act now on ESEA regulations
- Subject: act now on ESEA regulations
- From: Monty Neill <monty@FAIRTEST.ORG>
- Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 11:39:58 -0500
- Comments: To: RScriticalteach <RScriticalteach@lists.execpc.com>, ARN-state <ARNfirstname.lastname@example.org>, arn2-strategy <email@example.com>
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
The following materials ? as a richtext file and in the body of the email message ? have been mailed to governors, state education commissioners/superintendents, state assessment directors, and chairs of legislative committees. The goal is to persuade them to support the flexibility in regard to the new federal legislation (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) being sought by states such as Maine, Nebraska, Vermont, Rhode Island, Wyoming, and most likely others as well.
We are sending this to you in the hope that you will use the information to help persuade your state officials to support the call for flexibility by contacting the U.S, Dept of Education. You should also contact the Department directly. Note that the deadline for submission of comments is February 17, and they can be sent by email. Even a brief comment using the information in this post will help. We hear the Department is divided on this issue, and political pressure will probably be decisive.
Information about the regulation-writing process is at http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/proprule/2002-1/011802a.html
- and all comments must be sent to:
ADDRESSES: Address all comments to Susan B. Neuman, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Room 3W331, Washington, DC 20202. If you prefer to send your comments through the Internet, use the following address: TitleIrulemaking@ed.gov.
More information about ESEA is on the FairTest website on the national page. The materials in this post will be posted shortly to our website as well (probably on Tuesday February 12)..
My apologies if you get this more than once as you may be on more than one list and on the long list of BCC copies.
[cover letter for packet on ESEA]
Enclosed find several fact sheets relating to assessment provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) recently signed into law. These new federal requirements may offer opportunities for states to develop assessment programs in directions that can improve teaching and learning. Alternatively, they may prove to be straitjackets that inhibit the development of richer, more useful assessment practices.
The determining factor will be the federal regulations promulgated to implement ESEA. Without flexibility that allows development of systems that include high-quality classroom assessments, states will have no choice but to rely exclusively on standardized tests.
The materials in this packet explain why states need to develop more comprehensive assessment systems:
- Flexibility Needed: Possible State Responses to New ESEA Requirements explains why states should work together to insist that Department of Education regulations allow states to construct assessment systems that incorporate local and classroom-based assessments, as the language of the law appears to allow, and should then proceed to construct such systems.
- Policies with Promise: A Look at the Assessment Plans for Maine and Nebraska summarizes systems being developed in these two states and notes other relevant assessments.
- The Massachusetts Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education?s Call for an Authentic Statewide Assessment System outlines a comprehensive plan that is substantially based on classroom assessments.
A mixed system can meet the assessment requirements of ESEA and would have a positive impact on schools, teachers and students. Such systems would constitute a major advance in assessment practices. First, however, state leaders must insist to the U. S. Department of Education that they need, and the law supports, the flexibility to develop comprehensive, mixed assessment systems.
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Possible State Responses to New ESEA Requirements
Under the recently re-authorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), states must develop assessment systems that will provide "academic assessments" of student progress in reading/language arts and math every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school. The assessments are expected to meet the following requirements:
- "be aligned with the State?s challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment;"
- "involve multiple, up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills;"
- "produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports...that allow parents, teachers and principals to understand and address the specific needs of students;" and
- ``be consistent with widely accepted professional testing standards [which includes validity and reliability], objectively measure academic achievement, knowledge, and skills..."
Because a major purpose of the assessments is to determine whether schools and districts are making "adequate yearly progress," consistency of information will be needed.
The law does not specifically require a state-administered standardized exam of any sort. Thus, as Maine and Nebraska have proposed, a mix of state-administered and local assessments, including classroom-based assessments, could constitute the state assessment system. However, the language in the new law is often ambiguous. Rules now being developed by the U.S. Department of Education utilizing a negotiated rule-making process will clarify the situation.
