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Contents January/February 2019
Vol. 40 No. 3
06 Special Report: Assessment & Accountability
d ize d r a g nd tin Sta Tes
• How the ‘Better Test’ Fallacy Undermines Educational Accountability • Georgia’s Evolving Assessment and Accountability Landscape • Statewide True Accountability Initiative Aims to Measure School Effectiveness Far Beyond a Test Score or A-F Ranking • High-Stakes Testing and Evaluations Provide Little Insight
Legal 26 Commonly Asked Retirement Questions
Project-based learning 4 From the President Legislative Affairs May We All Find Joy in the 16 PAGE Annual Survey: Teacher-created In for a Journey Educators Want Innovative 32 Swearing tests Lifetime of Service Assessments and Better Game-based 5 From the Executive Technology in the Mental Health Support assessments Director Classroom: Our Travels to 18 2019 PAGE Legislative 28 Simple ‘Paperslide’ RESAs Deepen Our Priorities Videos Are an Easy Way to Understanding of Each 20 House Education Workforce outcomes Reinforce Learning Region of the State Chair and Public School Professional Learning Champion Brooks 30 Principals and Teachers Coleman Hangs Up His Dive into Designing Spurs Engaging Work Mental Health 22 One School Psychologist for Every 2,475 Students in Georgia
30 PAGE One Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Our core business is to provide professional learning for educators that will enhance professional competence and confidence, build leadership qualities and lead to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.
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From the President
May We All Find Joy in the Journey Dr. Hayward Cordy
s I perused social media posts of friends and acquaintances during the holiday season, I picked up on a common theme. I saw people joyfully counting down the number of days before the holiday break and lamenting the number of days left before their return to work. This was especially true among my teacher friends. This countdown occurs during all holiday breaks, and it existed well before the advent of social media. Teaching is a high-stakes, high-energy and high-stress profession. Holidays are a coveted time for rest and renewal. I recently viewed the YouTube channel of Eddie Brown, a full-time comedian better known as Eddie B. The former fifth-grade teacher from Houston, Texas, performs for large crowds attending his Teachers Only Comedy Tour. Among his video titles are “What Teachers Really Say About Students’ Names While Calling Roll,” “What Teachers Really Say About What They Get Paid” and “What Texas Teachers Really Say About Hurricane Harvey”. Brown has hit on something. He found that teachers are hungry for someone to understand and communicate their feelings about their daily struggles. Teachers who attend Brown’s shows leave happy, having had a great time, and they hopefully take this joy back to their campuses. Do we as educators arise to face each day with joy and hope, or do we find ourselves circling each passing day on the calendar, awaiting Friday, payday, tomor-
4 PAGE ONE
row or the next break? What is the state of our profession today? Have we allowed others to tell our story, leaving out critical information? Have we allowed highstakes accountability measures based primarily on a single annual measure of student achievement to rob us of the joy of teaching? When was the last time that we had time to laugh with each other and laugh with children? Some of us remember making long family trips by car growing up. Such getaways were supposed to be fun, but they often ended up being exhausting. Riding in cramped quarters with siblings before the days of smart phones and other devices resulted in squabbles and often led to the famous question, “Are we there yet?” Teaching is also a journey, but the destination is changed lives (not retirement). The journey can tire and stress us, but we anticipate relief and joy as we near our destination. However, let’s not let joy and happiness elude us during the journey itself. Georgia educators have many reasons to feel hopeful and experience joy along our journey. In 2018, Georgia’s high school graduation rate rose to 81.6 percent, reports the Georgia Department of Education. The state’s graduation rate has climbed steadily since 2012, when it stood at 69.7 percent. We should also take pride in the fact that public education remains the best value and the best equalizer in providing positive educational outcomes for children and families. We receive all who
enter our doors. This is important for us to remember in the face of powerful efforts to increase private-school enrollment through vouchers and tax credits. The premise is that private schools are superior in their capacity to educate struggling and disadvantaged students. Research does not bear that out, however. A 2018 longitudinal study conducted by University of Virginia professors Robert C. Pianta and Arysa Ansari examined the extent to which enrollment in private schools between kindergarten and ninth grade was related to students’ academic, social, psychological and attainment outcomes at age 15. The study revealed that children with a history of enrollment in private schools performed better on nearly all outcomes assessed in adolescence. The study found, however, that by controlling for the sociodemographic characteristics of private-school students that were a part of the study, all of the advantages of private school education were eliminated. There was also no evidence to suggest that lowincome children or children enrolled in urban schools benefited more from private school enrollment. Educational outcomes in Georgia continue to improve, though there is still much work to do. The road is long and winding, but progress is being made in spite of the obstacles we face. Georgia educators make a difference one child at a time. Children are our business, and education is our future — and we are the future of education. May we all find joy in n the journey.
From the Executive Director
Our Travels to RESAs Deepen Our Understanding of Each Region of the State Craig Harper
y first year serving as the executive director of PAGE has been challenging, emotional and exciting. It’s so true that time passes quickly when you’re fully engaged in work that you love. A great benefit of this role is traveling all over Georgia interacting with educators at conferences and regional meetings as well as those involved in PAGE professional learning. Our ongoing visits with Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESAs) are especially rewarding. PAGE Director of Human Resources Gayle Wooten, as travel agent and guide, has represented PAGE with me at RESA board meetings in Middle and South Georgia. We hope to complete the circuit to all RESAs this year, with several already booked in the coming weeks. The meetings are a great way for us to connect with RESA directors, staff, superintendents and other area educators. While we share ways that PAGE is supporting and can further support educators in their area, these visits are rich opportunities for us to listen and learn about the successes and challenges within each region of the state, some of which inform our legislative services and membership services staff of issues that can benefit from our attention. The visits also affirm the vital work that RESAs offer on behalf of their districts. Although expected, the level
of collaboration and support among the superintendents and RESA staff highlight how important it is for leaders to get together regularly and talk about their work and how it might benefit others. We are also learning about educator supports for learning in technology, instructional practices and STEM opportunities. The technology article in this issue by Dr. Lodge McCammon is a direct result of a discussion about his work with Heart of Georgia RESA educators. At Southwest RESA, Gayle and I were touched by the stories of the devastation of our South Georgia districts from Hurricane Michael and how communities and outside help are assisting in the recovery. At the same meeting, we were highly impressed by the facilities at Dougherty County’s Commodore Conyers College & Career
Academy and the learning opportunities for students. Everywhere we’ve been, we observe professionals committed to students, educators and communities, as well as a willingness to work together for the good of all. As a bonus to our RESA visits, Gayle and I experience the welcoming hospitality of our hosts and share in their meals where we can continue our conversations and further build relationships. A big “Thank you!” to all we’ve visited, and we truly anticipate sharing with those who remain on our tour. PAGE also values our invitations by RESAs to present at conferences, whether the widely attended Southeastern Superintendent’s Leadership Conference on the coast or at the North Georgia RESA Leadership Summit this coming June. PAGE staff stand ready to share our expertise and insights with any RESA, school district, state agency or education advocacy organization. Our interactions with those of you involved in our critical work serve to increase our knowledge base and build relationships across Georgia to better advocate for students, educators and public education. Anyone who knows me knows I’m always up for lively conversation, coffee and good food (especially barbecue!). Let’s get n together.
PAGE ONE 5
SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment & Accountability
How the ‘Better Test’ Fallacy Undermines Educational Accountability By John Tanner
n accountable person offers a full account of one’s task, takes responsibility for the findings and acts accordingly.¹ An accountable organization behaves similarly. All good leaders and quality organizations use some form of accountability as the basis for their efforts. An exception, however, is American educational policy. It assumes that a complete educational accounting
isn’t possible, and thus we must rely on a tiny window into the process in the form of a test score. It assumes that the view through that tiny window is sufficient to judge the quality of a school, assign sanctions or awards, dictate property values and make educational policy. The educational community largely agrees that this tiny window is inadequate. At best, it provides a narrow
view of what happens in a school, and, at worst, it provides a completely inaccurate picture.² And while policymakers have begun to acknowledge educator concerns, it is troubling that their approach is not to question the system, but rather, the test. With the right test, so the thinking goes, the accountability issue will resolve itself once and for all. Let’s call this “better test” thinking what it is: the Better Test Fallacy.
