Saturday, May 19, 2007

Interim assessments to be provided by McGraw-Hill

According to the blog Ed in the Apple, McGraw-Hill will provide the new interim assessments to be required in all NYC public schools every 4-6 weeks starting next fall. The company has “produced a web-based diagnostic tool” that it has been “rolling out” around town and “audiences have been applauding.”

“The students can take the exam online or on a Scan-able form.….Mc Graw Hill will place servers around the City and will maintain the website. The Department deserves accolades: a useful tool that embodies 21st century technology.”

I remain skeptical, having seen the highly flawed ELA exams prepared by the same company. Remember the 4th grade standardized test featuring the notorious Brownie the Cow? Yes, that mind-bendingly absurd test was produced by McGraw-Hill.

A few years ago, due to scoring errors by CTB McGraw-Hill, 9,000 New York City school children, who had actually passed the test, were reported as having failed and required to go to summer school. Thousands more in California went to summer school and in many cases were held back due to another McGraw-Hill mistake. Moreover, most experts in testing dispute the possibility that useful information could ever be gained from standardized interim assessments -- no matter how good the test or the scoring -- because individual student gains or losses over short periods of times are too small to be statistically reliable.

Of course, all the new testing will only further diminish the amount of time available for actual teaching and learning. A recent UFT survey found that already, teachers spend “nearly five hours and 15 minutes of class time — the equivalent of a day-and-a-quarter of instruction — each week on mandated assessment-related paperwork.” Test prep is even more time-consuming, with about 1/3 of classroom time devoted to test prep for two months before the reading and math exams.

Finally, as many teachers point out, given their huge teaching load and class sizes, especially in middle and high schools, even if they had the time to analyze all the results for each one of their 150 students every six weeks, they will have little or no opportunity to address their specific deficiencies.

Since the whole point of the new costly and time-consuming interim assessments, according to DOE, will be to facilitate “differentiated” instruction, one wonders why at the same time, this administration is so resistant to providing the smaller classes that might actually make this possible.


NYC Educator said...

I think differentiated instruction means you take your 34 kids, put some of them in one corner, some in another, a few in the closet, and the rest outside.

Then you teach four different lessons, depending on what McGraw Hill says they need to learn. What you do is talk very fast, run to the other three groups, and get back to the first one before they notice you're gone.

While you're talking, of course, you're evaluating the work of the last group you worked with, and you simply return it the next time you see them.

Leonie Haimson said...

Ever see the movie Multiplicity? If only every teacher could be cloned w/ multiple copies, this might solve the dilemma of being able to differentiate instruction for every one of your 34 students -- w/out having to reduce class size.

Anonymous said...

Does McGraw Hill teach you how to deliver those differentiated lessons in a way that will make kids want to learn them?

NYC Educator said...

That's very reform-minded thinking, Leonie. I think you need to get that idea to the chancellor.