TCAP is Still TC*AP

Education Commissioner Huffman and Governor Haslam released the state-level 2013-2014 TCAP scores this morning. We are not going to waste any time reviewing the scores here because 1) we don’t believe the test scores accurately reflect what a child truly knows, and 2) it appears that the DOE uses creative statistical analyses, subjective cut-score determinations, and lots of PR spin to make these scores be whatever they want them be.

But we would like to point out that, just this morning, Commissioner Huffman once again indicated that TCAP isn’t a good test for measuring student progress. According to Nashville Public Radio, Mr. Huffman told reporters, “I think there’s some level of a question of whether TCAP captures some of the work our teachers are doing in reading…” (Ummm…Mr. Huffman, just about a year ago you testified before the Senate Education Committee and, during your testimony, you admitted that the TCAP is not “strong”.) To top it off, the vice-president of the education astro-turf “advocacy” group, SCORE, also told NPR the following: “‘What we would say is it’s not necessarily a complete assessment of what students are learning in the classroom,”…adding that the state needs a test that allows students to give written explanations to show what they really know.”

So, let’s get this straight: 35-50% of a teacher’s evaluation and 15-25% of a child’s grade are based on the results of a test that is not “strong”, nor “complete”. In what other universe is judging someone on a measurement that does not accurately measure what it’s supposed to measure OK?

Parents and teachers have been screaming for years that TCAP results do not fully reflect student or teacher skills. No one listened. Huffman essentially said the same thing almost a  year ago. No one cared. And now, like a proverbial broken record, we are hearing the same old song from Huffman, but this time a member of SCORE is singing backup. On behalf of hundreds of thousands of Tennessee students, teachers, and parents, we are here to say that it’s time the DOE starts singing a couple new tunes: “Scrap the TCAP” and “YPBA” (aka “Yes Performance Based Assessment).

Our only viable hope at this juncture is that the legislature will intervene during the 2015 legislative session and try to bring some sanity to teacher and student evaluations. So, on that note, please research the candidates running for the House and Senate in your district–and vote for those who are against the use of TCAP scores in student grading and teacher evaluations. If we can get enough of them in the legislature, maybe we can finally stop the madness!

Update/Call to Action on TCAP Fiasco

UPDATE: Representatives Bo Mitchell, Gloria Johnson, and Mike Stewart have filed an open records request regarding the TCAP fiasco. Sen. Mae Beavers has requested an Attorney General opinion on the legality of the DOE manipulating test scores. And Rep. Spivey and Sen. Bowling have reportedly asked the Comptroller to investigate the DOE’s conduct and expenditures regarding this issue. You can help by contacting your state representative, senator, and the governor (615-741-2001) and letting them know how you feel about this situation. (You can get your representatives’ contact info here.) Keep up the heat! They require our teachers and students be accountable–why should we expect any less from them?

Here is sample text you can use in your email/phone call to your representatives:

Dear__________, 

I am contacting you to express my concern over the delay in release and “post equating” of TCAP test scores by the Tennessee Department of Education. My child worked tirelessly to prepare for this test and it is very disconcerting that the scores were not released on time and that the DOE may have manipulated the scores. If the DOE insists on holding my child and his/her teachers accountable, I insist that the DOE be held accountable as well. Please push for a full investigation of this fiasco and consider supporting future legislature that would 1) require a transparent process for test development and scoring–including the determination of “cut scores”, 2) remove the requirement that TCAP scores be included in student grades, 3) stop the use of test scores in teacher evaluations, 4) allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing. 

Thank you, 

Time to Roar

All we have every wanted is our children and teachers to be treated with respect. We have begged and pleaded for this simple courtesy, to no avail. It’s clear to many that Education Commissioner Huffman is the source of much of the testing madness in this state and his current TCAP score mess is the last straw in our humble opinion. (Please understand that we do not like the requirement that 15-25% of our children’s grades are dependent upon TCAP scores. But we also do not like our children being subjected to the whims of the TN Department of Education. The DOE expects our children to give 100%, yet the DOE does not hold themselves to the same standards–and that is wrong.) Our friends at Momma Bears have drawn a line in the sand and we encourage you to join them. Please click here to find out how you can help stop Huffman from inflicting any more of his oppressive policies on this state.

