Friday, June 16, 2006

State Board of Education & ISTEP

It never ceases to amaze me how some agencies/ groups or people continue to go around in circles trying to solve problems. To solve a problem you define it, measure it, analyze the data, improve and then control the process. To define the problem you need a participant from each of the areas affected.

The state of Indiana, in particular the State Board of Education has been gathering input from around the state on ISTEP. Should it be given in the fall or spring? What is its purpose? The problem with only inviting teachers, educators, administrators and state board of education members is that you leave out the one source with most likely the single greatest input and source of data, parents and students. Parents and students are are the customers and you need their input if you want to solve the educational problem.

Apparently I did not see a notice for a public meeting on ISTEP testing, otherwise I would have attended. Last night at Northrop High School State Board of Education members Michael Pettibone and Jeffrey Zaring were their to here comments.

The News Sentinel reported “Taylor University education professor Rebecca Shearer argued that the ISTEP+ assessment should be moved to the spring because students lose excitement for the start of school with the impending tests. She added that fall testing also fell short because a lot of struggling students haven’t had any education enrichment over the summer, and they’ve forgotten most of what they’ve learned.”

Does this person think we are stupid or just plain ignorant? Is it true students have forgotten most of what they’ve learned over the summer? If this is true, then let us do away with the ISTEP altogether. What we should be focusing on is retention. What good does it do to present material during a school year, paying teachers tens of thousands of dollars yearly only to have most of what the presented forgotten? I have said it before and I will say it again. If students are forgetting material because of the laps of time, then the material never got into long-term memory to begin with. The most likely reason it did not make it into long term memory was they were overwhelmed by the quantity or the speed at which material was presented. In simple terms it exceeded their capacity to comprehend the material and make the necessary fundamental associations needed so it could be retained. The solution is to present less material. The reasoning is if you are going to forget it, at least focus on material that can be retained. If it takes more time on task to ensure retention, then presenting less material will allow more time on task and a higher probability of that material being retained. In simple terms if we reduce the amount of material presented by 25% we can increase time on task by 33%. The result could be a much higher amount of material learned and retained.

Stop trying to drown students in information.


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