Fewer tests to $ave money

Here’s a cost-cutting strategy many students will love: Marietta school leaders are considering giving fewer tests.
School leaders say they can save $42,000 next year if they cut back on how many grades take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Now all students take the standardized test, but the district proposes giving it in just grades two, four and seven.
This isn’t the only cut the district is considering. They’re planning to slash jobs, freeze salaries and possibly furlough employees to make up an anticipated shortfall of at least $4 million.
(Who will get furloughed is still being determined. The superintendent says she wants to avoid taking days away from teachers.)
What do you think of schools cutting back on testing to save money? Which tests could they get rid of?

60 comments Add your comment

high school teacher

March 25th, 2009
9:51 am

The STATE should drop either the graduation tests or the EOCTs. There is no need for both. Imagine the savings by eliminating one of those sets of tests.

Also, Laura, can you check into any contracts that the state has with the COLLEGE BOARD? Every student in Georgia has free access to the SAT online website. Every year, the state spends money to pay consultants who train teachers on the website. Surely, funds could be saved in this area as well.

high school teacher

March 25th, 2009
9:52 am

TEST TEST TEST

Ernest

March 25th, 2009
9:52 am

If my math is correct, Marietta is currently paying for the ITBS in 7 grades (K,1,2,3,5,6,8) and would cut this back to 1 grade (2) thus saving $42,000. This averages roughly $7,000 per grade to administer. The obvious question is what ‘measurement instrument’ would they use in place of the ITBS to measure academic growth and how much would that cost?

Of the major tests, I for one have always liked the ITBS, being that it is a nationally standardized, norm referenced test. We get a pretty good idea how our children compare with others around the nation. I think this makes this test good as a diagnostic tool and could shed insight on where additional remediation and rigor is needed. IMO, the ITBS results along with the classroom teachers assessment should provide a better understanding of how to best help each student.

If we want to prepare our children to compete both nationally and in the global workplace, we need measures that help us understand where they stand. That is partly why I am not a fan of the CRCT as I’m not sure how to interpret those results.

high school teacher

March 25th, 2009
9:53 am

I’m very tired of typing a comment and then having it disappear!

Anyways, the state should drop either the EOCT or the graduation tests. Also, the state should drop its contract with the college board. There is no need for every high school student in the state to have access to the online SAT website. There is no need for the department of ed to pay consultants to train teachers on using the website each year.

Fulton Teacher

March 25th, 2009
10:09 am

There is no real need for the ITBS. Why give it at all? There are other ways to assess where students are academically. Every school system should rid themselves of this test and just stick with the CRCT. One test is enough. Why not have teachers teach what is needed, rather than to the test.

I agree with you about the EOCT high school teacher. What’s the point? The data shows that it doesn’t really make much of a difference with the student’s grade anyway. And the training is ridiculous. How many ways can we be told the same thing in a different way? These people are paid thousands of dollars to tell us what we already know and are already doing. And please…if it can’t be taught to every discipline, it’s a waste.

Ernest

March 25th, 2009
10:22 am

Trying to post again. I’m finding myself needing to type in Word then copy & paste to avoid losing posts….

If my math is correct, Marietta schools currently pays for 7 tests (K,1,2,3,5,6,8). They propose paying for 1 (2) thus saving $42,000. This averages out to a savings of $7,000 per grade level. The obvious question is what ‘measurement instrument’ will be used in place of the ITBS to determine academic progress. Would that result in real savings or result in spending additional money?

I like the ITBS as it is a nationally standardized, norm reference test. If part of our goal is to prepare our students for the global workplace, we at least need to at least know how competitive the curriculum is nationally. That is one reason I like the ITBS, we can use is as a diagnostic tool to help with either remediation or additional rigor. I believe a combination of the ITBS results and teachers’ evaluation gives us the best information regarding academic progress for each student.

IMO, the test we should eliminate is the CRCT. I’m not sure how to interpret the results from because it is home grown and difficult to correlate the results with other national tests. Using a test like the ITBS in its place would probably ‘save’ money since the state currently has a contract with that organization.

b

March 25th, 2009
10:47 am

I would eliminate the CRCT, use only the ITBS as it is a national test, and also eliminate the EOCT. If you take the graduation tests that is enough. Think of the money saved and the additional teaching hours available if you are not teaching to those tests!