TCAP Slow Scores

Wow! The TDOE did not have TCAP quick scores back in time for schools to use them in student grades. As reported by TNParents,

“Just yesterday, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) informed districts that they will not have the TCAP “quick scores” back in time for districts to include them in grade calculations on final report cards! The scores, by law, make up 15-25%of a child’s final semester grades and teachers use the percentage of problems correct (i.e., quick scores) on the TCAP to determine the semester grades.”

For more information on this, please click here to read a post from http://www.tnparents.com.

Show Us the Test!

We are very bothered by the reports of at least one error on the 4th grade TCAP, as well as the fact that parents are not allowed to see the test. If you are upset about this too, please send an email (or cut and paste this one) to the following email addresses: tned.assessment@tn.gov, erin.ohara@tn.gov, kevin.s.huffman@tn.gov. Please also email this to your state senator and house representative, school district superintendent, and school board representative.

To Whom It May Concern:

My child/ren is/are in  _____ grade/s at _____________ and it is my understanding that, based on student and parent reports, there was at least one practice test question on the 4th grade TCAP that was written incorrectly. If the test developer cannot get a practice test question written correctly, how can we be assured that the rest of the test was accurate? (http://www.tnparents.com/2/post/2014/05/blatant-error-on-4th-grade-math-tcap-test-in-tn.html, http://www.tnparents.com/2/post/2014/05/more-testing-trouble-in-tn.html)  I find this very disturbing because 15-25% of my child/ren’s grades and 35-50% of his/her teachers’ evaluations are dependent upon these scores. I am writing to formally request a copy of the TCAP test that my child/ren took so I can review it for accuracy. I believe that I, as a parent, have the right to review this test, especially since my child’s grades may be adversely affected by possible errors. If you do not have a copy of the test, I respectfully request that you ask Pearson for a copy of the test on my behalf.

Sincerely,

(Include your name, address, and phone number)

Chances are the TN Department of Education is going to tell you that you can’t see the test, but we still want you to send the email because we want to, at least, draw the attention of legislators and others to this significant problem. Let us know what response you get, if any, in the comments section of this post.

Legislative Update 5/3/14

The Parental Notification of Testing bill was signed into law by Governor Haslam on May 1st. Click on this link for a summary of what this law entails.

The Parental Review of Materials was signed by Lt. Governor Ramsey on May 1st, but it does not appear that it has been signed by House Speaker, Rep. Harwell. Once it is signed by Rep. Harwell, it will be passed on to the governor and he will have 10 days from that date (excluding Sundays) to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. We will keep you updated on the progress of this bill.

Legislators as Test Proctors

A special message to Tennessee Teachers:

If you still need proctors for TCAP, SAT10, or EOC testing, please consider contacting your state House and Senate representatives and asking them to serve as proctors. (Click here to find out who your representatives are and to get their contact information.) And after they are done proctoring, perhaps they can join you for lunch and you can tell them about the needless stress and anxiety the tests are creating for you and your students. Our legislators need to see, first hand, what is happening in our classrooms, especially regarding testing. If you happen to do this, please let us know how it goes by commenting on this post. (Thanks to a TN teacher friend for sharing this awesome idea with us!) Thank you so much!

No Grade Penalty for Refusals in Nashville

Some TN Testing Madness members in Nashville received this email from Dr. Paul Changas–the Executive Director of Research, Assessment, & Evaluation for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS)–just a few hours ago:

We just received communication from the Tennessee Department of Education that district policy will determine how we treat all absences from TCAP, including opting out. As a result, we will not penalize opt out students for grading purposes. If you elect to opt your daughter out of TCAP, her final grade will be determined entirely by her nine weeks averages. There will not be a grade based upon TCAP. I have attached a revised letter that was just shared with principals.

Paul Changas
Executive Director
Research, Assessment & Evaluation
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

He then attached a letter to the email that you can find at this link. We are very grateful that MNPS will allow Nashville parents to refuse testing without docking their children’s grades. (A law passed a few years ago states that TCAP scores should make up 15-25% of a child’s final semester grades.) But we find it interesting that the Department of Education (DOE) punted on this issue. Could it be that they know that punishing a child for a parent’s decision about his/her education is possibly illegal under federal law? Regardless, we hope that other districts will follow suit.

