Thursday, August 28, 2014

Local Assessment Q & A

To follow up on a previous post, here is great information from Jeanette of Long Island Opt Out.

Local Assessment Q&A
1. What are local assessments?
Local assessments have been around longer than common core. Schools have been using many different forms of assessing students at the local level with the goal of improving instruction and determining just what your child needs/does not need. Some locals are teacher created, and some are standardized computer programs purchased from testing companies. A list of commonly used local assessments can be found here:
2. How have local assessments changed since common core/APPR/testing reforms were implemented in our schools?
What was once used by schools diagnostically to help teachers determine what your child needs, has now been turned into a tool to grade, punish, and reward teachers for their APPR (teacher evaluation) score required by the state. Local assessments, in many cases, are now part of a manipulated game in the perverted "let's punish teachers and close schools" world of regents reforms. Some children begin their school year "failing" up to 6 or 7 assessments given the first week of school.
3. Are local assessments required by the State Education Department?
No. Your district works out an APPR plan with the state, the local teacher union, and the administrators. They are signed off on by all parties. Generally, 40% of a teacher/principal/school rating is based on assessments. State assessments have to account for AT LEAST 20% of that score. Some districts have chosen to eliminate all local assessments from their APPR plan, and use only state test scores for all 40%. Many have eliminated all standardized k-2 testing.
4. Are all local assessments "bad"?
No. Not all local assessments are tied to an APPR plan. Some locals like Fountas and Pinnell for reading levels, IOWA's (IQ), and teacher created final exams, are used strictly for what they are intended help the teacher determine the needs of your child. A great question to ask is "would you be giving my child this assessment if it weren't part of you district APPR plan"? Another hint that it is primarily being used for an APPR score is whether it was administered before APPR was in existence. However, many teachers will tell you "off the record" that the WAY they administer them is different because of being tied to their evaluation. This manipulation game they are forced to play by State Ed. has distorted what may have once been a useful tool.
5. How do local assessment APPR scores work and why do some districts choose to administer local assessments?
As stated above, 40% of a score is based on assessments. AT LEAST 20% has to be from state assessments. The other 20% is up to the district/union to decide. Bottom line is that local assessments give some control over this unfair system back to the district. The downside of refusing local assessments is that these scores do oftentimes help your teacher's, principal's, and school's ratings. This downside must be weighed against your view on evaluating teachers through test scores, and how you feel about the over testing of your child. All locals administered in the fall are done so to ensure a very low score. (Which isn't too hard considering the assessments are made of material not yet learned by the student).
7. Can all/should all local assessments be refused?
Refusing is a personal choice. Decisions should be made only after you understand what your district is administering and why. Some parents refuse all local assessments that are tied to APPR. Some refuse all K-2 testing. Some refuse all standardized computer testing. Again, your child, your choice. Many middle school local assessments given in June are used as final exams for a non-state tested course (SS, science, foreign language, electives etc...). These are part of the final course grade and should NOT be refused. Elementary school local assessments, elective SLO's (gym, art, and music assessments) middle/high school beginning and mid-year assessments used for APPR are generally the local assessments that can be refused.
6. If I choose to "opt out" of local assessments, what do I do?
First, request some information from your school on what locals your district is administering. Ask when they are being administered. Many fall benchmarks/SLO's/locals are administered within the first week of school.
Send a refusal letter to your school. This should be given to the school on the first day, as some may be administered the first day. Sample letters here can be personalized for your school/child:
K-2 and opt out letter (does not include ELA and math assessments)
3-8 opt out letter (includes math and ELA spring assessments)
9-12 opt out letter
7. Will my district honor my refusal letter for local assessments?
Most will. Some will not. Unlike state assessments, local assessments can be administered on any day and at any time of the district's choosing. If the child is unable to refuse on their own behalf and the school does not honor a parent's right to refuse, it will be very difficult to successfully opt out of local assessments. However, most districts were respectful of this decision last year, and many families refused without incident.