Five things parents should know about end-of-year testing — from/by Hilary Scharton, Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure; with thanks to Ann Noder, CEO/President Pitch Public Relations, for this resource


Every spring, schools across the nation give students millions of standardized tests. Students sit for hours, filling in answer bubbles with their number two pencils for an exam that may span days. They’re told the tests are “important”, they need to “do their best”, and that they have “one chance” to show what they’ve learned. For any child–much less one with test anxiety, ADHD, or learning disabilities–it can be a painful process.

Should we let our students take these tests? In 2015, over 650,000 students (1) nationwide opted out of standardized tests. In some parts of the country, up to 20% of students did not participate. What can a test tell us about how our kids are doing? Here are five things parents should know about end-of-year testing:

1. Tests don’t measure what we think they do
We expect tests to tell us how much students have learned. However, significant evidence shows tests aren’t great at figuring out what you know or what your potential is.

Consider the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). For many of us, it was a rite of passage that evaluated your entire school career and gave colleges a way to predict whether or not you’d be a successful student. However, the best prediction you can make from an SAT is how much money your parents earn.(2) Your score will go up 30 points for every $10,000 in your parents’ yearly income.

In addition, scoring well on the SAT has almost no correlation with success in college. The best predictor is high school grades.

2. Tests are designed to be efficient and compare groups
Most tests are designed to make efficient comparisons between groups, not tell us about individuals. Group comparisons are valuable because they give us data about curriculum efficacy and how to allocate funding.

However, if we want efficient group measures, there are limitations. These tests won’t cover every topic students learned and will need to be easy to give and grade.

That means test authors have to use questions like multiple guess choice and leave out questions that might get at more important skills like critical thinking or creativity. If you’re only doing multiple choice, you’re rewarding passive and superficial learning like memorizing facts or formulas. When the last time was your job let you pick the right answer from a list?

3. Test prep is often antithetical to learning
In states where testing is king, it often comes with an emphasis on “accountability.” The idea behind the accountability movement is that we, as taxpayers, should be able to ensure we’re getting the highest educational value for our tax dollar. If that’s our ultimate goal, it makes sense to set up rewards (and penalties) so teachers and districts get the best performance possible from their students.

In these states, we see more time devoted to teaching test-taking skills. Teachers and students learn which kinds of questions and topics are covered and dedicate class time to practice. That’s not intended to game the system, but to give students tips about how to be a good test taker. (Ever learn that if you don’t know the right answer, pick B? How often have you used that knowledge since you left school?)

The positive is that it usually works. Students score a little better on the state exam. However, research shows that states that focus on accountability perform much worse on nationwide and international tests than states that place less emphasis on accountability. It turns out the time your teacher spent in class talking about answer B and #2 pencils would have been better spent teaching you more academic content.

4. Different tests tell us about individual learning
So if our current tests aren’t telling us what we need to know about individual students, what can we do? In short, we need to do more testing, which sounds crazy. We need to make sure we’re doing different kinds of testing so we get good group data AND good individual data. We can best measure individual growth with authentic tests that are integrated into learning. Assessment is authentic when it asks students to apply their knowledge to real-world, meaningful problems.

Imagine you’re back in geometry class and need to learn about volume. Would you rather have your teacher tell you the formula and give you a worksheet to practice (how we’d learn if standardized test grades were the goal) or could you learn more if your teacher gave you a project to come up with a better juice box that minimized shipping costs and maximized profits?

Likely the latter would not only make you more interested in learning about volume (“When will I ever use this?”), but you’d also have the opportunity to work on other important skills. Project-oriented, goals-driven group learning is an engaging way to teach students how to apply what they’ve learned, while also giving them practice working cooperatively, being creative, and dealing with messy problems that might not have one “right” answer. It gives students opportunities to apply their knowledge and a glimpse into what adults do in the workplace.

Teachers do this kind of assessment almost reflexively, whether students are raising their hands to answer a question, working in small groups, or doing independent research. One of the difficulties with this kind of assessment, however, is that the rich experiential data in classrooms is often lost. Fortunately, schools more often have access to technology that will help teachers do assessment, quickly see results, and then make important decisions about what students know.

5. How can I make sure my child is doing well?
Be involved. Districts are great at letting parents know when and how students will participate in standardized tests, but the only way to know about what’s happening in the classroom is to talk with your child’s teacher.

Teachers are experts–they know how important assessment is and how to do it well. Don’t be afraid to ask how your child will be graded on what they learn, what success looks like, or how much time will be spent preparing for standardized tests.

If you live in a state that emphasizes accountability, let your local representatives know that you care about more than test scores. Ask for teacher and school ratings to connect to other metrics like college acceptance, AP completion/pass rates, or student engagement. We, as parents, know what’s best for our individual children and must feel empowered to ask for it.

