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The scores that the State of Tennessee send home with kids for parents for TCAPs are vastly different from the scores they give teachers and schools.

I work at a school that struggles.  We're not at the bottom, but we hover just above there.  For our demographics, we're actually one of the top schools in the nation, but if you just look at our TCAP scores, you wouldn't know that.

This past week, we received "Quick Scores" that were given to the students from the Education Department.  We used those "Quick Scores" to give the students a grade that counts for 15% of their final grade through the whole school year.   From the "Quick Scores," it would look like we are absolutely awesome!  We averaged 83%!!  Students who struggled to turn in a single homework assignment this year scored a 90% Proficient!  Wow!

Except, come July, we'll get our REAL scores.  These are the "raw" scores.  And that student who scored a 90% on his report card?  Yeah, as a teacher, I get a 50%.  That was his REAL score.  How does that work?  We have called the State DOE several times trying to get a hold of someone who could explain the correlation between the Quick Scores and the School Scores.

In Social Studies, for instance, a student has 60 questions.  They receive a score out of 280 points.  EXCEPT, the questions are weighted, so it doesn't work out even.  Further, they say there are always a few questions that don't count for anything.  Those are checks for "fraud."  Oh, and Teachers are not allowed to know in any shape, form, or manner ANYTHING on the test.  Because, because...uh...well, we don't teach to the test (but we pay you based on it), and uh...uh...Atlanta.

So, how do they figure up the "Quick Scores?"  No one could answer.  I did manage to find online a couple of documents that explain the "Quick Scores are figured up by a simple mathematical calculation.  We reiterate that no one needs to do any calculating at the local level, they will take care of this at the state level!!"  Another document explains that the scores are given based off a sliding scale from how many questions the students get right, then assigned to a proficiency status before given a number.  Even though my teacher scores (raw scores) average around 50%-55%, I've never seen a student get a "Quick Score" below 60.  Most get 80s and 90s.

Testing is a good tool to see where the kids are, but Tennessee wants to use these scores to determine 50% of teacher pay.  It doesn't really seem to matter all the other things we have accomplished through the year to help our low-SES kids, those scores are EVERYTHING.

The State gets it both ways with this system, though.  They keep parents happy because their kids are getting A's and B's on the TCAPs, but then the State can also punish failing teachers and schools that THEY gave high grades to.

Originally posted to Fumbling 2 Elsewhere on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge, Three Star Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They want to design the perfect system-- (13+ / 0-)

    One that shows the children doing well--which they probably are if the teachers are anything like the teachers I work with--and at the same time one which allows them to give an excuse to NOT raise the pay of teachers and to constantly hold the threat of dismissal over their heads so they can make said teachers do whatever and accept whatever they want.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:26:50 PM PDT

  •  Tennessee teachers are lucky. Indiana uses tests (12+ / 0-)

    to determine 100% of teacher advancement. If you teach Gifted and Talented children, you may be OK, but if you teach Learning Disabled children, you can never get a salary advancement.  Teaching the most vulnerable children is a hazard to your professional career in teaching.

    •  And if you teach in the high-rent suburbs, (7+ / 0-)

      you might be OK, but choosing to teach in the high-risk urban schools is career limiting.  So using test scores to determine teacher advancement forces talented teachers away from the areas where they are needed most.

      Socialist? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      by Kimbeaux on Fri May 24, 2013 at 01:25:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  TN is cursed with Kevin Huffman (8+ / 0-)

      as Commissioner of Education. He unilaterally punished Metro Nashville school children by withholding 1.6 million dollars for rejecting Great Hearts Charter School Application. His background is the TfA cult member &  ex husband of Michelle Rhee. He holds educators and colleges of education in complete contempt. His DoEd hired all TfAers who have NO idea how to teach let alone run a state school system.

      They send out ridiculous, arcane, formulas for calculating tests results, merit pay, hiring & firing decisions, student grades, school closures. etc. that have no valid connection to the resulting actions.  

      His latest teacher punishing scheme is to eliminate step raises for experience and no more extra pay for advanced degrees. TN base teacher salary is a little over 30,000/yr. Huffman is sooo 1%.

      When Huffman, who was sworn into office, he was the best-paid agency head making $200,000 per year, up $20,000, or 11 percent, from his predecessor. TN Gov. Haslam then echoed "In government we're never going to pay what they do in the private market," he said. "But if we're going to attract great people, we're going to have to at least make it comparable."

      Kiss TN public schools goodby. Thanks to Huffman, Arne & the tea party lege.

    •  Wage Compression (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mlle L

      Experienced, well-educated teachers just make too much money (say the rich jackasses and corrupt politicians who think they know what's best for everybody else).  "Merit pay" is nothing more than a way to cut teachers' wages.