Reality2

March 25th, 2009
11:01 am

I know the question is about tests, but another set of numbers that caught my attention in the article is how much they can save by furloughing: $29000 a day by furloughing administrations, and $300,000 a day by furloughing teachers. No wonder they need to consider furloughing teachers when they have to make a substantial cuts in their budgets.

GVA Parent

March 25th, 2009
11:08 am

Interesting….cut an academic test like ITBS and add a Physical Fitness test…strange priorities.

worried about bigger issues

March 25th, 2009
11:48 am

The ITBS needn’t be given every year. Cobb gives it in 3, 5 and 8. That’s plenty.
EOCT’s should go. In EOCT courses in Cobb there is an additional class final during finals week. Two finals in one class. Go figure.
I’m surprised it has taken GA this long to figure out that conracting teachers for 190+ days is a waste of money. Places like CT contract teachers for about 185 days. Hmmmm…..

Fulton Teacher

March 25th, 2009
12:51 pm

Earnest I get what you’re saying, but since we only do it on certain grade levels, we don’t really know where our students stand as a whole. Georgia ended the ITBS because they decided to do a state test instead. Personally, I think it’s because our students were doing horribly on the test. Scores were lower with that test. Proud to say my kid was in the 98 percentile last year, but she has support at home.

Tony

March 25th, 2009
1:31 pm

All testing should be dropped. Using tests that are produced through the “low bid” process means we can not assure quality. We would save nearly $100,000,000 throughout the state. Do you know how many teachers that would pay for?

Ernest

March 25th, 2009
3:12 pm

Fulton Teacher:

Congratulations on doing a GREAT job with your daughter. If you have notes, please pass them along. :)

Tony:

If we dropped all standardized tests, what kind of ‘objective’ measures would we use? I want some type of ‘standard’ that will enable me to perform comparative analysis. Simply relying on grades provided by teachers alone is too subjective for me. I see this more of a discussion as to be best standardize test to help us help our students.

Reality 2

March 25th, 2009
4:26 pm

Ernest,

Comparative analysis of what – teacher? schools? states? As far as comparing states, the NAEP seems to be good enough. For the purpose of comparison of districts, and maybe even schools, it is much more efficient to just use samples instead of testing all students in all schools. No matter what, tests may be “objective,” but they only measure one aspect of schooling.

One of the top achieving countries in math and science, Japan, has NO high-stake standardized tests. The Ministry of Education began testing 6th and 9th graders a couple of years ago, but they were not high-stake in the sense of rating schools or graduation requirements. Of course, the most high-stake tests, and the ones that people typically use to “rank” schools are how many of their graduates go on to “good” HS/Colleges.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
4:58 pm

I’m with Ernest – ditch the CRCT and use the ITBS instead, for the reasons he gave.

For the foreseeable future, NCLB will require standardized tests in at least some grades, and since the ITBS is a national test, the state can’t “dumb it down” as they have the CRCT, in order to make students who are performing well below grade level appear to be “proficient”.

So far as high school goes, I tend to like the EOCTs because now the coaches who are in science classes have to teach also, or else explain why their EOCT scores are pulling the school average down. Students should have to pass the EOCT to get credit for the course, the cut scores should be set higher, and EOCTs should be given the last week of school as final exams are — but I think they are useful. Getting rid of the GHSGT wouldn’t hurt my feelings, though.

catlady

March 25th, 2009
5:12 pm

Get rid of the CRCt for at least 3 reasons: it isn’t valid in any way, shape, or form. It isn’t useful;we don’t use the results to drive instruction (we don’t get the results back in time) and we sure as h3ll don’t use it to hold back the unprepared. Finally, it would save money in quite a few ways: not only the cost of the test and the teaching prep costs, but also the salaries of the numbskulls who “redesign” and “improve” it every year at the dept of ed.

Reality 2

March 25th, 2009
5:20 pm

ScienceTeacher

Unless we have a national standards, having a national test just doesn’t seem to make any sense. We should be testing students on what we expect them to be studying in our own state. Or, are we ready to have national standards? I’m not opposed to the idea at all.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
5:28 pm

Reality, I’m not opposed to national standards. For purposes of NCLB, students are tested in reading and math, and it doesn’t seem to me as if there *should* be a lot of variation from state to state on those, although apparently there is.

