testing

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As many Connecticut high school students prepare to take SAT tests this weekend, a growing number of colleges and universities nationwide are dropping their SAT and ACT testing requirements. 

Across New York state this week, some students are refusing to take a test, and they're not getting punished for it. The test is a Common Core-aligned, federally mandated exam, and students, parents and educators are part of what they're calling the opt-out movement.

Opt-outs made news last week in several states: Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, to name a few. The objections are similar everywhere. But no state is posting numbers like New York.

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Last year, we hosted our first “Where We Teach” panel. It was built out of a very practical need: we have a daily talk show that airs at 9:00 am, and often discuss education issues. But a core group of people aren’t available to talk at 9:00 am - teachers.

So, we wanted to bring together a panel and audience of teachers to talk about the challenges and struggles, as well as the achievements and victories that they deal with everyday. It’s a chance for us to ask one simple question: What’s it like to be a teacher today?

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The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is calling on legislators to cut back on standardized testing in schools.

The news comes just days before Connecticut students begin taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, known as SBAC. 

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Later this month, Connecticut students will begin taking the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, which is designed to measure their progress in a variety of subject areas. 

But some are not so thrilled about Connecticut’s testing requirements. The state’s largest teachers union recently asked lawmakers to cut back on standardized tests. And a number of parents say they plan to opt their kids out of SBAC testing this Spring.

Meet Jenni Hofschulte, the 35-year-old mom who's one of the parents leading the charge against testing in Milwaukee.

"I have two children in Milwaukee Public Schools," Hofschulte says over coffee at a cafe near her home. "The oldest one is in eighth grade." She's interrupted by her fidgety 4-year-old son, Lachlan.

Hofschulte quiets him down, furrows her brow and begins again.

Hofschulte says that when she found out her son would have to take a diagnostic test next year that's required of all Wisconsin kindergartners, all kinds of red flags went up.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Forty-eight school districts across Connecticut got a total of $428,000 to help them reduce the number of tests taken by students.

Districts are expected to use the money to analyze their current tests to ensure that they align to new state standards, provide value, and are not redundant with other tests.

The main federal education law may finally get its long-overdue makeover in Congress this year, and we're going to be hearing and reading a lot about it.

Formally, it's the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. The last time it got a major overhaul was in 2001, with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. But nothing much has been done with the law since 2007.

If Congress does finally get to it this year, What can we expect?

After a long stretch as the law of the land, annual standardized tests are being put to, well, the test.

This week, the Senate education committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and, specifically, on testing. The committee's chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a draft bill offering a lot more leeway to states in designing their own assessment systems.

Close your eyes for a minute and daydream about a world without bubble tests.

Education Week recently reported that some Republican Senate aides are doing more than dreaming — they're drafting a bill that would eliminate the federal mandate on standardized testing.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor attended his final State Board of Education meeting Wednesday. He announced earlier this year he’d leave the post, and will depart in January. A process is underway to select an interim commissioner.

New Orleans, where nine of 10 children attend charter schools, has perhaps the most scrutinized public school system in the country.

And since Hurricane Katrina, a major source of information about the city's schools has been the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, a research group connected with Tulane University. The institute has been widely cited by political leaders and in the news media, including our reporting.

Take yourself back to those highly emotional, patriotic months after the 9/11 attacks.

In the midst of war, terrorism, fear and mourning, one bill passed 87-10 in the Senate and by a similar margin in the House — with equal support from both sides of the aisle. It was signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush, with the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, by his side.

Opening arguments began today in the trial of 12 Atlanta educators charged in an alleged cheating conspiracy that came to light in 2009.

Prosecutors claim there was widespread cheating on state tests throughout the city's public schools, affecting thousands of students.

The case has brought national attention to the issue, raising questions about whether the pressures to improve scores have driven a few educators to fudge the numbers, but also about broader consequences.

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Governor Dannel Malloy wants to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by Connecticut students. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he offered a solution to cut down on all of the testing.