      Some years back there was a cautionary LTE in my local (Atlanta) paper.  A gentleman wrote in to say when "merit pay" was instituted in his (unnamed) profession.  Initially, performance goals were met and pay went up.  So the bar was set higher and higher, until the bonuses were unattainable.  Eventually, the "merit pay" was simply eliminated, and wages had been successfully compressed.  

      If you want to carry it even further, it's certainly possible that the "merit pay" system is an effort to lower teachers' overall wages so that for-profit charter schools, which often pay less than non-privatized public schools, can be more competitive when it comes to hiring quality teachers.  Because we have to do everything possible to jack up stockholders' profits and executive pay.  

  •  When you write something here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Roadbed Guy

    you should spell out the acronyms. What is TCAP?

    Some kind of test? I know that you know what it is, but I don't.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Thu May 23, 2013 at 10:57:45 PM PDT

  •  The state's "logic" is comparable to that of the (7+ / 0-)

    Red Scare baiters in the 1950s, wherein communists were simultaneously portrayed as mindless, bumbling drones, and yet a handful of them were apparently capable of overthrowing the United States government and subverting the entire American way of life.  The disconnect is astounding.

    •  Or African-American genetics (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, helfenburg, banjolele, kyril

      African-Americans were subhuman, ape-like savages, and yet one drop of their blood in your ancestry was enough to wipe out all the "white" in your ancestry.  There's a lot of magical thinking going on in conservative circles.  The further right you get, the more magical thinking you have to engage in to not have your head explode.

      A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.

      by Guy Fawkes on Fri May 24, 2013 at 06:53:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  With Repubs, it's ALL about MONEY! (6+ / 0-)

    Students scoring high: more money for the school
    Teachers scoring low: less money in salary, bonuses, etc.

  •  Jerry Brown's take on "teacher accountability" (8+ / 0-)
    He rattled off a list of decade-by-decade fads and gimmicks for “saving” America’s struggling school system, most recently No Child Left Behind and the “teacher accountability” movement. “The question you have to ask yourself is, if teacher accountability is really the whole key, how can it be that from Comenius”—a 17th-century European pioneer in education—“through John Dewey and Horace Mann, and going back to the Greeks, every­body missed this secret, and we figured it out just now? I’m skeptical of that—and of you, and Washington, and myself.”


    as a counterpoint, how did all those people miss implementing obvious things like the internet and foamy hand soap?

    •  Teachers have always been accountable (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, kyril

      If they were private tutors who did badly, the very rich person who had hired him, would fire him.

      If they were classroom teachers, there were always administrators and parents, even students, who paid attention to the quality of work and the control of the classroom. No one ever needed standardized tests to know if a teacher was clueless or had to go.

      Teaching can be a huge challenge, but experienced teachers know if other teachers have what it takes.

      The biggest problem I see is that many new teachers are neither mentored nor given easy classrooms so they can find their feet. They get a few months of practice teaching and then get thrown into the shark pool.

      Americans can make our country better.

      by freelunch on Fri May 24, 2013 at 07:13:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the context for Jerry's comments (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, banjolele, kyril

        was based on teacher accountability being synonymous with the test scores of the teachees.

        Especially, high-throughput, computer graded, standardized tests whose primary purpose is to accrue profits to the company who makes them.

        Back in the old days, such tests were less common, it was more indicative (and fun) to throw people in the pond or large tub to see if they sunk or floated . . . . (I actually don't know if that particular test was for student achievement or something else, but it does sound like a lot of fun!).

        Getting back to Jerry, the irony kicks in at some point considering his comments above and his concurrent support for the common core approach.

        •  Oh, yes, my point was that (4+ / 0-)

          these tests are not legitimate ways to hold teachers accountable nor are they good ways to know if anyone has learned and, as such, they make teaching less effective.

          Give me a test that asks ten short answer questions and I will know more about the student than any standardized test allows.

          Americans can make our country better.

          by freelunch on Fri May 24, 2013 at 08:32:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  My husband was a teacher in a small central (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, marykk, kyril, JKTownsend

      European nation during the Communist era.  At one time, the Communist regime judged teachers for bonuses on the basis of students' grades.

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Fri May 24, 2013 at 09:01:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You should be teaching the test (0+ / 0-)

    That is the purpose of the test.

    The test is supposed to be what you want the student to know.

    Build out the concepts that you want the students to know.

    Teach the concepts.

    Test the concepts.

    •  Sample tests are available (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for most jurisdictions. I suggest you sit down and work them sometime.

