Testing 1-2-3

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3

A blog on state practices around annual assessments by former educator and policy expert Dale Chu! Dale writes about K-12 academic assessments and makes sense of the data, facts, and myths about them.

Meet Dale

Dale’s career includes two decades of work in P-12, serving as teacher, lead teacher, assistant principal, principal, and consultant in both rural and urban districts. He began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member in San Benito, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley along the U.S.-Mexico border. During his second year of teaching, Dale was recognized as the district’s teacher of the year.

 

He later became the founding principal at a high-performing urban charter school. In three years, Dale took the school from a 26 percent to a 96 percent pass rate as measured by the state’s assessment. His school was recognized for achieving the highest African American student performance scores in the state.

 

Dale is a graduate of Cornell University and earned a Masters degree in administration and policy analysis from Stanford University. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, and resides in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and daughter.

 

Connect with the Assessment HQ and Dale on Twitter!

Assessment HQ Blog

Does the bell toll for annual assessments?

Dale Chu

November 14, 2019

The Aurora Institute, formerly known as iNACOL, recently released five state policy recommendations for governors aimed at the future of education, training, and the future of work. What caught my eye was that one of these recommendations focused on pushing the envelope of state assessment systems. Specifically, the Aurora Institute calls out the four states currently participating in the ESSA assessment pilot (a.k.a. IADA, or the Innovation Assessment Demonstration Authority) and highlights a new law in my home state of Colorado that encourages districts to pilot “student-centered,” “next-generation” accountability models. To wit, The 74 just published an opinion piece diving into how these efforts are progressing.

Around the horn with NAEP

Dale Chu

November 5, 2019

Last week’s release of the 2019 NAEP report—the results of which were mostly grim—generated plenty of handwringing and a flurry of responses from pundits and policymakers of all stripes. In no particular order, here are some of them:

The future(?) of state assessment (Part II): A conversation with NWEA’s Abby Javurek

Dale Chu

October 24, 2019

Abby Javurek is the Senior Director of Large Scale Assessment Solutions at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an education services organization probably best known for their computerized adaptive “MAP” tests. They recently announced the development of an adaptive, “through-year” assessment, a new solution that NWEA says eliminates the need for states to administer an end-of-year summative test. They are currently partnering with Nebraska and a consortium of districts in Georgia as early adopters. (Readers might recall that the effort in Georgia is part of ESSA’s demonstration pilot). I recently talked with Abby about their announcement and what it might mean for the future of state assessment. In part two of this interview, Abby discusses how teachers view NWEA’s new effort, what it might mean for equity, and the next steps to look out for.

The future(?) of state assessment (Part I): A conversation with NWEA’s Abby Javurek

Dale Chu

October 22, 2019

Abby Javurek is the Senior Director of Large Scale Assessment Solutions at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an education services organization probably best known for their computerized adaptive “MAP” tests. They recently announced the development of an adaptive, “through-year” assessment, a new solution that NWEA says eliminates the need for states to administer an end-of-year summative test. They are currently partnering with Nebraska and a consortium of districts in Georgia as early adopters. (Readers might recall that the effort in Georgia is part of ESSA’s demonstration pilot). I recently talked with Abby about their announcement and what it might mean for the future of state assessment. In part one of this two-part interview, Abby discusses through-year assessment and how it compares with previous efforts to improve testing systems. Here’s what she said.

Annual assessments, adult success, and amnesia

Dale Chu

October 10, 2019

Education Week just ran a piece by CALDER’s Dan Goldhaber and Umut Özek on the research linking standardized tests and success in later life. The upshot is that there’s vast research literature connecting test scores and later life outcomes, such as educational attainment, health, and earnings, but these links—as compelling as they tend to be—are more correlational than causal. The outstanding question is the degree to which student test scores can predict adult prosperity.

The testing two-step

Dale Chu

October 3, 2019

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of today’s state testing systems. Held under the auspices of the PIE Network, the panel—thoughtfully moderated by Future Ed’s Tom Toch—paired two state-level reform advocates, New Mexico Kids CAN’s Amanda Aragon and Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s Dana Rickman, with two authors of recently published analyses, Bellwether Education Partners’ Bonnie O’Keefe and Future Ed’s Lynn Olson (Olson was recently interviewed here at Testing 1-2-3).

Assessment shouldn’t be a bad word: A conversation with Amanda McAdams

Dale Chu

September 25, 2019

Amanda McAdams, a former practicing attorney and 2011 Arizona Teacher of the Year, is currently the Director of Elementary Education and K-12 Literacy for Lincoln County School District #2 in Star Valley, Wyoming. She is a big believer in the power of assessments and authored a blog post titled “State Assessment Data is a Tool to Help Educators Raise Student Achievement.” I asked Amanda whether she would be willing to share some additional insights here at Testing 1-2-3, and she kindly agreed. To frame our conversation, I used a recent article from Philadelphia magazine that presented standardized testing in a rather unflattering light. I wanted to get an opposing view, and Amanda both provided that and offered some perspective on what might be needed to bridge the gap. Here’s what she said.

Rather than blaming the test, let’s lift up Maryland’s students

Dale Chu

September 23, 2019

A recent contention in the Baltimore Sun that Maryland’s standardized test is to blame for declining math scores doesn’t explain why math proficiency scores among Maryland students on both the NAEP and the ACT college readiness test are also falling.

