[Assessment 1527] Re: Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic Solutions

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Cathay Reta cathayreta at sbcglobal.net
Fri Dec 12 15:12:17 EST 2008


Well said, George and Jim.  Now how do we collectively demonstrate our students' successes, therefore our program's success, to funders? 
 
I was administer of a small program when the National Reporting System was implemented and we were mandated to use CASAS testing to continue to receive WIA funding.  I, along with a number of colleagues, informed the state we would not be accepting WIA funds any longer because of philosophical differences in use of the tests.  We would not do that to our students, thank you very much.  Of course I laid out all of the reasons for that and it was a powerful statement (I think).  But in looking back I realize it lost all of its "teeth" because I had nothing to offer in lieu of the standardized tests to show funds coming to my program were a good investment.  I think this is where we, as a field, fall short.  We need to be ready to not just respond, but to be proactive in stating, "Our programs work.  Here's the evidence we can give you."
 
Humbly,
 
Cathay


--- On Fri, 12/12/08, Schneider, Jim <jschneider at eicc.edu> wrote:

From: Schneider, Jim <jschneider at eicc.edu>
Subject: [Assessment 1526] Demetrion's comments on Pragmatic Solutions
To: gdemetrion at msn.com, "The Assessment Discussion List" <assessment at nifl.gov>
Date: Friday, December 12, 2008, 11:28 AM









<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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