Working for PED

I was paid $300 (though I will not receive this for another 4 weeks) to work for my state’s public education department (PED) developing an end of course (EoC) exam for a class that is neither required for graduation nor guided by state standards; though, several of us have articulation agreements with local university or community colleges and it is this agreement for post-secondary credit that defines the goals for our courses.  This work was spread over five days: a two-day assessment conference (the theme was formative assessments, Solution Tree was the primary contributor) and the latter three on the actual EoC; but all five days were scheduled from 8am to 5pm, with several 1-1.5 hour large-group trainings interspersed during the EoC work time.  The goal was to create an assessment to serve as a final exam for the course, which counts for 20% of a student’s overall grade by state mandate; though it was not to be comprehensive, only covering about 60% of the content; and is to be given in a three week testing window which begins a month before the end of the semester.  It was to be approximately 50 questions, should take a student about 70 minutes to complete, and all the questions were to be multiple choice.  Each question the group wrote had to have a typed version (template provided) and a hand-written version to give PED ‘authentic work.’  In addition to the actual test, we also wrote a blueprint: a document outlining the standards and the learning goals to be addressed under each standard.  It is to be reviewed, approved, and pending approval (not sure by whom), posted on the PED’s website by October.  All the courses with an EoC have a blueprint posted on the PED website to ensure teacher access, however, not all the blueprints there are current.  The last two documents we were responsible for were an answer key for the test and a document that tracked how many questions per standard were assessed, evidence that a question actually assessed the standard, the depth of knowledge of the standard as well as each specific question, and the percentage of questions in a standard at or above the standard’s group-assigned depth of knowledge.

Discussing anything about this work could cost me my license and, therefore, my job.  On top of this, if it appears that scores on the EoC I worked on are really good (and a statistical analysis by the PED verifies that the scores are statistically too good), then there was probably impropriety and my license could be pulled and I would lose my job.  This could even apply to the other teachers in my district if their scores are statistically too good, I must have done something improper, I could lose my license and therefore my job.  We were warned during the three days we were working on the EoC not to discuss it outside of the rooms we were working in, this especially included not criticizing the process, the actual test, or the PED while we were wearing our name tags, which included ‘…Public Education Dept.’ on them or we would face sanctions, up to and including, the loss of our license.  If I make any public comment, being considered an educator first, that is seen as criticizing the test or the process, I can face sanctions, up to and including, the loss of my license and my job.

The recurring reason given for this work was to ensure all students taking this course (and all the EoC’s being worked on, ~29 this year, there have already been a dozen in the previous 2 years) would cover the same material no matter where they were; a grass-roots Common Core ideal allowing teachers across the state to compare their students to everyone else’s.  [The reason given for the previous dozen was to provide an alternate-demonstration-of-competency (ADC) for students who failed to pass the state standards based assessment (SBA).]  The EoC is not designed to be used as a means of getting out of a class, like a clep test, as only a teacher of record can determine whether any student has earned the credit for a course.  In addition, the data generated by the test would also be used in the Value-added Model for teacher evaluation.  The actual cut-score to determine proficiency on this test will be determined in the future, after it has been taken and the scores have been norm-ed to find the score that roughly 50% of the students received.

Let’s recap.

  • I worked for ~$5 an hour
  • I wrote an EoC for a course that is not required for graduation (it is an elective) and without standards because my state has no standards for the course
  • This test is supposed to make the course uniform across the state; however, it’s not uniform between post-secondary institutions
  • The uniformity is the primary purpose of the EoC, not teacher evaluation
  • It is supposed to be a standards-based test, but it’s normed
  • The scores from the EoC will be used in my teacher evaluation, but the ‘proficient’ score for students is unknown
  • The six of us that wrote the test and agreed upon the standards (from another state) to base the test on, have an unfair advantage
  • I cannot tell another teacher what standards the test is based upon or I could lose my license
  • The test will be given starting this December because we have block scheduling at various high schools (including all the schools in my district)
  • School starts this week or within two weeks for most schools in the state
  • The blueprint, which roughly outlines the standards and learning goals and assessable content, may not be posted until October
  • The test itself is to serve as the final exam and the state dictates this to be 20% of the course grade
  • It is not to be in any way comprehensive of the course content
  • It is to be given before the course has ended (two weeks of ~85min block classes equate with four weeks of ~50min year-long classes)
  • I am the only person qualified to determine whether a student should earn credit in my course, but the earned credit cannot be used by a student to demonstrate proficiency
  • If my students, or another teacher’s class I might have come in contact with, do statistically too well on the test, I probably did something improper, and I could lose my license.
  • I was warned not to publicly disagree with or express dissent from the PED during the EoC writing process (or at any time as I am a professional educator first) or I could lose my license

 

Title and final comment changed/eliminated because of what has been written in the final bullet.

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