      Some of the questions do test concepts, and test them well. Some of them are designed to trick the student. The test is designed to have some questions that only a few kids get right - if too many kids get those questions right, the questions are replaced with ones that fewer kids will get correct.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri May 24, 2013 at 07:50:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not true at all (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Philby, burlydee

      If you're doing it right, a school gives a student a great breadth of knowledge, and you can pick 100 (or whatever) questions at random from that domain and the student can answer them.  That's how this kind of standardized test should work.

      The idea becomes perverted when you know the questions ahead of time, because instead of giving a breadth of knowledge, you are tempted to simply focus on the 100 specific points the student needs to know.  In that case, the student may very well get a better score on the test, but he/she will actually know less.

    •  A test is only one indicator (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, banjolele

      of what a student has learned. Some students do not test well (for varying reasons). Also, a test usually only samples from a vast amount of information and skills. Test makers most likely disagree on what is or is not important enough to be included (or excluded) on a test. Several things need to be looked at when evaluating a students' progress & achievement. Testing is necessary but not sufficient.

      •  I'm a living example of this... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        World History: We had a teacher who tested on dates and names, a lot of fill in the blank tests where you had to put in dates and names. I passed the course, but barely.

        WWII advanced history: The teacher put five essay questions on the board, you picked three. You wrote involved answers about what happened and why (and yes also dates and names). Each question was worth 33.3 points. You got .1 point for remembering to put your name on the page(at least that was his joke). I had a 96% average in that class.

        Why the difference? I have a disability that affects the recollection of numbers (and inverts order of numbers, I could think 1764 and write 1746 and never see it), as well as names. When I was writing essay questions getting a name or number wrong was a small fraction of the total points for the answer. He was much more interested that we learned what happened, why, etc. In World History each question was worth x amount of points, almost all of those were dates and names.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Fri May 24, 2013 at 09:13:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your world history teacher was a shitty teacher. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Dates & names without context isn't testing your knowledge of history.  It is testing your memorization skills.  That is 2 differing things.

          Without context, you get the "So what." issue.

          WWII started in Europe on _____.

          Is a "so what" question.  1 Sept 1939 without context is meaningless.  What was tested - memorization skills, not your knowledge of WWII.

          •  I won't argue about the World History teacher.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            He was also the wrestling coach and all the wrestlers somehow managed to get A's in his class while getting C's or lower in every other class. And yes, it was all about memorization.
            I had a Science teacher who was the same way however and I aced his class because it wasn't about memorizing dates and names.  (Pluto is the planet .... from the sun. for example. Yes, I know, Pluto is now not considered a planet, but this was the 80's.) My memorization skills have always been good, with most things. I even used to win free weeks of summer camp through church by memorizing bible verses. Just don't ask me to type in a number, because I'm as likely to switch the order around as get it right.

            My point was you can tell more about how much a student has learned through a short answer or essay question then a simple fill in the blank or multiple choice (where you can guess). Especially if that question requires thought or analysis of the situation.

            "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

            by FloridaSNMOM on Fri May 24, 2013 at 09:33:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •   All questions should require analysis. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FloridaSNMOM, Philby

              Otherwise, you are just testing memorization skills.  Memorizing data without the ability to analyze or apply it is worthless.

              The problem with short answer/essay questions is that they are very time consuming to answer and grade - which is why standardized testing doesn't use them very much.  

              For standardized testing, multiple choice questions are actually the best IF THEY ARE PROPERLY CONSTRUCTED.

              The key for multiple choice is how you structure it.  Doing them well is really, really hard.  Doing them wrong is really, really easy.

              Let me give you an example using your example.

              Rather than asking

              Pluto is the planet .... from the sun.

              List the planets (and some of the larger moons, i.e. Titan) in alphabetical order.  You have to number the planets from closest to furthest from the sun.

              In this example, I have multiple choice along with the proper type of distractors.

              That  is an example of a properly constructed multiple choice question.  

              To make it a poor example, I'll do what my science teacher did - list the planets in orbit order.

              Exact same information, but poorly constructed.

              •  The Pluto question is especially terrible (0+ / 0-)

                because the answer changes over time :-)

                TODAY, it's outside Neptune's orbit (and no longer a planet).

                In 1998, it was closer to the sun than Neptune.

                But it is just the kind of question that might be on a test, and you'd be guessing whether the people who wrote the test actually knew the state of the art.

                IE, if the question was:

                True or False: Pluto is the 9th planet from the Sun.

                Mike Brown at Caltech would answer False, as would Neil deGrasse Tyson. But what answer did the people who made the test put on it? :-)

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Fri May 24, 2013 at 10:43:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  You are only testing "memorization skills" (0+ / 0-)

                if the amount of information you are asking for is at a level likely to challenge the students' memorization capacity.

