Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Department of Education Undermines Legislature

Debbie Pelley gives an eye-opening report on how the educrats are insisting on using criteria based tests (whose grades can be inflated by changing the criteria) when the legislature supports using norm referenced testing (which compare children in our state to those in other states).

The report also documents how the educrats are moving to eliminate grades in favor of student "portfolios" - this is recycling a failed idea under a new label. That is a favorite tactic of liberal educrats. (click on "comments" for the report)....


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Legislators are legislating in one direction, and the Arkansas Department of Education is going another. The ADE is actually using staff development to sabotage the efforts and goals of legislators. Legislation has moved toward standardized tests and objective, reportable assessment (in particular Act 35); but in staff development there has been been a continuous, but sometime subtle, coercive pressure from about 1991 for teachers to do away with traditional objective letter grades and to substitute subjective measurements where students cannot be compared. (See quotes in bold print by latest three main experts in assessment and staff development in Arkansas below. I have all these sources in hand; they are not taken from other references.)

The ADE particularly favor portfolios which is a collection of a students' work that "compares children to themselves rather than to their peers." In 1991 on a State Department Assessment Rollout for Act 236, these subjective portfolios were to be implemented in all schools by 1997 on the timeline. In at least two of the failing schools that the ADE took over, portfolios were implemented statewide.

The Department of Education didn't succeed in getting portfolios implemented, but they haven?t given up on that goal yet. An expert by the name of Richard Stiggins, who has written extensively about the negative aspects of letter grades and positive aspects of portfolios, is helping Arkansas with staff development on assessments this year. Stiggins is just one more in a succession of other experts, (like high paid Willard Daggett and Douglas Reeves) in Arkansas to criticize grades and promote portfolios.

Stiggins' philosophy can be summarized by using quotes from a teacher?s manual used in Arkansas Math Crusade staff development workshops a few years ago "Grading can be detrimental to student willingness to learn and should be replaced with other ways to report progress. In today's political climate, tests are inadequate and misleading as measures of achievement. Assessment tasks should be redesigned-indeed, are being redesigned." The long tradition of grading students has a detrimental effect on many students."

1 At the state board meeting June 14, 04 Janine Riggs, said 3500 teachers were giving up summer vacation to come to a workshop during the summer conducted by Stiggins on Assessment and that Stiggins will also be with us throughout next year for our teleconferences that are held throughout the year at various locations in the state. She said he works in many states across the country. (Riggs is Director of School Improvement and Professional Development and also an Assistant Director to Ken James, Director of State Deparmtnet of Education)

In his books and articles Stiggins makes some very derogatory remarks about traditional assessment, standardized testing, high stakes tests, and letter grades. In reference to each of these, he uses the terms:? stress, anxiety, fear, punishment, sorting, ranking, intimidation, judgemental, harmful, and dangerous. Following are all direct quotes from Stiggins articles or book. Keep in mind that Stiggins often uses the word "communicating" or "communicating about student achievement" rather than the word report card. Report card is evidently such a harsh word it needs a euphemism. See quote below where Stiggins basically says the major teacher unions like NEA agree with him.

*I began with the contention that the time has come to redefine the relationship between assessment and effective schools. It is naive at best and dangerous to student well-being at worst to believe that we can maximize school effectiveness by inducing a fear of public censure for low standardized test scores. 2

*Our current assessment systems are harming huge numbers of students for reasons that few understand. 3

*Politicans [are] bent on using our assessments for their own political gain. 4

*I implied that the use of punishment [grades] to cause students to want to learn is very dangerous business. 5 Then he as author of the book asks the teacher/reader to give material covered in the chapter that the statement might be true.

*Historically, we have assigned report card grades based on evidence and teacher judgment about student ability, achievement, effort, compliance, and attitude. This practice has done far more harm than good in building effective lines of communication.6

*Let me remind you that grades are by no means the only way to share information about student achievement using report cards. Some report card designs convey much greater detail about student achievement to message receivers. 7 (Then Stiggins list 11 bulleted questions that indicate problems with grades. Then he asks the readers (teachers) to list as many negatives about grades as they can.