Our district, like many others in the state, has quite a few military dependents, and it would certainly help those students if the curriculum and standards were consistent from state to state.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
5:52 pm

Reality 2, I am in favor of national standards – if we are supposedly preparing our students to compete in a global economy, students in Georgia ought to at least be competitive with the rest of the United States. Instead, we currently have some of the lowest standards in the country.

In our district, as in many across Georgia, we have quite a few military dependents, and having national standards and a national curriculum (with some leeway for things such as Georgia history, etc.) would certainly help those students. Instead, when moving from state to state, they are often forced either to repeat material they’ve already learned, or thrown into the middle of a class for which they haven’t received adequate preparation.

Really, should there be much difference in reading and math levels from state to state? NCLB only judges students on those two things, and there are already de facto national standards for reading and math – students should be at or near grade level to be judged “proficient”, in my opinion.

Ernest

March 25th, 2009
6:02 pm

Reality 2,

I’d like to perform comparitive analysis for all that you mentioned, student, teacher, school, district, & state. I can see where the ITBS can be used to measure growth and as a diagnostic tool. One could notice tendencies (low grades, high ITBS score or high ITBS score, low grade, etc.) and make necessary adjustments accordingly. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I would use these results in conjuction with the teacher evaluation of the student.

Also, what do we mean when we say ‘high stakes’ testing? Is a 3rd grade spelling test ‘high stakes’? Of course I’m kidding when I ask the question but my point is that we’ve always had tests to measure what/whether we have learned and then whether we can apply what we have learned. A teacher uses the results of that spelling test for diagnostic purposes. Based on tendencies they notice over time, they may modify their instruction accordingly. Maybe I’m being naiive but I see the ITBS in the same light with the caveat it is created by a testing firm based on a predetermined standard.

em

March 25th, 2009
6:13 pm

I agree with ScienceTeacher. As a high school teacher, I tend to prefer the EOCT to the GHSGT. I don’t think testing will or should go away. Remember, the whole testing phenomena began with the colleges and universities as well as businesses screaming that public schools were turning out graduates ill-prepared for higher education or the work force and costing them millions. I don’t entirely disagree with that assertion. I, like ScienceTeacher, would like to see the GHSGT abolished and the cut scores raised on the EOCT. In addition to having them count as 15 percent of a grade, maybe they could be tied to graduation as well. They definitely should be moved to the end of the course rather than three weeks until the end of the course. For me, three weeks is an additional unit possibly two. I keep waiting for the lawsuit to arise from a disgruntled parent whose child failed a course because their child was tested over material not yet covered.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
7:30 pm

Reality 2, I am in favor of national standards and a national curriculum (with some leeway for local subjects such as Georgia history) for a couple of reasons.

First, I hardly see how we can pretend that we are preparing our students to be competitive in a global economy if Georgia standards are so much lower than those in the rest of the United States – to a great degree, we are not even preparing the majority of our students to be competitive nationally, much less globally.

Secondly, like many districts in Georgia, our district has a large proportion of military dependents. It is very difficult for these students to move from state to state when each state has a different curriculum and different standards.

AYP under NCLB is based on reading and math levels, and ITBS gives nationally normed grade equivalent levels for both. The problem with using ITBS is that it is norm-referenced, and we don’t live in Lake Wobegon – all our children will never be above average. ITBS does give a more realistic picture of a student’s strengths and weaknesses than CRCT, in my opinion, and it is not subject to manipulation by the state DOE.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
7:44 pm

So, why IS it that some posts don’t show up?

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
7:55 pm

Reality 2, under NCLB students are required to be tested in reading and math, which we teach in Georgia. ITBS tests both, and gives a nationally normed grade equivalent for both. If reading and math instruction in Georgia can’t be adequately evaluated using a nationally normed test, perhaps the problem is in our state curriculum?

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
8:05 pm

Reality 2, I am in favor of national standards and a national curriculum (with some leeway for local subjects such as Georgia history) for a couple of reasons.

First, I hardly see how we can pretend that we are preparing our students to be competitive in a global economy if Georgia standards are so much lower than those in the rest of the United States – to a great degree, we are not even preparing the majority of our students to be competitive nationally, much less globally.

Secondly, like many districts in Georgia, our district has a large proportion of military dependents. It is very difficult for these students to move from state to state when each state has a different curriculum and different standards.