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Appealing to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Governor Dannel Malloy is taking action to try to reduce the amount of time students in Connecticut spend taking standardized tests.

A new school year begins Monday in Springfield, Massachusetts where rising standardized test scores and a falling dropout rate are seen as signs of a turnaround in the struggling public school system. A new test, based on the Common Core educational standards, will be introduced in a majority of the city’s schools next year.

The scores of last year’s MCAS tests given to Springfield school students rose across the board at a higher rate than the gain recorded by school districts statewide, and the dropout rate has fallen  more than any other school system in the state.

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The advisory council responsible for developing Connecticut's evaluation system for teachers and principals is recommending changes to the guidelines. If the changes are adopted, educators may no longer be judged based on just one test score.

What are the two most feared — most reviled — words in the English language?

"Tax day," maybe? Or "traffic jam"?

"Pink slip" still connotes an awful brand of helplessness, even though, I assume, most Americans who get pink-slipped these days never see a pink slip.

No, my vote is for "standardized test."

That's right. You felt it, didn't you? Shivers up the spine. The stab of a No. 2 pencil. And oh! Those monstrous, monotonous bubbles. They may as well be a legion of eyes staring back at your inadequacy.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

This week, the governor of Indiana signed a bill that would repeal the implementation of the Common Core educational standards. Although there are widespread concerns about Common Core in Connecticut, state officials continue to move ahead, but at a slower pace than originally intended.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Key deadlines are coming up for some proposed legislation at the state capitol and some have already passed. On our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, we talk about what bills may or may not make it out of committee.

We also discuss the role of money in this year’s statewide elections. Common Core remains in the national headlines, with Indiana actually dropping the standards.

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Despite complaints from teachers across Connecticut about the rollout of new education standards and guidelines, education officials are urging state lawmakers to oppose efforts to stop it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Why do teachers want to teach? In the era of education reform, teacher evaluations, and standardized testing, it's a question that some teachers are asking themselves.

Last week, WNPR's Where We Live hosted an evening panel discussion with teachers from across the state in order to accommodate their schedules which don't line up with a live morning call-in show. 

We invited educators to join us in the audience, and there was a general sentiment of openness to new evaluation methods, and ways of measuring performance. 

The day before the legislative session begins, Governor Dannel  Malloy proposed on Tuesday that the legislature raise the stage minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Malloy signed legislation that raised the minimum wage to $8.70 on January 1, and will raise it to $9.00 January 1, 2015. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

After mounting complaints from teachers, officials recently announced the state plans to delay the implementation of teacher evaluations. Meanwhile, other lawmakers are calling for a re-examination of the Common Core standards. Two years after Connecticut approved sweeping education legislation, we'll check-in on the implementation and receive an update on Common Core in the state. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

An investigation has confirmed test tampering at a Hartford elementary school. In a report submitted this week to state education officials by an outside law firm, investigators concluded there were irregularities in more than two dozen Connecticut Mastery Tests at the Early Reading Lab at Betances Elementary School. The report was obtained by The Hartford Courant.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

More Connecticut public school students took the SAT college entrance exams this year than last year. It was a more diverse group than ever, according to the State Department of Education.

Students across the state are heading back to school this week – and they’ll be seeing a lot of changes.  The common core state standards are taking effect and changing the way teachers teach and students take tests.

Schools are struggling to find the best way to teach ESL kids English.  New Britain school system was recently featured on PBS Newshour for changing all their bilingual classes to English only. 

In Hartford, school district officials say test scores held firm and showed some healthy gains. But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the way you talk about test scores can be just as important as the scores themselves. It wasn't the press release Matt Poland would have written. "I would have written it with both the good and the not-so-good sharing common billing."

School districts across Connecticut are wrestling with how to implement  the new Common Core state standards, which mean changes to the way teachers teach reading and math along with new computer-based tests. 

The transition is expected to take place over the next year and a half. But some districts say that time frame may be hard to meet.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for language arts and math. The goal is to ensure that  students have the skills they need for success in college and careers. 

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