*The elementary school faculty chooses to write narrative reports [personal letter to students/parents] rather than issue letter grades. The written evaluation also allows the teacher to describe facets of an individual?s intellectual and emotional development and compare children to themselves rather than to their peers. 8

*Under Exercises for Self-Assessment in his text, Stiggins says, ?1. Consulting the text, identify several changes currrently unfolding in schools that call for changes in grading practices. #5 Rank the three forms of achievement communication listed here according to which are the most and least likely to reflect the principles of effective communication. Why do you rank them as you do? 9

1 A letter grade on a report card

2 And anecdotal narrative definition of student achievement. (Letter to parent/student)

3 A portfolio containing samples of student work?

Anyone reading the chapter would have to put letter grade on a report card as last.

*There is the danger that the need to perform before others or display products for others to see can raise students anxiety to a level that distorts their performance. This requires that you create a place for such assessments that students regard as safe, or that you protect each student?s privacy by restricting access to their work. 10 (Remember the ban on spelling bees in Kentucky because it produced one winner and many losers, and the headline this year, "Nashville Schools to Stop Honor Roll, Embarasses Underachievers"

Stiggins repeatedly talks about ideas that sound much like the failed progressive child centered movement that emerged years ago. He often uses the word "communicating" or "communicating about student achievement" rather than the word report card. Report card is evidently such a harsh word it needs a euphemism. He says that the "biggest break-through to happen in communicating about student achievement in the last century" is the "student-led parent-teacher conferences." 11 [That replaces the report card. That type of "expert" garbage is almost enough to make the most saintly teachers say naughty words. ]

*We have alternatives to our tradition of manipulating rewards and punishments [ [author is talking about traditional grades here] Bullets these three things: 12

* Student involved classroom assessment

* Student involved record keeping

* Student involved communication?

Student-involved classroom assessment opens up assessment development and brings students in as full partners. We teach these lessons by having students actually devise sample assessment exercises and scoring criteria. They learn to apply appropriate criteria to the evaluation of their own practice work. [ He suggests offering them homework to complete but not requiring it.] One way to accomplish this is by having students build portfolios of evidence of their success over time, including periodic self-reflections about the changes they see. Student-involved record keeping brings them into the process of monitoring improvements in their achievement through repeated self-assessment over time.?13

"We support and encourage that positive self-image by involving students in recording their own story through their portfolios. But to make this work, they must also actively participate in selecting the work for the portfolio."14

It is obvious from Stiggins' writings that the staff development will be used to persuade and/ or coerce teachers to use portfolios rather than grades and move from traditional education to the failed student centered progressive type. Stiggins said teachers' unions agree with him. He says,

"Ten years ago, the measurement community succeeded in articulating standards of competence in assessment for teachers (American Federation of Teachers, National Council on Measurementin Eduation and Nation Education Associon, Those standards reflect our deep understanding of the differences between sound and unsound assessment practices." 18 [The problem is that the majority of teachers don't agree with the leaders in the teachers? unions.]

?However, classroom assessments will only increase in quality if teachers are given the opportunity to learn about these refined visions of academic excellence. This presents a considerable, as yet unmet, professional development challenge.?19

"The only acceptable remedy is the immediate implementation of national, state, and local programs of professional development designed to enhance the classroom assessment literacy of America's practicing educators -- from preschool through graduate school. We know what teachers need to know, and we know how to deliver that knowledge to them. All we need now is the will to deal with the problem." 21

[How arrogant can these experts be? These experts know more than all the combined thousands of teachers in the nation who have all the training and all the years of experience.]

Stiggins did briefly outline in one of his articles this transformational educational movement from letter grades to bring us to the portfolios and inadvertently gave us, who know the truth but couldn't prove it, confirmation about how all this has transpired. In 1999, when Douglas B. Reeves was hired to oversee Arkansas's Smart Start initiative and Arkansas's standards, testing, and accountability programs, a colleague and I wrote a paper entitled "OBE? Is Well and Alive in Arkansas" which was distributed in a newsletter by American Family Association newsletter. The theme of that article was that "outcomes" had been changed to "standards" to snooker the policy makers and the public, but in reality nothing had changed. OBE, acronym for Outcomes Based Education was the basis of Act 236, which was so controversial legislators supposedly repealed most of it.

OBE proponents advocate schools with government control and no competition, no grade levels, no grades, not time limits, new types of tests, no memorization or drills and no textbooks.

