[Assessment 1526] Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic Solutions

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Schneider, Jim jschneider at eicc.edu
Fri Dec 12 14:28:17 EST 2008


<Pragmatically we need to come up with some workable solutions that at
least move toward viable mid-level solutions, but to the extent that
broader definitions of the meaning and purpose of adult literacy
education is more clearly and realistically built into policy
formulations we're going to remain stymied in the most fundamental sense
even when some progress is being made in sharpening our understanding of
assessment tools and fitting them into our programs. Such latter work
is essential, though I think it's important that we not allow various
mystifications that we are actually measuring literacy growth (when we
haven't defined the terms) to seep in, such as, for example, the
conflation between reading and literacy. Best, George Demetrion>



AMEN!



The field was hijacked in 1998 by the implementation of the NRS. We were
hypnotized (or hit over the head as the case may be), by the notion that
standardized assessments and procedures were reliable, valid measures of
the skills possessed by learners at entry, as well as a reliable, valid
measure of the learning that occurs in the classroom.



Unfortunately our learners were not similarly hypnotized and come to us
with a wide range of learning difficulties, negative emotions and
anxiety about testing, and varying levels of focus and concentration
when taking the assessments. Little wonder that some learners look
severely impaired upon entry and attain their GED in a matter of weeks -
quite capable of knowing which assessments really matter to them, and
which are merely "busy work" required to gain entry to the program. Or
why other learners look amazingly capable upon entry only to wallow in
the classroom for weeks, months and/or years when the reality of the
high-stakes tests cause their minds to lock-up like a Microsoft program.



Once upon a time, the field operated under broader definitions of the
meaning and purpose of adult literacy education.I fear that those days
are long gone. However, Mr. Demetrion's call for realistic policy
formations and recognizing the mystifications (isn't this a great word?)
of our current fixation on standardized tests as the only possible
measure of learner gains and accomplishments is a welcome sight for
these weary eyes. All the discussion regarding accountability and
program improvement would be so much more palatable if the funding to
achieve it was commensurate.



Jim Schneider



From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov]
On Behalf Of gdemetrion at msn.com
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 7:48 AM
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Subject: [Assessment 1523] Re: Getting staff used to using data



Good morning all,


One of the dilemmas of taking on such studies is that of creating
another level of work, and therefore time allocation which in turn would
need justification and therefore "evidence" that such time expenditure
is a worthy fiscal investment, often when time and money are scarce
commodities.



On the question at hand, I'm wondering to what extent such correlations
can be made when (a) there are so many intervening variables, and (b)
when relationships between professional development and direct program
improvement are typically longer term and perhaps more typically
reflect changes in the "softer" organizational climate of a learning
organization. This is not to deny that there can be some direct
impacts, which in principle, can be measurable at least in some
instances, though I'd be weary of justifying PD on such terms
(cost-benefits metaphors--and let's not forget the metaphorical
dimension of language in play here). I think broader arguments can be
made for Professional Development which perhaps can be drawn in from
research both in our own field (NCSALL has done some work here as have
other institutes) and in other fields. One needs to consider as well,
the quality, content, and context in which PD takes place, how it is
internalized within the thinking and practice of practitioners and its
role within broader adult education programs, including the
organizational and pedagogical development of such organizations on a
system-wide basis. These are matters of major consequences, a
discussion of which perhaps better belongs on the PD forum.



On assessment, if one, year after year is working with students at a
broadly similar level and range, and if year after year the standardized
testing scores (pre and post) are broadly the same, then perhaps the
issue there is the purpose or the purposes of adult literacy education
where "growth" (a Deweyan metaphor of intriguing consequences) does take
place over time, typically in ways that are subtle, but not so
effectively "measured" by the various "instruments" available to
document such impact.



Pragmatically we need to come up with some workable solutions that at
least move toward viable mid-level solutions, but to the extent that
broader definitions of the meaning and purpose of adult literacy
education is more clearly and realistically built into policy
formulations we're going to remain stymied in the most fundamental sense
even when some progress is being made in sharpening our understanding of
assessment tools and fitting them into our programs. Such latter work
is essential, though I think it's important that we not allow various
mystifications that we are actually measuring literacy growth (when we
haven't defined the terms) to seep in, such as, for example, the
conflation between reading and literacy.



Best,

George Demetrion



________________________________


From: nfaux at vcu.edu
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2008 18:07:48 -0500
Subject: [Assessment 1520] Re: Getting staff used to using data



Hi Barry,

Could you please explain how you are correlating student attendance and
retention with teacher participation in professional development, or the
workshops that you offer? We are exploring ways of doing this, also.

Nancy





*********************************************************
Nancy R. Faux
ESOL Specialist
Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center
Virginia Commonwealth University
3600 W. Broad Street, Suite 669
Richmond, VA 23230-4930
nfaux at vcu.edu
http://www.valrc.org
1-800-237-0178



-----assessment-bounces at nifl.gov wrote: -----

To: "The Assessment Discussion List" <assessment at nifl.gov>
From: "Bakin, Barry" <barry.bakin at lausd.net>
Sent by: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov
Date: 12/11/2008 12:06PM
Subject: [Assessment 1510] Re: Getting staff used to using data

Data is not just for classroom instructional staff to analyze. Our staff
meeting yesterday(of teacher trainers responsible for staff
development)focused on using attendance and ADA statistics collected
since 1999 as a way to determine whether or not our team's staff
development efforts over the last several years has resulted in
increases in student attendance and retention by students whose teachers
have taken staff development workshops. We have an immediate and
pressing interest for doing so, as expected district-wide budget
shortfalls of millions of dollars are leading some at the district level
to advocate for the elimination of staff-development programs in the
coming year. We obviously feel that teachers who improve their skills
will retain students better than those who don't, but we'd like to be
able to point to data that demonstrates that.

Barry Bakin
ESL Teacher Adviser
Division of Adult and Career Education
Los Angeles Unified School District
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