Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Group of principals fights Metro test schedule

State rejects student-fatigue argument By NATALIA MIELCZAREK and COLBY SLEDGE • Staff Writers (Tennessean) • April 15, 2008 A group of Metro principals says a different achievement testing schedule this year left their students tired and discouraged, which could result in lower test scores needed to improve the district's poor federal standing. That's no excuse, according to the state Department of Education. Other districts have not seen problems under the format, which Metro was forced to use after previously skirting the rules. The Metro Nashville Principals Advisory Board, composed of principals across the school system, plans to send a list of concerns to Metro and state education officials later this week. The complaints address state-mandated achievement tests that Metro students completed Monday under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. In a draft copy of the letter obtained by The Tennessean, the group said that administering both math sections of the test in a single day and both sections of reading in a single day caused students "extreme fatigue." Under former Schools Director Pedro Garcia, the district had been breaking up subject tests over multiple days. "We had several students who just quit working," said Alan Powell, principal at Glenn Elementary School. "I feel very discouraged because we're working very hard to make adequate progress. When you throw that kind of obstacle in the way, it's hard to do it." This is a crucial year for the Metro school system to ace the state achievement tests and start clawing its way out of trouble under federal mandates. The 75,000-student district came under state supervision this summer for not showing enough progress in some areas of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. More sanctions possible If the district doesn't improve with this round of testing, it faces more stringent sanctions, including losing funding. The state tests in grades 3-8 are used to determine such progress. The principals' fears of lower scores resulting from the testing changes are unfounded, according to the state Department of Education. "Other districts are clearly an argument as to why they can overcome that fatigue in kids," said Rachel Woods, spokeswoman for the state education department. "If they're there for an eight-hour school day anyway, they're used to being engaged for seven or eight hours a day." Under state regulations, students must take all of the tests on one subject during the same day, Woods said. All schools directors approve and are aware of the rules, Woods said. Metro officials said they considered the test requirements to be recommendations, not mandates. The changes benefited Merna Wasif, an eighth-grader at Head Middle Magnet School. Taking both sections of the same subject in one day helped the tests fly by more quickly. "You just finish that subject and you don't have to take testing a lot," said Wasif, who said she missed more classes last year under Metro's format. This year, Metro split up testing over two weeks. Next year, Woods expects that Metro will be required to administer testing in a single week, as other districts do.

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