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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: test scores

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August 27, 2014 at 10:56 AM

State test results for 2014: Some ups and downs

Update at 3:30 p.m.:  For a fuller story, see the Associated Press coverage here.

Original post:  Results from this year’s state tests showed ups and downs, in the last year that most students will take them, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported Wednesday.

Next year, the state will switch to a set of exams called Smarter Balanced, which are tied to the new Common Core learning standards. Most states have agreed to use the Common Core, replacing a system in which each state has its own learning goals for each grade and subject.


Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, OSPI, test scores

July 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Teacher quality and test scores: Recent studies raise questions

As we reported earlier this week, the standoff continues between our state and the feds over the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.

The U.S. Department of Education continues to insist that test scores should play some role in teacher evaluations. Washington lawmakers have refused to require school districts to do so and, as a result, lost the state’s waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

This week, the feds refused Washington’s request to get back a piece of that waiver — the part that would have saved schools from having to send letters home saying they have failed — as most other schools in the nation have failed — to ensure that all students were proficient in reading and math this year.

So what about the substance of the argument? Are test scores a valid indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness?


Comments | More in News | Topics: teacher evaluation, teacher quality, test scores

April 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New way to test? Garfield teachers explore New York model

Rachel Eells was one of several Garfield High School teachers who boycotted MAP testing last year. Photo by John Lok / The Seattle Times 2013.

Rachel Eells was one of the Garfield High School teachers who boycotted MAP testing last year. Photo by John Lok / The Seattle Times 2013.

In the wake of last year’s testing protest in Seattle, teachers at Garfield High, who led that revolt, received an invitation to visit teachers from 28 New York high schools where students don’t take most of their state’s high-stakes, standardized tests.

The schools, part of the New York  Performance Standards Consortium, instead give performance assessments —  in-depth assignments such as writing a paper comparing the protagonists’ deaths in three novels, or, in math, finding the parabolic path of a comet.

Consortium teachers make sure they grade such projects in the same way, sometimes sharing rubrics and scoring projects together. They’ve persuaded the state of New York to let them judge students’ skills that way, rather than with the usual New York Regents exams.

Two Garfield teachers visited the consortium in October, and two others went in February. They returned eager to try some of those ideas here, said Garfield teacher Rachel Eells.

The four teachers, plus a few others, met all this school year, looking closely at how they each assess their students’ progress, and helping each other improve their instructions to students, and their grading criteria.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Garfield High, MAP, Measures of Academic Progress

April 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Who aces problem-solving exam? U.S. above average, but Asia rules

When it comes to success in life, it’s not just what students know, but what they can do with what they know.

To gauge that ability, a problem-solving section was part of the 2012 international tests known as PISA, or Programme for International Student Assessment.

The section, given to about 85,000 15-year-olds worldwide, “goes well beyond whether students can reproduce what they were taught,” said Pablo Zoido of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which manages the PISA exams.

To do well, the OECD says, students must be “open to novelty, tolerate doubt and uncertainty, and dare to use intuition to initiate a solution.”

And that’s where U.S. students shine, at least in part.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Asia, PISA, problem solving

February 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students soar in A.P. Chinese, struggle in chemistry, biology

Twelfth-grade students Sohrab Pasikhani, left, and Bridgette LaFaye work in their Advanced Placement Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

Twelfth-grade students Sohrab Pasikhani, left, and Bridgette LaFaye work in their Advanced Placement physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

The number of high-school students taking college-level Advanced Placement courses continues to climb in Washington state and across the nation.

Nationally, the number of A.P. test takers broke the one million mark for the first time in 2013, according to a report released on Tuesday by the College Board. That’s up from about 954,000 in 2012, and 514,000 in 2003.

In Washington state, about 22,000 students — equal to a third of the class of 2013 — took at least one A.P exam last year, about 1,000 students more than the year before.

The state’s A.P. success rate rose, too, with 20.9 percent of the class of 2013 earning a score of 3 or better, which is good enough to earn credit at many colleges. In 2012, about 20 percent did.

But there were big differences in the performance from test to test, and among different ethnic groups.


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Advanced Placement, College Board, college-level classes in high school

November 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Teacher bonuses: A smart way to boost low test scores?

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

What would happen if teachers with a track record of raising test scores transferred into low-performing schools, enticed by a $20,000 bonus?

In middle school, not much, according to a new study by Mathematica Policy Research.  In elementary schools, however, the study found the transferring teachers raised test scores more than a control group.

The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, was conducted in 10 school districts in seven different states. The districts offered the bonuses to teachers who ranked in the top 20 percent in their districts in raising student test scores, and 81 teachers participated. To get the bonus, they had to agree to stay at the low-scoring school for at least two years.


Comments | More in News | Topics: bonuses, student performance, teacher incentives

November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Reality check: Was high praise warranted for state’s performance on NAEP?

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn (Photo by Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is trumpeting Washington state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests that a sample of students take every few years in selected grades and subjects.

On Wednesday, his office issued a news release with a link to hear U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praise Washington for its gains this year.

But the picture isn’t quite that simple.

Washington students’ scores did go up and, in a simple ranking, went up more than most other states.  But according to a critique by Tom Loveless, such rankings lose a lot of meaning when the tests’ margin of error are taken into account. For those who want to dive deep into the details, Loveless provides it.

For those who just want the conclusion: Washington did improve, but not as much as Duncan’s message may make it sound.  And when it comes to overall scores, it’s really only safe to say that Washington ranks somewhere in the middle.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Arne Duncan, NAEP, Randy Dorn

November 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Your voices: Readers consider alternatives in measuring student performance

Credit: Boo Davis

Credit: Boo Davis

We received several thoughtful responses to this week’s question: What’s the best way to measure student performance?

Peter Henry of Edmonds referred to his own experience as a math instructor. Part of his response: “Assessment is a natural part of teaching and learning, and it functions best as an integral part of the classroom. Every time I give an assignment and read or listen to student responses, that is an example of assessment, and I modify my practices accordingly.”


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: assessment, student performance, test scores

November 4, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Question of the Week: What’s the best way to measure student achievement?

Education Lab is a blog for teachers, parents, students and community members to talk about how our schools can better serve the region’s students. Each week, we will provide a question to get the conversation going. This week’s prompt asks a basic question about how we evaluate success in education.


Comments | More in Opinion, Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: question of the week, student performance, test scores

November 4, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Not many teachers can be evaluated using state test scores

Paul Tong / Op Art

Paul Tong / Op Art

School districts across Washington state are starting to evaluate teachers and principals in new, more rigorous ways.  Not surprisingly, that’s not easy.

Rather than simply rating teachers and principals as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, districts are using a four-level scale and, for the first time, must include student academic growth as a significant part of those evaluations.

Just how to do that well? A panel last week at the University of Washington made it clear that question is far from settled.

There’s wide agreement that student learning should be part of teacher and principal evaluations, and that such growth can’t be measured by any one test. The question is: What should be part of the equation?  Classroom assignments/tests?  District ones? State exams given at the end of a school year? And how much weight should any of these receive?


Comments | More in News | Topics: Chris Korsmo, Joe Willhoft, Justin Fox-Bailey

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