This week Washington County Insider ran a story with exclusive comments from West Bend School Board President Randy Marquardt regarding the Galileo testing system used in the school district. The story was prompted following the paid administrative leave of teacher Tanya Lohr. The West Bend Educators Association said the leave was due to Lohr asking high school principal Bill Greymont questions about the Galileo testing system. Greymont responded to an email from WCI that he had no comment. Calls to the district’s Human Resources Department have not been returned.
The following note is from the WBEA:
The West Bend Educators Association has the following response to recent statements made by West Bend School Board President Randy Marquardt.
President Marquardt: “The board sets standards and curriculum and a teacher is hired to teach that standard and curriculum for a certain class.” And In response to the statement that teachers in the West Bend School District have expressed concern the Galileo system does not align with the curriculum. “If that’s the case then they’re not using it correctly.”
The problem with the “just teach to the standards” argument is that the standards are so general, you can pick one you cover in your class, and the question selected by Galileo might not actually apply to that class. For instance, U.S. History I may be assigned the standard “Students will understand the factors that lead to war” and the question selected by Galileo could be “Which of the following was a factor which lead to World War II”, a topic that will not be covered until the second semester of U.S. History II. Would it be fair to grade a student in U.S. History I based on this question and would doing so accurately reflect the quality of instruction occurring in that classroom?
Another problem that developed is that the standards do not reflect the level of the course. At the high school, courses are typically offered at three levels. For instance, there is a Core Biology, a Biology, and an Honors Biology. All 3 teach to the same standards, but the curriculum is altered to meet the level of the students. However, Galileo in limited in its ability to differentiate for these three levels. So the same standards are being taught at all three levels, but the questions selected by Galileo may be more appropriate for the Honors level, or the Core level curriculum. Students doing poorly on a question may not be because the standard wasn’t taught, but rather because the standard was taught at a different level than the question asked. This is another reason why teachers were concerned about the use of Galileo for assigning student grades and determining staff compensations.
President Marquardt: “It’s my understanding there’s a world of questions out there that they can select from. They can write their own and submit them and have them looked at by others and make sure it’s aligned and on point; this isn’t something we dreamed up, it’s a product that’s out on the marketplace.”
Teachers were also told there would be “a world of questions” to select from, but once we got into the system, this turned out not to be the case. That is why so many subjects ended up typing their own questions into the system.
It is also important to note that there is a difference between “a world of questions” and “a world of quality questions.” Many teachers found the questions that were available to be poorly worded, grammatically incorrect, and in some cases, to have the wrong answer selected within the program. There were also instances where the standard selected for testing did not match up with the question selected by Galileo. For example, a standard for identifying theme in a piece of literature may have been selected, but the question given by Galileo actually asked about setting or word choice.
President Marquardt: In response to the statement that The West Bend School District adopted the Galileo testing system two years ago. “I know the system is used across the country but I can’t tell you how many districts have it.”
First, we have not been able to find any districts in the state of Wisconsin who use the Galileo testing system. We asked every time a trainer flew in from Arizona where else Galileo was used, and every state that was named was south of the Mason-Dixon line. The program itself was designed in Arizona, which one trainer said, was still their primary focus.
Second, Galileo may have been purchased by the district two years ago, but it was first introduced to teachers last May, which is also when teachers began voicing their concerns with it. This year is the first year it’s being implemented, and the implementation has not gone smoothly. Galileo is both costly, and time consuming, and it has not delivered what teachers were promised late last spring.
President Marquardt: “If this is a case of someone not doing their job then there are only two choices, they either improve and start performing the duties they were hired to do or they can quit or be fired,”
First, Ms. Lohr was not placed on leave because she was not doing her job. She was placed on leave because of a conversation she had with Principal Bill Greymont about staff concerns over Galileo testing. There is a significant difference between the two. Second, the WBEA is unaware of any teacher in the district refusing to give the Galileo tests. In fact, the request on our petition outlining teacher concerns was “In light of the quantity and severity of problems that have surfaced since the introduction of Galileo, we ask that it not be used for student grades, or as part of staff assessment.”