Opting Out.....

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Opting Out.....

Postby Slack Tide » Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:55 am

Who here has allowed (or instructed) their children to "opt out" of state testing? School testing.....
Our state tests are coming and it's a BIG debate
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:41 am

I don't have any kids and I don't live in your state, however, what are the arguments for opting out?

I would think you would want to know how your kids performed on these tests as an independent data point to help ensure that your kids are on track. Everybody that has gone through school knows that there are teachers where every idiot gets an A and learns nothing and other very good teachers and that the kids generally like the teachers where every idiot gets and A without learning and often do not like the tough teachers that make them learn the material. As a parent from the outside, trying to figure out how much your kid is really learning is tough. This just seems like a way to help ensure they are learning what you think they are learning.

I look back at my K-12 education and realize it was terrible. Nobody including myself was pushed anywhere close to their potential. One girl in my class got straight A's in high school and could do no better than an 800 on the SATs. The very next year they changed the system where AP classes were worth more so there would be no idiot Valedictorian again. My brother's first wife graduated from the same high school a few years later and was functionally illiterate.

Of course, not my school and not my kids is the prevalent attitude and if they bomb on standardize tests it's the tests and not that my kid hasn't really learned the material. My experience in what is now one of the worst schools in PA tells me that this kind of thing is essential, which doesn't mean that these particular tests are not badly designed or have other serious flaws.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:41 am

I don't have any kids and I don't live in your state, however, what are the arguments for opting out?

I would think you would want to know how your kids performed on these tests as an independent data point to help ensure that your kids are on track. Everybody that has gone through school knows that there are teachers where every idiot gets an A and learns nothing and other very good teachers and that the kids generally like the teachers where every idiot gets and A without learning and often do not like the tough teachers that make them learn the material. As a parent from the outside, trying to figure out how much your kid is really learning is tough. This just seems like a way to help ensure they are learning what you think they are learning.

I look back at my K-12 education and realize it was terrible. Nobody including myself was pushed anywhere close to their potential. One girl in my class got straight A's in high school and could do no better than an 800 on the SATs. The very next year they changed the system where AP classes were worth more so there would be no idiot Valedictorian again. My brother's first wife graduated from the same high school a few years later and was functionally illiterate.

Of course, not my school and not my kids is the prevalent attitude and if they bomb on standardize tests it's the tests and not that my kid hasn't really learned the material. My experience in what is now one of the worst schools in PA tells me that this kind of thing is essential, which doesn't mean that these particular tests are not badly designed or have other serious flaws.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby Slack Tide » Fri Mar 21, 2014 7:43 am

The idea of Opting Out stems from parents not wanting schools to be driven by a "testing culture"....test after test are given to kids as low as 3rd grade...and as you said, it's about schools and teachers, not kids....many districts are stressing the hell out of these kids because THEY need them to do well....so the kids take it super seriously and take as many as 3 of these on TOP of the tests that actually go towards their GPA...like the Regents exam, SAT, AP etc....
It's just too much and the parents don't want their kids involved in testing that really is more about the building and the district...
Now for me.....as a teacher.....the frustration is that I sometimes have to forfeit many proven units, activities and novels that I love because on a larger, State level...numbers are down....so I get swept up in the "solution"...

In many cases, if teachers know that you are judged by the test, you are going to pound pound pound that material and nothing else so the kids do well and it reflects well on you. But if you know the state government is in bed with the publishing companies who are driving this BS curriculum AND authoring the tests.....AND we are paying for it....you realize that this thing is a freakin' socialist hoax and you opt out......
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:31 am

Slack Tide wrote:In many cases, if teachers know that you are judged by the test, you are going to pound pound pound that material and nothing else so the kids do well and it reflects well on you. But if you know the state government is in bed with the publishing companies who are driving this BS curriculum AND authoring the tests.....AND we are paying for it....you realize that this thing is a freakin' socialist hoax and you opt out......


So why doesn't the teaching profession put forth their view of the appropriate tests? Tests are an obvious and necessary part of the process. Serious professions have serious national and international societies which put forth standards, methods, etc. The process of getting together and debating these things is critical to ensuring that not only is the minimum quality maintained, but that we see continued improvement over time. Granted not everything is subject to standardized test, but much of the most important things are.

I hear this we shouldn't teach to the test, but all that tells me is that you have the wrong tests. Developing the right tests is what professionals do through their professional society so that uniform standards are met everywhere. Right now, there are not even close to uniform standards and I cannot think of an area where that is more important than in K-12 education.