Georgia’s Evolving Assessment and Accountability Landscape: Three Pilot Consortia Emerge By Margaret Ciccarelli, Director of Legislative Affairs
handful of Georgia school districts are hoping to escape the state’s mandatory standardized testing requirement by substituting their own exams. Last year, lawmakers approved SB 362, which directed the State Board of Education to create a competitive innovative assessment pilot program. Participating school districts were authorized to design and implement alternate accountability programs that included cumulative year-end assessments, competency-based assessments, performance-based assessments, or other designs approved by the SBOE. The measure was sponsored by then Senate Education Committee Chair Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) on behalf of former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Since then, several consortia have emerged as part of the innovative assessment pilot. One group, including Calhoun City, Cook, Dougherty, Evans, Fayette, Floyd, Liberty, McIntosh, Oglethorpe, Pike, Putnam and Vidalia City school districts will pilot the use of an assessment program called Navvy developed by University of Georgia professor Dr. Laine Bradshaw in collaboration with Putnam County. The Navvy assessment is designed as a test of learning rather than as a predictive test. The emphasis is not on who is higher than whom, but on who has learned what and is intended to provide a way to track
6 PAGE ONE
student-level standards competency. Navvy merges 10 years of work by educators in Putnam County who were designing formative tests for student learning with evidence-based research. As a result of this research-practice partnership, school districts have access to the data-element that is necessary to make the information readily accessible to teachers and instructional staff in a format that allowed them to make corrections at the student level in real-time. The formative assessments based on Georgia’s standards occur throughout the year as students complete units of study. Putnam County Superintendent Eric Arena said that his district will not take Milestones tests this year and will rely on Navvy to represent student learning for the test-based portion of the state’s accountability program. Another consortium, the Georgia MAP Assessment Partnership (MAP stands for Measure of Academic Progress), includes Clayton, Dalton City, Floyd, Gilmer, Haralson, Jackson, Jasper, Marietta City, Polk and Trion City school districts. Partners will begin the pilot with MAP Growth, and then transition to a new interim assessment solution that preserves MAP Growth functionality and access to national norms, while also Continued on page 8
In education, accountability is synonymous with testing. But while education testing is useful, it has critical limitations. To illustrate this point, it helps to parse testing into two categories: tests that are about teaching and learning and tests that predict future performance. While both are useful, they have different, often contradictory, purposes. Tests about what was taught and learned, such as those often created by teachers, distinguish between students who learned the material and those who did not.³ Even if every student mastered the material and answered every test item correctly, the test would still signal something about the quality of teaching and learning.
In predictive testing, however, researchers design narrowly focused test items for their ability to rank students from the furthest below average to the furthest above average.⁴ Such ordering reveals underlying patterns related to factors such as gender, ethnicity or socioeconomics. Such a test would be useless if all students answered all the items correctly (or incorrectly) because it would fail to order students. A predictive test usefully creates an expectation that wherever a student falls in an ordering today, we can reasonably predict that the student will be in about the same spot tomorrow, the next day and a year from now. If a student’s position in the order changes significantly, we can
infer that something happened to cause a shift, though we would need to investigate to understand the cause. Tests about teaching and learning don’t result in such consistency because teaching and learning are dynamic processes and rarely linear.⁵ Still, researchers are careful to point out the limitations of predictive tests.⁶ While they reveal patterns worthy of further exploration, the cause for any pattern or why a student is at any point in the ordering has to be found outside the test. Judgments must be limited to what the researcher finds after causes are explored. A judgment made prior to knowing the cause would be made without evidence, which would render it invalid. Continued on next page
Georgia Districts Prepare Alternative Tests for Federal ‘Innovative Assessment’ Pilot Program • The 12-district Putnam County consortium comprises Calhoun City and the counties of Cook, Dougherty, Evans, Fayette, Floyd, Liberty, McIntosh, Oglethorpe, Pike, Putnam and Vidalia. The consortium has developed a test in partnership with a company called Navvy Education. Putnam hopes to use its Navvy tests this school year; the other nine districts plan to follow later.
• The 10-district Georgia MAP Assessment Partnership is using the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Marietta City and the counties of Clayton, Floyd, Jackson, Jasper and Polk are starting this school year; Dalton, Gilmer, Haralson and Trion plan to follow later. • Cobb County is using its own test, called Cobb Metrics, beginning this school year.
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SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment & Accountability
Unlike tests of teaching and learning, predictive tests produce consistent scores over time. They do this not through magic, but math. Understanding this is simple when you consider the different starting points. In a test of teaching and learning, the starting point is a zero, and with each correct response the student adds to his or her score by demonstrating that he or she learned more of what was assigned. With a predictive test, it is more accurate to think of the starting point in the middle, at average. Then the purpose of the test items is to determine how many steps above or below average each student falls. The fact that predictive tests start from average is what makes the scores stable over time. A test of teaching and learning is a useful but limited window into teaching and learning. Predictive tests narrow that window even further to enable ordering and to identify patterns to be explored, but they sacrifice observations on teaching and learning. This is why testing is a technical rather than philosophical issue: Tests are designed to do different work and cannot transform into something they are not. A Series of Critical Mistakes
Those responsible for educational
measuring student performance relative to the Georgia Standards of Excellence. A third stand-alone assessment program pilot by Cobb County Schools has also moved forward. Cobb Metrics are formative student assessments intended to provide teachers with real-time access to information regarding students who are not making progress toward state academic content standards. The Georgia Board of Education passed a resolution last fall supporting the state’s application to participate in the federal Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority. IADA enables up to seven states to establish and operate an innovative assessment system in public schools. As of this writing, Louisiana and New Hampshire have been approved, and
8 PAGE ONE
In a test of teaching and learning, the starting point is zero; a student score improves with each correct response. With a predictive test, the starting point is in the middle, at average; responses determine how many steps above or below average the student falls. d ize d r a g nd tin Sta Tes
accountability have made a series of critical mistakes. The first was allowing just a part of the educational effort to stand in for overall school accountability. Policymakers looked at the complexity of the educational process, and rather than attempt to understand what a true accountability system might look like, they decided that a part could stand in for the whole.
The second mistake was accepting a summative indicator of what students learned in key content areas as the part to stand in for the whole. The third mistake was selecting predictive testing as the summative indicator, while inserting language that suggested they were thinking they were selecting a test of teaching and learning. It is illogical to think that a partial Continued on page 10
By implementing the Navvy innovative assessment system, the Putnam Consortium aims to: • Transition to a learning-focused assessment system that integrates statewide assessment with teaching and learning. • Flexibly administer on-demand assessments as needed to sync naturally with classroom teaching and learning. • Efficiently provide diagnostic information that is both actionable and reliable so that teachers can confidently act upon feedback to inform personalized instruction for students. • Provide timely feedback via through-year assessments to identify student’s specific needs for personalized instruction. • Transition to a competency-focused accountability system — away from rank-ordering students’ general abilities and towards diagnosing students’ competencies of our state’s standards. • Improve student achievement for all students in Georgia.
