Hello all. Was not intending to post a diary today. Just received an email about a new report, authored by Stanford University Professor of Education Linda Darling-Hammond, SRN Associate Director of Assessment & Accountability Elle Rustique-Forrester, SRN Co-executive Director Raymond Pecheone, and with the assistance of Stanford University Research Associate Alethea Andree.
This is an effort of the School Reform Network, housed at Stanford U. It argues for using multiple measures for deciding about High School Graduation.
The press release is available as a PDF or as an html file here. But since it is a press release, I thought I would include the whole thing.
April 4, 2004
NEW STUDY SHOWS THAT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION SHOULD DEPEND ON MORE THAN A TEST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STANFORD, CA – In 2003, more than half of public school students in the U.S. were required to take an exit exam in order to graduate from high school. In some states this test will determine whether they graduate, regardless of what courses they have taken, what grades they have earned, and what abilities they have demonstrated in other ways. With additional states planning on phasing in new exit exams over the next several years, an increasing number of students will be expected to take such tests. Despite the growing popularity of these high-stakes tests, there has been little focus on their impact and efficacy.
A new study released today by Stanford University researchers sheds light on these policies, examining the impacts of state testing practices and the effectiveness of various approaches. The study, Multiple Measures Approaches to Graduation, is authored by researchers from the university’s School Redesign Network. The report documents research findings on states that have required exit examinations as the primary basis for graduation from high school. In these states, research has documented:
* Reduced graduation rates, especially for African American and Latino students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.
* Incentives for schools to push out students who do poorly, when school ratings are contingent on the average pass rates of students.
* Narrowing of the curriculum and neglect of higher order performance skills where limited test measures are used.
The report also examines a range of approaches to high school graduation that include tests as one element in a broader array of indicators about student proficiency. These “multiple measures” approaches to graduation, used in at least 27 states, differ from single-test approaches in that they consider a variety of student work, which may include student academic records, research papers, portfolios, essays, capstone projects and oral exams. The report provides an in-depth examination of the assessment systems in the 27 states that use multiple measures approaches. It also discusses testing for English language learners and students with disabilities, and makes recommendations based on the body of evidence about test uses and effects.
“High school graduation policies have important consequences for teaching, learning, and student achievement,” says Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University and lead author of the report. “It is important both to balance tests with other sources of evidence and to encourage students to do real-world tasks that go beyond what can be measured with multiple-choice questions.
“Evidence from the last decade suggests that states that have used multiple measures approaches to graduation have tended to maintain high student test scores and high graduation rates,” adds SRN co-director, Ray Pecheone, who directed assessment policy in Connecticut during the 1990s. “Multiple measures systems that evaluate the full range of standards in a more balanced way produce student who are better prepared for today’s workforce and for higher education.”
Multiple measures assessments have proven to be more effective for a number of reasons.
They provide a comprehensive assessment of students’ abilities by examining a broad range of students skills, including higher-order performance skills such as problem solving, that multiple-choice tests can’t measure. Systems that include local performance assessments also provide more comprehensive and timely feedback on student achievement — teachers can use the results of ongoing diagnostic assessments throughout the academic year to inform their planning. Finally, multiple measures assessments provide a balanced means for holding students and schools accountable, one which stimulates ongoing improvements.
The report highlights four components of a balanced assessment system that appear particularly productive for leveraging both high-quality assessment and high-quality instruction:
* Employing a range of assessments of student performance
* Providing assessment options for students with special needs
* Developing local assessments
* Implementing a process for review and approval of local assessment systems
The report concludes that using a multiple measures approach to graduation, in contrast to using a single test, can provide broader means for students to demonstrate their learning, better strategies for schools to evaluate the full range of standards in valid and appropriate ways, and rich individualized information about student learning, which is essential to school improvement and directly beneficial to classroom teachers.
Multiple Measures Approaches to Graduation is authored by Stanford University Professor of Education Linda Darling-Hammond, SRN Associate Director of Assessment & Accountability Elle Rustique-Forrester, SRN Co-executive Director Raymond Pecheone, and Stanford University Research Associate Alethea Andree.
The School Redesign Network (SRN) is housed at Stanford University and supported through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. SRN supports research on school redesign; is home to an extensive clearinghouse of materials for communities working to improve their schools; and hosts institutes, seminars, working groups, and leadership/study tours.
The home page of the School Redesign Network can be found here
One can get access to the complete report, the press release and the executive summary here
The executive summary is available as a pdf, or in html. Since the executive summary is also only one page, let me also offer that, after which I will offer a few brief comments of my own.
Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation provides an in-depth examination of 27 states currently using multiple measures assessments to determine student eligibility for high school graduation. Multiple measures assessments differ from single-test assessments in that they consider a variety of student work, which may include student academic records, research papers, portfolios, essays, capstone projects and oral exams. The report’s key findings:
* States that use multiple measures assessments for graduation tend to have higher student test scores and higher graduation rates, and produce student who are better prepared for today’s workforce and for higher education.
* Multiple measures approach allows for an in-depth, individualized assessment of the kinds of high-performance skills demanded by colleges, business, and employers.
* Problem-solving, research, writing, experimentation, leadership, collaboration, communication, presentation of ideas, and managing multiple and extensive project are among the essential indicators of college and work preparedness that cannot be assessed by a single standardized test with multiple choice items, but can be demonstrated through a multiple-measure approach, using a range of performance assessments.
* Multiple measures assessments also provide more comprehensive and timely diagnostic feedback on student achievement for teachers, who can use the results of ongoing assessments throughout the academic year to inform their planning and instruction.
The report concludes that for states and districts, a multiple measures approach to high school graduation offers a more balanced and informative platform for holding students and schools accountable, one that stimulates discussion not only about how to improve curriculum and instruction, but also how to monitor a student’s individual growth and progress, improve preparedness for college, and build readiness for work in the future
I hate to have to state the obvious, but DUH. Anyone who has spent any time in a school as a teacher or administrator is likely to say, but I already knew that. Of course, most of the people imposing mandates have NOT spent much (if any) time in schools as teachers or administrators. Some are psychometricians (test guys), although most of those would assert that one-shot tests should NOT be used for such high stakes purposes. Far too many are politicians, elected or appointed, for whom asserting that they want “more rigorous” standards for schools is a far too easy way of posturing.
And as Popham, in an article from which I quote in a recent diary noted, and again quote the two key paragraphs:
Whether or not the targets make sense, there tend to be a lot of them, and the effect is counterproductive. A state’s standards based tests are intended to evaluate schools based on students’ test performances, but teachers soon become overwhelmed by too many targets. Educators must guess about which of this multitude of content standards will actually be assessed on a given year’s test. Moreover, because there are so many content standards to be assessed and only limited testing time, it is impossible to report any meaningful results about which content standards have and haven’t been mastered.
Please note before anyone attacks me. I am not opposed to high standards. Ask any of the students who have to sit through my tests. But tests are only ONE of several ways that I assess what they have learned. Projects, essays written at home(designed so that they cannot be downloaded from THOSE sites on the net), presentations in class, etc, all help me assess what the student has learned, understands, and can do.
I have not done more than glance at the study itself, as during the week I have little time to explore in depth. I thought, however, that I should make this available as quickly as possible.