If teachers are not judged by their students performance on tests that the teacher did not create, how on earth do you judge their performance?
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby Slack Tide » Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:00 am

Districts, Counties, States all want autonomy. No one wants a standard curriculum. Here on Long Island you have tremendous competition for your school district to reflect the quality of your town, which drives property values. If you drove for 15 minutes down Main St....you could go through 6 different towns or more....each one with a passionate opinion on why their town is better. If you (we) were to be able to come up with a test that really evaluated what kids knew....it would have to be extremely basic to allow each district to still do what they want, yet cover a basic concept....now you get into a discussion on what IS important...neighboring districts can have a very different opinion on that too...you would never ever get neighboring districts to collaborate in creating a universal curriculum....just like you couldn't sit down with your neighbor and come up with a universal curriculum for parenting...you probably have an extremely different list of "must haves" for your child...vs theirs.....
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:45 am

SpinnerMan wrote:So why doesn't the teaching profession put forth their view of the appropriate tests?

I understand the desire for autonomy and all that. I chose my words carefully.

SpinnerMan wrote:The process of getting together and debating these things is critical to ensuring that not only is the minimum quality maintained, but that we see continued improvement over time. Granted not everything is subject to standardized test, but much of the most important things are.

Even if you don't agree to one recommended set of standards, the process itself of given serious thought and debate about what they should be has great value.

The teachers, the professionals, need to put forth their recommended standards and procedures as to what they think the best practices are in different situations. In this case, what are the best practices of demonstrating that the public is getting what the public is paying for and that when a student is certified by the teachers as having mastered the minimum requirements to advance what are those minimum requirements and how do you verify that in fact those minimum requirements have been mastered.

What is the basic quality assurance program that the teaching profession believes should be in place to ensure that each individual student is getting a quality education and not slipping through the cracks?

Slack Tide wrote:No one wants a standard curriculum.
I did not say there should be a standard curriculum. Maybe I should have made that clear. Professional societies do not tell you what you should value or buy (i.e. the curriculum), but tell what the professional standards that should be adhered to such that if someone buys that particular thing that it satisfies the necessary quality standards. Basically ensuring that people are getting what they think they are getting.

Slack Tide wrote:Here on Long Island you have tremendous competition for your school district to reflect the quality of your town, which drives property values.
Same here. Which gets to my point that those that the kids that have parents that are willing to pay a high premium to get their kids into a quality school are not the kids that we need to worry about. It is the kids who have parents that would sacrifice their kids education if it would save them a buck.

Slack Tide wrote:If you (we) were to be able to come up with a test that really evaluated what kids knew....it would have to be extremely basic to allow each district to still do what they want, yet cover a basic concept
Not at all. You would have a catalog of tests that address the specific topics being covered. Each teacher already creates their own test for the topic they are teaching. Wouldn't it be great if every algebra teacher was giving equivalent tests, such that regardless of what school you are at, a particular score means the same thing? If a standard existed for creating such tests, then if you are teaching algebra or evaluating the performance of a particular algebra class, you use the standard to create the test such that it has the right breadth and depth of questions and it would probably be easy in this case to create a thousand questions for each area such that you wouldn't have to do anything but randomly select a few questions from each area and administer the test. Then if the kid scores below some value set in the standard he needs to repeat the course, next level he needs remedial help before moving on, satisfies the minimum to advance, and above some score has mastered the topic.

I think even for history, this is something that history teachers should be able to do. Just break it into pieces, and identify the key points, the secondary points, and the advanced details that measure the students understanding for whatever grade level they are at. Then just pick the things that are included in the curriculum to build your test. Again, this is nothing more than what teachers are doing already when they teach a topic and then give quizzes and tests on that topic.

Slack Tide wrote:now you get into a discussion on what IS important...neighboring districts can have a very different opinion on that too...you would never ever get neighboring districts to collaborate in creating a universal curriculum
Just to repeat, I was NOT talking about curriculum. I am talking about what essentially is a quality assurance program that whatever is included in the curriculum that there is a way to ensure that teacher, student, and parents understand what the the individual kid actually learned. Also, the aggregate information is also needed so the taxpayers can understand that they are getting what they are paying for. None of this is specifying the curriculum, but specifying that each piece of the curriculum is being taught effectively.

Slack Tide wrote:just like you couldn't sit down with your neighbor and come up with a universal curriculum for parenting
Yet, if I buy a house my neighbor built, I know what the standards are for the construction of that house. I have legal recourse if he did not satisfy those standards. There are objective standards by which the installation of each piece was completed. Now, I may choose a house that is not functional and ugly, but the quality of the construction will meet the local standards, which may or may not be based on national or international standards developed by the relevant professional societies as the local government sees fit. The existence of these standards does not require every local politician to understand the best practices for installing electrical wiring, etc. and they can more easily follow the debate of what the standards they should adopt for their local community. If they are not prone to hurricanes, then they can understand that pushing for hurricane standards is just a way to enrich builders by forcing more expensive construction.