Tests of Teaching and Learning
Purpose of test
Predict future performance on similar tests. The initial test serves as a baseline
Determine what was learned and the effectiveness of teaching
Why you would want to do that
When the future score is other than what was predicted it can serve as a signal to explore further
You need to determine what was learned and the effectiveness of teaching
Explore patterns that need to be disrupted and over time, determine if the disruptions worked
Check on whether what was taught was learned
Greatest misunderstanding about the tests
They offer little if any insights regarding teaching and learning If passing is assigned to a score, it will be impossible for all students to pass the test because predictive tests are always zero-sum games
Because the scores are assigned by a teacher, they are presumed to be subjective — but that can be overcome through training and calibration among teachers
Source for test content
State content standards
State content standards
Criteria for content
Statistical: Only test items that operate within a narrow statistical range are included — all others are rejected, or the test would fail to be predictive
Curricular: if it was taught it is fair game, regardless of the statistical properties of the resulting test item
Who makes them
Test publishers and test professionals
How do they work
Predictive tests start with average and then use the items to determine how far above or below that average a student is. When that relationship to average for a student or a group of students changes, it can be inferred that something happened to cause that change and a search for reasons can begin
The combination of correct responses serves as a demonstration of what was learned
• Norm-referenced testing programs to identify patterns that needed to be disrupted and the success of selected disruptions
• Check on the what was learned
Primary purpose prior to test-based accountability
• ACT/SAT Primary purpose under test-based accountability
• State testing programs/school quality determination Check on what was to have been learned
the three Georgia consortia, Navvy, MAP, and Cobb Metrics, submitted applications to the U.S. Department of Education’s on Dec. 17. If accepted, the Georgia school districts participating in the consortia could substitute alternate assessments and would not be required by USED to administer Georgia Milestones. Some Georgia Schools Are Rated More Harshly
Congressional passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) acknowledges the harm of overemphasis on assessment-based school accountability (an overemphasis demonstrated by ESSA’s predecessor, No Child Left Behind). For its part, Georgia struggles to achieve balance with regard to its test-based accountability system — the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) — which is heavily reliant on student assessment scores. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) uses CCRPI scores to assign Georgia schools A-F letter grades. The assignment of such grades is a discretionary function on the part of GOSA. A Georgia law
• Assign grades
mandating the assignment of A-F scores never went into effect when the proposed Opportunity School District amendment failed in a 2016 statewide referendum. A November 2016 study conducted by Richard O. Welsh, Ph.D., of UGA in conjunction with development of Georgia’s ESSA plan, compared CCRPI to accountability systems in other states. Welsh found that, though Georgia’s accountability system appears to identify the tails (A and F) of the school performance distribution fairly accurately, using nationally normed measures adjusted for student demographics, Georgia appears to rate some schools in the middle of the distribution more harshly. Due to potential changes in GOSA’s function resulting from a new gubernatorial administration and prospective acceptance of Georgia into USED’s innovative assessment program, changes in Georgia’s assessment and accountability landscape may be on the horizon in coming months. It is also possible that the role of GOSA could be scaled down to that of the agency’s original n auditing mission.
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SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment & Accountability
accountability could ever be valid.⁷ An accounting from one part of an organization — even an important part — will always be invalid when extended to the entire organization. No rational person would invest in a company that released only one month’s worth of financial records from one division because information needed to make an informed judgment would be lacking. A partial accounting always leaves you in a position of not knowing the overall truth. Furthermore, an end-of-year test of what was learned cannot be bluntly interpreted. Students start at very different places, learn at different rates and have different needs. And while it is appropriate to view a student where he or she is versus where you need
him or her to be, interpretations regarding why a student is at some point at the end of the year must take a great deal into consideration or risk being wrong. There is no excuse for the third mistake; predictive test scores, which by design cannot directly signal the quality of teaching or learning, were positioned by law as the primary accountability indicator, effectively making school accountability about something other than teaching and learning. Had policymakers listened to the testing profession,⁸ policymakers would have quickly concluded that their preferred policy tool for school accountability was the wrong tool for the job. However, policymakers hate uncertainty, and the only type of test that could guarantee them a
predictable outcome each year was and remains a predictive test,⁹ which is what they chose. A test of teaching and learning can make no such promise. The policymakers’ declared need for predictability leaves us trying to use the wrong tool for the job. It isn’t like needing a screwdriver and being handed a wrench; it’s more like being handed a telephone to drive a railroad spike. As a result, a tool designed to reveal patterns, such as the pattern we regularly see of wealthy kids tending to have greater literacy or numeracy skills than their poorer counterparts, has been transformed into a tool that assigns a judgment of success or failure onto those patterns. The predictable result in this case is an inaccurate and biased
Statewide True Accountability Initiative Aims to Measure School Effectiveness Far Beyond a Test Score or A-F Ranking By Jim Hawkins and George Thompson
rue Accountability is a statewide initiative led by PAGE to help educators and community members develop an accountability mindset to inform citizens about the quality of their schools — far beyond what a partial snapshot, a test, can provide. True Accountability provides a full and honest accounting to the students and communities for whom educators and schools are accountable. For years, PAGE has engaged educational leaders statewide to help answer the question “For what am I accountable and to whom?” PAGE believes that answer must involve the community, students, parents and educators, and that the solution is not a test-based accountability system with A-F grading used to rank schools and districts. To assist communities in developing a true accountability mindset, PAGE has partnered with national thought leaders John Tanner of Test Sense and George Thompson with the Schlechty Center. Events have included a speaking tour by John Tanner in five locations around Georgia and the first of two symposiums last fall, with another planned in February. Educators have also shared their beliefs about true accountability and how those beliefs drive actions that benefit students and the community. This year, the initiative will produce an accountability framework to identify key questions, an evidentiary system and a communication matrix. This work will be framed
10 PAGE ONE
with the understanding that leaders — especially superintendents, community leaders and those who influence policy — are faced with a dilemma: How does a district balance the need to create a true accountability mindset and system with the constraints posed by the current accountability system that is designed to serve the needs and interests of the state as opposed to those of students, parents and communities? The next PAGE True Accountability symposium will be held on Feb. 4 in Macon at Middle Georgia State University. The purpose of the symposium is to encourage educators, community members and education policy leaders to learn more about and discuss True Accountability. For information or to register for this free event, please visit http://bit.ly/TrueAccountability or contact Beverly Treadaway at 770-216-8555 or btreadaway@ pageinc.org Jim Hawkins, a PAGE practitioner supporting the True Accountability Initiative, recently retired from Dalton Public Schools with 45 years in public education and 20 years as a superintendent in Texas and Georgia. George Thompson is president of the Schlechty Center, a private, non-profit organization committed to partnering with education leaders interested in nurturing a culture of engagement in their organizations, with the ultimate goal of n increasing profound learning for students.
Two Views of a Predictive Test View #2 SideView
# of Students
View #1 Front View
Scores The limits of what was tested = one dimension
judgment of failure on poorer children and their schools, prior to considering what the evidence actually says. A Complete Accounting Is Needed
The misuse of predictive testing has very serious consequences for how we view schools. It should go without saying that being behind as a result of diminished opportunity is not a signal of school or student failure, but a signal of being behind. To misname it is to mistreat the issue; addressing the needs of a student who is behind requires a very different approach than addressing the needs of a child who has truly failed at something they should be able to do at that moment. The mistake of selecting predictive testing as a judgment tool is the source for
such inappropriate labels and the damage they do. If being truly accountable requires offering a complete and accurate accounting for an assignment, taking full responsibility for the findings, and then acting appropriately, then what we have in test-based accountability isn’t worthy to be called accountability, given how far it takes us from being able to do that. The Better Test Fallacy assumes that while the current school accountability system is adequate, it could be improved with a better way to do the testing piece. But that’s a fallacy because it will be a partial accounting. Selecting a predictive test as the lens into schooling compounds that mistake because that selection holds schools accountable for something other
An end-of-year test cannot be bluntly interpreted. Students start at very different places, learn at different rates and have different needs. While it is appropriate to examine where a student is versus where you need him or her to be, interpreting “why” must take a great deal into consideration.
