CTU Can't Count

Kudos to Heather Momyer at the Medill Report for fact-checking the oft-repeated Karen Lewis claim about 14 tests for kindergartners, which turns out to include optional tests not required by the district, brief on-the-fly diagnostics that most of us wouldn’t consider tests, and options provided to give different teachers and schools choices about which measures to use.


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  • Networks may require their schools to give tests that the district deems optional. Our kindergartners MUST take the following:
    MAP for Primary Grades Reading BOY, MOY, EOY (3 tests)
    MAP for Primary Grades Math BOY, MOY, EOY (3 tests)
    DIBELS/IDEL BOY, MOY, EOY (3 tests)
    TRC reading BOY, MOY, EOY (3 tests)
    mClass Math BOY, MOY, EOY (3 tests)
    REACH Performance Task Literacy test BOY, EOY (2 tests)

    That is 17 full-blown tests and does not include the progress monitoring that goes on at a minimum every 2 weeks.

  • I challenge you to find one school that only offers 4 assessments per year for K students. Have been meeting and talking to teachers around the district on this subject to collect info and haven't found any that come close to this number.

  • In reply to WendyKatten:

    I checked with my school and showed the article. Only doing the 4 tests. But, the teachers would like the mid year option on maps so that they can see how the kids are progressing. It is a good testing scenario IMO. Not giving the name of the school because I do not want to get them in trouble with cps. It seems their area person is fine with the choice too. No stories of trama with the younger grades either. From my school don't see what all the fuss is about.

  • I teach in a west side network school and the above list is accurate and the required expectation. What is not explained here are the multiple components or measures of the various assessments. For instance, DIBELS beginning of year has two measures, middle of year has four measures and end of year has three measures. The MClass Math contains four measures that are assessed for each time period. Additionally, both the Math and Literacy assessments contain weekly or biweekly progress monitoring.

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    Hateful title and wildly inaccurate.

    Everyone quoted says that different people are mandating tests.

    To a student or a teacher, it doesn't matter if it's Central Office or Network offices or building administration. It's still a test. It still robs instructional time.

    Can you see Chicago from your porch?

  • The above list is accurate (though we were not required to do the DIBLES math). This does not count any additional teacher created testing needed at the beginning of the year to properly assess the needs of our students. Given the fact we did not have the materials for DIBLES as the year began (we received them apx. 1 1/2 months into the year), it was imperative to assess student abilities. Also keep in mind that many of the assessments are "one on one" and frequently done without assistance. In a class of 30+ students, we have spent nearly every week of school doing some sort of mandatory assessment, and these "one on ones" are very time consuming. The BOY MAP was also a minor disaster, as this was the first computer experience for many of the students. The results/ data yielded were also, for the most part, invalid for purposes of driving instruction. For the better majority of students it was simply a "click-t-thon." What a way to introduce the babies to the joys of school.
    Testing is a necessary component of the school-year, and certainly when done in a meaningful way, yields the information needed to boost learning. Over the years, I have used many assessments to properly group and drive instruction. The best of these, though very time consuming, has been STEP (which is strongly related to TRC). As a long-time K teacher, I wish, given the amount of testing, that we would do screening days. If I am not mistaken Tarkington (AUSL) used to (and may still) utilize the PD days before school started to screen the students. That would be a best of all worlds scenario. You would be able to gather important information in a uninterrupted environment without having to regularly stop to address the needs of the entire class. For as long as I have been in CPS, the policy of one-on-one testing with a whole classroom of students in front of you has never made sense.

  • The headline reminds of of Niles's slogan "Where People Count," to which the reply is "IMSA, Where People do Advanced Calculus."

    You take it from there.

  • Optional--BULL... it is only optional if your network and school allows it to be optional. MOST NETWORKS as usual, turn optional tests into mandatory tests. TRY researching Alex before writing about something you know nothing about. It is called good journalism!!

