Dear friends of education,
I just got back from Washington DC, where I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) 20th Anniversary Conference. Check it out at www.nagb.org. The conference dealt with the nation’s test, often called The Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Once on the site, www.nagb.org, go to “The Governing Board Commemorates 20 Years.” There, you can click on “Conference Papers” and, if you’d like to hear the panel, go to the podcasts. The panel I spoke at was about testing students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners(ELL). It was Panel IV.
Issues about how to include all students and keep the NAEP ‘real’ and valid and reliable were the subject of that session. They focused on the use of accommodations on, and the exclusions of SD and ELL, from the NAEP.
My loyal blogging colleagues know that I recommend that we keep our eye on the prize at all times. To get testing results that tell us how students are doing–good and bad. To get honest scores; not necessarily rising and good scores. Just the facts!
How to do that? NAGB is chartered by law to develop one test for the nation that is valid, reliable, based on widely held technical standards and representative of all of our nation’s children. It is a voluntary national representative sample test. Scores don’t count for or against students or schools. NAEP allows our country to compare scores from state to state and for large city to city.
How do we get NAEP ‘real’? Once NAGB decides WHAT skills and knowledge NAEP is to designed to measure, other issues fall in place. We then know what accommodations to allow–only those that maintain NAEP’s purpose, validity and reliability. We don’t, for example, read the reading test to a student, if the purpose of the test is to test a student’s skills in phonics, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. We don’t provide a test in Spanish if the purpose of the test is to test reading in English. We don’t provide a calculator if the purpose of the test is to measure math computation and related skills. I was happy to note that Dr. Shariff Shakrani, a fellow panelist, echoed these realities in discussing SD.
In terms of exclusions, based on reading the NAGB law, there should be NO exclusions by schools or states of students. Parents can opt out of the test, and, in some situations, schools can. But schools cannot cherry pick students. In terms of SD, there should be NO exclusions (beyond the 1% of students who take alternate assessments). Current exclusion policies are based on flawed readings of the laws, including the special education law, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
The fact that we now have troubling variations from state to state in terms of how many SD are excluded makes the NAEP far less valuable. Indeed, it tarnishes this ‘gold standards’ as it does not produce comparable scores. Again, I was happy to note that Dr. Shakrani echoed this recommendation to end exclusions (beyond that 1% exclusion).
If we want NAEP to be the Nation’s Report Card, to be a ‘the gold standard’ and to be the basis of decision making for improving our schools, then we must bring accommodation and exclusion policy in line.
How? NAGB should set the NAEP test, tell us WHAT it measures, provide the rules, allow accommodations that are consistent with NAEP’s purpose, end the practice of exclusions, and implement its requirements consistently.
Check out the conference and panel (as well as others) on line: www.nagb.org at “The Governing Board commemorates 20 years of NAEP.”