Good Testlet News!

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The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has temporarily taken down the Algebra I Testlet.  MDE is in the process of making additional revisions to the testlet based on the questions, comments, concerns, and just general feedback they have received over the past week from math teachers and content specialists state-wide.  This is a huge victory for those of us who care deeply about mathematics and our students!  I am actually very optimistic and confident that we will end up with some excellent practice items to use with our students as we review for the Questar testing cycle in late April / early May.

Until then, we have a week of Spring Break and then two more short chapters to cover before we can afford to spend ANY instructional time exclusively reviewing.

25 thoughts on “Good Testlet News!

  1. I have been looking through your test version because a friend sent it to me. Ma’am You criticize the MDE but even your last row on the Chistopher problem is wrong! You say the given equation is (X -5)^2 = -22 and that is not what is given in your new problem.

    I agree the tests were in need of repair and what I saw online is GOOD! Is any test great, absolutely not. But we respect our friends at the state office – again, did you catch that- the state office.

    They are humans and people too. They work hard and they are understaffed from what I hear, but they created what we are using as a teaching tool for our students.

    Everything online is in public view and you are a state school employee criticizing the state office. Doesn’t seem really smart to do that, in my opinion. But that is what you choose to do. Not really smart I wouldn’t think. But I digress.

    Instead of blogging and providing the private emails that were shared with you as a professional you may should have continued to have a private email with the person you were in contact with at the state office. I have worked with the state office and they have all our best interest at heart and if you were to email them privately first and then post about the end result that would have been professional.
    It’s not like they don’t get access to these things. Not very professional or collegial.

    Any time I have an issue or concern they listen and help. We should all look at this as if we are partners. And the fact that took the test down and reposted with edits that even Insent them PRIVATELY and some of the other districts is what it’s all about.

    I have seen the updated Algebra 1 version and it is GOOD! I am glad they got feedback and changed it. That means they listened and care about all of us.

    We aren’t the only ones going through fears of the Common Core exams other states did the same thing and they got through it. And we will too!

    No test or practice is test is perfect but I commend the state office staff for seeing the need to fix and make it great. I think they have done that.

    Let’s be proactive and not reactive.

    Just my three cents.

    • Excellent comments!

      Unfortunately when I did email in private I didn’t get much support initially. I even spoke on the phone in private and a few things were changed (like the graph that didn’t match the equation on question 1) but not enough. The main reply I kept getting was, “Teachers and Districts can change the testlet to meet their students’ needs.” That was unsatisfactory. The math was wrong. So, frustrated, I did write that initial blog post but it created a lot of positive change. Math teachers from all over the state were very upset and frustrated and were emailing me and MDE at a great clip in those first four days. Eventually MDE pulled the test and revised it. Many of the revisions in the first few days and on the current testlet were my edits. Yes, the Christopher completing the square question is still flawed on the testlet and not just the last statement. In fact I have been emailing with MDE since last night and again since 6:40 this morning and we think we have a fix for it. They will fix it before they make the announcement about the new revised testlet on Monday.

      The other positive change is that a bunch of math teachers all have each other’s emails and we have formed a support web.

      Thanks for your comments! Please feel free to contact me directly any time at too.

    • Along with many other teachers in the area, I appreciate her efforts to ensure that the testlets being used by students in all districts are correct. Simply allowing districts to make their own corrections was not good enough, and it took teachers speaking up to convince MDE to correct the testlet that was posted on their website. You stated that no test or practice test is perfect, but shouldn’t it be? If we are expecting perfection from our students on tests, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to ensure that the assessments given to them are free from errors? I believe that is exactly what Ms. Cornelius was doing, and I appreciate her doing so.

    • Wow. That’s a weak defense that amounts to “They’re bureaucrats. Be nice to them.”

      I have no issue with MDE. But publication of this practice test was shoddy work plain and simple.

      Working on student assessment, providing research, and making sure our districts and teachers have the best tools, and best possible research behind those tools, is their full-time endeavor.

      The blunt truth is like this practice test appears produced too quickly; without enough effort; in someone’s spare time; by someone who doesn’t know their math.

      The practice test was a useless tool for classroom teachers.

