late. And the bill that gained the most traction in “reducing” testing is still in limbo. It is Senate Bill 621 and its on its fifth revision.
Here are the bones of the current version:
- ELIMINATE NC FINAL EXAM
- REPLACE EOGS WITH THROUGH-GRADE ASSESSMENT MODEL SIMILAR TO NC CHECK-INS
- REPLACE EOCS WITH THE ACT OR OTHER NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ASSESSMENT OF HIGH SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT AND COLLEGE READINESS
- PLAN TO REDUCE STANDARDIZED TESTING BY LOCAL SCHOOL ADMINISTRATIVE UNITS
- PROHIBIT GRADUATION PROJECTS AS A CONDITION OF GRADUATION
- EXAMINATION OF THIRD GRADE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS ASSESSMENTS TO BETTER MEET GOALS OF READ TO ACHIEVE
Look at #1 and #3 . Having fewer tests seems good, but how teachers and schools are measured and evaluated needs to be overhauled as well. NC is the only state (out of 16 which use a school grading system) that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade. That proficiency is calculated by student test scores. Reducing testing but not changing the school performance grading dynamic ultimately leads to a rather negative effect: fewer tests will have much more power over proficiency grades for schools. In other words, fewer tests now have much more effect on schools. That’s increasing pressure on schools and students.
Look at #2. That’s replacing the end-of-year test with “checkins.” Actually that is replacing one test with more tests.
Look at #4 – That says “plan” and not “action.” Nothing more.
Look at #5 – Very few districts even do the graduation project.
Look at #6 – That’s another enabling tactic for the already failed initiative called Read to Achieve.
Also remember that Mark Johnson actually equated fewer questions on a test with test reduction. Remember this?
Until the formula or the method of how school performance grades are calculated, what this actually means is that fewer questions hold more power over how schools and students are graded. That’s not test reduction.
That’s giving fewer variables more power over students.
Ironic that a bill meant to reduce stress in students and schools might have a totally different outcome if something is not done about how those school performance grades are calculated. It begs for more serious consideration to at least alter the ratio of achievement and growth or just doing what really needs to be done – abolishing the school performance grading system.