My View: One-year change in test results doesn’t make a ‘trend’
August 6th, 2012
06:20 AM ET

My View: One-year change in test results doesn’t make a ‘trend’

Courtesy Aaron M. PallasBy Aaron Pallas, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Aaron M. Pallas is Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He writes for the blog "A Sociological Eye on Education" for The Hechinger Report.

(CNN) – It's the dead of summer, and many states are releasing the results of testing done in the spring. A lot happens between the time that a student fills in the last bubble and a score is produced.

Some things are just general logistics: collecting the exams, routing them to the appropriate destination and processing students' responses to multiple-choice questions using high-speed scanners. Others require more judgment: Scorers must review and rate students' responses to open-ended questions to which they must construct an answer, using a grading rubric, or guide to the elements of a good response.

But even more judgment is required after that, much of which takes place behind closed doors.

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Filed under: Policy • Practice • Testing • Voices
My View: 10 reasons the SAT matters
July 20th, 2012
06:22 AM ET

My View: 10 reasons the SAT matters

Courtesy The College BoardBy Kathryn Juric, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kathryn Juric is vice president of the College Board’s SAT Program.  She leads global program strategy for the SAT, which is administered annually to nearly 3 million students worldwide.

The College Board created the SAT to democratize access to higher education by providing an objective measure for evaluating a student’s college readiness.  This function has endured for more than 80 years and for those who doubt its value, here are 10 reasons why the SAT continues to be an integral part of the college admission process:

1. The SAT has a proven track record as a fair and valid predictor of first-year college success for all students, regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status.  The most recent validity study utilizing data from more than 150,000 students at more than 100 colleges and universities demonstrates that the combined use of SAT and high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than HSGPA alone.

2. The SAT gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their college-preparedness despite inconsistent grading systems throughout the nation’s high schools.  And SAT scores provide a national, standardized benchmark that neutralizes the risk of grade inflation.

3. The SAT tests students’ ability to apply what they have learned in high school and to problem-solve based on that knowledge – skills that are critical to success in college and the workforce.  The College Board conducts regular curriculum surveys to ensure the content tested on the SAT reflects the content being taught in the nation’s high school classrooms.

4. Despite what some testing critics have said, colleges still depend on college entrance exams as part of the admission process.  According to a 2010 survey published by the National Association of College Admission Counseling, admissions officers ranked college entrance exam scores as the third-most important factor in the admission process – behind only grades in college prep courses and the strength of the student’s high school curriculum.

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Filed under: College • Issues • Testing • Voices
July 16th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Overheard on Readers debate linking teacher pay to student performance

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

(CNN) - A new law in Ohio links teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests. Traditionally, teachers are assessed through direct observation, and student outcomes in the classroom don't usually affect their pay. Ohio public school districts will now give each teacher a grade, and half of that grade will be based on students’ test scores. These grades, and thus the exam results, could lead to salary decisions, promotions and terminations.

Pay for performance isn’t new, but it certainly is controversial. Judging from readers’ responses to our story, there aren’t just two sides to this issue, but many.

Even commenters who identified themselves as educators have a variety of opinions:
(Note: Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.)

Thor Mentor
In the ISD where I work as a teacher in an inner city school (in a state where they say everything is bigger), similar policy will be implemented starting this 2012-2013. It's a year ahead than in Ohio. There are many variables which account for students' achievement aside from teachers – parents, administrators, politicians, and students themselves, to name a few. I do my job well and work hard but I am not a miracle worker. Let all the stakeholders be accountable for the sake of fairness.

I am a teacher and I agree with this new law! I am a teacher in one of the lowest states in the US. I teach at the lowest school in the state and every year I have scores that are some of the highest in the school, district, and the state. Great teachers should be compensated for their hard work. There is no excuse for such a high percent of minimal performing students. I don't care how awful my students' parents are. It's my job to work with what I have and ensure they learn too. Education and a few others is the only job where employees are not paid based on performance. Some of us work extra hard and should be paid accordingly. Those who don't or can't should find something else to do.

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Filed under: Issues • On air • Policy • Teachers • Testing • video • Your comments
July 16th, 2012
01:20 PM ET

Should teacher pay be linked to grades?

CNN education contributor Steve Perry on Ohio Gov. John Kasich's effort to base half of a teacher's pay on test scores. (from Starting Point)

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My View: Scoring AP exams is a learning experience
Educators work on AP exams at a scoring session in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June 2012.
July 6th, 2012
06:24 AM ET

My View: Scoring AP exams is a learning experience

Courtesy Leah McDonaldBy Kevin McDonald, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kevin McDonald teaches AP English Language and Composition at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, OK. He and his wife, an elementary music teacher, have two daughters who are well on their way to becoming educators themselves. He works as a consultant for the College Board and also helps with his high school's marching band program.

(CNN) - Advanced Placement scores for millions of students are being released to schools this week. What most people may not realize is that the free-response sections of these exams are scored by thousands of AP teachers and college faculty. Teachers like me.

I just completed my 15th year of teaching, 14th year as an AP English language and composition teacher, and 11th year as an AP reader. This year, 11,000 of my fellow educators and I from across the country and around the world convened to score more than 3.7 million AP exams in 34 subjects.

Learn more about the AP Reading and scoring process here.

In my time as an AP reader, I’ve also spent six years as a member of my reading’s leadership team, and I can attest that the reading – the annual gathering to score student exams – has truly been some of the best professional development I’ve ever attended.

In fact, my willingness to give up nine to 14 days to score as many essays as humanly possible should stand as testament to my belief in the process.

