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

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Nashville School Board Backs Away from Pearson Nonsense-Based Reading Test

During the early years of the Reading First corporate feeding frenzy that dumped a cool billion dollars a year into worthless reading programs blessed by crackpot, Reid Lyon, and a handful of his corrupt cronies housed principally at the University of Oregon, a reading assessment called DIBELS became required if your state or city wanted a shot the Reading First grants.  It is based, essentially, on counting how many nonsense syllables a child can correctly identify in 60 seconds.

Surprise--Pearson has developed its own brand of nonsense based reading assessments marketed under the suite of products branded, aimsweb.  Led by former teacher, Jill Speering, the Nashville Metro School Board has delayed approval of a big contract with Pearson to provide their nonsense reading assessment for kids in Nashville Metro.  A clip from the Tennesseean's Joey Harrison:

A proposed reading assessment for Nashville elementary and middle school students has given pause to the Metro school board amid concerns from a member who spent more than three decades as a teacher.
Aimsweb, a product of the education publishing giant Pearson Inc., is one of a growing number of tests used nationally in public schools today to screen children for early academic intervention.
But the Metro school board voted 5-4 this month to defer voting on contracting Pearson Inc. to use the assessment in mathematics, reading and writing. That action came after school board member Jill Speering, a retired teacher and reading specialist — and the board’s biggest critic of so-called “high-stakes testing” in schools — questioned both the process to select the assessment and its merits.
“Does adopting the aimsweb coincide with our road map to success?” Speering said. “I don’t think it does.”
In outlining her disapproval, Speering said a panel of 23 administrators used to recommend the assessment included no classroom teachers. “That’s one more reason why we have low teacher morale, ” she said. “When we ask teachers to administer an assessment we give them no voice in choosing the assessment.”
She also took aim at the assessment’s definition of fluency — which emphasizes reading with speed — and its use of what are known as “nonsense words.” Those call on students to identify the phonetics and sounds of words not found in the dictionary. Speering believes employing them is a poor way to evaluate how well a child is understanding what he or she reads.
“We confuse kids when we have them reading something called nonsense,” Speering said.
The board will reconsider the aimsweb contract at its Jan. 9 meeting. Under the proposal, the district would use $357,200 in federal Race to the Top funds to use the assessment for the 2014-15 school year. Administrators want to begin training teachers on the assessment in February.
Under state law, local districts are required to administer a universal screener for response to intervention plans. It is separate from new tests that are part of Common Core standards. Metro officials don’t plan to use the assessment for state-mandated teacher evaluations.

Aimsweb would replace Metro’s use of an assessment called DIBELS, another web-based program. Doing so, Speering said, would be “replacing one flawed assessment with another flawed assessment.” . . . .

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