Besides, having a national curriculum, national standards, and a national test would save money, because each state wouldn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” individually. The danger would be that national standards might be set as low as Georgia’s.

jim d

March 25th, 2009
8:15 pm

One need not be a rocket scientist to do the math.

Eliminate a test save $42k a year

Eliminate just one administrative position and save $80k a year.

Hmm, looks like a no brainer

jim d

March 25th, 2009
8:17 pm

Some posts fail to appear cause their damn spam filters are blocking them again!!

This is really starting to suck.

jim d

March 25th, 2009
8:17 pm

SPAM FILTERS!!!!

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2009
8:34 pm

4 of my replies have failed to appear this evening – including one I tried to post again 20 minutes later, but could not because it was a “duplicate post”.

Are there certain keywords we should avoid if we don’t want our posts blocked?

ironmaiden

March 25th, 2009
8:37 pm

Eighth-graders have the Iowa Test in the fall; the Writing Test after Christmas, and the CRCT in the spring. And no one in our county is ever held back, unless a parent demands it. Why aren’t some of these testing redundancies at the top of the chopping block?
Testing company lobbyists??

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

March 25th, 2009
11:39 pm

Ernest is right; Fulton Teacher is wrong. The ITBS can tell The Georgia Public much more about the performance of our kids and our schools than can the CRCTs and much. much more than educrats at the local and state levels want Us, The People of the Empire State of the South, to know.

lm4k

March 26th, 2009
12:09 am

By Georgia law, home schoolers must test in 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades. They are not eligible for the CRCT and therefore must use the ITBS or Stanford tests. ITBS works well enough and gives home educated students a basis of comparison with those in private and public schools. I say dump the P.C. and worthless CRCT’s and keep the ITBS.

Lee

March 26th, 2009
5:13 am

The bottom line…. if school systems are eliminating these tests in order to save money, it means that they were not a mission critical expense to start with and from some of the comments from you teachers, it also appears that the information derived from these tests were invalid and and worthless.

Which begs the question, why did these school systems expend our hard earned tax money on these tests to begin with and why did it take a near depression for these same school systems to evaluate the feasibility of continuing to expend our hard earned tax money on what could be considered an extravagance?

The only efficiency that government seems to possess is the ability to spend money – OUR hard earned tax money.

Reality 2

March 26th, 2009
6:12 am

Ernest & Doc,

The NAEP is just as good to find out how Georgia is doing in comparison to other states.

ScienceTeacher,

You are just kidding, right? I mean all nationally normed science tests equally good if the content of tests don’t align with your curriculum? True you can compare your students’ scores, I suppose, since other states will have the same problems of mis-match with their standards. But, then, what are we exactly measuring?

Ernest,

Most teachers don’t need the ITBS or any other nationally-normed tests to figure out which students are having trouble – if they can’t, they don’t belong in classrooms. What they need is an assessment that may identify the source of the difficulty – diagnosing the problem, not just simply identifying (possible) symptoms, which is the best the ITBS can do, and most teachers don’t need the help.

I just wonder why you want to conduct all those comparative analyses.

Reality 2

March 26th, 2009
6:18 am

Doc/Ernest,

The NAEP does just as good a job as the ITBS, I think.

ScienceTeacher,

You are just kidding, right? Do you consider any science test good and appropriate for your students if it is nationally normed? I suppose you can use the results to compare studens but what exactly will you be comparing then? If they do or don’t know things you have taught already, what does that mean?

Ernest,

If you are concerned about tests that are useful for teachers, then you should ask teachers. Most teachers don’t need any help in identifying which students are having difficulty with a specific topic – if they can’t, they don’t belong in classrooms. What they really need is a diagnostic instrument for specific topics, and the ITBS sure isn’t one.

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
6:21 am

Lee, the ITBS are useful, but many school systems don’t make use of the data — although they could and should. CRCT results are much less useful, because they aren’t as well validated, they aren’t nationally normed, and they don’t provide as much diagnostic data – but schools still don’t use the information provided.

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
6:41 am

Reality 2, I’m sorry you got the truncated version of my answer that would post, rather than the more explanatory ones that “disappeared”

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
6:42 am

Reality 2, you’ve looked at Georgia’s NAEP results compared to CRCT results and seen that we have some of the lowest standards in the nation, right?