                There are lots of things we -- or at least, I -- want people to know that at some level represent "just" memorization. Almost any technique-based skill requires an element of memorization. For example, you cannot solve calculus problems without either:

                a. Applying memorized rules
                b. Looking up the rules and their explanation in a textbook.

                But of course, if you allow the students to look up the rules and their explanation in a textbook, then what you are really testing is "just" their ability to look something up in a textbook. Etc.

                The categories involved are simply not as reducible as people would like them to be. You assert elsewhere that there are many alternative ways to do "Standardized" testing -- but are there really? I mean, yes, there are alternatives ways to do evaluation, grading, ranking, or whatever it is people want to do with systems of evaluation, grading, ranking etc. -- but can those other schemes be meaningfully Standardized? I rather doubt that you and I would agree on what would or would not constitute the Standard.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Fri May 24, 2013 at 08:16:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, there are (0+ / 0-)

                  Testing doesn't have to be in a classroom with 50 questions.

                  You can do hands on testing

                  You can build scenarios where the student has to take the knowledge that they were given in class and apply it.

                  As an example,  one of the lessons I developed was for SRP processing for Unit deployment.

                  The student takes the course, and the test is a scenario - every ELO and LSA were turned into situations in the scenario.  The student has to apply the knowledge they learned to the questions they are asked.

      •  But a test is what we use to measure learning. (0+ / 0-)

        And you are reinforcing my point.

        For a test to actually measure something, you have to know what you are measuring.  Vast amounts of information has to be distilled into what is considered most critical to least critical.

        Once you do that, you write the test (or in my case a test bank).  My tests came in 3 flavors - Version A, Version B, and Version C.  It is harder for the students to cheat if the student to the left or right of you has a different test than you do.

        Once the test is written, you compare it to your list of critical information to insure that all of that critical information is addressed.

        Then you write your lessons, with the test next to your lesson plan.  This way you ensure that the critical information is covered.  

        By using this method,  "We didn't cover that in class." won't be coming up.

        •  Testing is only part of student evaluation. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Did you get it that  FloridaSNMOM had difficulty with standardized testing because of a disability? Also, the format of the test influences the outcome of the test (true/false, multiple choice, essay, etc.). Some students do better on some than others, You refer to "my tests." Do you have experience as a teacher, or are you speaking from the perspective of a student? If you have not had experience as a teacher, believe me, there is a LOT that goes into proper student evaluation; testing is NOT the only thing to be considered. A good or bad score on a test (especially a standardized test) is not always a good indicator of how a student will achieve outside a testing environment.

          •  Yes I was a teacher (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            And later a course developer and after that a course chief.

            I am right there with you.  You are right, there are a LOT of other things that are involved in testing.

            Standardized Testing doesn't HAVE to be 100 questions, true, false, short answer, and/or multiple choice.

            There are many, many different ways to test a student's knowledge.

            "Standardized Testing" is done the way it is because it is quickest to grade and cheapest to make, not because it is the best way.

            And it is the easiest way for dumbass adults to attack the education system.  And, as an added bonus, it provides another front on the War on Women.

            •  I'm glad to hear that you were a teacher. (0+ / 0-)

              I'm with you completely regarding standardized testing. Even in college, in several of my lower level math courses, the instructor would grade the questions solely based on the final answer. When I graded papers for my jr. high school math students, I always had them show their work. I always gave at least partial credit if they were working the problem properly but failed to reach the correct answer due to some slight arithmetic miscalculation. This is the type of thing that a standardized test will fail to give credit for, but is an important factor in learning to do math.

  •  Suggest having attorney make FOI request (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, ssgbryan

    for all information related to the contract of the test preparer and documentation/instructions for scoring both sets of scores. Emails should also be furnished.

    What you describe stinks. The state may have set up a scam. The description dovetails with the objectives of ALEC and other front groups out to destroy/privatize public education. They have predetermined what results they need to make their case and are working through the testing scores to build their case against teachers and schools.

    If the scoring of testing is not transparent then it should not be used. But you are dealing with zealots and big money that will not be deterred from their goal of privatization. The teachers are going to have to fight for information, and will need someone in the legislature willing to fight with them.

    •  Amen to this. It's time for us to exercise our (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      right to know about the formulas and the data analysis on which bonuses, etc. are based.  

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Fri May 24, 2013 at 09:03:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They know all the tricks, don't they? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, marykk

    Amazing that the public stands for this baloney.

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Fri May 24, 2013 at 08:57:39 AM PDT

  •  That sounds incredibly complicated (0+ / 0-)

    and ineffective.

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