Stiggins, a national expert in assessessment says, "[T] the concept of mastery learning has evolved through its various incarnations over the past decades, from behavioral objectives to minimum competencies to outcomes-based education and finally to standards-driven schools." 22

Note: The last paragraph above is an example of how the educrats change the names over and over to keep the policy makers and the public in the dark. They have done an excellent job. Many teachers know the truth, but they seem to have no voice except through the AEA, and the AEA is part of all this. (A number of organizations have also changed names for the same reason)

Stiggins further elaborates on this point in his article under a heading called "Foundations of a More Productive Future: Development "

No. 1: Mastery Learning and Criterion-Referenced Assessment. One part of the foundation of a stronger classroom assessment future was put in place with the emergence of mastery learning models with the work of Bloom and his associates cited above. He advanced the idea that the social mission of schools might be shifted from that of merely sorting students to ensuring attainment of specific competencies. Schools that held the amount of time available to learn constant, while permitting the amount learned to differ among students, might be reorganized to permit amount of time available to learn to vary, while holding constant the amount learned.?24

[In other words in mastery learning there is no need for grades; a checkmark that students have mastered the outcomes or some assignment in a portfolio substitutes for the grade, and students can have as long as they need to master the outcome. Of course, then you have students retaking tests over and over because there is no pressure to pass the first time since there are no time limits. Doing away with grades will have the same effect on student motivation as doing away with salaries would have on adult employees.]

Stiggins continues, "This idea brought with it the potential of a parallel shift in thinking about the role of assessment in the schooling process. Assessments that had traditionally been designed to yield a dependable rank order of students might be redesigned to provide dependable evidence of content mastery. Under the leadership of Jim Popham and others, we began to explore a new kind of test score interpretation: criterion-referenced assessment."25

If legislators believe in Stiggins' philosophy (and be sure to read the quotes below by other professional development leaders in Arkansas ? and these are just a drop in the bucket of the documentation we have on this,) by all means increase staff development and the state benchmark exams called criterion referenced test; But wouldn't it be appropriate to let your constituents know this is your philosophy. Why not let the people in on the debate instead of allowing the State Department to snooker the legislators and the public who disagree with this philosophy.

It seems ridiculous, and yes even immoral, to waste all these millions (77 million for Act 35 alone) for educational reform only to allow the legislators and the State Department of Department to neutralize or counteract each other's efforts.

1 Jean Err Stenmark - Assessment Alternatives in Mathematics (Quotes from a teacher's manual given to teachers in Arkansas through Math Crusades Equals workshops, pp 5, 31, 33.

2 Richard J. Stiggins ?Assessment, Student confidence, and School Success? pp 7, 8

3 Ibid. p. 1

4 Richard J.Stiggins, ?The Unfulfilled Promise of Classroom Assessment?
5 Richard J. Stiggins, Student Involved Classroom Assessment text, Prentice-Hall 2001 p. 51

6 Ibid. p. 409
7 Ibid. p. 410, 411
8 Ibid. p. 453
9. Ibid. p. 463
10 Ibid. p. 187
11 Ibid. p. 47
12 Ibid. p. 46
13 Ibid. p. 47
14 Ibid. p. 477
15 Ibid. p. 471
16 Ibid. p. 46
17 Richard J. Stiggins, ?Assessment Crisis: The Absence of Assessment FOR Learning?, p. 8.
18 Richard J. Stiggins, ?The Unfulfilled Promise of Classroom Assessment? p. 13.
19 Ibid. p. 11
20 Ibid. p. 9
21 Richard J. Stiggins ?Assessment, Student confidence, and School Success? p 8
22 Richard J.Stiggins, ?The Unfulfilled Promise of Classroom Assessment? p.
23 Richard J. Stiggins, Student Involved Classroom Assessment text, Prentice-Hall 2001 p. 471
24 Richard J.Stiggins, ?The Unfulfilled Promise of Classroom Assessment? p. 13.
25. Ibid. p. 10
26. Richard J. Stiggins ?Assessment, Student confidence, and School Success? p 4
27. Richard J.Stiggins, ?The Unfulfilled Promise of Classroom Assessment? p. 11
28 Richard J. Stiggins, Student Involved Classroom Assessment text, Prentice-Hall 2001 p. 463

Debbie Pelley
check out this website:

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