than teaching and learning. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015, is fraught with the Better Test Fallacy. Its writers cite the opportunity to build different (they use the term “innovative”) tests. A few have already been accepted into a pilot program.¹⁰ Nowhere in ESSA is there an opportunity to pilot a better accountability system.¹¹ The ESSA requirements clearly favor the stability in a predictive test. ESSA accepts the simplistic theory that a partial lens into schooling should serve as the basis for accountability, and that lens must be a test. The Better Test Fallacy hides the real issue that the accountability system is fundamentally flawed. No matter how much effort and energy you put into trying to build better tests, those tests won’t solve the problem, but the process will keep you busy. For educators that find themselves caught up in the Better Test Fallacy, please consider the following. First, avoid trying to build “better” predictive tests. Just because a test has a different name or label, or is done more frequently, or uses different item types, does not mean it is automatically a test of learning. If the goal is to produce a summative score at the end of the year to predict an end-of-year score, or to create comparisons, you are operating within the predictive test methodology. You can certainly use such tests for identifying patterns to explore, but the instant you use them for accountability, Continued on page 13
Teacher-created tests Game-based assessments
PAGE ONE 11
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you are asking the tool to do what it was never designed to do, with all the consequences that follow the misuse. Second, if you are trying to build tests that attempt to get at teaching and learning (like New Hampshire is doing ¹²), recognize that even if successful, such a test is still only a partial lens into what happens in a school; you still lack sufficient understanding to make a judgment about the quality of a school. What is truly needed is a new accountability, one that can provide a complete accounting so that the actions of school leaders can actually move the school system where it needs to go. The Better Test Fallacy risks pushing that very real need of a better accountability system to some future date, which our children and the system of public schooling can ill afford.
John Tanner is a San Antonio, Texasbased educational writer and consultant specializing in educational structures and systems. He is the executive director of Test Sense, an educational consulting firm,
The misuse of predictive testing has serious consequences for how we view schools. Being behind as a result of diminished opportunity is not a signal of school or student failure, but a signal of being behind.
Footnotes 1. This definition is derived from a number of dictionary descriptions of the term. 2. A great deal has been written with this notion as the thesis. Two of the more notable recent efforts are Ravitch, D., (2010). The Death and Life of the Great American School System, New York, NY: Basic Books, and Koretz, D., (2017). The Testing Charade, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. 3. Tanner, J., (2014). The Pitfalls of Reform: Its Incompatibly with Actual Improvement. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. See in particular the chapter on testing. 4. Predictive testing is frequently referred to as standardized testing, but this is somewhat misleading. Standardization refers to the need to have all students take a test under similar conditions, either in the name of fairness or so that results can be compared. Any type of test can be standardized, so to better distinguish between the types of test I find tests of teaching and learning and predictive tests the more useful terms. 5. Something that creates a great deal of confusion between tests of learning and predictive tests is that they both rather obviously contain content relative to a domain that to the untrained eye may be indistinguishable. Here is the best way to see the difference: If I am a teacher and determined you need to know 10 concepts, I can build a 10-item test that covers those 10 concepts and give it to you to check your learning. If I am building a predictive test, however, I will only take the items that about half the students answer correctly, since I am only interested in items that discriminate between above and below average. If only three of the items from the test of learning fit that criteria, I will take those and reject the rest, even though they are perfectly valid—even essential—for understanding what was learned. For the purpose of building a predictive test, however, those other items, which are valid and necessary for a test of learning, will actually hurt my ability to order students consistently. 6. The most authoritative source are the standards produced by the testing profession for how to do this sort of work: American Educational Research Association, (1999). Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. 7. I addressed this issue in this very publication. See, Tanner, J., (2017). “The False and Damaging Premise of School Accountability,” PAGE One, (Aug/ Sep), pages 18-22.
and the director of the Texas Performance Assessment Consortium, a project in which 40+ school districts have joined forces to build a community-based accountability n system for their schools.
8. Two brief examples of what policymakers have ignored: See the testimony of Linda Darling-Hammond at the House Committee on Education and Labor in 2007 (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110hhrg37638/html/ CHRG-110hhrg37638.htm), and for a state example, The Texas Observer did a nice summary of Dr. Walter Stroup’s testimony to the Texas Legislature where he made it clear what state policymakers had done (https://www. texasobserver.org/walter-stroup-standardized-testing-pearson/). What is particularly interesting about Dr. Stroup’s testimony is the degree to which the testing industry attacked his testimony, and the fact that then Commissioner of Education of Robert Scott—once a firm supporter of test-based accountability—agreed with him and later lost his job for doing so. See Stanford, J., (2014). “Mute the Messenger,” The Texas Observer, Sep 3, 2014 (https://www. texasobserver.org/walter-stroup-standardized-testing-pearson/). 9. The fact that accountability is placed squarely on predictive test scores is largely forgotten, misunderstood, or ignored. This can be easily proved by asking the following questions: 1. Are the results comparable from one year to the next? If yes, then the test is predictive. 2. Do students tend to do about the same from one year to the next? If yes, then the test is predictive. 3. Are items selected based on their ability to discriminate above and below average students as of a moment in time (P-value), on their ability to discriminate in a consistent fashion (point biserial), and/or on the item’s correlation to the rest of the test (or the sub-test) to ensure the dimensionality of the test (item-test correlation)? If yes, then the test is predictive. Note that every state test currently in use answers yes to each of these questions. 10. The states that have applied and been accepted so far are New Hampshire and Louisiana. Georgia has applied as well. 11. The rules and regulations for the pilot can be found here: https:// www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-12-08/pdf/2016-29126.pdf, and make it clear that this is a testing effort. Whatever states do, it must be such that it, “Produces an annual summative determination of each student’s mastery of grade-level content standards aligned to the challenging State academic standards under section 1111(b)(1) of the ESEA.” 12. For the details in the New Hampshire effort, see https://www.education. nh.gov/assessment-systems/pace.htm.
PAGE ONE 13
SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment & Accountability
High-Stakes Testing and Evaluations Provide Little Insight By Angela Garrett, PAGE Professional Learning
raveling across the state and talking with teachers, one thing is clear: teachers want to teach and help students learn what they need to know and be able to do. Barriers exist however, in the form of district, state and federal guidelines. Valuable time is spent on testing and programs that offer little support. Principals spend much of their time in district meetings learning about programs adopted by the district, or trying to follow state mandates that might not be the best fit for their students. Testing students and evaluating teachers is high stakes for all involved: administrators, teachers and students. Wouldn’t schools be better places if district and community needs served as the foundation for decisionmaking? What if state tests were designed by teachers instead of testing companies? What if teachers were “coached,” not “evaluated,” and there were no “ratings and
rankings” but rather dialog and collaborative decisions on how to improve? What if school districts and schools could agree on goals that are focused on students and their academic needs and not soley based on test scores? As leaders in an honorable profession, we could identify people who might be able to help us begin making small changes in how decisions are made. All educators — administrators and teachers alike — should work together to make this happen. Additionally, engaging in conversations with parents, the superintendent, central office staff, the school board and community members is a great starting point. Invite local and state elected officials to schools, or make an appointment to engage in a discussion about change. Spending a significant part of a day in a classroom may help people catch a glimpse of what teachers are expected to do and accomplish
each day. Attending a meeting with your leadership team, staff or advisory council also provides an opportunity for critics and supporters to better understand the challenges facing schools today. Regardless of the format of your conversation, strive to make known all that you can about the school and district, including needs, fears, frustrations and why students need more of your time and attention. Frame questions to help others see why investing more time and attention is becoming more unrealistic due to the pressure to perform and achieve on a single state test. Initiating these conversations may sound a bit bold, yet how else will others understand your passion for teaching and the disappointment of not being able to fulfill it to the best of your ability? With persistence and time, and with the help of parents and others, perceptions of schools could begin to change. It might seem unfair to put the burden on teachers who are already doing so much, but if we don’t tell our stories, there’s a good possibility that nothing will change. Let your community know what is going well in your school or district! Let them know how even small changes have great impact. Solicit and encourage their support as those small changes become realities. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Likewise, educators can absolutely make a difference if we reach out to the right people. I Used to Think ...
