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Education Lab Blog

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

Topic: testing

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

November 20, 2014 at 5:00 AM

What’s new about Common Core tests? See for yourself

The room fell silent as heads bowed over test booklets.

I flipped to the first page and all the familiar anxieties flooded back. Will I have enough time? Will I second guess what I know is the right answer?

Relax, I told myself. I wasn’t in the school cafeteria sweating over a blue book, I was in a room of reporters, learning about the differences between old exams like the ones we took in middle school and a new set of exams aligned to the Common Core, which testing experts say measure a deeper level of thinking than ever before. The session was part of a conference on testing put on by the Education Writers Association, which Seattle Times reporter John Higgins and I attended this week.

We answered sample questions from a few different tests, including one from an old fourth-grade reading exam from an unidentified state, and another from the Smarter Balanced test, one of the two new tests based on Common Core learning standards. Roughly 20 states are starting to use Smarter Balanced, including Washington. (And you can do a little of the same, in the quiz at the end of this post.)

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Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, Smarter Balanced, testing

November 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

On the agenda: Films, discussions on preschool, high-stakes testing

Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

A number of education events will be held this week on early childhood education and standardized testing.

For those of you interested in both topics, we’re sorry to say that two of them are at about the same time this coming Thursday.

On pre-K: King County is hosting a free screening of “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation,” the opening episode in a series that will air on PBS this spring. King County says the series will explore “the importance of investing in early childhood development.”

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on “what it takes to ensure King County is a community where young children thrive.” Panel participants will include King County Executive Dow Constantine, and early learning advocates and educators. 6 p.m. Thursday, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center, 400 S. 2nd St., Renton.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: early learning, on the agenda, testing

November 18, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Education writers to test the tests — send us your questions on student assessment

Ever wonder how much you remember from your 11th grade math class?

Or how today’s standardized tests differ from the bubble sheets you filled out in middle school?

What about how teachers can explain complex ideas again and again in different ways until eventually, the concept sticks with a student?

These questions and more are behind a conference put on by the Education Writers Association, where fellow Seattle Times education reporter John Higgins and I will hear from experts on learning and testing over the next two days — and get to try out a few exam questions ourselves.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, testing

May 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Too much focus on short-term results hurts schools, report says

With the state testing season well underway across Washington, testing has been a focus of the Education Lab blog this week.

On Wednesday, we reported on an effort by Garfield High teachers in Seattle to improve the classroom assessments they give and consider whether those assessments might eventually replace many of the standardized tests their students take. Earlier this week, we wrote about Gildo Rey Elementary in Auburn, a high poverty school that has succeeded in helping nearly all its students pass state reading and math tests.

Today, we return to a report we filed away back in October, when it was first published.

The authors, two Boston College professors, argue that schools that put too much emphasis on the yearly ups and downs in test results may experience the same problems that businesses do when they concentrate too much on short-term gains: Employees try to game the system, and the organization’s overall success can suffer.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: assessment, testing

January 23, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Guests: New GED test fails to measure skills that matter most

America’s largest high school is not a building but a test. The General Educational Development test is a seven-hour exam that allows high school dropouts to show they are equivalent to high school graduates. GED certificates account for 12 percent of high school diplomas issued in the U.S. Can a test replace four years of high school?

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

In a 2011 study, the GED Testing Service found that within six years of earning a GED, about 40 percent of GED recipients enroll in college — but most drop out within a year. Only about 1 percent earns a bachelor’s degree.

So this year they are launching a new, more difficult test, partly because of the difference between GED recipients and high school graduates when it comes to outcomes that matter. By looking beyond other test scores and evaluating the GED program using outcomes like educational attainment, the GED Testing Service has made a major stride. But will the new test be a better predictor of these outcomes?

Based on our work in a new book, “The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life,” we argue that it will not. The test is being changed under the notion that it measures the right skills but in the wrong quantities — in other words, that passing the old GED did not require enough scholastic ability.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: dropouts, ged, standardized tests