Friday, June 17, 2005

Going portfolio

The anti-testing crowd is at it again.

New York's legislature wants to allow schools to evade state tests in favor of subjective and nebulous "portfolio assessments." The NYT, to its credit, editorializes against the plan.

New York moved to the forefront of the national standards movement in education during the 1990's when the State Board of Regents raised standards and required rigorous new tests for public school students. The policy is beginning to yield impressive results, especially in inner-city areas. But a bill in the State Legislature could strangle reforms by allowing some schools to evade rigorous state tests in favor of subjective evaluations that would make it impossible to judge student progress.

The bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly, would extend a temporary waiver that has allowed some schools to use so-called portfolio assessments - in which students are graded and evaluated based on papers, projects, book reports and other work performed over the course of the year. The bill would also require the State Department of Education to develop new portfolio systems that could be used by schools all over the state that wished to evade rigorous testing.

Were these tests really that rigorous?

2 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

There's been discussion of this legislation on the NY Math Forum.

This was an interesting post:

If I believed in Mathematics Portfolios, I might have students (grades 5 and 7), solve PAM problems. Some of you may remember the Performance Assessment in Mathematics (PAM) tests that were administered to students is grades 5 and 7. They are multi-step problems where students were asked to solve the problem and also explain the steps they took to solve the problem. Students had to show their work and the work had to be relevant. I felt the PAM test was a wonderful diagnostic piece that was also used to help teachers see students' strengths or weaknesses.

Maybe this type of work could be placed in a portfolio AS LONG AS THEY REFLECTED THE WORK OF THE STUDENT AND DID NOT HAVE 2 OR 3 DRAFTS AND THEN THE FINAL, FINISHED PIECE THAT THE STUDENT WAS "HELPED" WITH.

The PAM test is no longer given by the Department of Education. I guess it took too much time to evaluate students' work.

NYC Educator said...

It's true NYS has "standards," but they massage and manipulate them in various ways, like making 55% an accptable passing grade for the English Regents exam. The math AP told me they were requiring an absurdly low number of correct responses for one of the math test, and a few years back, when too few people passed it, I believe they actually changed the standard.

Portfolios were all the rage about ten years ago. A few uyears later, at one of the interminable meetings my job compels me to attend, an AP announced "Portfolios are out."

Every year there's some new thing that comes down the pike. Testing can be good, but it has to be the right test for the right audience, and so far, NY State is far from getting that right.