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Return-Path: <email@example.com> Received: from literacy (localhost [127.0.0.1]) by literacy.nifl.gov (8.10.2/8.10.2) with SMTP id j72GuiG00209; Tue, 2 Aug 2005 12:56:44 -0400 (EDT) Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2005 12:56:44 -0400 (EDT) Message-Id: <96DF6DA6D4E9A946B7D02E762CED5158021B9946@exc01.ilsos.net> Errors-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Originator: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk From: "Colletti, Cyndy" <CColletti@ILSOS.NET> To: Multiple recipients of list <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1196] RE: high-stakes testing, state/federal X-Listprocessor-Version: 6.0c -- ListProcessor by Anastasios Kotsikonas Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit Content-Type: text/plain; Status: O Content-Length: 7420 Lines: 108 I work in one of the agencies that funnel state funds to adult literacy programs. I do not make the rules, but I do administer them and perhaps that gives me the insight on assessment that you are requesting. Our agency requires standardized testing for two reasons. The first reason is eligibility. Our mandate from our state legislature is to offer adult education services to those who have a significant reading deficiency identified as reading below the ninth grade level for native language speakers or scoring below SPL 6 for English language learners. To qualify for services, a prospective student must be tested and must score in this range. Funds are limited, and in fact have decreased over the past few years. Therefore it is necessary that funds be targeted. The standardized tests identify learners eligible to be served with our particular funds. When agencies report to me some of the problems with testing that have been discussed here, I remind them that assessment beyond the required standardized test is absolutely allowable and in fact, must be part of the learning and teaching experience. But first, for my agency's purposes, that learner must be eligible. The other reason we require standardized testing Howard Dooley identified already as "comparability." I am required to report on this statewide program. Despite the depth and richness of the case studies that our office collects, often all that I am asked is how many learners we served and how much progress was made. I need to be able to say that across the state, "x number of learners enrolled in our program made x amount of progress." I need the snapshot that a widely used standardized test gives me. Having said this, I am more than aware that the snapshot is limited. I don't want the "knife" of testing used against learners. I do want to be able to report to people outside our field that there is a drawer full of tools that the adult education and literacy field uses to make sure that we offer the best learning experience possible for the adult learners. Cyndy Colletti Literacy Program Manager, Illinois State Library -----Original Message----- From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]On Behalf Of Howard Dooley Sent: Monday, August 01, 2005 8:54 PM To: Multiple recipients of list Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1192] RE: high-stakes testing, state/federal I really appreciate the discussion, and the varied experiences and points of view. I hope more of us will join in; I'm certainly learning from your thoughts. Marie's recent comment echoes a discussion going on in RI about this same topic. I was struck by Marie's use of the word "fairness." I'm not sure I agree; I would say "comparability." I think that's what "those people" who want -- or mandate -- we use standardized assessments really want. And, of course, I have faith (faith is belief in things unseen!) that they want those comparisons to be fair. A second point: I'm not sure that in a perfect world every assessment would be standardized. Some assessing is transitory, highly personal, unique to this learner and that instructor; how would that be standardized? Isn't it, by its nature, unstandardizable? Back to the point Marie is making. I agree that some of the dissatisfaction I have read in the discussion seems to me to stem from wanting or expecting the assessment to do or be things that it's not supposed to do or be. Not all assessment initiates from the learner or the learning situation. Particularly with standardized assessment, the assessment is usually initiated from funders or policy agencies, and it reflects what they want to know, and what they value. They are, as it were, the unseen partner in the room and in the learning situation. It may be that the assessment does not align completely, or it isn't encompassed completely, by the learning that is agreed to between every instructor and his student (or, would be happening in the absence of such an assessment). However, that doesn't mean the assessment is unqualified-ly inappropriate, inaccurate, intrusive, non-relevant, and so on. It is what it is for what it needs to accomplish. And I think that it is valid. Nothing more, but nothing less either. Just as a policy person may look at portfolios, videotapes, or anecdotes and reject them as inappropriate, non-relevant, and so on, for her purposes, instructors often do the same for standardized and even program mandated assessments that aren't generated from within a specific learning situation. The assessment identify a few items or limited skills of value to that other person. It becomes just a few items or skills to be included in the more comprehensive learning situation. And so I see the need for us, as professionals, to make changes to our learning situations, and to recognize, value and imbed the information which a standardized test provides. We have to value it, or our learners cannot. Are we saying that the limited comprehension skills assessed have no place in the learners' acquisition of higher reading functions. Yes, they are not the totality of reading, but no relevance? It seems to me that we have to imbed it, just as we would any other assessment that we do value -- decontextualized workbook, authentic, portfolio, performance. At the program level, one way this can be done is to make the standardized pre-testing part (again, one part; not the whole) of the diagnostic phase of the learner's experience -- using the assessment to set goals, for targeted instruction, or to develop specific items in an IEP. Or, instructors may see how assessment areas are related to a core curriculum, and prepare learners for those areas and in the methods of the assessments to come. In either case, or in other ways, instructors and learners would need to be open to expanding their learning to include ideas, areas, and items, that the unseen partner in the learning process values. Digression: And let me say emphatically, that this is why my program absolutely does not use or discuss GLE's with our learners. I agree that they are meaningless for adults. If there is anyone out there who absolutely disagrees, and finds the GLE's appropriate and practical, I would like to hear the argument and the examples. Seriously. Someone mentioned the STAR project, which is based on the ARC study, and I have heard that GLE's play a significant role in that program. Maybe someone in that project can write in, and offer some insight to the value of GLE's in developing reading skills. I would also say that I don't see this as only a standardized test issue either. Whenever a policy decision is made, whether at the federal, state, program, or class level, then assessment will be initiated from outside the learner-instructor interaction. For example, at sites where technology is available, RIRAL instructors are required to use that technology as a method with their learners. Learners do not, in general, get to opt out on the basis of not seeing the relevance. So, learners prepare some written work using a word processor, because familiarity with technology has been identified as an important, life-long learning skill. And so, we assess how well learners progress in this area, even though it's not part of the GED test or the ESOL beginning learners' stated goals. Sorry for the length. Howard Dooley
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