In the PAGE Principal Teacher Leadership Network, a culminating activity at the last session prompts “I used to think but now I know … .” Early in the first year of these professional learning sessions, participants have not always considered some of the potential changes that they can control. 14 PAGE ONE
Wouldn’t schools be better places if district and community needs served as the foundation for decision-making? What if state tests were designed by teachers instead of testing companies? What if teachers were “coached,” not “evaluated,” and there were no “ratings and rankings” but rather dialog and collaborative decisions on how to improve?
By thinking differently, learning from one another and applying new ideas, cultural change in schools can occur. A few examples of responses from teachers and administrators follow: I used to think compliance was what I was looking for but now I know I want engagement. I used to think that students should do as they are told, but now I know that lessons should be designed to meet their needs. I used to think that work should be
designed around state standards, but now I know that work should be designed around what engages students, while fulfilling the requirements of state standards. I used to think teachers weren’t leaders, but now I know I have the power and intelligence to do just that in my classroom and beyond. Educators must discover the power of their voice and reconnect with why they became teachers in the first place. If teachers are to be able to do the best
for their students, principals and other leaders must empower them to do so. Principals are leaders of the school and set the tone for a culture focused on meaningful learning and a healthy, positive climate. Principals should work together with the school staff to develop shared beliefs, set a common direction and establish a clear vision for student success. PAGE values the diligence, hard work and long days that teachers experience. PAGE works to improve Georgia schools every day, but we need your voice. Start with something small and grow it into something you never thought possible. Reach out to parents and other stakeholders to begin these important conversations. Fight to save our public schools! Continue making a positive difference in the lives of all students, making sure the community knows the good things that are happening in classrooms every day. Our n students are worth it.
In appreciation of all you do to expand the hearts and minds of our students, the Alliance Theatre is thrilled to provide Georgia educators with FREE tickets to select early performances of all Alliance Theatre productions.
TICKETS for TEACHERS
Upcoming productions include Ever After, based on the hit film, and a new play by Pearl Cleage.
For more information about the program and how to reserve your tickets, visit alliancetheatre.org/ticketsforteachers *Subject to availability. Restrictions apply.
PAGE ONE 15
PAGE Annual Survey:
Educators Want Innovative Assessments and Better Mental Health Support By Josh Stephens, PAGE Legislative Affairs Specialist
n 2018, the election of Brian Kemp as governor and the significant amount of leadership turnover in both the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate signaled a new era of leadership at the Gold Dome. As PAGE gears up for the 2019 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, educator voices will continue to be crucial tools in transforming public education. In November, PAGE released its annual legislative survey to collect data to be used during the legislative session. About 5,600 educators responded. Almost 75 percent of survey respon-
dents are veteran classroom teachers with more than 10 years of service. Of the respondents, 53 percent said they are unlikely to remain in education for the next 10 years. 58 percent would not recommend a career in education. With the current teacher shortage and continuing teacher pipeline issues, this statistic continues to be of great concern to PAGE. On general education policy issues, 64 percent of educators are opposed to expanding private school voucher programs in Georgia. 57 percent oppose the creation of Education Savings Accounts. 60 percent
Rate your support of the following initiatives. Expanding the private school tuition tax credit program in Georgia.
School Safety and Security Beginning in May, both the House and
Georgia’s current standardized testing program provides educators with information to improve student learning. Strongly Disagree
Not familiar enough to respond
do not feel Georgia’s current standardized testing program provides educators with information to improve student learning. 66 percent support the use of innovative assessment models in their district. 88 percent of respondents agree that a $5,000 raise would improve educator recruitment and retention efforts in Georgia. Gov. Kemp ran an education platform that included this raise for all educators.
Agree Strongly Agree
Creating education savings accounts (ESAs) in Georgia. Not familiar enough to respond
6% Strongly oppose
Educators are held accountable for the results of assessments
Agree Strongly Agree
16 PAGE ONE
Senate convened study committees to determine recommendations for improving school safety and security. As part of the discussion, stakeholders from many organizations presented ideas to legislators to improve the physical safety of schools as well as the need for increased mental health support for students and educators. As part of the survey, PAGE included the recommendations from the Senate Study Committee on School Safety. The House Study Committee on School Security had not released its recommendations at the time the survey was distributed. All Senate committee recommendations presented in the survey received overwhelming support from respondents, including increased state funding for mental health counselors in schools, allowing local governments to use ESPLOST funds to hire mental health professionals and for mandated threat assessments for each school. It also allows and incentives veterans and retired law enforcement to become “school safety coaches.” 75 percent of respondents agreed that increased focus on student mental health would improve school climate and educational outcomes for students. Of survey respondents, 40 percent had participated in the creation of their school’s safety plan. Teacher Retirement System Proposed Legislation Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) prefiled legislation that proposes changes to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). While there is not a recommendation to convert TRS to a hybrid, 401(k)-like plan similar to the Employee Retirement System, there are changes that would affect retirees and current educators. In the survey, PAGE asked respondents to rate their support for each proposed change in the bill. 77 percent of respondents oppose eliminating the law allowing for TRS members to apply sick leave towards TRS service credit. 58 percent oppose setting a range for required employee contributions at 6 to 10 percent (the current TRS contribution range is 5-6 percent). 51 percent oppose establishing a maximum compensation limit for retirement benefits for very high-income earners. 46 percent oppose amending the TRS benefit calculation by using members’ top five years of salary to determine member benefits (the current calculation is based on the top two years of earning). School Calendar Legislators also convened a study committee to determine the economic impact of the current school calendar on the tourism industry. As part of this discussion, legislators discussed proposing legislation mandating school districts to begin their calendars after Labor Day. PAGE surveyed members as soon as the committee began to meet, receiving over 17,000 responses. As part of the legislative survey, PAGE asked specific questions about school calendar start dates. 54 percent of respondents oppose a state-mandated school start date. 84 percent agree that local school districts should maintain control of the remainder of the school calendar. 64 percent agree that local school districts should set the school start date. When given a choice of which week in July, August or the first week of September would be the ideal start time, 26 percent chose the first week of August, 23 percent chose the second week of August, and 27 percent chose the first week of September. n January/February 2019
I support the use of innovative assessment models within my school district. Strongly Disagree
Agree Strongly Agree
Would increased focus on student mental health improve school climate and educational outcomes for students? 100%
How likely are you to remain in education for the next 10 years? Very unlikely
Very likely N/A 0%
How likely are you to recommend a career in education? Very unlikely
Very likely 0%
PAGE ONE 17
2019 PAGE Legislative Priorities
hrough the state budget and legislative action, the 2019 PAGE legislative priorities address four important policy areas:
School Safety & Security Increase resources for school safety enhancement, including infrastructure upgrades, school resource officers and wraparound services for students — particularly student services intended to improve mental health and school climate. Teacher Pipeline Strengthen Georgia’s educator pipeline by enhancing and protecting the Teacher Three R’s: • Recruitment • Retention • Retirement
QBE Update Update Georgia’s school funding formula to reflect 21st century needs. Enacted in 1985, QBE has stood the test of time but lacks key modernizations, including an independent study to examine the real cost of educating Georgia’s students, QBE funding weights for student poverty and a factor for escalating pupil transportation costs. Assessment Design systems that ensure schools are accountable to their local communities. Examine how Georgia’s current standardized assessment program serves students. A welcome shift toward assessment flexibility and formative assessment enables teachers to more effectively serve students, but standardized tests are still used to grade educators and schools — a purpose for which the n assessments were never intended.