1. http://www.fairtest.org/more-500000-refused-tests-2015
2. http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/TotalGroup-2013.pdf

 


Hilary Scharton loves education and has worked in it, in some form or another, for her entire career. She currently serves as the Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure, the open online learning management system (LMS) that makes teaching and learning easier. In her role, she sets the strategic vision for how Canvas makes its products even more awesome for students and teachers across the globe, while focusing on leveraging technology to support improved instruction and equitable access for all students.


 

 

 

 

NGDLE is really just “enigma” misspelled — from er.educause.edu by Bryan Ollendyke
An example of a next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) is in development at Penn State; according to the lead developer, however, it should instead be considered a “distributed learning ecosystem.”

Excerpt:

Why stop at media? What if we could tell the LMS we have an assignment (so we need a grade book entry) while simultaneously invoking a studio instruction space to be created for students to learn? What if we could simply say the things we wanted it to do and bring the technology to us, instead of us having to go to it?

 

 

 

 

Embracing Digital Tools of the Millennial Trade. — from virtuallyinspired.org

Excerpt:

Thus, millennials are well-acquainted with – if not highly dependent on – the digital tools they use in their personal and professional lives. Tools that empower them to connect and collaborate in a way that is immediate and efficient, interactive and self-directed. Which is why they expect technology-enhanced education to replicate this user experience in the virtual classroom. And when their expectations fall short or go unmet altogether, millennials are more likely to go in search of other alternatives.

 

 

From DSC:
There are several solid tools mentioned in this article, and I always appreciate the high-level of innovation arising from Susan Aldridge, Marci Powell, and the folks at virtuallyinspired.org.

After reading the article, the key considerations that come to my mind involve the topics of usability and advocating for the students’ perspective. That is, we need to approach things from the student’s/learner’s standpoint — from a usability and user experience standpoint. For example, a seamless/single sign-on for each of these tools would be a requirement for implementing them. Otherwise, learners would have to be constantly logging into a variety of systems and services. Not only is that process time consuming, but a learner would need to keep track of additional passwords — and who doesn’t have enough of those to keep track of these days (I realize there are tools for that, but even those tools require additional time to investigate, setup, and maintain).

So plug-ins for the various CMSs/LMSs are needed that allow for a nice plug-and-play situation here.

 

 

Faculty Learning Communities: Making the Connection, Virtually — from by Angela Atwell, Cristina Cottom, Lisa Martino, and Sara Ombres

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Research has shown that interactions with peers promotes faculty engagement (McKenna, Johnson, Yoder, Guerra, & Pimmel, 2016). Faculty learning communities (FLC) have become very popular in recent years. FLCs focus on improving teaching and learning practice through collaboration and community building (Cox, 2001). Usually, FLCs are face-to-face meetings hosted at a physical location at a specific date and time. We understand the benefit of this type of experience. However, we recognize online instructors will likely find it difficult to participate in a traditional FLC. So, we set out to integrate FLC principles to provide our faculty, living and working all over the globe, a similar experience.

Recently, our Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence took the plunge and offered a Virtual Faculty Learning Community (V-FLC) for instructors at our Worldwide Campus. The first experience was open only to adjunct instructors teaching online. The experience was asynchronous, lasted eight weeks, and focused on best practices for online teaching and learning. Within our Learning Management System, faculty led and participated in discussions around the topics that were of interest to them. Most topics focused on teaching practices and ways to enhance the online experience. However, other topics bridged the gap between teaching online and general best teaching practices. 

 

 

 
 

eLearning: Predictions for 2018 — from news.elearninginside.com by Cait Etherington

Excerpts:

The educational technology sector grew substantially in 2017 and all signs point to even greater growth in 2018. Over the past year, the sector was buoyed by several key factors, including a growing recognition that as big data restructures work at an unprecedented pace, there is an urgent need to rethink how education is delivered. In fact, there is now growing evidence that colleges and universities, especially if they continue to operate as they have in the past, will simply not be able to produce the workers needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs. Ed tech, with its capacity to make education more affordable, flexible, and relevant, is increasingly being embraced as the answer to the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s growing talent pipeline challenges.

  • K-12 virtual schools will become a preferred choice
  • Voice-activation will transform the Learning Management System (LMS) sector
  • Data will drive learning
  • Higher ed will increase online course and program offerings

 


 

12 tech trends that will define 2018 — from businessinsider.com by Chris Weller

Excerpts:

No one can predict how the future will shake out, but we can make some educated guesses.

Global design and strategy firm frog has shared with Business Insider its forecasts for the technologies that will define the upcoming year. Last year, the firm correctly predicted that buildings would harness the power of nature and that businesses would continue using artificially-intelligent bots to run efficiently.

