Is Ohio ready for computer testing?

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report on how Ohio schools are not going to be ready for the new online PARCC tests that are scheduled to be deployed next year.

Ohio public schools appear to be far short of having enough computers to have all their students take new state-mandated tests within a four-week period beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

“With all the reductions in education funds over the last several years and the downturn in the economy, districts have struggled to be able to bring their (computer technology) up to the level that would be needed for this,” said Barbara Shaner, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

Districts could seek state permission to deliver the new tests on paper if they can’t round up enough computers, tablets and gadgets to go around, Jim Wright, director of curriculum and assessment for the Ohio Department of Education, said. A student taking a paper test could be at a disadvantage, though. While the paper tests won’t have substantially different questions, a student taking the test online will have the benefit of audio and visual prompts as well as online tasks that show their work on computer, said Chad Colby, a spokesman for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The state really does need to step up and help districts fund this costly mandate that has been foisted upon them. Added to this, the computer industry is going through significant changes as more and more people move away from the traditional desktops and laptops in favor of the simpler more portable tablets. School districts could find themselves having to make costly investments again in the near future if they pick the wrong technologies.

The article makes note of the possibility of paper based test takers being at a possible disadvantage over those taking the computer based tests. There has been a significant amount of research over the years on this, and the results seem to indicate the opposite effect - that computer based test takers score lower than paper based tests.

The comparability of test scores based on online versus paper testing has been studied for more than 20 years. Reviews of the comparability literature research were reported by Mazzeo and Harvey (1988), who reported mixed results, and Drasgow (1993), who concluded that there were essentially no differences in examinee scores by mode-of-administration for power tests. Paek (2005) provided a summary of more recent comparability research and concluded that, in general, computer and paper versions of traditional multiple-choice tests are comparable across grades and academic subjects. However, when tests are timed, differential speededness can lead to mode effects. For example, a recent study by Ito and Sykes (2004) reported significantly lower performance on timed web-based norm-referenced tests at grades 4-12 compared with paper versions. These differences seemed to occur because students needed more time on the web-based test than they did on the paper test. Pommerich (2004) reported evidence of mode differences due to differential speededness in tests given at grades 11 and 12, but in her study online performance on questions near the end of several tests was higher than paper performance on these same items. She hypothesized that students who are rushed for time might actually benefit from testing online because the computer makes it easier to respond and move quickly from item to item.

A number of studies have suggested that no mode differences can be expected when individual test items can be presented within a single screen (Poggio, Glassnapp, Yang, & Poggio, 2005; Hetter, Segall & Bloxom, 1997; Bergstrom, 1992; Spray, Ackerman, Reckase, & Carlson, 1989). However, when items are associated with text that requires scrolling, such as is typically the case with reading tests, studies have indicated lower performance for students testing online (O’Malley, 2005; Pommerich, 2004; Bridgeman, Lennon, & Jackenthal, 2003; Choi & Tinkler, 2002; Bergstrom, 1992)

It's raining in Cleveland

We previously reported on the real story in Cleveland, so it was good to see this report of about Cleveland public school teachers rallying at the statehouse with a simple message to the Governor - it's raining in Cleveland.

Previously on JTF we reported on this funding crisis.

Education News for 04-19-2012

Local Issues

  • Town hall session on teen drinking sparks interest (Newark Advocate)
  • The students of Granville High School's CHAMPS group kicked off this past week's town hall meeting on underage alcohol use by shocking the audience. They read anonymous stories from Granville teens who said they used drugs and alcohol on a regular basis. Read more..

  • Parents, Teachers Angry Over CMSD Staff Layoffs (WJW – Cleveland)
  • The decision by the Cleveland Municipal School District to respond to a $66-million budget deficit, by laying off 508 teachers, is being criticized by teachers and parents. Justin Hons, 32, is being laid-off from his job as a social studies teacher at John Hay High School, and it’s his fourth lay-off notice in 11 years. Read more..

