Friday, May 13, 2011

CMS testing: Shhh ....

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher passes along this story about administering one of the new CMS exams to a first-grader. The new tests require the teachers to read questions aloud and record the children's answers.

Teacher: "Name a place where you might find ... (type of landform)."

Student: "Name a place?"

Teacher: "Yes. Name a place where you might find...."

Student: "Name it?"

Teacher: "Yes."

Student: "Uh...I would name it...Brianna."

It's a cute story, and you might wonder why I'm not naming the teacher who shared it -- or for that matter, why the question itself is related in such a vague manner.

If you're a teacher or parent who's been involved in the new testing, you know the answer: Testing security.

And it's no laughing matter. "The team of teachers and assistants who are administrating the test were informed that any information that is leaked to the outside would result in the loss of our teaching licenses," one teacher wrote.
Here's the dilemma: CMS has created 52 new tests (with more to come next year) as part of its quest to size up teacher effectiveness. With the stakes so high, officials don't want the questions circulating, for fear some teachers could prep kids on specific items.

But a significant number of educators and parents say the tests are deeply flawed, if not worthless. It's important for the public -- and the taxpayers footing the bill for new exams -- to know if they're right. So ... how do we have a good discussion about the validity of the tests if the tests are secret? And how do teachers weigh in if they're afraid they'll be accused of unethical conduct and potentially lose their jobs?

If you have first-hand knowledge of how this is playing out in schools, let me know. And I'll try to find out more about how CMS plans to rebuild confidence and answer questions as the district moves ahead with a testing/performance pay plan that even the biggest boosters say has hit a rocky stretch.

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