If states are to have the option to do anything other than administer a standardized exam in all required grades, then the rules must be written to allow flexibility. States of course can choose not to use take advantage of the flexibility or to develop a mixed system. But if they want to have a choice, then they must engage in the rule-making process, either directly or through organizations such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, which supports flexibility.
Unless states have the flexibility to integrate local assessments in their systems, they will be hard pressed to adequately meet all the requirements of the law because:
- High quality state standards contain material that cannot be measured with paper-and-pencil tests of one to a few hours duration. Thus, to adequately assess to the standards, states must use multiple forms of assessment.
- Some aspects of higher order thinking ? such as the ability to analyze and contrast several stories or perform scientific experiments ? are impossible or very difficult to assess with existing standardized tests. Such assessment can readily be done at the classroom level.
- One-time exams that assess only a limited selection of the state standards, often with only a few questions on an important topic, cannot provide adequate diagnostic information. The turn-around time for scoring large-scale assessments is also too slow for good diagnostics. Teachers can and should conduct regular assessments that provide information used to pinpoint students? strengths and weaknesses and guide instruction for individuals and groups.
- Test validity, experts explain, resides in the inferences drawn from assessment results. Relying solely on scores from one test to determine success or progress in broad areas such as reading or math is likely to lead to incorrect inferences and then to actions that are ineffective or even harmful. For these and other reasons, measurement standards call for using multiple measures for informing major decisions ? as does the ESEA legislation.
- Reliability, or consistency of information, is sometimes treated as the most important aspect of testing. However, consistent information about too narrow a range of topics, skills or knowledge cannot provide adequate information for decisions: a doctor needs more than just reliable blood pressure results to treat a patient. Well-designed classroom-based assessments can provide consistent, richer information that enhances validity, diagnostic capacity, and the ability to actually assess toward meaningful standards.
In sum, standardized exams alone are inadequate measures if states seek to meet all the assessment requirements in the new ESEA legislation. Multiple assessments that include substantial classroom-based information must be used. Some states, including Maine and Nebraska, are already pursuing this path, and others have expressed interest in doing so. It will not be simple, but it is a vitally important step. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, responding to a letter from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), acknowledged that ESEA does not require pencil-and-paper tests and could include mixed systems, provided they met the assessment requirements ? which, he wrote, Maine?s mixed assessment system should be able to do.
If states are to be empowered to meet ESEA requirements through more comprehensive assessments, Department of Education regulations must follow up Secretary Paige?s letter and allow states the flexibility to create mixed systems. States that wish to pursue this avenue can then determine, individually and in collaboration with each other, how best to accomplish this goal. A mixed system offers the chance to make major advances in assessment than can contribute to improved student learning. The opportunity to do so should not be precluded by the regulations prepared for ESEA.
For more information, including examples of mixed systems and high-quality classroom assessments, and for discussion of ESEA, visit the FairTest website or contact us.
Policies with Promise:
A Look at the Assessment Plans for Maine and Nebraska
Under new federal law, states must conduct annual "academic assessments" in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school. While many states will administer standardized tests to meet this requirement, the law does not require standardized testing. Several other states are developing "mixed systems" integrating state-administered exams and local assessments. Maine and Nebraska have already begun to develop such systems, and other states are interested in doing so. In addition, a number of high-quality classroom-based assessments should provide the data required under the law.
The student assessment system combines data from both the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) ? a criterion-referenced exam aligned to state standards given in grades 4, 8, and 11 ? and local assessments (http://www.state.me.us/education/homepage.htm
). Drawing from the Principles and Indicators for Student Assessment Systems of the National Forum on Assessment (FairTest, 1995), the assessment program is guided by the principles of "integrating assessment into classroom instruction, providing adequate time and training, utilizing multiple tools to assess students, and aligning with state learning standards." Beginning with the Class of 2007, graduation (which is determined at the local level) will be contingent upon achievement on the combined assessments, first in some then in all the subject areas.