Slack Tide wrote:you probably have an extremely different list of "must haves" for your child...vs theirs.....
I hope you understand that I am not talking about specifying curriculum at all. I am not proposing community standards. I am proposing that whatever the community or individual decides, they have a way to have confidence that they are in fact getting what they think they are getting.

I am really talking about a quality assurance program that ensures that every individual kid, whatever standard (not non-standard classes like local history or more fun classes) class they are taking that everyone knows what they need to know about the performance of the individual student or the aggregate performance of the class. There has to be meaningful feedback to correct problems and focus resources.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby Slack Tide » Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:39 am

I know what you mean....and you have a fair and practical understanding of the problem.
I'm trying to remember all of your points as I type, I didn't want to drag that big quote box into this....
Here goes:

There is no doubt that a basic, simple list of exams is a reasonable idea to be able to evaluate any kid....and we could absolutely come up with that, and have....
Unfortunately, the State is under the impression that education in general in America is not doing a good job....so they have stripped us of the ability to do what you suggested. Sure, I can make my own weekly tests and quizzes....but I can't submit any of that as evidence of how my kids have done, or how I have done....we are forced to administer the states' exam.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:55 pm

Slack Tide wrote:Unfortunately, the State is under the impression that education in general in America is not doing a good job....
I get caught saying that when I over simplify and that's the problem. Within a 20 mile circle of me, there are exceptionally good and exceptionally bad situations. Some near the best and some near the worst in the nation. How do we fix the worst without interfering with the best?

My concern has always been focused on not so much improving the average, which can be done by the best improving more than the worst decline. I think that is what we have seen as the trend for a couple generations now. The best have gotten better and the worst have gotten worse. What I have always been worried about is how do we ensure the bottom third gets a quality education WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT. While my poor education had little real harm to me, it is not true of the bottom third of the class who really suffer because they were sent off with a high school diploma yet having learned anything of real value to them. I mention my brother's first wife who was functionally illiterate. She was a hard worker, a good person, adequate if not average intelligence, a Image mother, no father, so she skated through K-12 without ever learning to read and probably would have went through life that way if she had not married my brother. Everybody reads to the kids and the kids read to everybody in my family. When my young cousins crawled into her lap and asked her to read to them, she eventually couldn't hide that she couldn't really do it. While the marriage didn't work out, she was convinced to take adult education classes and learn to read. This kind of circumstance should NOT be possible. Every teacher she had along the way either committed fraud when they passed her or were guilty of gross incompetence if they did not know.

For the bottom third, none of their kids are stressed out because their parents do not care. Most of them enjoyed school quite a bit, which was why I was generally friends with them. They are not taking all those test, nor are their parents debating opting out. The parents are more worried about whether their kid is going to get rich as a sports super star because they do not see nor understand the value of an education. Not just as a path to a career but in every day life from making better financial decisions whether simply what to buy at the grocery store to more substantive financial decisions relating to major life decisions, to making better decisions in every area of life. The more informed you are. The more informed decisions you will make.

Sorry to derail your topic. This stuff is so important and it varies so much from place to place that it is hard to talk about. Everybody tends to assume their experience is the norm. It interests me and I wish it interested far more people. Of course, where most parents do not care, the dominant issues are not the best educations, but the best political solutions.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby bayside » Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:41 pm

This topic is always good for a few blood pressure points at family dinner. My SIL is a teacher and while my wife was trained as a teacher (and did teach) she no longer does but has sympathies for the profession. I have always been employed private sector and consequently have different attitude toward this topic.
When no child was passed every time the SIL showed up heard how bad Bush was for this (even tho the swimmer sponsored bill). And I could never fathom why testing is bad. As spinner said perhaps it is a bad test. But if teaching community hammered out what is "important" to learn for each grade and constructed a test to that effect is a good thing. My concern was always that the testing would be dumbed down and serve as only validation about how great the teachers are.
Ultimately her arguments surrounded the point of: if I have a student who is "Challenged" (define as you wish: ADD, person of color, poor, crappy family etc), why should I be held accountable for things out of my control? My response has always been, that is your job, you chose it, you are well paid, get on with the work. Most folks have jobs in which they are presented challenges that are seemingly "out of their control", successful people conquer those obstacles.
My kids dont like the tests as the teachers really ratchet up pressure, but I expain to them that is part of life. Do your best, you've learned what they asked, you'll be fine!
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:11 pm

bayside wrote:if I have a student who is "Challenged" (define as you wish: ADD, person of color, poor, crappy family etc), why should I be held accountable for things out of my control?