      MDE should be embarrassed and called out publicly for this kind of work. It should never have been published. More than one person should have worked on the project and there should have been multiple layers of editing and checking before the practice test’s posting.

      MDE didn’t behave professionally in this practice test’s production and publication.

      Worse, MDE tried to shrug off their shoddy workmanship, telling districts and classroom teachers to, in so many words, “fix it and deal with it.”

      This isn’t quality work, leadership, or helpful. Unresponsive, insulated bureaucracies often need to be shaken and publicly exposed into action.

  2. As ab algebra teacher and parent of 9th grade Algebra 1 student, I am thankful for Virge and all the teachers in my department who form a support system for we teachers at WVHS.

    Three teachers in my department worked the original testlet and each questioned ourselves because we “knew” there couldn’t have been errors published. In a day where testing is so stressful to our students, I can’t imagine how they would have felt if we have given to them.

    I pray the MAP test given to our students doesnt have errors since it is one of four required tests for graduation.

  3. I am thrilled to see a teacher who is committed enough to be looking at these things ahead of time and making sure that they’re done right! Thanks for what you do.

  4. Wow, Virge. Your answers and blog posts are well thought out and professionally written. I think people should consider the possibility that you have done way more work in the background before posting than actually shows in the post. Sometimes government bureaucrats need public motivation before working out difficulties. They need to see that the problems are affecting a large number of people before they act. Private phone calls do not always provide that information in the scope necessary. Way to fight for the students, Virge!

  5. It’s the “Give Mouse a Cookie”………..If I took the Mississipi State tests with incorrect mathematical questions, even with good math sense and ability I probably wouldn’t do very well because things wouldn’t make sense, and then the school would tell my parents my score, and then at parent teacher conferences my teacher would tell my parents that I don’t have good math aptitude, and then I would probably decide I can’t do math, and then, if my parents weren’t mathematicians, they would agree and console me thinking this was the truth and they would say “oh” , and then they would agree with my teacher that the school should keep me in the lower math classes, and then I’d never get to AP Calculus, and then I would go to college, and then I would be hoping not to take anymore math since I wasn’t good at it, and then I would avoid any or all math classes, and then that would put me out of any science classes too.

    I would do all of this not realizing that I could be a PhD mathematician and do really cool stuff, teach really cool stuff, OR if I didn’t want to teach I could apply my mathematics knowledge to earn a 6-figure salary where the hundred thousands digit was greater than 1.

    All of this because MDE was not held accountable to take serious the unintended consequences of poorly written or mathematically incorrect standardized test questions. Teacher, students and school are under funding and performance pressure from State and Federal agencies to raise test scores. How can this happen if the assessments are flawed? So, yes. There needs to be accountability. Bravo Virge and others who demanded more.

  6. I don’t think this is about calling out. I just went online and I see some of the tests have been updated this morning. That is awesome. I will wait for an official announcement next week before I press print. Very noteworthy is They seem to have incorporated many of the edits our district sent them. And that is great. I compared it to your test suggests and your are in there too. Way to go MDE. It wasn’t just on Algebra I. We sent edits on all the testlets in math and ELA.

    What I see in these threads is a constant thread that “they listened to us!” That is the thing we all have to remember. They listened. And that is what this whole CC thing is aboit. Teamwork.

    Personally I understand the power of the Internet. It’s not like they don’t read these things and see who we are and we have to ask ourselves might we ever need the state office or staff to support us in the future. In any way if our names come across any state office staff desks for any reason….. might things like this harm us. While that is not the focus of this blog I just keep things like it mind. …..Because it is the reality we live in…..We should all be a team. And they made the edits we suggested. Our district is happy for that.

    Many of us need to keep that in mind. This is a public forum.

    Ms Virgie you said they worked at 6a with you today!! As in 6 a.m. ?????? Wow!! It’s Saturday! Who ever at the agency did that on their Saturday must definitiely value’s your opinion and support. Kudos to both of you. I am very certain I know who that person is at the state department because that is their character and spirit.

    if we think about, was the state agency this way years ago? Where they reach out and listento us? Nope! I have been in education in MS over 15 years and the answer is NO. I like the new transparency. It makes me feel valued because again they listen and made corrections. Again at 6a! Wow! Who does that???

