File Under: Not Awesome

It seems that the company that does CCC’s testing is having some issues. Like, federal investigation issues.

As reported by Blockclub Chicago:

“[T]the federal agency that regulates labs has cited Northshore at its highest level — immediate jeopardy — in three areas, with an inspection saying the lab failed to follow steps to ensure it got reliable results.”

Check out the full story, including some amazing details about the owner/operators of the business HERE. And if you’ve had some odd results (or know students who have), you may want to follow up with…umm…well, I don’t know who exactly. But, in any case, be careful out there.

New Research Says Tests Facilitate Learning

This makes sense to me, but it’s still somewhat surprising.

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

If you want to read the study itself, you can go here.

Well If They Have to Use Tests, They Might as Well Make Them Good

Did you see this article in the NY Times last week?

Standardized exams — the multiple-choice, bubble tests in math and reading that have played a growing role in American public education in recent years — are being overhauled.

Over the next four years, two groups of states, 44 in all, will get $330 million to work with hundreds of university professors and testing experts to design a series of new assessments that officials say will look very different from those in use today.

The new tests, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described in a speech in Virginia on Thursday, are to be ready for the 2014-15 school year. They will be computer-based, Mr. Duncan said, and will measure higher-order skills ignored by the multiple-choice exams used in nearly every state, including students’ ability to read complex texts, synthesize information and do research projects.

“The use of smarter technology in assessments,” Mr. Duncan said, “makes it possible to assess students by asking them to design products of experiments, to manipulate parameters, run tests and record data.”

Because the new tests will be computerized and will be administered several times throughout the school year, they are expected to provide faster feedback to teachers than the current tests about what students are learning and what might need to be retaught.

Interesting possibilities, anyway.

Moves Toward Mastery

Did you see this Thursday in the New York Times?

Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.

The supporters of the plan suggest that this approach “would reduce the need for community colleges to offer remedial courses because the passing score for the 10th-grade tests would be set at the level necessary to succeed in first-year college courses. Failure would provide 10th graders with an early warning system about the knowledge and skills they need to master in high school before seeking to enroll in college.”

It certainly would provide some warning, I suppose, presuming that the tests used are an adequate measure of student readiness for college, but I’m not sure it would fx the problem. Important questions would remain regarding what the high schools would do to intervene and whether they would be any more effective in their efforts than they are now. Plus, there are other interesting questions, too, particularly for community colleges regarding supporting and educating 16 and 17 year olds who would amount to a whole new bag of beings.

Still, the move away from social schooling toward skill mastery seems like a good step to me. What do you think?

UPDATE (2/19): The Times invited a number of interested parties to opine on the proposed project. You can read their responses here.