Education Week - February 24, 2016 - (Page 26)

Educator: Online PARCC Test Is 'Inefficient' and 'Unreliable' To the Editor: Kudos to Education Week for your investigation of the 2014-15 PARCC test scores that were disproportionately lower when taken online, compared with the paper test ("PARCC Scores Lower on Computer Exams, Feb. 10, 2016). What I did not see in your report was feedback from educators who actually took both versions of the test, as I did with several Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers practice tests last spring in English/language arts. It took me about 10 minutes to conclude that there was a glaring mismatch between the skills PARCC was trying to test and the complicated navigation steps necessary to travel through test items. It was clear that the online format was not ready for prime time when it was released. The paper format was significantly more accessible and navigable. In the online version, a typical readingcomprehension test item required students to scroll down as many as 10 screens in order to finish the passage and arrive at the questions which, in turn, required students to refer back to specific moments in the passage without any mention of the screen, page, or line numbers to which they needed to return. Maddening. Inefficient. And absolutely unreliable. Unlike a pencil-and-paper test, where students see questions and text side by side or on adjoining pages, PARCC's online exam posed close-text-analysis questions while leaving students to scroll up to the text and back down to the question in the clunkiest and most awkward of ways. Nationally adopted standardized tests constitute a near-monopoly in the marketplace. With that much money, instructional time, and stress for students, parents, and educators, we deserve a consumer-driven approach to evaluating tests before they are foisted upon us. User review, with user feedback, would have uncovered these problems before they tainted the test's reliability. Robert A. Levin Visiting Specialist Department of Educational Foundations Montclair State University Co-Founder and Managing Director Levin Educational Consultants Metuchen, N.J. Teacher PD Dollars Stretch Further With Technology To the Editor: The Jan. 27 article "In Other Countries, Teacher PD Is a Way of Life" covers new reports commissioned by the nonprofit National Center on Education and the Economy that indicate professional development is not meeting teachers' needs. But this isn't surprising information. Decades of research have already urged us to implement something different. As far back as 1980, researchers Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers identified peer coaching as the high-impact model to pursue. And even though districts are investing in models like professional-learning communities, we are falling short of Joyce and Showers' vision. Instead of rehashing the old news of our underperforming PD, let's choose to make the conversation about how we can transform teacher learning in the same ways to which we aspire for our K-12 students. Technology can make the best models for teacher learning more cost-effective and scalable. Web-based video coaching, for example, enables teachers to share their own teaching videos with colleagues to get feedback. Technology like this empowers teachers to participate in the career-long, meaningful PD that is advocated by researchers. Coaching in the classroom can now be implemented with less out-of-class time and fewer substitutes. For the first time, the right combination of technology and know-how is available to help U.S. teachers rise above all the issues that have been holding back their professional learning. If we choose to prioritize new ways to invest our PD dollars, in a few years we'll be the ones showing the world how PD is done. Adam Geller Chief Executive Officer Edthena San Francisco, Calif. For Workforce-Training Programs, Literacy Skills Are Key To the Editor: The Jan. 26 blog post "Workforce Training Programs Should Consider Equity, Acting Ed. Secretary Says" (Politics K-12 blog, poses a compelling case for the federal government to make sure that equity is the watchword for implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA. While WIOA is explicit that low-income people and those with employment barriers are priority populations, the regulations around this legislation seem to focus instead on funding for entities providing service to those striving for career and college readiness. Approximately 36 million American adults are at the lowest literacy-skill levels-years away from entering the workforce or qualifying for college. ProLiteracy applauds acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.'s hope that "job-training facilities, community colleges, and adult-education providers will think about the needs of English-language learners, minority students, low-income students, students with disabilities, parents, and other 'nontraditional' students as they implement WIOA," as is stated in the blog post. While the number of adults seeking literacy instruction keeps growing, overall funding for literacy programs has dropped. Without additional federal resources to help the large population of adults most in need, the cycle of income inequality that diminishes economic growth will continue. Strong adult-literacy and -education programs bring a powerful return on investment, improving the lives of the adult learners and their families and the economic development of communities. Adult-literacy programs are crucial to building a skilled 21st-century workforce, supporting sustainable economic recovery, and alleviating poverty for everyone. Kevin Morgan President and Chief Executive Officer ProLiteracy Syracuse, N.Y. