I just took part in a telephone forum, conference, what have you, regarding Ohio's new learning standards and assessments.
We were told by Lori Michalec, Ohio Teacher of the Year from Tallmadge High School, that she assures her students that "the tests aren't punitive."
First, someone should tell Lori that if her students do not do well enough on their state tests at the high school level, then they do not graduate. This is, by definition, punitive.
Also, third graders who do not pass the reading test are held back. Again, punitive.
Finally, Ohio's Teacher Evaluation System relies heavily on student test scores which can dramatically impact teacher ratings. These ratings can then used to determine teacher salaries or job security. Depending on the situation, this can also be quite punitive.
She also assured the audience of Ohioans that she never teaches to the test, but rather "simply teaches" the skills necessary for her students to find success. Test prep, in her opinion, is utterly unnecessary.
Her message was clear until she later discussed the valuable data provided by state assessments. While she acknowledged that this year's data will come late, she assured the audience that it normally comes much earlier. This is misleading. While it has never arrived the following year, even the high school tests that used to be given in March never produced results until mid-May. That's a few weeks before students leave for summer. This hardly makes the data valuable for the students or their teachers.
However, the teacher of the year explained that she looks at her students' scores in order to determine where her teaching succeeded, and in what areas she might "do more." I nearly threw up in my mouth. What she is talking about here is teaching to the test. She'll do more to assure student success on those weak components of the assessment.
In brilliant form, she contradicted her own teaching philosophy and proved the utter worthlessness of data from standardized tests.
Lonny Rivera from the ODE was also on the scene assuring everyone that the tests are written by Ohio teachers, and are only given after a thorough validity study. He did indicate that this year we are getting some questions from "the vendor." However, he failed to indicate that those vendor questions are being purchased from Florida, Utah, and Nevada. Nor did he mention that all of those states have had issues aligning questions to their standards, which brings their validity into serious question.
He also avoided a question about whether or not charters are measured in the same way as public schools. It's OK Lonny, I already know they're not.
So, I dialed star 3 to address some issues, but they ran out of time before I had an opportunity to speak. I don't think my commentary would have fit in with their propaganda.