And You Thought Standardized Tests Were Bad.

Yesterday afternoon, in eighty degree heat, my fourth graders took the first of the six “NWEA MAP” assessments that they will sit for this year.

The MAP test (which stands for “Measure of Academic Progress”) is often considered to be the lesser of evils when it comes to standardized testing: scores show up immediately after a student finishes testing, and it purports to measure “growth” rather than how a child stacks up against grade-level standards.

Results often make zero sense (how does a student who worked their tail off in the classroom all year actually lose learning points, while another miraculously makes three years worth of “growth”?), but because the results have a sort of science-y feel, the test is used to place students in intervention groups, gifted and talented programs, and even to award merit pay bonuses to teachers.

Yesterday, in our steamy-hot classroom, I had to gently prod kids along – reminding them to turn their eyes back to the test when they drifted toward the window or the doorway, to put the rainbow erasers away, to pick their heads up off their desk.

The test, however, wanted me to intervene with one little girl sitting in the front of the room.

There was no question she was reading the passages in front of her, and no question that she was doing her best to do her best.

But, according to the test’s new warning feature, she was “disengaged.”

NWEA recently received an award from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional learning for this feature, which not only claims to know who is disengaged based on how quickly they are clicking through the test, but all sorts of other things about the child’s psyche.

If a student doesn’t take the test seriously enough, NWEA believes this is a sign that a child is struggling to self-regulate or self-manage in school, and could benefit from behavioral intervention.

Now, this may not seem so bad, until you realize that this “what’s wrong with kids who won’t take our test seriously and what can we do about them?” feature is actually part of a “broader research agenda” spurred by the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to “measure” social-emotional learning using standardized tests.

Which isn’t actually about helping the kids at all.

Instead, its a data-siphoning strategy designed to fuel not only the multi-billion dollar assessment industry, but the budding “Pay For Success” investment opportunities that Wall Street is hoping will create a cash cow in a few years time.

And if what happened in my class is any sign of what’s to come, we’re in really big trouble.

The girl that the test flagged as “disengaged” actually scored the highest in the class (and she’s probably one of the sweetest, calmest kids I’ve ever worked with) meaning that the click-speed feature didn’t actually have a damn clue about what was going on in my students’ psyches as they took the test.

Just as they do with standardized tests, however, you can bet they’re going to try charging forward with these blunt, inept social-emotional assessments, wreaking whatever havoc they please.

If only they had a warning system letting them know how disengaged we are becoming with these assessments…

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Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

14 thoughts on “And You Thought Standardized Tests Were Bad.”

  1. I REFUSE MAP as well as PARCC and ALL Naviance surveys and questionnaires. Nope…not gonna get this data from my kids. I think MAP is probably more evil than PARCC. Before I knew better, my kids would take the test and come home to talk about how they got bored with answering the same questions over and over, but asked a different way. They quickly learned that if they incorrectly answered a question wrong 3X’s, it would stop the test. When they quickly got bored, they self ended the test. Twice exceptional children can sit for hours with this test. It doesn’t measure anything and teachers trying to sell me on it’s merits will quickly get a lesson from me on what is a true education….and it’s not testing or teaching to the test!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Basically, in a nut shell, I believe that the same guys that are designing stuff that has lead to the broken hiring system in America are going to use the same stuff that did that to try and determine where your kid best fits career-wise, possibly starting as early as 8th grade.

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    1. Sounds like those pre-employment personality tests. (BTW, many times, I’ve wondered if those plus the Common Core tests were designed by some of the same people. At least in one case, I found out that the answer is YES.

      Oracle is a major supporter of Common Core. It also happens to be the owner of Taleo, an employer “talent acquisition” tool. It’s the one that helps run keywords to help decide if you’re a good fit or not. They may even design some of the personality tests too. It’s just uncanny some of the similarities between things like Taleo and what I’m hearing from what is being used with these Common Core tests to supposedly determine career fit. If it’s true, then expect lots of kids to be put in the wrong career path for which they aren’t best suited. )

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  2. “to “measure” social-emotional learning using standardized tests.”

    I know you know the following Emily but for others benefit:

    The most misleading concept/term in education is “measuring student achievement” or “measuring student learning”, and now “measuring social emotional learning”. The concept has been misleading educators into deluding themselves that the teaching and learning process can be analyzed/assessed using “scientific” methods which are actually pseudo-scientific at best and at worst a complete bastardization of rationo-logical thinking and language usage.

    There never has been and never will be any “measuring” of the teaching and learning process and what each individual student learns in their schooling. There is and always has been assessing, evaluating, judging of what students learn but never a true “measuring” of it.

    But, but, but, you’re trying to tell me that the supposedly august and venerable APA, AERA and/or the NCME have been wrong for more than the last 50 years, disseminating falsehoods and chimeras??

    Who are you to question the authorities in testing???

    Yes, they have been wrong and I (and many others, Wilson, Hoffman etc. . . ) question those authorities and challenge them (or any of you other advocates of the malpractices that are standards and testing) to answer to the following onto-epistemological analysis:

    The TESTS MEASURE NOTHING, quite literally when you realize what is actually happening with them. Richard Phelps, a staunch standardized test proponent (he has written at least two books defending the standardized testing malpractices) in the introduction to “Correcting Fallacies About Educational and Psychological Testing” unwittingly lets the cat out of the bag with this statement:
    “Physical tests, such as those conducted by engineers, can be standardized, of course [why of course of course], but in this volume , we focus on the measurement of latent (i.e., nonobservable) mental, and not physical, traits.” [my addition]

    Notice how he is trying to assert by proximity that educational standardized testing and the testing done by engineers are basically the same, in other words a “truly scientific endeavor”. The same by proximity is not a good rhetorical/debating technique.