Get ready to step into the future.

  • Artificial intelligence will inspire how products are designed
  • Other companies will join Google in the ‘Algorithm Hall of Fame’
  • Virtual and augmented reality will become communal experiences
  • Democracy will cozy up to the blockchain
  • Augmented reality will invite questions about intellectual property
  • Consumer tech will feel even friendlier
  • Tech will become inclusive for all
  • Anonymous data will make life smarter but still private
  • Ultra-tiny robots will replace medicine for certain patients
  • The way we get around will fundamentally transform
  • Businesses will use data and machine learning to cater to customers
  • Social media will take on more corporate responsibility

 

 

 


 

 

 

Provosts, Pedagogy, and Digital Learning — from er.educause.edu by Kenneth Green, Charles Cook, Laura Niesen de Abruna and Patricia Rogers
Panel members from an EDUCAUSE 2017 Annual Conference session offer insights about the role of provosts and chief academic officers in digital courseware deployment and the challenges of using technology to advance teaching, learning, and student success.

Excerpt:

At the EDUCAUSE 2017 Annual Conference, Kenneth C. (Casey) Green moderated a panel discussion with two of the CAOs involved in the Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO) Digital Fellows Program and with the principal investigator on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant that created the year-long program. In this session, the three panel members offered their perspectives on campus IT investments, including what the panelists see as working—and what they see as missing—in instructional technology portfolios today.

 

 

Green: What about protection and support for faculty—especially young faculty? Often and disproportionately, younger faculty handle the heavy lifting for departments because, being younger, they’re supposed to “do the technology stuff.” Yet, when they do it—and I hear this at all types of institutions—they don’t get credit for the work in terms of review and promotion. The technology work doesn’t count, particularly at four-year colleges and research institutions.2 Young faculty are told: “Wait. Get tenured, get through the hurdle, get over the hump, then do it. Because this will not help your career—even if you’re being pressured to be the lead person on a digital learning initiative for your institution.”

 

 

Niesen de Abruna: …Now the CIO has to be a partner with the CAO. Their joint enterprise is to leverage learning in their community and to work together and translate things for one another, acting as partners in terms of trying to benefit from what’s happening in instructional design. It’s very exciting for CIOs and CAOs to have that sort of relationship.

 

 

Also see:

  • Insights from Campus Leaders on Current Challenges and Expectations of IT — from er.educause.edu by Kathryn Gates and Joan Cheverie
    IT’s role across a higher education institution is crucial, yet campus leaders typically understand IT challenges and opportunities based largely on their functional roles. Interviews with campus leaders offer insights into these views, as well as how to understand IT more broadly to better serve an institution’s mission.

 

 

 

 

 

“The 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards” in K-12 — from thejournal.com by David Nagel

 

“Google was the absolute winner overall.”

 

Excerpt:

In an open-ended question asking for educators’ favorite technologies currently in use at their schools, respondents overwhelmingly chose Google’s G Suite for Education as their top overall pick.

The top overall categories were:

  • Mobile devices
  • Interactive whiteboards/displays/projectors
  • eLearning/learning management systems and reading software — Lexia Learning’s Core5 scored big in the reading software area, while Google Classroom, Schoology, Moodle, Canvas, and Blackboard Learn were often mentioned in the LMS area

 

 

 

 

Also, there was an article in there on learning spaces. Some ideas mentioned include:

 

 

 

 
 

Faculty Predict Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality Will Be Key to Ed Tech in 10 Years — from campustechnology.com by Rhea Kelly
Faculty in our 2017 Teaching with Technology Survey believe tech will play a positive role in the future of higher education — but some technologies will be more important than others.

Excerpt:

What technologies do faculty think will be important in education over the next decade? The most popular answer to that question by far was virtual/augmented/mixed reality, garnering 81 percent of responses (it topped the list last year as well). Mobile devices and apps, 3D modeling/scanning/printing, adaptive/personalized learning and video/streaming all rounded out the top five.

 

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
Great to see several of these items made the list. I would also add:

  • The use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to allow more voice-enabled and voice-driven applications
  • Learning agents/bots (for example, a learning-related bot could go find out the top 50-100 jobs that employers are hiring for and present a list of potential digital playlists from a variety of providers that would help potential employees be able to do the work in those positions)
  • Blockchain and the use of web-based learner profiles
  • Artificial Intelligence / cognitive computing (which could be argued is already mentioned in the item re: adaptive, personalized learning)
  • Moving towards providing up-to-date streams of content (for purposes of lifelong learning and microlearning)

 Finally, it was great to see #9 on the list as I, too, believe that a next gen learning platform is needed:

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 

 

 

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