Local school districts, with assistance from the state, are now designing assessment plans which combine the MEA exams with classroom, school, district, and/or regional assessments. The local assessments can include classroom-based portfolios, observations and exhibitions as well as district-administered exams and tasks. District plans must be complete by 2003, and the local plans and their particular assessments must meet state quality standards. Maine is still developing a plan to assure the assessments comply with state standards and federal requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The Writing Program within the Bangor School District offers an example of how a local assessment plan operates. Multiple assessments, including classroom portfolios and locally-created writing and reading tests, are used to evaluate students? language arts skills. Teachers receive extensive training on how to score student work using district scoring guides. The School Department scores the district-wide writing assessments for each grade level each year. Aggregated data from the assessments are shared publicly and reported to the schools. This information, along with classroom-based evaluations, is collected by teachers and administrators and used to guide and modify instruction.
Nebraska?s assessment program (http://www.nde.state.ne.us/starsdocs.html
) termed STARS (Student-based, Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System), requires school districts to develop local assessment plans that are aligned with state (or district) learning standards. A combination of norm- and criterion-referenced assessments are utilized to evaluate students in grades 4, 8, and 11 in mathematics, reading/writing, science, and social studies. The norm-referenced tests must be selected from a state-determined list. Districts can develop criterion-referenced instruments (which may include classroom assessments such as observations, portfolios, or rubrics), or they can purchase them from commercial publishers. In addition, all students in grades 4, 8, and 11 will participate in a statewide writing assessment. STARS explains, "Since each assessment process or instrument has different strengths, no single one can adequately achieve all purposes. Multiple assessment measures are needed to provide complete information for teachers, parents, and policy makers."
Districts must follow six criteria in designing their assessment plans: assessments reflect state or local standards; students have an opportunity to learn the content; assessments are free from bias; the level is developmentally appropriate for students; there is a consistency in scoring; and mastery levels are appropriate. Local assessment plans are submitted to the Nebraska Department of Education for review by an independent panel that rates the quality of each district?s assessment based on each criterion. The Department showcases model plans. Districts may either adopt one of the models or adapt their local assessment to become as highly rated as one of the models. Districts are also encouraged to submit their plans to an independent agency for review every five years. The Buros Institute of Mental Measurements has assisted the state and has reviewed district assessments (http://www.unl.edu/buros/
Each year, school districts must provide a report to local residents containing data on student performance, district demographics, and financial information. Every two years, the report must include information on the learning climate; and every three years, it should contain a report of a graduate follow-up survey.
Other States and Assessments
A number of states, including Vermont, Rhode Island and Wyoming, have indicated interest in developing systems that combine state exams with local assessments. Vermont has been working with Maine on portfolios. Wyoming, which will require local assessments that produce a body of evidence that students have met standards for the high school diploma, is also collaborating with Maine. The Buros Institute is working with Washington state, using the model it helped develop in Nebraska. Other states have indicated interest on a more preliminary level.
There are also classroom-based assessments available that can provide consistent information about student learning that can be used in district and state programs such as those in Maine and Nebraska. The Learning Record (www.learningrecord.org) is a detailed, rigorous and well-tested classroom-based assessment of literacy and math. Samples of completed records are re-scored annually, and agreement between classroom teachers and external readers has typically been between .7 and .8. This is better than some state writing tests, and the Record provides much richer information for teacher and school use than do one-time writing samples.
The Work Sampling System, recently acquired by NCS-Pearson, is a package for use through grade 5 in which teachers evaluate students in a range of academic as well as non-academic areas. As with the Learning Record, the assessments can be aligned with state standards and the results can be aggregated.
The New York Performance Assessment Consortium, a coalition of alternative, small public high schools, has developed common assessment tasks for use by member high schools (http://www.performanceassessment.org
). The Center for Collaborative Education in Boston will soon release assessments for use in its member schools located in New England.
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4810; fax 617-497-2224
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