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It is end of year, high-stakes testing season again. PARCC, SBAC, SAGE, FCAT, CMAS*, AIR, Questar, Pearson. These words trigger anger for parents, many opt their children out of these tests. (*CMAS is PARCC Math and English test in Colorado; they just cleverly renamed it.) Why do so many parents, students, and teachers loathe these tests? There are plenty of reasons, such as the tests have never been validated, the tests do NOT measure what a student learned in class that year, the tests are incredibly disruptive and take away valuable time from the classroom, the test questions cannot be seen by teacher or parent, scores don’t come back until the following year/grade level, the test scores are used as weapons to rank schools, teachers, and students, much more so than the actual instruction-based curriculum and assessment they do the other 180 days out of the school year.
Another big reason parents dislike these big tests: data mining. What information about the student is the test vendor getting? When tests are taken online, every key-stroke can be collected and later analyzed, via computer algorithms; this could be 1000s of hidden data points that parents have no way of seeing. Some parents believe that taking the test via paper-pencil instead of online is a safer way to control what data is collected by the testing vendor. Paper-pencil versions do eliminate the keystroke meta data, but please read on and follow up with your school.
ALL parents should be asking: Does your school / district give voluntary student information to the test vendor?
In March 2015, the Colorado Board of Education (to their credit) invited representatives from PARCC and Pearson to answer questions regarding what student data they collect from the PARCC test. The room was packed, parents submitted a plethora of questions beforehand. As reported here, many thought PARCC and Pearson side-stepped most of the questions. However, some important information was given in the presentation.
See these slides explaining what data is collected when students register to take the PARCC test, from the 2015 Pearson presentation. (Keep in mind, this is not only applicable to Pearson / PARCC. It is likely that other test vendors get similar information. ASK YOUR SCHOOL!)
Now take a look at this slide from the same presentation– VOLUNTARY information given to test vendors.
The following outline the steps in the SBD review:
1. The vendor provides data to CDE
2. CDE will load this data into the state Data Pipeline system
3. For each SBD review, districts will log into Data Pipeline and download a data file containing demographic data from student assessment records.
a. For the ACCESS for ELLs and CO PSAT 10/CO SAT SBDs, the records come from all the test booklets submitted for scoring.
b. For CMAS/CoAlt: Science and Social Studies, CMAS: PARCC, and CSLA, all student records in PearsonAccessNext are included.
c. For CoAlt: DLM, the records are from any student uploaded to the KITE system.
During SBD, districts review and update student demographic and invalidation data.
4. Once all corrections are made, districts submit and approve the file in Data Pipeline.
5. CDE then returns approved student demographic data to the vendor.
6. The vendor merges this data with the score data and then provides districts with the updated data along with the scores directly in a downloadable file.
Parents, if you do not opt your child out of these high stakes tests then do this: Ask your school to NOT send voluntary information (such as biographic data) to the test vendor.