Well the bigotry of low expectations writ large. That particular makes me laugh at the moment since I was just meeting with a black guy (my boss's boss) and an Hispanic guy (my boss's boss's boss) both of which have Ph.D.'s in Nuclear Engineering.

My point is that if a child is legitimately challenged, they need to be identified very early on so that the challenge can be overcome to whatever extent possible and this should not be an issue for teachers beyond grade school. I would expect a lot of the specialty in grade school education is the ability to identify these legitimate challenges so the children can get the education they need or the parents can get the help that their children need.

If you are teaching 8th grade social studies, you should not have to deal with children that are challenged by a 3rd grade vocabulary.

Nor should you be challenged by the wrath of that idiot's mother who thinks junior is qualified to be in an 8th grade social study class and will reign wholly hell down upon you if you fail the kid because he can't even begin to comprehend the subject.

And if the kid has a crappy family, well if they do not master sufficiently the kindergarten material, then damn it, they do not advance to first grade, and if they don't master the first grade material then they repeat, and so on, and the unions and the administrators need to defend the professional integrity of that teacher to fail to promote the child. Anything else should be considered professional misconduct and if not for the government monopoly should be fraud subject to litigation. A lot of families would get a lot less crappy if they had to suffer the "humiliation" of their child failing. I have no doubt my brother's first wife would have been able to get a good education if early on when she did not do the work, she would have failed.

My brother, he's not the best at choosing women, hopefully he has finally figured it out, but when he lived with the mother of his child (not his first or second and hopefully last wife), she had another kid that didn't do her homework. He actually went to the teacher and asked her why she keeps giving the girl good grades on her homework papers when she only does a small fraction of the homework. Her answer was, well she knows the material. The girl was pretty smart and probably did, but what was the school really teaching her? In this case the girl had a parent figure (what do you call your mom's live in boyfriend and father of your half sister) that actually cared, but the school was undermining that person. Yes, this girl had a challenging childhood, but the school was training her that you don't need to do what you are told to do to get by.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby t_baker » Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:18 pm

You guys shoulda been slackers in school. Your wearing me out with just the text count in this thread. I haven't even attempted to read it.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:27 pm

t_baker wrote:You guys shoulda been slackers in school.
I was a major slacker all the way through high school. :yes:
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby bighop » Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:31 pm

t_baker wrote:You guys shoulda been slackers in school. Your wearing me out with just the text count in this thread. I haven't even attempted to read it.

Well sit down Indian style and we'll get someone to read it to you.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby D Comeaux » Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:57 pm

bighop wrote:
t_baker wrote:You guys shoulda been slackers in school. Your wearing me out with just the text count in this thread. I haven't even attempted to read it.

Well sit down Indian style and we'll get someone to read it to you.


I had to laugh.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby Professor_Leakey » Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:03 pm

When I think of standardized testing, I always end up thinking about fairness. Can we standardize learning? There is no test that can fairly gauge the learning of all children as a whole. There will always be outliers.

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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby SpinnerMan » Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:34 pm

Professor_Leakey wrote:There is no test that can fairly gauge the learning of all children as a whole. There will always be outliers.
:huh:
The test is suppose to measure how well you have learned (past tense) something. Standardized or not, that is the purpose or should be of most tests.

Did you learn to do long division? Pretty easy to measure your level of ability.

Most things seem pretty easy to measure. Others while still more subjective are not that hard to judge improvement even though not so amenable to tests such as creative arts, acting, and such things.

The reason to standardize is so that if a teacher tells you that your kid has mastered 3rd grade math, they really have mastered 3rd grade math and don't get a high school diploma with middle school or worse yet grade school math and English skills.

Another reason is that when the 3rd grade teacher tells the mother that their child is not ready to advance and they start yelling about how their kid doesn't deserve to fail and the teacher hates their kid or is a racist or whatever, they have independent corroboration of why junior is not the brightest bulb in the room. And the ONLY "fair" thing to do for that child is to hold him back until he masters the material needed to move to the next step. To pretend like they are ready when they are not is clearly unfair to that child, yet that seems to be the all too common approach.
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Re: Opting Out.....

Postby bayside » Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:55 pm

SpnnerMan,
Precisely my point. Too often things that are irrelevant to becoming educated are used for crutches (and not necessarily by the INDIVIDUALS in the "disadvantaged" group). Now the reality is some do have legimate hurdles to overcome, and certainly there are ranges of ability in everyclassroom, but I reiterate this is the job of professional educators.
Most importantly, we, as a society led by the teaching establishment, have said, "Here are the things that will lead to an educated, employable citizen. You must learn these things, A, B, C, to move to the next level. If A, C & C are indeed important, and the test will assess your mastery of A, B & C, why is teaching to the test such an absurd goal?
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