Friday, February 7, 2014

We hear what you are saying about HB 930.

In Wednesday’s posting, I included the language below from HB 930, Tag Greason’s SOL reform bill.

The Standards of Learning assessments administered to students in grades three through eight shall not exceed (a) reading and mathematics in grades three and four; (b) reading, mathematics, and science in grade five; (c) reading and mathematics in grades six and seven; (d) reading, writing, mathematics, and science in grade eight; and (e) Virginia Studies and Civics and Economics once each at the grade levels deemed appropriate by each local school board.

Each school board shall annually certify that it has provided instruction and administered an alternative assessment, consistent with Board guidelines, to students in grades three through eight in each Standards of Learning subject area in which a Standards of Learning assessment was not administered during the school year. Such guidelines shall (1) incorporate options for age-appropriate, authentic performance assessments and portfolios with rubrics and other methodologies designed to ensure that students are making adequate academic progress in the subject area and that the Standards of Learning content is being taught; (2) permit and encourage integrated assessments that include multiple subject areas; and (3) emphasize collaboration between teachers to administer and substantiate the assessments and the professional development of teachers to enable them to make the best use of alternative assessments.

This language has given rise to messages regarding the degree to which alternative assessments will affect the burden on teachers.  One person fears that, “requiring VGLA-style assessments for all students in an SOL class in which an SOL test will not be administered will create an insurmountable bureaucratic burden on already overtaxed teachers.”
This is a very legitimate concern, and we hear you.

The “alternative assessment” language was added in response to the concerns raised by science and social studies teachers who expressed the fear that if their subjects were not assessed that they would be deemphasized.
The beauty of the bill is that it does permit school boards to allow classroom teacher designed assessment to take place of the SOL test.

We will need to be engaged in the Board of Education’s guideline development, and we will need to use our place at the table on the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee to work to ensure that the new assessments are not more burdensome and time consuming than the tests that they replace.  This may be a battle.  President Gruber and Dr. Rogers have already engaged the help of NEA in developing appropriate options for alternative assessments.
This could be a battle, and we may need to call on members to stack some meetings and raise a little hell.

I do hope, though, that we’ll not ignore the other side of this coin.  We have an opportunity to move away from teaching to the test and toward greater professional autonomy for teachers.


Unknown said...

I LOVE the idea of alternative assessments. In my Masters program for Curriculum and Instruction at George Mason I found that the research proves that we should actually be teaching History/Social Studies and Science all day and integrating Language Arts and Math into those areas. Please do not work to change that language because giving the students ways to SHOW what they learned on alternative assessments will enhance their understanding not hinder it. I am someone who struggled growing up with tests and I wish I had teachers who used alternative assessments so that I was able to actually show them all that I knew. That's is one of the reasons I became a teacher, to help students like me who struggle with tests.#alternativeassessments #educationalchange

Unknown said...

I have never been a fan of the SOL testing in as far as it was not a realistic vehicle for proving mastery or evaluating teacher performance. On the other hand I have seen what happens to subjects that are listed as part of the curriculum and even on report cards that are not tested in the SOL format of assessment. These subjects are given less funding, less resouces, often less time for teaching. As a Social Studies educator, I would hate to see the district decide to de-value our Social Studies curriculum in the 4-6 grades. Many of our students already have little sense of community and citizenship. I believe the teaching of History, especially in Virginia, is eccential to creating a generation of patriots, responsible and involved citizen and future leaders. Many of our early Presidents came from this great Commonwealth. If our children are not being taught the early history of this state and nation, will we be able to make this claim in the future? I do agree that there are certainly better methods for showing mastery of any subject other than a one day test surrounded by life's stresses. How long are we not going to address the need for students to be trained to listen effectively, learn how to take notes, and most importantly think critically? There needs to be a better currciulum design for the primary grades that more critically address phonics and fluency in reading and basic number sense in math. Then another design for the intermediate grades that begins to train students for greater critical thinking by actual instruction on listening skills, problem solving skills, creative questioning skills, along with the core curriculum that leads the student prepared for high school curricula.