PAGE Day on CAPITOL HILL Tuesday, Feb. 19 • Breakfast at the Capitol • Meetings and Lunch with Legislators Register now at pageinc.org
18 PAGE ONE
House Education Chair and Public School Champion Brooks Coleman Hangs Up His Spurs By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor
ne of Georgia’s staunchest education advocates is hanging up his spurs after 26 years in the Georgia General Assembly. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) chair of the House Education Committee, opted not to run for reelection last fall. Before entering politics, he served as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and assistant superintendent for Gwinnett County Schools. In 2016, Coleman Middle School was named in his honor. Coleman authored or co-authored numerous bills dealing with everything from supporting low-performing schools to reforming teacher retirement benefits to eliminating the Georgia High School Graduation Test. He also enacted the Student Health and Physical Education Act, raised compensation for math and science teachers and authorized the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation to allow private donations to be used for public school grants. Last year, he pushed through a tax credit expansion for public schools. “Brooks has served on the House Education Committee for so long that multiple generations of Georgia students have been shaped by policies he crafted,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE director of legislative services. “It’s hard to imagine what the Capitol will be like without him.” Coleman attended Atlanta Public Schools and grew up near Little Five Points. Cowboy movies were his passion, and his hero was Roy Rogers, whom he credits for propelling him into public speaking. “I was asked one time to fill in for a speaker who failed to show for a Rotary Club meeting; not sure what to say, I grabbed a picture of Roy Rogers and talked about the five things I learned from cowboys to make me successful,” Coleman told the Gwinnett Citizen newspaper last
20 PAGE ONE
(l-r) PAGE Executive Director Craig Harper, Mary Claire Coleman, Brooks Coleman, PAGE legislative team of Margaret Ciccarelli and Josh Stephens
year. Coleman now travels the country delivering a motivational speech called “Most of My Heroes were Cowboys.” He’s also a traveling auctioneer. The energetic 78 year old also loves finding and restoring old clocks, including one he rescued from the garbage at the State Capitol decades ago. He later learned that the value of the clock was about $250,000. “I remember getting a call from the governor one night around 11:00 p.m.,” he told the Gwinnett Citizen. “It was Zell (Miller), asking me if that clock really was
worth $250,000. When I answered that yes, it was, he asked if we could have it moved into his office the very next day!” Rep. Coleman has a Ph.D. in administration/curriculum from Georgia State University. He holds two education specialist degrees in administration/supervision and elementary education. He earned his master’s of education in administration/ supervision from the University of Georgia and attended Mercer University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary n education. January/February 2019
Photos by Lynn Varner
Cortney George, fiscal and policy analyst for the Georgia House
Howard Maxwell, former House member representing Dallas
Master of ceremonies David McCleskey, Gwinnett County Schools ombudsman
J. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett County Schools superintendent
Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), House Ethics Committee chairman
Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), former Senate Education Committee chair
Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris
PAGE ONEâ€‚ 21
One School Psychologist for Every 2,475 Students in Georgia
How a shortage of psychologists is impacting our most vulnerable students By Scotty Brewington
usan Bryant, who has been a school school staff to get students on the right wide problem, several factors compound psychologist in Savannah for 24 track before learning differences negative- the shortage in Georgia and other southern years, remembers when a teacher ly impact academic, social and emotional states — the biggest issue being funding. pulled her aside to discuss a student. development. The state funding ratio for services in The teacher described the kindergarBut with 2,500 students under her care, Georgia has been static for decades at one tener as extremely intelligent and articuthere is often little time for one-on-one school psychologist for every 2,475 students. late with the ability to do math problems consultations and intervention. This falls significantly short of the model in his head beyond what most 5 year olds In Georgia, around 800 school psycholoby the National Association of School could do. But when it came to reading, he gists serve some 1.76 million students from Psychologists (NASP), which recommends just couldn’t form the right sounds. pre-K through 12th grade. Though the a ratio of 1:700 or lower. In Georgia, the “We decided to do an evaluation and shortage of school psychologists is a nation- ratio is typically 1:2,000 or 1:3,000 and even the teacher was right on the mark,” said Bryant. “He had high verbal skills but struggled when it came to proSchool psychologists have the highest training requirement cessing written language. We were able to come up with of any entry-level school position. An educational specialist a reading program for him degree or equivalent is required; that equals a master’s through special education, which gives him a chance degree plus 30 hours. Candidates must also complete 1,200 at becoming a good, if not hours of supervised internship — regardless of training. great reader — all because we caught it early.” Thus, experienced, private-sector clinical psychologists An experienced school cannot work in a school without being reaccredited. psychologist, Bryant is trained to problem solve and consult with teachers and 22 PAGE ONE
program at Georgia State University and Georgia delegate to the NASP Leadership Assembly. “Whether you can recruit and retain school psychologists in an area really depends on what the job looks like and how manageable it is.”
higher in some rural counties. This lack of funding, coupled with high ratios, low pay and an increasingly complex work environment have also contributed to the shortage, as has a large percentage of active school psychologists approaching retirement age. “The job of the school psychologist has become more challenging and less attractive overall,” said Catherine Perkins, Ph.D., coordinator of the school psychology
The Role of the School Psychologist The role of school psychologists is varied and often misunderstood. In simple terms, they are mental health specialists charged with applying practical principals of psychology to support students in an educational setting. This includes facilitating academic and behavioral intervention and instruction through assessment, as well as through consultations with teachers, administrators and parents. They also serve on school crisis teams and are charged with creating a safe, positive school climate for all students. School counselors, on the other hand, are typically trained to handle general social and emotional “life” adjustment issues, such as transitioning from lower school to middle school, building community, being a good friend, divorce support and anger management. And while school psychologists are also trained to do this type of preventative work, they are also equipped to work with students who have demonstrated difficulty with learning, social emotional issues or mental health challenges. “Often, the school psychologist is called in when the counselor feels a situation is above his or her level of training or expertise,” said Perkins. “In our culture, that is
Most school psychologists in Georgia serve multiple schools — or in rural areas, multiple counties — and the vast majority of their time is spent on federally mandated evaluations (each involves 15 to 30 hours). This leaves little time for preventative and consultative work to improve school climate and identify kids at risk of dropping out of school, for example.
happening more and more frequently. The intensity of the problems kids are experiencing now has increased, and there is a higher demand for individuals with the training to deal with these more intense problems beyond standard adjustment issues.” Another huge part of the school psychologist’s job is conducting psychological evaluations, a federally mandated requirement as part of a student’s overall eligibility for special education services. But with fewer school psychologists on hand and heavy caseloads, many struggle to meet evaluation deadlines and have little time left over to focus on other areas of their training.
“The main problem is not being able to deliver preventative services and participate in screening on the front end. In cases of dyslexia, for example, this becomes especially important because we want kids to be screened and receive services early. We could screen kids faster for dyslexia with a smaller caseload.” — Ben Knaebel, Ed.S., psychologist, City Schools of Decatur
PAGE ONE 23
“Part of our training is to collect and evaluate data and then assess and recommend interventions and move the needle for outcomes. Because there are fewer school psychologists in schools, we are not getting called in for assessment and intervention with kids until a problem has escalated …. If there were more of us, we could intervene early and prevent issues from getting out of control.”
