Thursday, June 18, 2009

Testing and the California budget crisis

Lets cancel the High School Exit Exam, lay off teachers, release prisoners early, cut medi cal payments, keep children from health insurance, increase class size, end care for Alzheimer patients, but keep $ 16 million for a sweetheart contract for a very few tenured professors.

In 2006 the legislature and CTC imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system (test) TPA/PACT on teacher preparation – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis. I am confident that only a few legislators were even aware that they were creating this accountability fraud. It is a gross injustice to add funding for performance assessment of future teachers into the budget when our schools are having to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, reduce career technical education, cancel transportation, and delay long needed school reforms.
There is no evidence that TPA/PACT are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA/PACT are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher.

Significant evidence of the test has yet to be gathered. For details see the linked article. But, I was able to observe two out of the available 5 local sites.
In each case about 30 students made twenty minute videos to measure (calibrated) to see if they were “good teachers”. In the two cases I observed, about 3 students – total of 6- did not pass on the first administration. Notably, these 6 students were also student teaching and observed by professionals who found their teaching very professional. In the same cohorts, about 6 student teachers were “excellent” in their calibration of their video. Notably, these 6 student teachers were not found to be excellent nor superior in their student teaching as measured by professionals. That is, the test did not eliminate the weak and it did not identify the strong. That is what the state is paying $16 million each year ; $10 million to the CSU and an estimated $6 million to the U.C. U.C. prepares fewer teachers than the CSU. BTW. In future years, the cost of the test (calibration) will be transferred as a fee to the students teachers.
The implementation of TPA assessment was initially contingent upon state funding. But SB 1209 in 2006 removed the funding requirement and required implementation of the TPA throughout the CSU effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program. The solution is obvious. Rescind this provision of SB 1209.
In times of crisis we should fund important things. This $ 16 million should be cut from the CSU and U.C. budgets and used for other vital, impacted interests.
For a detailed description of the problems of PACT and TPA see here ; http://sites.google.com/site/assessingpact/
Why are so many people disillusioned with the legislature and the legislative leadership? In part because these kinds of boondoggles exist. And, pure personal contacts, the privileges of the elite, keep them funded while the governor proposes that we close parks and reduce the number of fire fighters available. Legislators and the LAO have been consistently advised of this foolish spending. This is a failure of leadership.

Duane Campbell,
Sacramento
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