MTAS offers report card-based alternative student promotion policy

More Than a Score recently presented CPS with an alternative promotion policy that relies primarily on report card grades and uses standardized test scores in the way they were intended to be used, as diagnostic tools and not high-stakes “gotcha” measures.

We believe that report cards are the only evaluations that look at the students’ work over time and across all areas of learning. They are the only evaluations done by experienced, qualified adults who personally observe and assess each student’s progress. That’s the kind of information that makes sense to parents and actually helps children. When we get our children’s standardized test scores at the end of the year, we don’t get to see the questions or their answers. We have no idea whether they missed a certain concept or were just distracted for part of the test. In any case, our children are so over-tested that these results have become less and less useful to parents.

The CPS promotion policy begins and ends with the state test score. Most of the information from report cards is ignored by CPS when end-of-the-year promotion decisions are made.

Parents who have opted their children out of standardized tests are also confused and concerned because the new promotion policy just swapped one high-stakes test (the SAT-10), for another (NWEA), making opting out more difficult. Since the promotion policy was first implemented in 1996 by Paul Vallas, it has focused on test scores on the Iowa test, then the IGAP, ISAT, and SAT 10. The new proposal substitutes the NWEA, which CPS officials say is just temporary until they replace it with the PARCC Common Core tests.

How are parents supposed to keep track of this alphabet soup of tests? Will students be held back next August because they didn’t take a test that their parents decided to opt them out of last September?

Policymakers often cite the subjective nature of teacher grades as a reason for giving them less weight than standardized tests scores. However, test questions are written by subjective human beings, too, and test makers consistently state that their tests should not be used to make high-stakes decisions about children. The manual for the SAT-10, which CPS used last year to retain students, states that test scores “should be just one of the many factors considered and probably should receive less weight than factors such as teacher observation, day-to-day classroom performance, maturity level, and attitude” – just the kind of information in report cards.

What’s so wrong with report cards, anyway? If CPS does not trust teacher grades, they need to explain why and what they are doing to fix it. Most parents trust teacher grades more than for-profit testing companies.

More Than a Score believes that our proposed promotion policy offers an alternative to the CPS test-based promotion policy that respects input from teachers, avoids the pitfalls of standardized test misuse and retention, makes sense to parents, and – most importantly – provides a higher quality evaluation of each student’s progress and needs.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s