Yes, I do regularly read the Rodel blog on their website, but I never commented on one until I saw their post from Friday called 5 Data Takeaways From Smarter Balanced Test Scores, written by Rodel employee Liz Hoyt. I’m always curious what the “opposition” writes about things like this. I have been very vocal in my thoughts on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware. They are a non-profit whose CEO happens to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year. I do not believe they have students best interests at heart. This article drove that point home for me with very clear and concise words. I will go through the areas that bothered me the most.
“Aligned to the Common Core state standards, the new state assessment was designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.”
I think this has always been my biggest problem with the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Please tell me how a 3rd grader taking this test is going to be in any way prepared for college based on how they answer questions on a test? Even if they put them at a 5th grade level, there is no test in the world that can prepare any student at a young age for a career or post-secondary education. The education reformers need to pick a side and stick with it: is the test meant to create data to see where students compare with each other or is it to prep them for a world they can’t even fathom until they are 15 or 16? They can’t have it both ways. Furthermore,.wasn’t the whole point of Common Core that a student in Alaska would get the same information and be assessed on the same information as a student in Louisiana? Instead, we have 18 states taking Smarter Balanced, 11 or so taking the PARCC, and the rest developing their own state assessments. It isn’t very common when states aren’t taking the “common” test. Funny how life works out…
“While this year’s scores are lower than last year’s DCAS results, Delaware students outperformed estimates (based on the 2014 national field test) in both subjects for every grade with the exception of 11th grade math.”
Why does the DOE and Governor Markell keep trying to pump up the fact that students did better than expected? Isn’t that the whole point of a field test, to find out what the kinks are and what problems might come up and strive to fix those issues? How many rockets did Russia blow up before Sputnik launched? If students did worse than the field test, it would prove unequivocally that this was a bad test. But since students did better than the field test, we are acting like this is the best test Delaware ever created (which Governor Markell did say at a speech for New America earlier in the Summer). And this is my major issue with this statement. We have nothing to measure this test by, and even the Feds wouldn’t allow states to compare any test scores to field tests for this very reason with their accountability frameworks. It’s not often I agree with the US DOE, but anyone can see the fallacy in comparing a field test to the actual test.
“Scores dropped as Delaware set a new baseline for student proficiency.”
Once again, how can scores drop when you are comparing apples to oranges? This test didn’t set a baseline for student proficiency, it set a baseline for Smarter Balanced proficiency based on whatever arbitrary number the Delaware Department of Education set it at. So what happens if by chance some miracle happens, and every student scores proficient on the test next year. Would the DOE allow that? They had a meltdown when the vast majority of teachers were rated as “effective”. What happens to the baseline then? I firmly believe they would change it because if everyone is proficient, the test is useless and has outlived it’s purpose. On the flip side, if everyone scores at a non-proficient level, we can’t have that either, because that shows 1) the test is bad and 2) we need to make all our schools a priority and fire all the teachers. So the baseline will ALWAYS be set somewhere so that anywhere from 30-70% of students are proficient. But that really doesn’t tell us what students need. It tells us the DOE will do whatever they have to for certain results.
“Despite concerns about the opt-out movement’s potential impact on assessment, student participation remained strong.”
Concerns? How many times does Dr. Paul Herdman speak in public at Legislative Hall about pending legislation for education? He said it was the first time he ever came to an education committee meeting and gave public comment. It wasn’t a concern for Rodel. It was a five-alarm fire! I’ve said all along I expected opt-outs to be small the first year. I also said once parents receive the scores, it will be another story in the second year of Smarter Balanced. One only needs to look at New York and New Jersey to see the difference between the first and second year opt-out rates to gage how Delaware will be with this in the Spring of 2016. This is a wake-up call for parents, and they will show how much they support this test with higher opt-out rates in six months.
“Scores varied widely across districts and schools, highlighting the hard work of educators implementing the Common Core State Standards and schools that may need additional support.”
Scores varied widely among low-income schools and higher income schools. They varied between charters and magnet schools with selective enrollment preferences and those without. They varied between the haves and the have-nots. Are you telling us then that schools with low-income just happen to have teachers who aren’t good at “implementing the Common Core State Standards”? Because that’s the way I’m reading this. Are you saying that EastSide Charter School, who was publicly praised by Governor Markell for their incredible growth on DCAS has teachers that now are not implementing Common Core the right way? Or is it because EastSide performed about the same as other schools with comparable low-income populations? Don’t answer. We already know.
“…learn more about the Smarter Assessment and the Common Core State Standards at DelExcels.org.”
Since we know Rodel provides invaluable help to Donna Johnson, the State Board of Education and Delaware DOE in getting resource material on the DelExcels website for parents, and Rodel is a non-profit, did Rodel get paid with tax-payer money to help get the material on the DelExcels website? And how much of that money gets invested into one of the hedge funds Rodel invests in? Can you please answer those questions?