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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Rewriting the tests

Uploaded: Jan 10, 2013
State schools chief Tom Torlakson is calling for a complete revision of the state's standardized testing system.
On its face, moving from multiple choice questions, to essays that will require a better understanding of the material, makes sense, particularly for older students. A demonstrated ability to reason and write is far more important that regurgitating memorized facts. It will be interesting to see what evolves because grading essays is far, far more time consuming than a multiple choice exam that can be processed easily by a computer.
What makes me nervous is that Torlakson, a former teacher himself, is in the state job because the state teachers' union supported his campaign very generously. That's certainly their right—the union was also a top donor to the governor's successful campaign to raise taxes—but this one is really close to their members.
Evaluating teachers and weeding out the poor ones is critical to the education process. Schools such as Marilyn Avenue in Livermore with a committed teaching staff have shown dramatic improvement in student achievement while dealing is with students with both language and economic challenges.
That Livermore school is doing significantly better with poor Hispanic students than a couple of Pleasanton schools are faring with small, similar populations of students.
As the test revision moves ahead, the CTA leaders will be heavily involved with both Torlakson's office and the Democrat-dominated Legislature. Here's hoping the students also will be considered.
What the standardized tests and the federal requirement to track language and ethnic sub-groups has achieved is bringing a much sharper focus for school administrators and trustees. No longer can a small sub-group be ignored in a school where the majority of the students perform well.
The tests also have provided a report card that parents can easily understand—both for their child and their school.
Setting goals and measuring achievement against those goals is critical if the meter is going to move, whether it is in business or education.
Incidentally, this week the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the results of a three-year study that asked whether effective teachers can move student achievement levels. It is the first large-scale survey that demonstrated good teachers will improve student test scores regardless of the class population.
Naturally, critics argued that test scores are not a measure of whether a teacher is effective and one education professor called in a political document in a report in the Wall Street Journal. Knowing a bit about the Gates Foundation's commitment to improving education—particularly for students in poor neighborhoods attending bad schools—I suspect the political comment was just that.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Casanova_frankenstein, a resident of Old Towne,
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:36 am

Casanova_frankenstein is a registered user.

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff because it contains personal information about an individual or business.)

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:29 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Some of Casanova's complaint, since removed, was about student performance, by ethnicity, in surrounding districts. Here is one place for that data: Web Link

Casanova, Despite the dripping sarcasm, there were some interesting points. Maybe you should just make them, and include the data links you said were lacking.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Casanova also mentioned why the tests will be changing. Here is an article regarding those reasons: Web Link

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:58 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

With apologies, I meant to say Mr. Frankenstein's complaint was about the lack of data provided by Mr. Hunt regarding student performance.

Posted by liberalism is a disease, a resident of Birdland,
on Jan 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

Just another hit and run attempt by our local underachieving troll, casanova.

Posted by CalEducator, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

CalEducator is a registered user.

To the community members of Pleasanton,

It is important that you become properly educated on the upcoming changes to the state testing system and understand why these changes are being made.

Starting in the school year 2014, California will be moving to new state standards called the Common Core State Standards that will also be adopted by forty other states across the country. Web Link

The implementation plan has already started, three years prior to this date, as districts across the country, including here in Pleasanton, are working with administration and teachers to prepare for the changes. Web Link Web Link

Posted by CalEducator, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jan 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

CalEducator is a registered user.

The need for the state testing system to be changed is to align the new Common Core Standards with the information on the tests- not due to union pressure as was implied by the opinions in this editorial. Web Link

In addition, these new assessments will be taken on computers using an adaptive computer system- Web Linkcomputer-adaptive-testing/ "Computerized assessments allow teachers, principals, and parents to receive results in weeks, not months. Faster results mean that teachers can use the information from optional interim assessments throughout the school year to differentiate instruction and better meet the unique needs of their students."

Testing information will be tracked and analyzed in multiple ways. They will be providing data for all students achievement and growth. They will also provide important information for parents and students. Web Link

I encourage those eager to see our schools continue to be successful educate themselves on the actual work that the teachers of this community, state, and nation are doing rather than editorials devoid of correct information or facts. Web Link

PUSD has prepared information events for all parents and community members to learn more- watch for these dates and times for these evening informational meetings so you can get accurate information.

As a long time educator in another district and a parent of students in Pleasanton, I feel it's important for this community to educate themselves on the actual work that is currently going on in classrooms rather than stop at the off-topic distractors Mr. Hunt attempts to misinform you with.

Posted by Daniel Bradford, a resident of Foothill High School,
on Jan 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Daniel Bradford is a registered user.

CalEducator, thanks for the information and links, but--you're wasting your time. Readers of the Pleasanton Weekly made it plain a long time ago that their minds are made up, and they will not allow contrary facts to intrude.

Anyone who reads Tim Hunt's, erm, "articles" reads them for amusement (as I do) or because they already agree with him.

Introducing facts into this mix is not going to make a difference.

Thanks for trying, though.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Jan 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

A rather bold assumption/generalization, Mr. Bradford. Was it really necessary? What are the contrary facts regarding testing and/or what is being done in the classroom to meet new expectations?

I found CalEducator's posts helpful and informative and I really appreciate the links.

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