What's Behind Door #3? [PARCC::Part II]

We've been reading (for example, HEREHERE, HERE, and HERE, among other places, like HEREHERE, and HERE) that a recommendation is pending from Commissioner Chester to the Board of ESE about how to move forward with statewide assessments in ELA and maths. He's been floating around his idea for a third way since October 19th's Board meeting, sharing his change of view and describing his process for how he will inform the Board of his recommendation. We assume said recommendation will be similar to what we've been reading and hearing about. Time will tell.

At October's meetings, the Board learned that tech upgrades to infrastructure were estimated to be $3.1 million; another $12.3 million estimated for additional technology in schools. Many schools may be ready for computer-based testing but very many more are not at all equipped with equitable, effective digital learning environments.

Acknowledging our tech deficit across the Commonwealth in this regard, I'm concerned that technology for learning is being driven with an eye to test-taking instead of blending future focused, student-centered, content-rich interactive curricula. What's the plan to align and effectively integrate those environments, while ensuring great teaching and learning?

  • How are we supporting practitioner-led professional development that's framework-aligned and tech-integrated? 
  • Are all educators in regular and frequent conversations with the rest of the team? Is the instructional technology team part of grade-, course- and/or department-level PLCs?
  • How are school staff collaborating with families and community partners to connect students and families to expanded learning opportunities and community services in order to support achievement and civic participation? 
  • Is the organization developed sufficiently with integrated tools and resources, including non-cognitive supports for all learners, no matter the language he speaks or where she lives?
  • Do educators have what they need when they need it to support all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds?

To live in a media-rich, technology-driven environment, the entire educational enterprise must have command of the essential skills of collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and reflection through the integration and effective use of technology.

The point is this: no test ensures great teaching and learning. Teachers in the learning environment are the true catalysts for change. A more effective statewide assessment system in 2015 might be focused on seamless integration with its complementary parts, not on the sturm und drang over the standardized assessment tool.

Educators are skilled professionals - practitioners working to inform their practice so they can nimbly respond to a learner's needs, modify curriculum, and improve instruction. The urgency isn't about getting everyone in a 1:1 relationship with a device for test-taking. It's about remaining focused on great teaching and learning for our digital age, providing opportunities and time for reflection and collaboration, aligned with a vision that holds student-learning at the center of all decisions.

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Resources, quotes, tweets
See HEREHERE, and HERE for the Department's vision and support for digital learning in MA K-12 schools.

Great read on the Obama administration's changing views on standardized testing.

Those bills in the Massachusetts Legislature calling for a moratorium on testing and on other accountability measures.

Read and heard elsewhere: recent references to "door number three thinking":

  • The Secret History of Thoughts - Dark Thoughts that aired on The Invisibilia Podcast on January 9, 2015, rebroadcast on WGBH-FM, November 2, 2015, which is when I heard it


Note: The Board will hold a final public comment session on PARCC -->Door #3 (?) Monday, November 16, 4:00-7:00 PM at Malden High School auditorium (in lieu of Public Comments at Tuesday morning's regular BESE meeting, 8:30 AM).

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
~ Albert Einstein

A great obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.
~ Daniel Boorstin

Our best measures of educational performance are cognitive because that's what's easiest to test. If the things that are harder to test matter more, that presents something of a conundrum for people trying to formulate educational policy.
~ Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View (Note that Ms. McArdle's article describes key takeaways of an experiment in parent engagement undertaken by Roland Fryer, Stephen Levitt, and John List; Roland Fryer is now a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education).