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Report: U.S. science students run simple experiments, but can't explain results
Students competed at the Google Science Fair last year -- but in schools, many struggle to explain experiment results.
June 19th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Report: U.S. science students run simple experiments, but can't explain results

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN)  - American students can successfully conduct simple science experiments at school, but aren't able to explain the results, a new report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows.

Results released today reveal that America's fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-graders struggled when investigations had more variables to manipulate or required strategic decision-making while collecting data. Many weren't able to explain why certain results were correct.

It's the first time the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, measured how students performed on hands-on and interactive computer tasks like a professional scientist might. While traditional standardized tests grade students on what they know, people in the workforce are measured on how they apply what they've learned in school. This analysis moves away from "paper and pencil" tests and should allow for a different type of analysis by education experts.


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Does obesity affect school performance?
June 14th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Does obesity affect school performance?

By Amanda Gardner, Health

( - Obese children and teenagers face a slew of potential health problems as they get older, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and certain cancers. As if that weren't enough, obesity may harm young people's long-term college and career prospects, too.

In recent years, an uneven yet growing body of research has suggested that obesity is associated with poorer academic performance beginning as early as kindergarten. Studies have variously found that obese students - and especially girls - tend to have lower test scores than their slimmer peers, are more likely to be held back a grade, and are less likely to go on to college.

The latest such study, published this week in the journal Child Development, followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.

What's more, this pattern held even after the researchers took into account extenuating factors that can influence both body size and test scores, such as family income, race, the mother's education level and job status, and both parents' expectations for the child's performance in school.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Early childhood • Kids' health • Policy • Practice • Testing
My view: Getting education reform right
June 13th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

My view: Getting education reform right

Courtesy DC WhittenburgBy John Kuhn, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: John Kuhn is superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, the same rural Texas school district he attended as a student from kindergarten through 12th grade.

(CNN) - In an election year where the question of our nation’s fiscal future is front and center, we cannot forget that the educational progress of our children is pivotal for renewing U.S. prosperity. Yet more than 10 years after its enactment, there is scant evidence that the Bush-era No Child Left Behind federal law has lived up to its promise to provide a better quality education for students being left behind in public schools. Indeed, we are witnessing its failures in real time, and millions of our neediest children stand in the dust of No Child Left Behind.

While NCLB has made blaming and shaming local schools and individual middle-class educators the centerpiece of education policy, Texas schools are funded through a system, the Target Revenue System, in which each school district is assigned a dollar amount per student that varies according to property wealth. Areas blessed with high property values or mineral wealth automatically have more money pumped into their school systems, which translates directly into newer computers, better books and more qualified teachers for their children.

So while each district is required to offer the same mandated programs and have its students achieve an identical minimum in terms of test scores, attendance rates and graduation rates, the schools in wealthier communities receive more resources with which to achieve the same results. Our kids all run the same race; it’s just that some of them get to wear Nikes, and some get flip flops. Good luck kids.

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Filed under: Issues • NCLB • Policy • Race to the Top • Testing • Voices
My View: What standardized testing can learn from baseball
June 7th, 2012
06:12 AM ET

My View: What standardized testing can learn from baseball

Courtesy Wendi PillarsBy Wendi Pillars, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Wendi Pillars is a teacher with National Board Certification in English-language learning and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network. She has 15 years of teaching experience, overseas and stateside, and has been coaching Little League Baseball for three years.

It's that time of year again: Baseball season - and standardized testing season. As I donned my dangly earrings etched with the word "believe" on our first mathematics testing day, my heart raced at the thought of the day's outcomes. You see, wearing the earrings on test days reminds my nervous self that I believe my students will do their absolute best. This got me thinking about how I was inadvertently partaking in the time-honored athlete's tradition of the good luck talisman.

As a Little League Baseball coach and an elementary school teacher, I now connect standardized testing and baseball in more ways than one.

What do baseball and testing have in common?

Baseball is, simply, a time-consuming game. Players practice the same skills over and over.

Baseball relies heavily on stats, which have evolved from simple metrics to more complex ones.

Players rely on coaches to ascertain areas of improvement and how to improve.

Individual effort, support and practice at home can make tremendous differences in game-day performance.

The performance of a couple of players can make or break the entire team and the outcome of any given game. This, in turn, can affect finances and morale.

In Little League, as in the classroom, if your team is saddled with an unruly player, you can’t make trades.


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Filed under: Elementary school • Teachers • Testing • Voices
May 31st, 2012
12:10 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today: Cheating runs rampant
Daniel Denvir says than emphasis on high stakes testing at the federal and state levels has led to rampant cheating among U.S. school districts. His article also says that subjects outside of reading and math have been hurt as well, including science, physical education and the arts.

Education Week: NCATE Accredits First 'Nontraditional' Program
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has accredited iTeachU.S., which can now recommend teachers for licensure in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The online provider is the first non-higher-education-based teacher preparation program accredited by NCATE.

Washington Post:College dropouts have debt but no degree
The percentage of college dropouts who have students loans has risen over the past decade. Public policy has pushed more students towards college, and some education experts say that more needs to be done to help students reach graduation. Student Voices of Military-Connected Children Inspire Guidance from Secretary Duncan
After meeting with children of members of the U.S. military, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote a letter asking school districts to consider the needs of military children. The students told Secretary Duncan of the hardships they face when transitioning to new schools and difficulties in connecting deployed family members with school activities. Vaccine adds to cost of college
Vaccination against meningitis is now mandatory for most students at Texas colleges. At around $140 per shot, the vaccine against the rare but potentially fatal infection could cost as much as one or two textbooks.

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Filed under: Curriculum • Economy • Policy • Practice • Technology • Testing • Today's Reading List
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