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When Confidentiality Inhibits Problem-Solving

I spent the day away from my students grading the writing portion of the 8th grade NY State Common Core ELA Exams. I got to grade one short response and one extended response. I've done this in previous years, but given all of the changes in the exam format and the standards being assessed, everyone was paying extra close attention to the way we were were trained to score the questions.

I have some serious questions about what I learned today, but unfortunately, that's about all I can say. That's because I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before the training and scoring began that said I would not share anything I saw or heard today in relation to the scoring of the test. (I wrote about this issue when it came up in a different way last year--Must Teachers Keep Quiet About the Test?)

The way the Pearson Corporation directs the scoring of writing pieces on these tests will impact the overall scores of our students this year as well as the way teachers prepare students to meet the demans of the test in subsequent years. The state released a rubric for the writing tasks in advance of the test on, but the way the rubric gets applied to student work is where the rubber actually hits the road, so to speak, in the standardized assessment of these Common Core standards.

Here's the problem.  No matter how great the standards might be, these standards are still new and experimental, and so are the standardized tests designed to measure them.  Inevitably, at this stage there are going to be glitches or issues with both the standards and the way they are being measured, especially when the people directly involved with them (teachers and students) did not have input into their design.  It seems that teachers are being forced to comply with new standards and assessments, but not given a forum to offer vital feedback about them and the transition process.

I don't like being made to promise my silence. I don't understand what purpose it serves either, besides keeping problems out of the light.

To NY State and Pearson--don't require our silence. Admit that there are flaws in the new system with potential to do as much damage as any other flaw in our education system, and invite teachers and school leaders into the revision process.  




Lennie Comeau commented on May 3, 2013 at 12:22pm:

Teacher consultation is vital!

I find it disheartening to read that teachers are left of of the revision process of the assessment. To me any solid assessment program would have opportunities for teachers to review and give input to those who work on creating the assessment. In fact many successful assessment programs, including that of Nova Scotia (that's where I'm from), see teacher consultation as an integral part of the development process and it certainly helps put teacher's mind at ease knowing that some of their peers have played a vital role in the development.


I would encourage the assessment developers to consult with the teachers and listen to their ideas and suggestions, I know here in Nova Scotia we are have a more rich assessment program for having done so.

Carrie Kamm commented on May 3, 2013 at 1:51pm:


Gag order? Really?  Sounds like someone (or some company) has some paranoia about their product.  It would be great if they would involve teachers into the revision process, but I fear it would be lip service and trite.  I guess we should just be happy they have teachers doing the scoring.

Cynically Optimistic,


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