    Since there is no agreement on a standard unit of learning, there is no exemplar of that standard unit and there is no measuring device calibrated against said non-existent standard unit, how is it possible to “measure the nonobservable”?

    THE TESTS MEASURE NOTHING for how is it possible to “measure” the nonobservable with a non-existing measuring device that is not calibrated against a non-existing standard unit of learning?????

    PURE LOGICAL INSANITY!

    The basic fallacy of this is the confusing and conflating metrological (metrology is the scientific study of measurement) measuring and measuring that connotes assessing, evaluating and judging. The two meanings are not the same and confusing and conflating them is a very easy way to make it appear that standards and standardized testing are “scientific endeavors”-objective and not subjective like assessing, evaluating and judging.

    That supposedly objective results are used to justify discrimination against many students for their life circumstances and inherent intellectual traits.

    C’mon test supporters, have at the analysis, poke holes in it, tell me where I’m wrong!

    I’m expecting that I’ll still be hearing the crickets and cicadas of tinnitus instead of reading any rebuttal or refutation.

    Because there is no rebuttal/refutation!

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  3. I hope you will all join Emily and me as we fight to repeal ESSA and restore FERPA. But I am also of the mind that to truly slay this beast we must STARVE THE BEAST. This beast only continues to live on because parents keep feeding the beast the one thing it needs to survive……our babies. Do WHATEVER it takes to get your kids out and home school them. Sell the big house, sell the second car, forget about vacations, get rid of the fancy electronics. For those that are single with children find a neighbor or relative to help. Hire someone to help. We do not need 100% of all students out of the system to destroy it. We could destroy it with 25-30% in home school and the rest refusing to comply in the public school system…..no surveys, no computer use, no high stakes tests, no free medical services of any kind. JOIN us register today at: http://www.childabuseintheclassroom.com

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  4. If it were just a way to make Sillycon Valley rich by pushing their tech on us and pushing everyone into STEM, that would be bad enough. However, I believe all this technology plus “social emotional learning” is a way for them to use technology to “retrain” kids in the UN’s way of thinking, which would include being pro-choice, supporting “climate change”, gender confusion (what they call transgenderism), same-sex “marriage”, gun control, being a global citizen, etc. Indeed, Aspen Institute and some others that I can find tied to this SEL stuff are indeed SJW groups.

    Remember, these big companies were the ones going around bullying states for daring to have religious liberty bills or daring to suggest that there should be a thing called binary bathrooms. Do you really trust your kids being with technology made by them?

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  5. Another thing that should be of note is that these tech companies actually would LIKE, in a way, for our kids to be stupider. They are going around claiming that we have a “STEM talent shortage” and pushing for more H1B visas, more L-1 visas, more OPT students, etc while simultaneously firing Americans and replacing them with cheap labor foreigners. If they can made our kids stupider, it will add legitimacy to their lie.

    Also, colleges want all these foreign students to come plus have more of our students come and enroll with federally subsidized loans, etc. OF COURSE they’re going to support this “college and career ready” stuff!!! It means more money for them.

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  6. If I may, I might also add that HR hiring tactics plus their desire for “purple squirrels” (an employee who has a very unrealistic amount of experience just as they want it with minimal cost, etc.) has led them into trouble. Indeed, that is the reason they claim “skills shortage”. They can’t get anyone with skills to apply for the peanuts they’re willing to pay.

    So, now that they’ve been relying on poaching talent during the Great Recession, now that, at least to some degree, we’re recovering, they aren’t able to poach as much.

    What I’m finding from online job forums is that employers hardly train anymore and don’t train enough. They were expecting people to hit the ground running. Meanwhile, they were treating their older workers like crap, either finding a way to get rid of them just before retirement or not hiring older workers (age discrimination) in favor of cheaper younger workers or cheaper foreigners.

    Now that they’ve got to pay the piper, so to peak, they are crying “talent shortage” and demanding that DC enable the school system to train their workers for them and design a workforce for them.

    They hate individual thinking and want everyone to think like them so that they don’t get any competitors. So they use Common Core to weed out those that might be a challenge to them.

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  7. Also, I believe it’s also more sinister than it looks as concerning the teachers. Must like the tech companies were making Americans train their foreign replacements, I believe that all of this technology is eventually meant to replace the teachers, leaving only a few behind as “facilitators”. I believe that the teachers, by going along with this, are, like the American tech workers who help with the “knowledge transfer process” to H1Bs and to offshoring (for that’s what H1B is ultimately being used for, to first bring in some H1Bs, replace them with Americans, rinse and repeat many times, and finally, when enough foreigners are there, ship the whole operation overseas. It happens little by little and more and more lose their jobs until finally everyone, unless they go overseas, is out of a job. I believe the same thing will happen to teachers. They’ll slowly be replaced by more and more technology until most of the teachers are gone and computers, etc, have taken their place.)

    With a few facilitators, as they’ll probably call them, who have been run through their indoctrination camps of “education” training, it will be far less likely that disobedience to the globalist agenda will happen.

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