MDE and AIR are soon to part ways. This is the second provider of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) in the last few years. Pearson Education lost its contract with MDE a couple of years after the start of the agency’s efforts to move to online tests. Now AIR is opting not to renew its contract and the agency must look for yet a third provider.
The WDN article states, “Minnesota has moved more toward online tests because teachers and students like the quick feedback they provide.”
To that, I say, “Poppycock.”
Students took the 2013 tests in April and May. Schools received the paper test results reports in Mid October. Electronic results - sent to schools on CDs - still have not been received for tests taken last spring. There is no excuse for such delays. The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) is useless for curriculum evaluation and adjustment. By the time the results are made available to districts and individual schools, they are already committed to their next year’s programming.
The use of MCAs meets a political - not educational - goal.
MDE makes a big splash by releasing “test results” to the public in late August - nearly 3 months after they are administered. Then nearly 2 months after that, the schools actually see paper reports of individual student results. How long must schools wait to receive the electronic records? Only then can educators do the data analysis that will help schools adjust their programming without massive amounts of manual data entry. Schools are encouraged to do “data driven decision making,” only the data they need are not available until after the decisions must be made.
It’s no wonder the Winona Area Public Schools is finding it difficult to adjust its curriculum (See WAPS schools still adapting to AYP changes, WDN, October 16, 2013). They are not alone. Most schools and districts are forced to administer additional tests for this purpose.
For instance, tests provided by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) are administered fully online. Results are available 24 hours after each test is administered. Comprehensive school wide results and a full range of valuable statistics and results analyses are available 24 hours after a school’s testing session is closed.
Even old-fashioned paper assessments, like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), offered by the University of Minnesota’s “Minnesota Testing Service,” provides schools with results within a couple of weeks of test administration.
The final paragraph of that same WDN article gives the real reason for MDE’s move to online testing: “State lawmakers are pushing the education agency to meet a goal of giving nearly all state assessments online by 2015.”
And that’s what it’s all about.
Educationally, the MCA tests are largely a waste of time.
This commentary was originally published November 10, 2013 in the print edition of the Winona Daily News