This is from an op ed piece in the Savannah Morning News, Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
In a few weeks, much of the nation and Georgia will commence student testing. Where exactly are we nationally and where are we particularly in Georgia with its new testing program the Georgia Milestones Assessments? Are we ready?
Georgia’s Milestones exam is provided by McGraw Hill, the company that also published the CRCT and our high school graduation tests, and has provided Georgia’s tests for the last nine years (since 2006). Georgia entered into a contract with McGraw Hill after dropping out of the PARCC Consortium. We dropped out of the PARCC Consortium because we thought the price per student was too high.
McGraw Hill also makes the tests for Smarter Balanced, the other testing consortium, supplying testing for 18 other states.
In late May, the DOE awarded a five-year, $107.58 million contract to CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop the new system. The electronic delivery will be phased in over a five-year period.
Federal law mandates 17 annual tests: seven in math and seven in reading for grades 3-9, and one reading and one math test for high school students and a writing test. These tests are in addition to the NAEP tests in reading and math.
If your district has bought into the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) program, add at least three more tests to the yearly total.
How effective are all these new tests? Design constraints as well as money problems have contributed to a result that is far less than being a game-changer in public education.
According to Linda Darling Hammond, the new exams are less sophisticated in assessing deeper learning as compared to some exams already in use.
We may not know what the Milestones test will be like but we do know it will be harder. According to Melissa Fincher, deputy superintendent of testing and accountability for the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE), when compared to the CRCT and the End of Course Tests in high school, scores will likely plunge initially as students become accustomed to the higher bar and rigor. Gone are the tests composed completely of multiple-choice answers; they will be replaced by a combination of multiple choice, short answers and essays.
The testing juggernaut is far more imposing than we ever thought it was under No Child Left Behind. Pearson and McGraw Hill wield enormous influence over American education. They write the textbooks and tests that drive instruction in public schools across the nation.
Their software grades student essays, tracks student behavior and creates inordinate amounts of student data. Their companies dominate the teacher education textbook field, administer teacher licensing exams and coach teachers once they’re in the classroom. They operate networks of online public schools.
There is, though, a mounting anti-testing backlash that may influence the attempt by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Testing will be at the forefront of the reauthorization.