    And why ar we criticizing their desire to reach out. That is what we wanted. Right. . For them to listen. And that is really awesome that who ever that person was that was up at 6a listening and making adjustments saw that as an opportunity for collaboration and to get it right. That is super. The MDE did that.

    Again, I agree all the testlets are not what we are used to in math or English. And we can all modify some of the items we see…..but didn’t we do that anyway in years pass with the math and English practice test. In previous years we had to use only the posts PDFs and get creative with them. To have the word version of these tests is cool. Very innovative. No other state has done that. And my district did some research on that. No state does that.

    Our district is using the new practice test as a resource tool. Not as the only thing out there. We are making edits. But it’s a great tool. We all see things we could have changed and we told them. Math made edits! Not sure about the content other area. But they are listening. If they didn’t listen we would definitely have some other issues. Right?

    Our previous state practice test were so easy. Routine. Run of the mill. These tests are making us think. Glad they allow us the opportunity to help them get it right.

    And Virgie I am not getting on you only pointing out that they listened and that is the new face of the MDE that we like.

    Finally I compared your test with what they now have posted and it is very similar. Who ever your friend is at the MDE that spoke with you at 6a trusts you and values your opinion as a friend and professional. That is great! Instead of bashing the staff have you reached out to tell them thank you since your 6a call? We did send a few emails to the staff up there when we saw our feedback posted. And we thanked them.

    As understaffed as they are, we sent them a personal email to say “Thank you for listening and making the edits.”

    We are going to use the testlets as a tool only. We are teaching the standards in our district and we have been very successful. One tool is not the end all be all.

    I commend the MDE for listening. I just know what to do with my kids and how to use the new revised testlets to support that.

    Great dialogue.

  7. Mississippi might be the only state doing this, but perhaps this is because they contracted with Questar and that contract apparently does not include providing teacher / student resources in the form of anything more than an item sampler. I have emailed Questar repeatedly about issues with the Algebra I item sampler but all I get back is either crickets chirping or “this help ticket is closed”. It is unconscionable that this ten-year, multimillion dollar contract exists and the teachers and students of Mississippi are getting nothing from it. At least with PARCC we had items!

    In terms of working on Friday night or on Saturday morning to resolve these issues, that just goes to show how professional MDE and I both are and how we care about getting it right.

    I have thanked my contact at MDE multiple times. She knows I appreciate the changes. She also knows that the changes didn’t happen because MDE allowed them to happen; the changes happened because the mathematics was wrong.

  8. Yes, the MDE has totally changed. Great collaboration in these days and time.

    We sent edits on all tests Math and ELA for all grades to the state office. Some testlets more then others. But we sent edits and our district is pleased that they listened for the math ones. Now that is character. Let’s keep that at the forefront. Again, they listened and made the edits. Progressive and professional.

    Nope! From what I understand Questar didn’t give the state dept any teacher resources. That is not cool. So, I guess that is why the MDE crafted their own practice tests.

    But we advocate the Standards and teaching them in our district. Our students know that you can’t depend on any practice test to tell you exactly what is on the real thing or how an objective is tested. So we just push good teaching practices.

    CC is doing just what is what intended to do in our state-force collaboration. And by the way, MS was the only state out of the entire country that had significant achievement on the NAEP assessment in math! The only state. So we are coming out the bottom % and that is so exciting.

    So glad Virgie that the MDE worked with multiple districts over the week and today to get it right on their ELA and math tests for all grades. Now that is outstanding.

    See you at the top!

    • Unfortunately our English teachers gave the MDE practice testlet and said there were a lot of mistakes. A waste of instructional time. If I weren’t a more seasoned teacher, I might have allowed my administrators to make me give that first flawed test to my students. I am sure that happened with a lot of algebra teachers who don’t feel they can stand up to their admins or to MDE. But now we have a much better testlet! Not sure exactly how we will use it yet in our district since we still have content to cover before we can think of reviewing. And, truth be told we need to get the kids on a computer screen to practice. That is why it would be better if Questar had more items for us to use.

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