Suggestions for NCTM Regarding High-Stakes Testing and CCSSM

Posted by: on Apr 29, 2015 | No Comments

This week I have rerun my ad promoting my critique of the Smarter Balanced tests for mathematics in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) electronic publication, Summing Up. Hopefully, friends and colleagues in the NCTM community who find my critique will also take the time to read my blog. This post and the one below it are directed largely to members of my NCTM community.

First, I think it is great that NCTM has advocated on the Hill for less testing. In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate committee considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NCTM President Diane Briars and Executive Director Robert Doucette wrote:

(1) Performance-based assessments should be mandatory, not optional. (2) Including multiple statewide assessments every year should be eliminated because they take too much time and are of limited value. Investing informative assessments at the school and classroom level provides better monitoring of student progress. (3) States must demonstrate that the data collected via assessment is valid, reliable, of high-quality, and comparable among states — not just among LEAs within each state.

Following up on this initiative, I think there are several important actions NCTM could take to give these positions traction in the public arena as well as move the Common Core effort forward. NCTM should:

1. Produce a position paper on high-stakes testing articulating NCTM’s views. This issue is too important for our positions to be buried in the archives of our advocacy program. We need to make our views widely known. A position paper will encourage our state and other affiliates to advocate at the state level in concert with our national organization.

2. Convene a task force to closely examine the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests for mathematics and make independent recommendations to the organizations that are responsible for these assessments on ways they can be improved. NCTM should monitor the evolution of these tests to make sure they are improving.

3. Convene a national conference to initiate discussion on Common Core State Standards for Mathematics 2.0. Invite all stakeholders to the conference. It is past time to tap our mathematics education community’s experience with CCSSM iteration 1 and leverage our expertise on mathematics standards in order to strengthen CCSSM and propose what should change for CCSSM 2.0.

4. Encourage and solicit articles in NCTM journals, presentations at NCTM conferences, and comments on NCTM blogs to encourage conversations that would help prepare our profession for a CCSSM 2.0 conference. Nothing is gained by leaving that discussion to extremists who want to undermine the very idea of common standards.

5. Form alliances with parent organizations, unions and other professional organizations hard at work to push back against relentless and oppressive regimens of school testing.

If you have other suggestions, I’d like to hear from you. I plan to write an open letter to NCTM’s leadership advocating for these and other points in time for the summer NCTM Board meeting.