A note from Alfonso on state testing

Hello Parents,

With Curriculum Nights this week, some parents may have questions about state testing. As we strengthen our inquiry-based teaching for the PYP (International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Program), we are focused on giving our students the skills and conceptual understanding to use knowledge to deal with life’s issues. As part of this transition, we are looking to adopt an assessment tool (testing) that will give us feedback and meaningful measurement of our students’ growth and capabilities.

I'd like to consider using the International Schools Assessment (ISA), which I have used at schools overseas and which is used by thousands of students at international schools all over the world. This test is made by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), the same people who created the assessment used by the OECD to compare countries' educational performance. We would use it to assess our third, fourth and fifth grade students in reading, writing and mathematical literacy (the test actually has versions for up to tenth grade.)

As an international school, I would think it better to compare our students’ performance with that of students around the world rather than just here in Oregon. The ISA test would do that well, and would also provide us with meaningful feedback that we could use to further enhance and adjust what is happening in our classrooms. In addition, ACER has a strong relationship with the IB organization, making the tests a natural outgrowth of what & how our students are learning.

To read more about the ISA, visit www.acer.edu.au or click here for a brochure.

The ISA test would be instead of doing the Oregon state standard testing. In my humble opinion, assessments like the state standard tests are part of what has been sending American education into the state that Wordsworth described as "savage torpor." A few days ago we received what are called results from the state on last year's tests. The results are a score and percentile for each student. There is not even item analysis to see what kinds of questions students got wrong or right. Perhaps this is the result of budget cuts, but without such analysis, I am really not sure what the point is, as it cannot possibly inform teaching or learning. (A side note is that this year the state will require a computer lab for on-line testing. That would make it technically difficult for students to take the tests at TIS, but I don’t think the tests are what we should be doing anyway.) Overall, I'm thinking the Oregon state tests are really not worth the trouble or time.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

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