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit 26 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 24, 2016 | Leslie Cober-Gentry for Education Week LETTERS to the EDITOR Preschool Access CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32 their way out of the barriers to success that children face; instead, they have to help students arrive ready to succeed in kindergarten. But nationally, there aren't enough high-quality programs to go around. And the preschool openings in those programs often remain unclaimed because of barriers that include affordability, physical access, or parents' underappreciation of the value of high-quality early education. In 2013, Cleveland had 12,400 children ages 3 and 4 and only 3,530 high-quality preschool openings to serve them; yet, only 2,800 children attended such programs. But after one year of PRE4CLE's expansion plan, enrollment in Cleveland's high-quality preschool is up by 10 percent. There are now 1,200 more children in programs with researchbased curricula, trained teachers and staff, and an emphasis on imaginative play. Even more encouraging, 80 percent of those children are on pace for kindergarten readiness. So, how can this work for other communities? * Start with an inclusive planning process. Localized research and data can help inform decisions about meeting the needs of children and families. Our planning team interviewed business and community leaders and conducted national research about other preschool programs to address enrollment, program administration, teacher qualifications, funding, advocacy, and classroom-quality standards. By engaging a wide array of partners and families to create the plan, schools districts can hit the ground running with community buy-in and shared goals. * Leverage existing resources. Don't build something completely new. Take advantage of what is already working. There are models for outstanding preschool programs to replicate in states such as California, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Instead of reinventing the wheel, partner with regional preschool-expansion programs already in place. We embraced an existing mixed-delivery model for preschool with public and private, school-year and calendar-year, and fulltime and part-time programs to develop a plan that would work for all families. * Strategize funding. It's important for stakeholders to ask how they can work together to provide the money children and programs need. Within a year, PRE4CLE raised $8.5 million in public funds and $900,000 in private philanthropic aid to support the plan. Seed dollars are necessary to strengthen the infrastructure for high-quality preschool and pay for the expansion of enrollment opportunities, research-based communication campaigns aimed at families, and continued advocacy for long-term funding. * Remember that high-quality preschool isn't a cure-all. It may take cooperation between outside agencies and school districts to put a framework in place to help children achieve. To guarantee future academic achievement, commit to a more efficient system for transferring student information from one grade level or classroom to the next. We improved the transfer of pupils' academic and behavioral information from the preschool program to the kindergarten classroom, and, in some instances, all the way through the 3rd grade. * Create equal footing for enrollment and expansion. Consider engaging community-based partners and early-learning providers to coordinate and expand outreach to families. Craft a plan to address needs in every neighborhood, focusing on the neighborhoods where there aren't enough quality programs to meet demand. Talk to parents about how to find the right preschool for each child through door-to-door conversations in targeted neighborhoods, listings of openings in local papers, and individual follow-up phone calls to families. * Don't sacrifice quality. Quality requires resources to help programs improve. Connect program providers to technical and financial assistance to support research-based curricula and the purchase of new classroom tools, and to offer professional development for staff members. * Build accountability and partnerships. A governing body is essential to provide checks and balances and to oversee the implementation of a plan. The Cleveland Early Childhood Compact, a partnership to facilitate the program, brings together representatives from the school district, city and county government, the business community, the teachers' union, faith-based organizations, and early-childhood experts. The involvement of a variety of leaders, including those outside the local government and the school district, reinforces the idea that the plan belongs to the entire community. It also provides many points of view to make sure decisions are in the children's best interest. * Track progress. Establishing clear benchmarks related to enrollment gives the ability to track the social, emotional, and academic growth of individual children and report how the program influences all facets of children's development. Rebuilding the education system should start with the youngest students because a higher quality of early-childhood education maximizes learning during a key window of development. It sets the foundation for a child's shortand long-term success in school, work, and life. School districts, communities, and invested partners should work together to ensure all parts of the education pipeline are strong enough to provide a developmental foundation that improves children's ability to learn, contribute, and thrive in preschool and beyond. n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 24, 2016

Education Week - February 24, 2016
ESSA Spotlights Strategy to Reach Diverse Learners
Will the Common Core Step Up Schools’ Focus on Grammar?
Disparities in Test Accommodations Eyed
News in Brief
Report Roundup
S.D. May Restrict Restroom Use For Transgender Students
Conn. Seminars Tackle ‘Religious Illiteracy’ In Classrooms
Seven Studies Comparing Paper and Computer Test Scores
To Offset Poverty, Ed. Groups Urge ‘Whole-Child’ Approach
Research on Deafness Yields Broader Insights
Analysis: Ill. Pension Woes Destabilizing Teaching
Blogs of the Week
Military Eyes Wider Access for Career-Aptitude Test Under ESSA
Scalia’s Death Muddies Fate of Key Cases
Courts Push Lawmakers to the Wall Over K-12 Funding
Blogs of the Week
5 Key Takeaways on Education From White House Candidates
State of the States
Preschool Suspensions Do More Harm Than Good
Personalization Isn’t About Isolation
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Why Preschool Matters for Student Success

Education Week - February 24, 2016