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And then there are “rotating” standards. Half may be rotated every two years and one-third rotated every three years. You can look at the state’s Blueprints at the California Department of Education’s website ( to see which standards are key and which are rotat- ing, but there is no information as to what specific year they will rotate in or out. It can be very confusing. One rotat- ing algebraic standard, for example, reads: “Given a specific algebraic state- ment involving linear, quadratic or ab- solute value expressions or equations or inequalities, students determine wheth- NAEP results do not tell the whole story In addition to separate state and federal accountability systems — the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) and the requirements of No Child Left Behind — there is the National Assessment of Educational Progre s s (NAEP) , a f ede r a l l y mandated assessment of a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders across the count r y. Whi le somet imes referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” it is an unreliable method to gauge the progress of students from one state to another due to differing standards. Because the NAEP assessments are not currently al igned to Cal i fornia’s content standards, and each state is allowed to set its own standards under No Child Left Behind, NAEP scores are an inaccurate means of comparison. NAEP scores this year show that California’s fourth-graders were higher than only two southern states and the District of Columbia, and tied with five other states. State officials say it’s partly because 30 percent of California’s fourth-graders who were tested were Engl ish learners, compared with 10 percent nat ionwide. Eighth-grader s in California tested higher than only Mississippi and the District of Continued on page 38 er the statement is true sometimes, always or never.” Some questions have a higher point value than others, but teachers have no idea which questions or standards provide students more points. Tests, of course, are kept under lock and key. Wi th so much at stake, classrooms California have be- come, in the words of many teachers, “testing factories,” with con- stant test prep and no time for critical think- ing. But that is not sup- posed to be happening, says Lawrence. in To prep or not to prep “In the Department of Education we are discouraging teachers from focused test prep. There are pieces of the Ed Code that forbid it. They are not supposed to drill it or give practice tests over and over so that students are memorizing the cor- rect response and don’t know the funda- mental skills to get an answer. We want kids to understand critical thinking skills that demonstrate what they know and can do in assessments.” Nonetheless, teachers say such “drill and kill” instruction has become the norm at most schools with so much pressure over standardized testing, says Joe Lucido, a teach- er in Fresno, member of the Central Unified Teachers Association and founder of Educa- tors and Parents Against Test Abuse/People for the Ethical Treatment of Children. Before STAR tests are administered, teach- ers must sign an affidavit that says they will not reveal the contents of the test. Then they must watch a video where they are told that test prep is not to be used to prepare students for testing and that it is against state law. top: Joe Lucido, a Central Unified Teachers Association member, watches as Joey Lingard solves a problem at Liddell School. “What is highly confusing is that the state of California produces a practice test that looks just like the STAR test,” says Lucido. “They are sent to schools. How in the world is that in compliance with the law that we aren’t supposed to be test-prepping our kids? To me, these books are a violation of the law.” Further- more, says Lucido, districts may contract with companies that have “benchmark” tests aligned with state standards that are supposed to be predictors of how students will score on the tests and teachers use these to prepare stu- dents for real tests. “The state says you aren’t supposed to test-prep, but if you are in a high-poverty school, there’s a lot of pressure,” says Lucido. “If the principal asks you to do test prepping and you don’t, you can be considered out of compliance with school policies. It’s a dark secret and it’s happening. Because teachers Continued on page 38 november 2009 | 19

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