"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NewSchools Venture Fund Invests in Testing's Stranglehold

From a NewSchools Venture Fund press release:

NewSchools Venture Fund Invests $1 Million in The Achievement Network (ANet)

New investment will support organization’s efforts to improve student achievement

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - September 16, 2009 - NewSchools Venture Fund today announced an investment of $1 million in The Achievement Network (formerly called Massachusetts Public School Performance), a nonprofit organization committed to helping teachers and school leaders understand and effectively use real-time student data – test results that are made immediately available to teachers – to improve instruction and increase student achievement. The Achievement Network (ANet) currently serves schools in Boston, New Orleans, and Washington DC. The organization plans to expand to two additional urban markets in 2009-2010, adding services in Chicago and Newark, and will serve a total of 70 schools.

What services, exactly, does ANet provide?

Today, in many schools, teachers administer standardized tests only a few times each year. They receive the results of these tests too late to make substantial adjustments in areas where students may be struggling. Research has shown that the consistent use of test data is a highly effective tool for improving student achievement. Teachers and leaders need real-time data about student performance to immediately understand student strengths and weaknesses and create interventions that meet key areas of need. However, many schools lack the capacity and necessary structures and processes to use data effectively. In response, NewSchools Venture Fund has sought to identify and support strong entrepreneurial organizations that can help schools address this enormous challenge. By filling this critical need in high-poverty urban schools, ANet helps schools take data-driven action to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap.

Founded in 2005, The Achievement Network helps teachers and principals collect, understand and effectively use real-time data about their students’ performance. In the schools working with ANet, teachers administer ANet-designed tests on a regular and frequent basis. Within 72 hours of a test, ANet provides timely and accurate results to schools, and organizes meetings to work with leaders and teachers to make sure that the data are understood and plans for instruction and remediation are adjusted accordingly.

I put the "Within 72 hours of a test" in it's biggest font because it deserves special attention. The National Academies sent a letter to the DOE regarding the Race to the Top fund, a letter Duncan is almost sure to ignore. One of the critiques was the Department's goal of getting test scores (standardized) back to teachers within 72 hours. This was part of the "rapid-time" turnaround system, a key part of the test-happy system where the teacher doesn't do any grading or evaluating of student work. It's all about continuos testing, particularly the standardized kind, which the Venture Fund laments are given "only a few times each year." Keep your eye on NSVF: they're the mafia of the corporate charter school movement...

1 comment:

  1. Remember those pop quizzes your teacher used to foist on you? Those count as immediate feedback on student performance.

    You know those spelling tests, and the multiple choice history tests, and all those weekly check-ins? And how about those book reports, or reading comprehension tests? They are all ways teachers can determine, on a regular, ongoing basis, the progress of the students.

    It's called teaching.

    The implicit lack of respect and confidence these policies project onto teachers is more damaging than the poverty that causes our problems in the first place.

    And let's not forget a previous post right here at Schools Matter about scorers! Whose interpretation of a given student's score would you trust?