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
6:45 am

If an 8th grader who “meets standards” in reading and math according to the CRCT is working at the same level as the average 4th grader nationally according to the ITBS, what does that tell you?

jim d

March 26th, 2009
7:16 am

Reality 2,

“Most teachers don’t need any help in identifying which students are having difficulty with a specific topic – if they can’t, they don’t belong in classrooms. What they really need is a diagnostic instrument for specific topics,”

Well said. Perhaps that instrument should be a test to identify those teachers you mentioned not belonging in the classroom.

Reality2

March 26th, 2009
9:11 am

ScienceTeacher,

As far as I know, the NAEP does not “test” state standards… Maybe the science standards are bad, but I think the new math standards are pretty demanding (but certainly achievable by most children).

Here is the link to see sample questions from the Japanese achievement tests given by the Ministry of Education. You can also see tests from Hong Kong and Massachusettes.

http://hrd.apecwiki.org/index.php/Full_Mathematics_Assessment

What is interesting about the Japanese testing process is that the Ministry releases ALL problems the day after the test is given. There is no secrecy under the guise of “test security,” which some teachers also use for an excuse so that they don’t have to write new tests.

Ernest

March 26th, 2009
10:16 am

Reality 2,

Point well taken! I also concur with JimD’s comment @ 7:16 am. Whatever instrument is used, I believe we should have some consistency and have a clear understanding as to what we are measuring.

Public School Parent

March 26th, 2009
1:40 pm

Eliminate the CRCT and keep the ITBS. I do not want to know how my children rank against other DeKalb county children or even other children in Georgia. I want to know how they compare to students nationally or in other states. In addition, the CRCT can be manipulated to tweak the delineation between levels such as “meets expectations.” The state DOE can’t mess with the ITBS. I also like the subtests and reporting on the ITBS because it drills down into where the problems are, such as poor computation skills in math.

The number of high school tests are now out of control and I have not seen a single teacher fired for having too many students who did not master the state curriculum!

Public School Parent, too

March 26th, 2009
4:32 pm

Public School Parent,

I don’t think the ITBS scores really “rank” your children – the score is against the norms that were established at some point.

If you want to know if your kid’s weakness, you should ask the teacher – it doesn’t take an expensive nationally normed tests to know that someone has poor computation skills.

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
6:22 pm

Reality 2, thank you very much for the interesting testing links.

No, the NAEP does not “test” state standards, but the Federal DOE has “mapped state proficiency standards onto the NAEP scale” and found that Georgia’s standards are among the lowest in the nation.

You might also be interested in The Accountability Illusion, a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Reality 2

March 26th, 2009
6:27 pm

I’m a public school parent, too. If I want to know how well my kids’ schools are doing, I would rather look at the CRCT to see how well they are teaching what they are supposed to be teaching. If I want to know my kids’ weaknesses, I will go talk with their teachers. Teachers shouldn’t need an expensive nationally-normed test to determine that they are having problems with computation skills.

My oldest took the HS graduation test this week – they scheduled the tests during the 1st & 2nd periods, Mon – Th. They didn’t rotate the schedule, so they basically had no Spanish or History this week. To make things worse, he told me that some of his other teachers are just showing movies because they didn’t want to get ahead of other sections (which meets during the 1st or 2nd period). What a waste!!!

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
7:47 pm

Public School Parent, I agree 100% with your first paragraph.

As for the second, I *do* know of one teacher who was fired for the reasons you state, so it does happen, but I have no idea how often or if it happens at any schools other than my own.

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
8:05 pm

Too weird. I just noticed that my “missing” posts from last night showed up 2-3 hours after I submitted them.

Reality 2

March 26th, 2009
8:21 pm

ScienceTeacher,

Thanks for the link. It should be noted that the analysis was done on the data from the 2004-05 school year. That means their results for mathematics (at least) are irrelevant now since we have a new standards.

The Fordham Foundation isn’t exactly the most trust-worthy organization, but their analysis of the state standards (math) give a B to the same old standards that the NAEP analysis says among the lowest. GA was one of three states that received Bs, and there were only three states that received As.

ScienceTeacher671

March 26th, 2009
10:19 pm

Reality 2, I can’t find the section in the report that gives Georgia’s standards a B, but it does repeatedly say that Georgia’s standards are among the lowest of the states they studied.