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Discussion: A system within a system: How has the pedagogical stance of your LSC been influenced by your state/local context?

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posted by: Ethan Allen on November 17, 2000 at 8:45AM
subject: Accountability - a view from Seattle

I've read with interest the varying views of testing. For us here in
Seattle, I'd say, on balance, it's been a good thing (please note,
this is simply my own individual opinion).

We are a five-district LSC, including urban and suburban cohorts, and
are focusing on middle school science.

The state is now piloting their new state science exams for grades 8
and 10, and will start the pilot for grade 5 next spring. Mandatory
science testing at grades 8 and 10, with scores being publically
announced, will start within the next couple of years.

Prior to these current pilot tests, we, as many of you, suffered from
science teachig being often ignored or slighted in favor of
concentrating on math and reading. So for us, simply the knowledge
of the coming of the tests, which will have high stakes atttached
some years down the road, has been a good "wake-up" call. Several
of the districts now pay much more attention to building an
articulated, coherent science program over K-10 than they did just a
couple of years ago.

Having also been working with the state on devveloping these exams,
I'm aware of the challenges of designing instruments that accurately
reflect the types of science understanding we wish our students to
build. These challenges are particularly acute if the insturment is
limited to paper and pencil. I would urge all of you invovled with
systemic science renewal efforts to critically examine the tests
being used, and to talk with your peers and "powers-that-be" (whoever
they are) about mismatches you see between the science understanding
you say you wnat the students to learn and the science knowledge you
test for and therefore must teach. If we "must" have standardized,
high accountability testing, it must be as good as we can make it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
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