Monday, July 22, 2013

Two top FL Lawmakers want to Drop National Common Core Tests

Florida's legislative leaders want the state to withdraw from national Common Core tests, even though Florida is leading one of the two federally funded national Common Core testing groups.

The two wrote to state Superintendent Tony Bennett July 17, explaining why they want the state to use its own tests to measure national Common Core K-12 goals in math and English.

"Too many questions remain unanswered with PARCC [the Common Core testing group Florida leads] regarding implementation, administration, technology readiness, timeliness and utility of results, security infrastructure, data collection and undetermined cost," wrote Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Panama City) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). "We cannot jeopardize fifteen years of education accountability reform by relying on PARCC to define a fundamental component of our accountability system."

National Common Core tests will replace state tests in more than 40 states in 2014-2015.

Weatherford and Gaetz believe Florida schools simply do not have the technical capacity to handle all-online PARCC tests. First, PARCC recommends one computer for every two students in schools, while Florida's average is three students per computing device. And approximately 50 percent of Florida schools have the bandwidth necessary to administer PARCC tests.

"To date, the cost of the full implementation of PARCC assessment materials is indeterminate, let alone the costs for the technology and professional development," they write.

PARCC tests will be costly in another way: The testing group projects they will consume at least 20 days of Florida's 180-day school year, they note, which is more than current tests.

Another item left unanswered by the national testing group, the lawmakers say, is its student privacy and data security policies. Those are not set for release until 2014.

While teachers and schools have been promised test results that finally come back to them in time for them to respond before students leavet their classrooms, "PARCC does not have a plan for the timely return of assessment data" to make good on that promise, Gaetz and Weatherford say.

Based on these concerns, "It would be unacceptable to participate in national efforts that may take us backward and erode confidence in our accountability system and our trajectory of continued success," the lawmakers write. In conclusion, they ask Bennett to state his positions on "immediately withdrawing" Florida from PARCC, phasing in new, Florida-based tests, providingteachers more training, further integrating technology into schools, and reporting the costs associated with these policy changes.


British girl kicked off school trip for chocolate stash

Nosy teachers opened a letter the girl had written.  They obviously saw themselves as prison guards

A GIRL, 11, had her bags searched and was sent home from a school trip after teachers opened a sealed letter to her mum which revealed a secret chocolate stash.

The Telegraph reports that Holli McCann and two of her fellow Year Six classmates tucked into the contraband on the first night of their excursion to the Isle of Wight.

While she wasn't caught eating the chocolate, teachers opened a sealed letter to her mother, Kerri, telling her about the sweet treat.

After reading the letter teachers removed the lining of her suitcase and tipped out her toiletries bag to find the hidden stash.

Kerri McCann was ordered to drive 260 kilometres through the night to come and pick her up, otherwise Holli would be forced to sit and watch her classmates undertake the week of fun activities.

The children were all forced to sign a behaviour contract before the trip of which Holli was found to be in breach of.

Mrs McCann, 47, is an unemployed full-time carer to her autistic son. She had saved for six months to pay for the 300-pound ($500) holiday for her daughter, but was then forced to borrow 130 pounds from friends and family to be able to make her way to the Isle of Wight to pick up Holli.

"They had been planning the feast weeks before the trip and Holli was in charge of bringing the chocolate,” she said.

"It wasn't even at midnight. They ate the chocolate at about 9.30pm and it only went on for about 15 minutes. It's not like they were having a party or making noise.

"The teachers had no idea about it until they read Holli's letter to me.

"I am furious that they read her letter, it is like being in prison. It's not like she is five - she is 11 and deserves privacy in what she writes to her mum.”

"Holli said she was really upset because they emptied her toiletry bag into the sink and pulled out the lining in her suitcase.

"It was carried out in such a manner you would have thought they were running an international drug smuggling operation from their hotel room.

"I don't see how eating chocolate makes the holiday unsafe. They were not being naughty - they were just having fun."

The school has not commented on the incident despite an official complaint being lodged by Mrs McCann.


'Clegg's plans to rank primary pupils must be good. The teaching unions hate it'

The failure within the current system to detect the large number of pupils leaving unready for secondary school is a scandal that we can’t afford to let continue, says Chris Skidmore

Announcing a new consultation from the Department for Education which will look at assessment in primary schools, Nick Clegg quickly received the clear signal, so familiar to Michael Gove, that he was doing the right thing: near instantaneous denunciation from the teaching unions.

Attempts to improve accountability in the schools system will always be attacked as attempts to brand children successes and failures, but what was announced yesterday was anything but that. Changes to primary school assessment will make parents better informed, guarantee school autonomy, and most importantly, ensure far more children go to secondary school properly prepared.

Primary education is ripe for reform; it is clear that the current system is failing to deliver, particularly for the most disadvantaged students, who were 20 per cent less likely to reach the required level in English and Maths in 2012.

But even this required standard, a Level 4 in English and Maths, is failing pupils. Achieving Level 4s should show that pupils are ready to move on to secondary education, yet it has proven to be a woefully poor indicator of a child’s future prospects of success, with less than half of those who are achieving lower-end Level 4s then going on to get five GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English in 2012.

It’s vital that we make sure our judgment of ‘secondary ready’ actually means something.

A large part of the problem has been the lack of rigour and expectations, which has been deeply entrenched in the system. A more rigorous curriculum, as announced last week, is of course a necessary part of tackling this. But it is only one side of the coin.

To be effective the new curriculum needs to be backed up by system of assessment and accountability which will let us see whether these new standards are being met or not – a fact made clear in Lord Bew’s review of examinations and accountability at key stage 2, published in 2011. It’s no coincidence then that this consultation has been opened so soon after the new curricula were announced.

The new assessment structure has been informed by three principles: the progress children make should be given the same weight as the attainment of pupils; the involvement of central government in setting assessment should be limited to the ends of key stages, leaving schools free to assess pupils as they see fit the rest of the time; and parents should have access to the information about their child, their school, and how others are doing.

The importance of measuring progress is central to the announcement. It recognises that schools in disadvantaged areas can be unfairly targeted as failing when they are doing a lot for their pupils, while others which are simply coasting are judged acceptable.

This has also given rise to one of the elements of the announcement that has received much of the press attention – the idea that children should be assessed at an early age, giving a baseline from which the effectiveness of early years teaching can be judged. While it is not clear what form such testing would take, the need for it is clear.

If we want to see what progress is being made by primary schools we need some measure before Key Stage 1 testing of how children are doing.

While the idea of baseline testing hasn’t been received without controversy it is the principle of informing parents about how their children are doing that is really creating the heat from the unions. The objection that pupils will then be branded failures is at the heart of the low expectations culture that they are seeking to preserve, as it embodies the view that we shouldn’t question how well or how badly we are performing.

A reformed system would recognise that parents have a right to know how their children are doing, and how good the schools they are being sent to are. As more and more primary schools gain autonomy, giving parents a genuine choice between schools, this information is becoming increasingly important, as choice can only empower parents when they are fully informed.

Together with the high expectations which have been built into the new curriculum a system of challenging assessments, with published results, will empower parents and improve education. The failure within the current system to detect the large number of pupils leaving unready for secondary school is a scandal that we can’t afford to let continue, and which this package of measures will help to address.


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