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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1186] RE: high-stakes te

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From: Nancy Hansen (
Date: Mon Aug 01 2005 - 13:33:15 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1186] RE: high-stakes testing, state/federal
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Hi Katrina et all:

A personal and sincere thank you, Katrina, for your
thorough, thoughtful reply to Howard's post.  And
Congratulations!  It must be an exciting time for your
family with a new baby born into it!  

I appreciate your taking precious, dear time to write
this e-mail while deep in the work of loving and
life-giving to your newborn.

You concluded with:  
<<I don't think there is an easy answer or solution.>>

I agree.  But I feel a compromise should be sought.

Another point I would like to see made is 
coordinators, directors, administrators -- whatever
their title -- should have the levity to make
*choices* about which assessment tools they feel best
suits the population they serve without being severely
punished for their choice.  

I feel that right now this is the case with using the
NRS system as a requirement for *all* AELS programs,
whether the chosen-testing tool is "fair" in their
state or not.  A "no choice" circumstance.

Nancy Hansen
Sioux Falls Area Literacy Council

--- Katrina Hinson <> wrote:

> I've been really quiet on this list for the last
> several weeks - partly because we just welcomed a
> brand new baby to our family - now that I've caught
> up on all the collected emails, I think I'll dive
> into this discussion.  A colleague and I were
> actually discussing "standardized" testing issues
> over coffee this past Saturday as it relates to our
> own program.
> To answer the questions posed by Howard:
> I don't like standardized tests. I never have -even
> as a student in school myself.  I think they are
> excellent guage of a student's ability to memorize
> and regurgiate information but not necessarily a
> good guague of a student's ability to APPLY the
> knowledge they have. I also think one of the fatal
> flaws with a standardized tests is that sometimes
> students learn something simply to pass  a test but
> then forget it as soon as they think they don't need
> it any longer. Unfortunately, because of reporting
> and funding, I think standardized tests,
> irregardless of which one a state or school uses,
> have become a necessary evil.  I happen to agree
> with others that spoke up on the list that stated
> that they don't really think standardized tests are
> the best way to go in terms of assessing students.
> Like others, my own school does intake testing
> before assigning a student to a class.  One of the
> problems I've found is that some students don't take
> the test seriously, they get really low!
>  scores, are improperly placed, and then  they quit
> coming b/c they get bored. For the record, we use
> the TABE test.  I've seen students test who simply
> opened their test booklet and just bubbled in
> answers - yet when doing work in class, it was
> discovered that they knew way more than the test
> showed. Likewise, I've had students test really
> high, and it not be an accurate indication of what
> they really knew. I've had students, especially in
> the math portion of the test, score at the 11th and
> 12 grade level yet those same students could not
> work with complicated fraction problems, had trouble
> with long division, etc,let alone the inability to
> do algebra and geometry.  The TABE, along with any
> standardized tests, is going to have inherent flaws
> - because it uses snippets of data to "test" a
> student's knowledge base but it doesn't come close
> to giving a real and sometimes completely accurate
> picture.  On a side note, I also agree with earlier
> comments that the TABE is not neces!
> sarily an ideal test to "assess" a student's reading
> ability.  In my t
> levels, as a GED instructor and even as an AHS
> instructor, reading ability is truly only assessed
> when an instructor spends some quality one on one
> time with his or her students gauging everything
> from fluency to  comprehension. The TABE, CASAS and
> even the GED definitely tests comprehension skills
> but give a weak assessment of the students' fluency
> skills. It can be assumed that if the student has
> trouble comprehending what they have read, then by
> defaulty they have trouble with fluency - but it
> doesn't begin to tell or help an instructor know
> just where that problem might lie. Is it with word
> recognition, phonetics, rate, etc.  There are a lot
> of questions that no standardized tests can ever
> answer and that the instructor is going to have to
> "assess" on his or her own.
> My experience with CASAS is that it too doesn't give
> a complete picture BUT, I do like the fact that it
> is "Life Skills/Employability Skills" based. I think
> it's much easier to explain to someone in their 50's
> and 60's in terms of CASAS, than it is to have given
> them the TABE and show tell them that they are at a
> 4th grade level in a given area. I agree that such
> explanations are a bit demeaning to adults who have
> life experiences that the TABE does not take into
> account.  There is a huge difference between the 17
> year old who completed 10th grade and the 50 year
> old who held a job for 20 years before the plant
> closed and those differences are NOT Assessed or
> accounted for in assessments.
> Howard asked if there was one tests that was "better
> than sliced bread". I think the answer to that is
> "no." No one tests will ever give a complete
> picture. I think that is also the fatal flaw in the
> NRS. It's data driven only and data is one sided. 
> Data like that can be skewed b/c not everyone tests
> well; data can be misleading - students tests high
> or low and it not be the real "indication" of their
> ability; students deliberately "blow" the tests b/c
> they don't understand or appreciate the significance
> of it. There are a lot of factors, it seems to me,
> that make "standardized" testing flawed but  because
> of funding issues, they are necessary. I think it 
> becomes equally necessary then for instructors to go
> beyond the "initial" assessment done at an intake
> session to truly identify the needs and abilities of
> their students. I think this can be done with one to
> one interviews, surveys and teacher made materials. 
> I think that as a student enters and learns, that
> portfolios !
> of work highlighting their growth are the best
> assessment of their ability. 
> I don't think there is an easy answer or solution.
> Regards
> Katrina Hinson
> >>> 07/27/05 10:21 PM >>>
> MIME-Version: 1.0
> "Help", he says, not quite desperately.  (I have
> procrastinated, so I am
> just a "nonce" from desperation.)
> As my program (staff and learners) and fellow
> practitioners move into
> the 21st century of "no adult left behind", trying
> to meet the
> accountability requirements of federal, state, and
> program parties,
> trying to be evidence-based, standards-based, and so
> on in the jargon of
> the moment, we are as you are trying to prepare our
> learners for
> post-secondary training/education and for
> living-wage jobs, and, well,
> frankly (as St Paul said) trying to be "all things
> to all people so that
> some few can be saved".
> In that context, I am interested in hearing and/or
> discussing with folks
> the implementation of standardized assessments.  Are
> they always a
> necessary evil?  The devil's due?  Have you found
> ways to make them
> relevant, engaging?
> Perhaps (whisper, wink) you are you a true-believer?
>  Is the TABE, the
> BEST, the CASAS, the best thing since sliced bread?
> Don't be shy.  Blast me.  Guide me.  Lurkers, come
> out and play.
> Theorists, practicivists welcome to proselytize. 
> Do you reject standardization?  Are you are a
> naturalist?  Please, let
> me know how to move down the "path not taken."
> If your comments are "not ready for prime-time", you
> can reply privately
> to  Thank you.
> Howard L. Dooley, Jr.
> Director of Accountability, Project RIRAL
> Assessment Team, Governor's Taskforce on Adult
> Literacy
> We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp,
> some are
> pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and
> all are
> different colors...but they all have to learn to
> live in
> the same box.

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