  • Russo is a [really lovely person with whom I disagree vehemently sometimes]

  • Was Heather Momyer's article intended to be a retort to the claim of 14 kindergarten assessments made by President Lewis? Clearly Alexander's introduction to the Momyer article situates the article as a retort to President Lewis, and clearly once one reads the article it is impossible to conclude that the author has drawn such a conclusion. Her conclusion is far more ambiguous, more like it depends on what you consider to be a test.

    The critical questions that need to be asked are the utility of these assessments and Ms. Cheatham's comments attempted to get to that question. But the problem I think is that the testing approach here is school wide at the Kg level rather than individualized. An early intervention approach requires a higher degree of individualization than what we are seeing CPS doing at the Kg level currently in most elementary schools.

    Alexander attempts to use a rather serious issue and turn it into a club to beat President Lewis with and likewise President Lewis wants to score points among those opposed to NCLB's testing thrust by over simplifying this issue. The goal of what is called RTI is for teachers to use assessment as part of an integrated instructional system to make improvements in the general early childhood program and to plan focused interventions for children who require additional supports.

    Those of us who work with students who are diagnosed with dyslexia and other forms of learning disabilities are highly aware of the fact that early intervention with these students greatly improves outcomes and increases the likelihood that students with these disabling conditions will gain compensation skills allowing them to have greater success in school. On the other hand we are deeply concerned that interpretations made by teachers of relatively complex assessments can create problems too. Typically developing students easily acquire phonemic skills, what is called graphophonemic knowledge, and the application of these skills to decode words, students with reading related LD encounter difficulties with these skills right from the start.

    But there is a quandary, children who are poor and live in areas of concentrated poverty receive lower levels of language stimulation in their homes than do children from higher socioeconomic status homes regardless of race or ethnic background.

    So the triggers that would set off an early intervention process for a kindergarten student from one of Chicago's poorest communities would probably need to be different than for let's say a CPS student raised in Lincoln Park with upper income college educated parents. This inevitably means that fewer poor children will be flagged with potential reading related disabilities at the kindergarten level and interventions will be delayed. Because of all the complex issues that are mixed up in attempting to remediate poor students with reading related LD their chances to catch up by using compensation techniques if they are identified at around grade 3 or 4 are significantly less than they are for similar students from higher income families. This requires relatively deep training for kindergarten level teachers in what is called tests and measurements. CPS has cut all the funding for this training because ISBE cut its RTI training budget completely due to the fiscal crisis of the State. Moreover, if we are going to use Kg level teachers as the front line in a screening system they also need time to carry out these assessments and carefully explain them to parents. Just using cut scores based on norming is a far too simple approach for very young children being raised in deep poverty.

    It is a shame that both Alexander and President Lewis are focusing of the number of tests rather than the utility of these tests including the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) for providing meaningful interventions for young children before it is too late. In my opinion the reason why we are seeing so much testing at the Kg level is similar to defensive medicine that drives ordering medical tests, procedures, or consultations of doubtful clinical value to protect physicians from malpractice suits. Instead of malpractice suits in education we have NCLB interventions by CPS and principals and network administrators are becoming obsessed with throwing out a wide net to catch as many potentially failing kindergarteners as possible, but there is a profound lack of individuality in this process. It is creating a push back on the part of teachers and parents.

    President Lewis is playing to that push back, but failing to see that the intent of principals and administrators is not to crush young children with tests, but rather to try to save as many children from failure as possible. Clearly President Lewis is more thoughtful than this and I think could apply a much more sophisticated analysis of kindergarten level assessment than decrying the number of tests. Alexander on the other hand seems just to want to do damage to President Lewis which in no way will promote the education of children in Chicago.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    What Russo's headline did do is prompt you to write this excellent piece on the value of testing; thank you both.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod--we read you, but at our school there are 33 in 1st grade and 33 in 2nd. The poor teachers have to test in noisey hallways or in the classroom, where they have to give these students 'not testing busy' work so they can test the indivudual ones. All this testing takes away instructional time AND, we are finding that 1/3 of students are going into RtI becasue of these 'diagnostics'. Then we test again in MoY and then in BoY. It is too much. There are 14 tests in kinder byw. CPS and the area make us do this!
    Alexander-'optional' in the CPS dictionary means 'required.'
    When you remember your early years in elementary school, do you remember being tested so often? No--that is the memory our impoverished children will have of school.