The new testing landscape: A conversation with FutureEd’s Lynn Olson

Dale Chu

September 16, 2019

Lynn Olson is an award-winning writer and editor, and a senior fellow at FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. They recently released a new report called The New Testing Landscape: State Assessments Under ESSA, which includes a scan of state testing systems across the country, a close look at half a dozen state systems, and interviews with testing experts including state assessment directors and commercial test publishers. I recently talked with Lynn about her new report and what it tells us about the current state of affairs on testing. Here’s what she said.

Balanced assessment: Pipe dream or in the pipeline?

Dale Chu

September 9, 2019

In June, Forbes published an intriguing interview with two educators—Theresa Morris and Christa Krohn—on the evolution of education reform as it pertains to testing in the state of Ohio. Although the piece opens with some questionable assertions about the root causes of today’s K-12 shortcomings, the interview itself contains a few observations worth considering, as well as one eye-raising claim about the progress made on assessment in the Buckeye State.

The assessment roller coaster is far from amusing

Dale Chu

September 5, 2019

Yesterday, Indiana publicly released the results from its new state test and, as predicted, the numbers were sobering. Fewer than half of students passed. Notably, the results continued to show wide disparities across race and demographics: 43.3% of white students passed both the English Language Arts and mathematics exams compared to 24.2% of Latino students and 14.8% of black students.

The lessons of assessment politics are often “ILEARNed” the hard way

Dale Chu

September 3, 2019

Tomorrow, the results from Indiana’s new state test—called “ILEARN”—will be released to the public at the Indiana State Board of Education’s monthly meeting. Wednesday’s release has been preceded by considerable hubbub because the scores are disappointingly low according to parents and school officials who already received their results last month.

The “adversity score” is no more

Dale Chu

August 28, 2019

Well that didn’t take long. Three months ago, the College Board announced with great fanfare its intent to assign an “adversity score” to gauge students’ social and economic hardships. Yesterday, the College Board changed its mind. In announcing the about face, College Board CEO David Coleman stated, “It was very important that we get away from the distraction that there was some single number we were trying to use to summarize a student’s adversity with. And so we abandoned that. It was confusing and it was not a good idea. And we really heard that.” I previously shared some of my thoughts on the matter here at Testing 1-2-3.

End of course exams should be a matter of course

Dale Chu

August 27, 2019

A new study released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looks at End of Course Exams (EOCs) and their relationship with high school graduation rates and college entrance exam scores. Not to be confused with high school exit exams—tests students must pass to receive their high school diploma—EOCs are rarely high stakes. More importantly, EOCs are generally positively correlated with high school graduation rates.

Musical chairs and the politics of state assessments

Dale Chu

August 26, 2019

Over the summer, Tennessee signed a contract with their third company in five years to administer the state’s testing system. As demonstrated by the “Assessments by State” map on our homepage, the lack of consistency is hardly unique to the Volunteer State (though they’ve had a particularly bumpy ride). Not to be outdone, Kentucky and New Mexico, among others, are reportedly looking to redesign their tests, too. But the churn involved when it comes to states and their testing vendors carries significant repercussions, not the least of which is how to get a clear sense of a state’s academic trajectory.

States are closing the honesty gap, but will it last?

Dale Chu

August 21, 2019

Some honest-to-goodness good news today: The latest National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study shows that states have raised the cut scores for proficiency on state tests. Both Education Week and U.S. News and World Report have strong write-ups on the study. What this news means is that the honesty gap—the discrepancy between how proficiency is defined on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and a state’s definition—continues to close. In addition, the gap between states with the highest performance standard and the lowest performance standard are narrowing as well.

Back to school season is a busy one for state testing

Dale Chu

August 19, 2019

With many students returning to school this month, high-quality annual assessments and the significant role they play are as pressing as ever. Annual tests help us all (1) take stock of how well states are doing; (2) gauge state progress toward workforce readiness; and (3) ground education policies and practices in real results. And under the auspices of the latest iteration of the federal education statute, four states have signed on for a unique demonstration pilot to explore new and alternative models for assessing student performance.

Game-based assessments: hollow promise or promising frontier?

Dale Chu

June 12, 2019

When it comes to the future of assessments, gaming is often enthusiastically cited as a potential solution. After all, if standardized tests are boring and gaming is fun, the race to replace the former with the latter is entirely comprehensible. The aura of innovation and excitement surrounding video games in particular makes this an alluring approach, as does the burgeoning market for augmented and virtual solutions to today’s most pressing dilemmas—including assessments that are less static and more individualized.

The SAT “adversity score” brouhaha misses the mark on what matters most

Dale Chu

June 5, 2019

To kick things off here at Testing 1-2-3, let’s take a look at one of the biggest assessment stories of the day. In the wake of the college admissions scandal, the College Board’s announcement last month of a new “adversity score” to measure a student’s school and environmental context was a lit match dropped in a fireworks factory. The response among the chattering class was swift and equally strong. But lost among the hot takes is why the College Board and others felt the need for such a mechanism in the first place, and what this says about the role assessments must continue to play as an important driver of equity.

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3

Dale Chu

May 7, 2019

Welcome to Testing 1-2-3 my new blog on state practices around annual assessments here at Assessment HQ!

 

Sure, the education policy world is chock full of commentary, but there aren’t any outlets I can think of that focus exclusively on the state of assessments across the country. Why assessments and why now? Even though the anti-testing fervor has somewhat subsided in the last few years, there are ever-increasing indications that we must remain vigilant to ensure that assessments are aligned to high standards, informative, comparable, meaningful, and actionable.