  • Raising Tusc summit: Give grads skills that employers require (New Philadelphia Times Reporter)
  • Schools of the 21st century must focus on graduating students who have the skills employers are requiring, a Georgia educator told area business and school leaders Wednesday. Frank Pinson, chief executive officer of the Floyd County College and Career Academy, was keynote speaker at the Raising Tuscarawas summit at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University Tuscarawas. Read more..

  • Bellaire School District asking community for funding ideas (WTOV-Steubenville)
  • Bellaire School District officials will hold a community meeting on Thursday focusing on the future of the financially strapped district. In 35 years, the district has not had any additional money for operations, and Superintendent Tony Scott said he hopes community members can generate ideas for funding. Read more..

  • CPS cuts 10 percent of teaching staff (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Cincinnati Public Schools will have 237 fewer teachers next school year. The seven-member board of education voted unanimously Wednesday to eliminate about 10 percent of its teaching staff to help fill a $43 million budget gap. The cuts, which the Enquirer reported earlier this month, come as the district works to maintain its place as Ohio’s highest-rated urban school district. Read more..

  • Reynoldsburg City School Students Will Pay More To Play (10-TV-Columbus)
  • Reynoldsburg City School District officials said that many were questioning the school booster club following a rise in prices for students wishing to participate in sports. The school board voted on Tuesday night to raise the fee to participate in sports to more than $100 to make up for the money it expected to receive from a booster club, 10TV's Tanisha Mallett reported. Read more..

  • Student's mother seeks reprimand against police chief, principal (Springfield News Sun)
  • A mother is asking for the Enon police chief and principal of Indian Valley School to be reprimanded after she said her son was unjustly questioned about a missing cell phone against school policies. The incident happened March 28 after the mother of an Indian Valley School parent reported her daughter’s cell phone missing. Read more..

  • Taking gun to school gets student 3 weekends in jail (Columbus Dispatch)
  • A Columbus high-school student who took a gun to school last year was placed on probation yesterday and ordered to spend three weekends in jail. Razoar B.D. Harding, 18, of Briar Ridge Road on the East Side, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of carrying a concealed weapon. Read more..

Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago

The Consortium On Chicago School Research At The University Of Chicago Urban Education Institute just released an interesting report on the Chicago teacher evaluations rubric. We bring this to our readers attention because their process includes elements such as observations, that will surely be included in the forthcoming Ohio evaluation rubric. The conclusion begins

Our study of the Excellence in Teaching Pilot in Chicago reveals some positive outcomes: the observation tool was demonstrated to be reliable and valid. Principals and teachers reported they had more meaningful conversations about instruction. The majority of principals in the pilot were engaged and positive about their participation. At the same time, our study identifies areas of concern: principals were more likely to use the Distinguished rating.

Our interviews with principals confirm that principals intentionally boost their ratings to the highest category to preserve relationships. And, while principals and teachers reported having better conversations than they had in the past, there are indications that both principals and teachers still have much to learn about how to translate a rating on an instructional rubric into deep conversation that drives improvement in the classroom. Future work in teacher evaluation must attend to these critical areas of success, as well as these areas of concern, in order to build effective teacher evaluation systems.

Though practitioners and policymakers rightly spend a good deal of time comparing the effectiveness of one rubric over another, a fair and meaningful evaluation hinges on far more than the merits of a particular tool. An observation rubric is simply a tool, one which can be used effectively or ineffectively. Reliability and validity are functions of the users of the tool, as well as of the tool itself. The quality of implementation depends on principal and observer buy-in and capacity, as well as the depth and quality of training and support they receive.

We would add that this kind of tool could be very dangerous absent due process collective bargaining protections.

Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago

Don't mess with Matt Damon

This speech at the Washington DC SOS rally by actor, and academy award winning writer, Matt Damon received a lot of positive reviews from a broad spectrum of observers.

After the speech, Damon was confronted by some right wing media. "Don't mess with Matt Damon" was the message that CNN reported.

He does a great job eviscerating the arguments of some of the least informed corporate education reformers.