Training to be a school psychologist is rigorous. Coursework includes classes on data-based decision making and accountability, familyschool consultation and collaboration, instructional support, mental health intervention and services, diversity in development and learning and more — and the 1,200 hour internship is required, regardless of training. This means that experienced, practicing clinical psychologists in the private sector cannot work in a school environment without — Catherine Perkins, Ph.D., school psychology program being reaccredited as a school coordinator, Georgia State University psychologist. “It is a significant commitment because they have to do the coursework and a full year “The main problem is not being able In Georgia, there are only three traininternship, which is typically unpaid,” to deliver preventative services and paring programs for school psychologists. said Perkins. “There is no shortcut to getticipate in screening on the front end,” The University of Georgia, which used to ting the degree. It is too important and said Ben Knaebel, a school psycholohave both an Ed.S. and doctoral program, impacts kids too directly.” gist with the City Schools of Decatur. now just offers a doctorate. The doc“In cases of dyslexia, for example, this toral program is small, only graduating The Impact on Students becomes especially important because a handful of students each year. Georgia The funding ratio for school psycholowe want kids to be screened and receive Southern University offers an Ed.S. progists in Georgia has remained the same services early. We could screen kids fastgram only, and Georgia State offers both since the Quality Basic Education Act was er for dyslexia with a smaller caseload.” an Ed.S. and doctoral program. A fourth enacted in 1985. The QBE established a program at Valdosta State University shut formula to determine the cost per student Rigorous Training Requirements down several years ago. for each of 19 general programs in public As the role of the school psychologist Further complicating matters, many school, including components such as has expanded, so has the training prerequi- graduates leave the public sector or state teacher salaries, textbooks, utilities and site. According to the Georgia Association in search of better work conditions and maintenance and instructional support. of School Psychologists (GASP), school higher pay. (Though the basic funding formula psychologists have the highest training “We recruit nationally and take in hasn’t changed, in March of this year, requirement of any entry-level position about 12 to 15 students each year,” said lawmakers voted to fully fund Georgia’s in the school system. An Educational Perkins. “We hope that they stay in state education budget in the fiscal year 2019 for Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) or equivalent is once they graduate, but some leave for the first time in over a decade. The move required, which is equivalent to a master’s jobs in other places where the role is more will close a $167 million shortfall between degree plus 30 hours. Candidates must broadly defined and the psychologistwhat the state’s education funding formula also complete 1,200 hours of supervised to-student ratio allows them to use the says schools should get and what they have internship. NASP practice model.” actually been receiving from the state.)
“It is difficult to find areas where I can use my counseling skills because of the testing and evaluation load. We are uniquely qualified, and it has to be done — and we’re the only ones who can do it — but sometimes we are viewed as nothing but the ‘tester.’ It’s a constant battle.” — Susan Bryant, Ed.S, school psychologist, Savannah
24 PAGE ONE
Other states have done a better job keeping pace with population demands, Perkins said. “Funding for education in general is not particularly strong in our state, and school psychologists, like other school-based practitioners, are under low education formulas overall,” she said. “We are hopeful that this will change with the recent emphasis on school safety and the early identification of learning disorders like dyslexia.” Students with learning disabilities may struggle in a general education setting for years before being evaluated, making it impossible for them to catch up to their peers. In other cases, parents of children with emotional needs have to wait months for assessment results, which in turn delays decisions on private mental healthcare. “Part of our training is to collect and evaluate data and then assess and recommend interventions and move the needle for outcomes,” said Perkins. “Because there are fewer school psychologists in schools, we are not getting called in for
assessment and intervention with kids until a problem has escalated into a big problem. If there were more of us, we could intervene early and prevent issues from getting out of control.” Most school psychologists in Georgia serve multiple schools — or in rural areas, multiple counties — and the vast majority of their time is spent completing federally mandated evaluations. A single evaluation can take anywhere from 15 to 30 hours to complete, leaving little time for preventative and consultative work to improve school climate and identify kids at risk of dropping out of school, for example. “It is difficult to find areas where I can use my counseling skills because of the testing and evaluation load,” said Bryant. “We are uniquely qualified, and it has to be done — and we’re the only ones who can do it — but sometimes we are viewed as nothing but the ‘tester.’ It’s a constant battle.” In Decatur, Knaebel makes it a point to facilitate small group interventions every year. He recently created a small group for high schoolers dealing with stress and
anxiety, providing students with stress management and self-regulation skills. “The students really enjoyed it,” Knaebel said. “Anxiety has really gotten out of control in high schools. It helped them get through finals, and they looked forward to taking 45 minutes to really work on themselves and their mental wellness.” The impact of the shortage of school psychologists ultimately threatens the academic and mental health of Georgia’s students, says Matt Vignieri, a school psychologist in Hall County and co-chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Georgia Association of School Psychologists. Vignieri currently serves 3,800 students across four schools. “Generally, we are working with a population that can’t necessarily access mental health services outside of their schools. We are often the frontline,” said Vignieri. “Most of our time is being used for testing when we could be helping kids before they need testing. We are fishing kids out of the stream, but letting someone throw n them in upstream.”
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gcsu.edu/education PAGE ONE 25
Commonly Asked Retirement Questions
By Sean DeVetter, PAGE Staff Attorney
significant benefit of teaching in Georgia is membership in the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. TRS provides a defined benefit in retirement to individuals (or their designated beneficiaries) who meet membership and vesting requirements. The PAGE legal department regularly receives questions about the Teacher Retirement System. This article addresses the most common questions. What is vesting and when do I become vested? When one vests, he or she becomes eligible to receive a retirement benefit from TRS. An individual vests upon 10 years
of qualifying TRS contributions and service.
benefits using the TRS online calculator at trsga.com/pension-calculator/.
When am I eligible to retire? Standard retirement requires an individual to either have 10 years of TRS-covered service and reach age 60, or have 30 years of TRS-covered service. An individual may retire with 25 years of service before age 60, but a penalty applies. Disability retirement is another form of retirement. This allows a vested member who becomes disabled to retire without penalty before age 60 or before 30 years of service. To qualify, a member must be declared disabled by the TRS medical review board. Certification for disability retirement can be a lengthy process because of the time required to secure medical records. Any member seeking disability retirement is encouraged to start the process as soon as possible rather than waiting for a specific future date.
What service counts toward retirement? Credit accrues on a monthly basis for each month you work in a TRS-covered position. To earn a month of service credit, you must work at least half of the working days of the month.
When nearing retirement, it is extremely important for State Health Benefit Plan members to make sure your premiums are paid throughout the retirement process. To continue SHBP insurance in retirement, you must have continuous coverage from your time of employment into your retirement. 26 PAGE ONE
How much money will I receive in retirement? TRS calculates your benefit as follows: two percent multiplied by years of service, multiplied by the average of your two highest-consecutive years of salary. Stipulations govern the maximum salary increase between years of service. This prevents abuse of the system and protects it for current and future members. Members can estimate their
Other ways to accrue credit towards retirement Members may transfer service earned in an out-of-state public education institution. After teaching in Georgia for six years, a member is eligible to transfer one year of out-of-state service and may then transfer another year for each year worked, up to a maximum of 10 years. Members may only transfer years to Georgia that do not already qualify for a benefit, now or in the future, in the previous state (most commonly the years occurring before vesting). If your date of TRS membership is after April 1, 1966, you must pay the total employee and employer contributions plus interest. Members may also purchase up to three years of additional service, known as “air time,” once they have 25 years of service. Air time is purchased at full actuarial cost and must be purchased at the time of retirement. Members may currently apply unused sick leave towards their total years of service. If you have at least 60 days of unused sick leave (59 won’t do it) you may apply this time towards retirement. The first 60 days earns three months of service credit and each additional 20 days earns another January/February 2019
month of service credit. TRS calculates sick leave totals based on state law governing earning of sick leave. Sick leave accumulates at 1.25 days per month. Some school districts calculate sick leave differently, granting sick leave at a greater rate. TRS recalculates all sick leave based on the state requirements. TRS will not certify sick leave until after a member retires. This may make it difficult for members to know exactly how much service credit they have prior to retiring. It is always preferable to have a few extra days rather than not enough days. If you are counting on sick leave to get you to standard retirement, and fall short, you may be penalized. Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) TRS currently grants cost of living adjustments twice a year. COLAs allow retired members to receive a 1.5 percent upward adjustment of their retirement benefit every six months. COLAs occur January 1 and July 1. At the time a member retires, he or she receives an average Consumer Price Index score based on CPI at that time. As long as your assigned number is equal to, or lower than, the current CPI index, you will receive a COLA. Insurance in retirement Most retirees continue to receive insurance through Georgia’s State Health Benefit Plan. SHBP and TRS are separate entities. While employed, members are responsible for paying a portion of their insurance premiums. When an employee retires, the insurance premiums are deducted from his or her TRS retirement check. Generally, this is a seamless transition. When nearing retirement, it is extremely important for State Health Benefit Plan members to make sure your premiums are paid throughout the retirement process. To continue SHBP insurance in retirement, you must have continuous coverage from your time of employment into your retirement. TRS is not responsible for ensuring SHBP payments are made during the transition to retirement. This responsibility lies with individual members. TRS provides all of this information and more on their website at trsga.com. TRS members may also call 404-352-6500 and speak to a retirement counselor. If questions arise, members are encouraged to speak with TRS or call the PAGE legal department. n January/February 2019
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teach 21st-century learners
This PAGE One column features technology-in-the-classroom advice from tech-savvy Georgia educators.
