Performance Policy

Claudinette (Didi) Schwartz, CPS Director of Assessment, also spoke to the PTA Advisory Council Committee last week about her department’s work. Her office sits within the CPS Office of Accountability under John Barker.

Her introduction, like most of her remarks, were heavy on the education version of corporate speak: Assessments are a reflection of learning expectations. Assessment is a constant process, not an end-game. It happens every day, in every classroom, with every student. At least in theory it does.

Like Annette Gurley, she was short on time and most of her talk took the form of a Q&A session, which I’ve transcribed from my notes below:

Q. Explain the reduction in number of assessments for this AC2013-2014 versus AC2012-2013.

A. We reduced the number of assessments because

(a) we wanted to increase instructional time
(b) we wanted to emphasize that we assess students not on one measure

Looking at data points are equally important. District eliminated fall NWEA tests except for those students who didn’t take the spring test and therefore didn’t have a baseline test. The NWEA baseline allowed us to diagnose interventions and ways to work on them.

Q. Can networks administer NWEA this fall anyway?

A. No. The NWEA is not available except for students in the primary grades who didn’t have a baseline test from last year. Schools do not have to use NWEA as a fall baseline assessment they can also use DIBELS or another assessment tool. Testing in January is optional, although schools determine whether or not to give the mid-year NWEA assessment which measures a midpoint progress of skills. The end-of-year NWEA assessments is given to all 2nd-8th graders in late spring. 

Q. Is there NWEA training in place for parents?

A. No. The District doesn’t have training for parents on how the assessments work and/or how they can help their kids through the assessment. We do have parent reports and strongly encourage teachers to print out these reports and share/explain them to parents. Assessment is not available at home. It asks skills-based questions, but those skills can be developed and practiced anywhere–not just on a PC.

NWEA is a multiple choice test, starts at grade level and then gets easier or harder depending on how a student answers. Multiple choice in itself a bad thing. ACT is multiple choice and has been for 70 years, but when students can answer complex questions in this way, it can be a valid assessment tool. The NWEA asks a balance of questions between basic and stretch or complex questions.

PARCC will have multiple choice and construction response questions. Multiple choice may have multiple right answers or a matching activity. Constructive response is another term for “performance-based response.” The District is looking at making the same components in a paper-based test in the lower grades. The PARCC is not a traditional timed test. It is an assessment meant to feel more like classroom work with the results given to teachers for help in developing tasks and interventions.

Q. Are there accommodations for students with IEPs?

A. There is so much we can do to accommodated IEP modifications with the PARCC. We can do more with font, size, color, and contrast. We can add a line reader. Some modifications, such as magnification, will be available to all students, while other modifications are set by the teacher.

The District is still determining what kind of read-aloud accommodations/modifications will be made for ELL students. It is a matter of determining whether the District is measuring English language or comprehension?

Q. Are any Illinois programs based on Massachusetts’s protocols? 

A. Yes. CCSS was developed by a coalition of states. Looked at what college students need, and what industry needs. Looked at the standards and then unpacked backwards down to K.

Q. Can you share the new CPS Performance Policy?

A. Ryan Crosby, who manages the relationship with ISBE, also owns the performance policy.

Q. Can you explain the changes to the ISAT and the way that was communicated to parents? 

A.  CPS sent letters home to parents announcing the difference in ISAT cut scores. The bar is still higher and test content is still changing. Communications are coming. Schools’ accountability based on NWEA–not ISAT–in FY2014-2015. In the first year of anything, there are challenges. The transition from ISAT to PARCC for accountability purposes won’t begin until FY2015-2016

Q. Are there sample questions from the NWEA?

A. Yes.

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