 

On Storms & TCAP

Last night, 16 people were tragically killed in tornadoes in 3 states. The same line of storms that spawned these tornadoes is currently making its way through Tennessee and we are already experiencing power outages and flooding in areas across the state. We are hunkering down for what is sure to be an afternoon and evening full of tornado warnings–and, ironically, all of this is happening at the beginning of the TCAP testing window.

Standardized test scores cannot adequately measure a teacher’s or child’s skills and these storms are just one of many examples why: There are countless children who will suffer from extreme anxiety today because of the storms–especially those children who have been previously affected by tornadoes and flooding in our state. There are also many students who will likely lose sleep tonight as they huddle in “safe rooms”. Will these children be fully prepared to perform on the TCAP today, tomorrow, or the rest of the week? We doubt it. And, because of an unforeseeable act of God, our children’s school grades and teachers’ evaluations will be negatively affected. In more direct terms, some children may be held back a year, lose out on scholarship opportunities, fail to meet requirements for magnet schools, or miss their goal of making honor roll. And some teachers may lose their jobs.

You see, just a few years ago, the TN governor, legislature, and Department of Education thought it was a good idea to link teacher evaluations to test scores so they could get in line for a handout from the federal government (i.e., Race to the Top). And not too long after that, the legislature passed a bill that made TCAP and End of Course exams 15-25% of a student’s final semester grade. That whole plan would be OK if our kids were widgets with the same exact specifications and functions. But they aren’t.

Which brings us back to the topic at hand: The storms. We are praying for the families who have been affected by the tornadoes that hit Arkansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma yesterday. We are also praying that there will be no further damages, injuries, or deaths as the storms make their way across our state. And we are hoping that, after the storms clear, the people who don’t realize that our kids are unique individuals with different learning styles and rates–the ones who think we need testing to prove a teacher’s worth–will at least realize that even widgets don’t work so well in the rain.

Test Refusal Update

We are hearing stories from parents all over the state who are refusing (or attempting to refuse) the TCAP (grades 3-8), End of Course exams (grades 9-12), and SAT10 (grades K-2) for their children. One thing that has been striking is the variety of ways different districts are responding to these refusals: Some are saying that parents can refuse testing, but they must keep their children at home on test days. Others are saying that the students will eventually be tested, even if the parents keep them out of school during the testing window. And some are allowing parents to refuse the tests for their children, but the schools are not allowing children to participate in after-TCAP ice cream parties, etc. These responses are unacceptable and we are continuing to seek legal counsel regarding these apparent violations of our parental rights afforded under federal law. In light of all that is going on in our state surrounding refusals, we wanted to provide a summary of a few points regarding testing in our state:

1) There is no testing “opt-out” law in Tennessee. (CA is the only state that has such a law.) Opt-out is a legal phrase and districts and the TN Department of Education will tell you, if they haven’t already, that you can’t “opt out” of testing. They use this little semantic trick to try to discourage us from refusing these tests for our kids. If you don’t want your child to take the test, you must state that you are “refusing” the test for your child.

2) There is no state law that says you cannot “refuse” testing for your child.

3) There is a state law mandating schools to administer achievement tests; but we know of no law that states that a child must actually take these tests. (We have yet to find a government entity in this state that can present us with such a law.)

4) There are some districts in the state that are allowing students to refuse testing, but, per state law, 15-25% of a student’s final semester grade is determined by his/her performance on the TCAP/EOCs. As a result, many parents are being forced to make the difficult decision between protecting their child’s sanity or their child’s grades.

5) The Parental Notification of Testing and Parental Review of Materials/Surveys bills passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate this legislative session. Hopefully these bills are just the first step in a process that will ultimately lead to a reduction of testing in our state.

For more information on test refusals, please click here for a variety of posts on the subject. Thanks to each and every one of you who are continuing the fight against the Tennessee testing madness. Together we are stronger!