Technology in the Classroom:
Simple ‘Paperslide’ Videos Are an Easy Way to Reinforce Learning By Lodge McCammon, PhD
n 2007, I won $15,000 in a video contest. Crazy, right? And I did it using an inexpensive camcorder, creating a product that required very little editing, had poor lighting and was quite shaky ... but it was still worth $15,000! How in the world was that possible? Well, the message in the video was clever and clearly stated. In fact, the message was so strong that the video quality didn’t seem to matter to the judges at all. Fascinating, right? Winning that contest made me want to explore how this type of low-barrier video creation could be leveraged in the classroom. Now, what would you do if someone handed you a check for $15k? Yeah, I thought about a lot of those things as well.
However, at the time, I was pursuing my PhD at North Carolina State University and working for an education think tank called The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. So, instead of finally getting that motorcycle or paying some tuition, I used the money to buy a carload of Flip Video cameras and drove around North Carolina giving them to teachers. Do you remember Flip Video cameras? They were these really cool $80 pocket-sized devices that were extremely easy to use. Of course, they are obsolete these days because of the HD video capabilities of every smartphone. But back in 2008, they were classroom gold. So I visited schools across North Carolina, handing out Flip cameras and
showing teachers how to create what I called 1-take videos to enhance their learning environments. My mantra was: “Hit record, present your material, hit stop — and your video is done.” Any teacher or student can use this practical style of video creation to capture, share and reflect on meaningful classroom content. These 1-take videos are powerful because the focus stays on the content, not on time-consuming and expensive aspects such as the video quality, lighting or editing. What was the result of dropping off all these cameras? Well, hundreds of teachers and students started creating and sharing 1-take videos! The teachers used the cameras to capture their lessons, and
Simple ... To Complex
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students used them to tell stories about the content. One particular strategy I coined called “paperslide videos” caught on quickly. Paperslide videos are as simple as they sound. Students write a script about a topic and create on scraps of paper images that correspond with the text. Then, with a video camera pointed down at a flat surface, the students hit record and read the script while sliding corresponding images into and out of the shot. They then hit stop, and their 1-take video is complete. The videos are charming in their simplicity — especially the effect of seeing a hand pushing images in and out of view. More importantly, with paperslide videos, students own their learning by generating artifacts that capture their voice and creative ideas. Plus, it makes learning exciting! Students get really engaged in the process of creating these easy-to-make videos. Today, teachers across the world are challenging their students to use the paperslide strategy to rapidly create and share meaningful classroom content,
publishing video artifacts of student learning on a variety of sites like YouTube and Twitter. (Search #paperslide to find a variety of classroom examples.) Paperslide video projects build critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills. While collaborating to write the script and create the images, students are analyzing and teaching each other the content. When students are practicing and recording their paperslide presentations, they are reviewing the information. When the class is watching and discussing the videos, they are evaluating and reflecting on their presentations. When students revisit their published videos on YouTube (or wherever they may be shared), they are essentially teaching themselves. Based on what we know from research, if you want students to remember something, just point a video camera in their direction
Paperslide videos are as simple as they sound. Students write a script about a topic and create on scraps of paper images that correspond with the text. and challenge them to teach. Looking for an engaging and unforgettable lesson? Consider using the simple 1-take paperslide video strategy tomorrow! Lodge McCammon holds a Ph.D. in curriculum development from North Carolina State University, and he has taught high school civics and economics. As an international education consultant and trainer, he helps fellow educators implement innovative classroom strategies n that engage students in learning.
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PAGE ONE 29
Principals and Teachers Dive into Designing Engaging Work
he PAGE Principal Teacher Leadership Network is composed of teams of principals and teacher leaders committed to developing a comprehensive approach to designing engaging work for students. Principals develop their role as leader of leaders while teachers develop their role as leaders, designers and guides to instruction. Together, they create the conditions for students, parents, staff and others to be actively involved in the work that leads to meaningful learning. This fall, the network welcomed a new cohort of 12 schools with 56 participants who will n work together over a two-year period.
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5 January/February 2019
1. (l-r) Educator Ashley Patterson, Hill City ES (Pickens), Schlechty Center Senior Associate Deanna Howard, and Principal Jennifer Halko, Hill City ES (Pickens). 2. (l-r) Principal Chris Wallace and educators Melissa Weeks and Kanyon Petti, all of Pickens County High School. 3. (l-r) Educators Wendy Owens, Chad Thornton, Carl Koneman and Principal Gina Linder, all of Murray County HS. 4. (l-r) Educators Angela Cline and Krissy Elrod, both of Harmony ES (Pickens). 5. (l-r) Educators Jennifer Hannah, Emily Dixon, Principal Shawn Williams and educator Rachel Shook, all of Statham ES (Barrow). 6. Participants share observations during round table discussions. 7. (l-r) Principal Sarah Tinsley, South Forsyth MS, educators Carl Koneman, Murray Ct. HS and David Wilds, Jasper MS, (Pickens). 8. (l-r) Principal Sarah Tinsley, South Forsyth MS, educators Katie James, South Forsyth MS, Lori Hughes, Dawson Ct. Jr. HS and Wendy Owens, Murray Ct. HS.
Photos by Lynn Varner
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Swearing In for a Lifetime of Service
AGE’s newest staff attorney, Lauren Wilmer, was sworn into the State Bar of Georgia in Macon in November by the Hon. Edgar W. Ennis Jr. , Superior Court Chief Judge. Wilmer serves PAGE members seeking legal advice in Macon and the surrounding area. “Being sworn into the State Bar was the culmination of a lifelong dream,” said Wilmer. “That day, I was reminded by Judge Ennis that my new profession was about service — service to our clients and our community. His remarks reaffirmed my commitment to keep service to others at the forefront of my mind while working as a new attorney. I plan to take that lesson with me as I advocate and serve n PAGE members throughout Georgia.”
OFFICERS President: Dr. Hayward Cordy President-Elect: Nick Zomer Treasurer Lamar Scott Past President: Kelli De Guire Secretary Megan King DIRECTORS District 1 District 8 Dr. Oatanisha Dawson Lindsey Martin District 2 District 9 Brecca Pope Jennie Persinger District 3 District 10 Jamilya M. Mayo Khrista Henry District 4 District 11 Rochelle Lofstrand Dr. Sandra Owens District 5 District 12 Dr. Shannon Watkins TaKera Harris District 6 District 13 Dr. Susan Mullins Daerzio Harris District 7 Lance James DIRECTORS REPRESENTING RETIRED MEMBERS Vickie Hammond Stephanie Davis Howard
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VOLUNTEERS WANTED FOR PAGE STUDENT PROGRAMS
PAGE sponsors competitions for Georgia’s students, but those competitions can’t happen without volunteers. The PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon, to be held Feb. 22-23, needs Speech and Interview Judges, as well as Super Quiz and Testing Proctors. Please visit www.pageinc.org/ gad-volunteer-information to learn more and to volunteer.
The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the editor: Meg Thornton, firstname.lastname@example.org; PAGE One, PAGE, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contributions by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2019-20 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2019 .
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PAGE One magazine, Georgia’s premier journal for educators, highlights the innovative work of quality educators across Georgia and covers si...
Published on Jan 9, 2019
PAGE One magazine, Georgia’s premier journal for educators, highlights the innovative work of quality educators across Georgia and covers si...