  • CPS Forcing k-2 NWEA went too far--children crying, head phones falling off, can't get teh mouse to click on teh right answer, having accidents on the chair. For why?--to expose them to computers before 3rd grade ISAT testing?! The NWEA scores at this young age are worthless and taxpayers, pay 4 waste $$$, students and teachers pay with loss of time and fright.
    get some small computers-touch tablets better, in the classroom to give them time to see and learn about using a technology--Stop testing children to death.

  • Alexander, I'm the Julie quoted in the article, and your headline is an outrageous misrepresentation. Our school IS mandated to give dibels and mclass. They are tests, and they are standardized. Maybe it's the network saying those tests are mandatory and not Jennifer Cheatham, but my kindergartener doesn't happen to grasp those finer points yet.

    If you've ever been in a CPS K-2 classroom when dibels is being administered (I have), the teacher is responsible for a 10-minute one-on-one test for 30 students. That is an entire teaching day, 300 minutes or more. Six times a year (dibels and mclass). That is neither brief nor on-the-fly. It's CPS who is trying to mislead parents here. For you to try to pin it on the CTU is bizarre and wrong.

  • The other ways I know that the additional tests are actually tests:

    They are prominently listed on the CPS assessment calendar: http://www.cps.edu/Performance/Documents/SY13PreK-2TrackRAssessmentCalendar.pdf

    When I asked my school for a list of the year's standardized tests, I was given MAP, REACH, DIBELS, mClass, all clearly included.

    I think my kindergartener can count better than Jennifer Cheatham...

  • I believe the anxiety about required testing at CPS schools is overblown. CPS requires some tests and then networks may require more, but the administration of these tests are local decisions - take this up with the LSC at the next meeting.

    Here is what we test at my school (and the approximate times are directly from a Kindergarten teacher):

    TRC reading (tricky at beginning of year because reading level is unknown, but 5-7 minutes) -- tested BOY, MOY and EOY

    IF (and only if) reading level is BELOW grade level, teacher will administer DIBELS test (7 minutes per kid).

    MAP for Primary Grades Reading (45 minutes) at BOY and EOY
    MAP for Primary Grades Math (45 minutest) at BOY and EOY

    REACH Performance Task Literacy test (Done in groups of 5, 30 minutes per group) at BOY and EOY

    We do not test MCLASS math.

    So an individual child at my school at grade level in reading would be tested 231 minutes in the school year.

    A child below grade level would be tested 231 minutes + 21 for DIBELS -- and then 14 or so every few weeks to monitor their progress.

    My teachers utilize TRC levels for reading group levels and MAP scores to differentiate instruction within their classes.

    Perhaps the story is different around the city, but testing is not an albatross at our school...

  • That is YOUR school--you must have higher scoring children., magnet? Do you have 33 in a class as well? Too many other schools-teachers-children are being punished with this testing that is an albatros to our schools. You say bring it to the LSC--pray tell-what will the LSC do? Sounds like your LSC may be connected.

  • The testing process is one element. Reviewing the data from the testing is another, and in my experience (in another field), it takes time to review and to respond.

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    I have serious concerns regarding the excessive testing and developmentally appropriate practice. In my view thre is a big disconnect.

  • I like the NEWA for my 2nd grader. It gives such valuable information and breaks out the reading and math into 4 sub categories. It projects student growth and gives a target. I was able to see that my child is very strong in 3 of the 4 reading categories. So myself at home and the teacher at school knows to focus on vocabulary. Yes, it is a large 32 class size.

    The administration managed getting the tests completed early and orderly. The teachers are learning how to group the children (even across grade levels in the upper grades) in order to focus teaching on where the student is at and where they need to grow.

    Why wait until they are older if the test works well and it benefits the students? I know my kids have taken other tests in the past (DIEBLS, etc.) and those seemed worthless. The NEWA stuff is fantastic!

  • Tribune's blogger Russo gets it wrong again in attempted cheap shot against Karen Lewis on kindergarten testing craziness

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