iPonies: Common Core Assessment is Magic

I drew this in the "training" as it happened.  As it turns out, I was being charitable.

I drew this in the “training” as it happened. As it turns out, I was being charitable.

Part of the idea of Common Core is that students will be assessed online, providing a sort of immediate testing feedback, and a dynamically configured test based on the individual student’s responses and ability level. In this way, you can really test the true limits of a child’s knowledge, by going to a massive testing bank and refining questions to determine the exact point where a student stops knowing things. Honestly, that is a good thing. No debate on that.

In order to do that, the students all need to take the standardized test online. Both the hardware and the infrastructure for this do not exist yet. My school has 1000 students. Even with each one receiving an iPad this year, the rules of testing don’t change. There is a target window of time that the test is given in. This means that all one thousand kids will be exchanging data over the internet simultaneously, in a high stakes testing environment.

When 45 teachers tried this the other day, to “see how it works”, the system crashed.

I may have unloaded one of the biggest “I told you so” statements in the history of I told you so. Being fair, the system came up again, slowed, some people could or couldn’t reload pages….some people could. It wasn’t a total and cataclysmic crash. However, on a high stakes test, is it okay for any student to have an interruption of service that might be frustrating? Wouldn’t that be an adverse testing environment?

Sadly, the woman running the meeting had a “let’s wait and see” attitude. If the Captain of a boat sees an iceberg ahead, he doesn’t keep the same course, to see if there really is more ice under the water. It’s too dangerous. According to our trainer, though, we should just keep right on going, into a bandwidth problem that any first year computer science student could see.

In other news…this means new standardized tests. That is very, very interesting, because that means API, the Academic Performance index, is on its way out. That is the testing driven number that schools are judged on now. For more information, click here.

Also interesting…my school had unprecedented API gains this year. The state didn’t fare that well, and being very straight about it, I don’t really see how we did that well. In terms of causality, the sixth grade had a major turnaround, outperforming my expectations. However, the expectations were based on a calculation based on projecting the curve into the future, based on the past performances of those teachers, who did the same things this year.

It’s like baking a cake the same way you always have…and getting two cakes out of it. That shouldn’t happen.

Thusly, while everyone is celebrating this massive achievement, I am sullenly looking for root causes, and seeming harsh. If there was something done differently, which allowed the sixth grade to operate at fifty percent greater efficiency, I think they should share it, because all students could use that, across the board.

In reality, I’m afraid that the Holy Grail doesn’t exist, and the quest for this Academic Performance Enhancer will only reveal a figurative Apple of Eden.

Returning to the content above…I challenge you to find better entertainment than a teacher training on iPads. “This green button? That’s an app! If you just press it like this…it opens!” No joke, that’s how they go. The discussion of the iTunes store was fascinating to me, since so much music is already digitally distributed. Does no teacher listen to music? No wonder children are so disengaged.

It was a bit sad, really. We are putting this technology into the hands of kids, but the bandwidth discussion flies over the heads of most people in the room. It’s like asking Ray Charles for directions, people, and then handing him the car keys. Not a great idea.

On that note, I think I’m going to download some Ray Charles songs to my iOS devices.


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