Politico,com reports that the states are working to reduce testing. Do you believe it? Color me skeptical. As long S NCLB and Arne’s waivers threaten school closings and teacher evaluations based on test scores, how can any state cut down on testing?

STATES CONSIDER CUTTING TESTING: The Council of Chief State School Officers sent states a survey earlier this year and recently revealed [http://politico.pro/1NxwAQH] one of their findings: At least 39 states are working to reduce unnecessary testing in various ways. That might include establishing a task force, surveying existing tests, gathering feedback from educators and more. Last October, CCSSO and the Council of the Great City Schools announced an effort to review testing across states and districts.

– Which states aren’t among the 39? According to CCSSO’s survey results: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas. But doesn’t mean they’re doing nothing – CCSSO stresses that some additional states have taken action since the survey was administered earlier this year. For example, North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler launched a task force to review the state’s testing options after glitches with the state’s Smarter Balanced vendor, Measured Progress, interrupted exams this spring. Some states took action prior to the survey and some may not have responded to the survey.

– Speaking of testing, a group of Florida state lawmakers wants Republican Gov. Rick Scott to dump this year’s testing results on the Florida Standards Assessment. Tampa Bay Times: http://bit.ly/1JxPjxF.

– And the California high school exit exam may be suspended immediately. EdSource: http://bit.ly/1JyxqPb.

Carol Burris, veteran principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, Néw York, retired this week, to the tears of students, parents, and staff. In this article, part of a blog debate at The Hechinger Report, she explains her negative view of Common Core.

 

She opposes the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, and she cites what is known as Campbell’s Law:

 

“When test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

 

VAM is so unreliable that the Hillsborough Teacher of the Year in 2014 received a negative rating!

 

The Common Core is an integral part of a failed national strategy, she writes:

 

“Now back to the Common Core. I am not sure what you mean when you say that I “personified” the standards and that I believe the Common Core is “the root of the problems we are facing in education.” The Common Core is but one part of a failed reform strategy. The Common Core, teacher evaluation using student tests scores, Common Core tests, the expansion of charter schools and other disruptive change strategies were pushed by the $4.35 billion competitive grant known as Race to the Top. All are presented as interconnected parts of a school improvement plan.”

 

Burris gives examples of algebra questions that were based on concepts in advanced classes; most students had not been taught the concepts.

 

In her own school, the failure of the standards and the tests were obvious:

 

“Only 48% of Rockville Centre first-time test takers achieved that score. That excludes students who previously took and failed the test—if they were included the percentage would be lower still.

 

“This year South Side High School had no dropouts and our four-year graduation rate was 98%. Should we conclude that only about half of the graduates of my high school are college-ready, and that in the future, only 48% should graduate based on the results of this test?

 

“Every other indicator contradicts that conclusion. Every year, over 70% of our graduates pass an International Baccalaureate exam in mathematics. When I checked last fall, 92% of our entire Class of 2012 was successfully enrolled in college two years after graduation. My summer survey of whether students were required to take remediation resulted in only a handful of students. All were either English language learners or students with disabilities.

 

“So, Jayne, what should I believe? The Common Core test results, which say over half of our students are not prepared for college, or over a decade’s worth of evidence that tells me nearly all of them are? I understand that my school is well-resourced with only a 16% poverty rate. But surely the juxtaposition of Common Core scores with my school’s longstanding track record of producing college-ready students indicates that there is something wrong with the Common Core standards as measured by Common Core-aligned tests. It is time we move beyond the rhetoric and critically question the assumptions on which these reforms rest.”

The biggest scam in higher education was perpetrated by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit corporation that once enrolled more than 120,000 students at 120 campuses. Corinthian collapsed recently, leaving tens of thousands of students saddled with debt and worthless degrees.

 

The recruiters focused on minorities, the poor, and veterans, making false promises about future employment and costs. The bottom line was always the same: profits. Not education.

 

The linked article is the inside story of the decline and fall of Corinthian, its predatory practices, its lies to students, and the inaction of the DOE.

 

“In lawsuits, official complaints to state and federal regulators, sworn declarations submitted in Corinthian’s bankruptcy proceeding, and conversations with The Huffington Post, dozens of former Corinthian students and several former Corinthian employees said that Corinthian drowned students in debt and sent them off with meaningless diplomas that did not help — and sometimes even harmed — their job prospects. It illegally padded job placement statistics and gave students college credit for “externships” at fast-food restaurants. It charged students up to 10 times what a comparable community college degree would cost. More than 1 in 4 Corinthian graduates defaulted on their student loans, according to Education Department data. And for years, the Education Department not only failed to recognize the depths of the abuse, but effectively funded Corinthian’s business model, sending the company billions of dollars in financial aid to help cover students’ bills.”

 

Why did the U.S. Department of Education allow this fraud to continue for so long? One might well ask why the U.S. Department of Education has been silent about the growth of predatory for-profit K-12 schools, both virtual and brick-and-mortar. For the first time in history, the U.S. ED just doesn’t see privatization and profit-making as a problem.

 

“In 2008, Tasha Courtright visited the Everest College campus in Ontario, California, with a friend. She was not looking to pursue higher education. “The recruiter said, ‘How about you? Do you want to go to school?’” Courtright recalled.

 

“I said I can’t afford it, I can’t do loans,” she remembered, noting that she was working a minimum-wage job at a gas station when Corinthian first recruited her. “They said, ‘Let us do the numbers.’ They said I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, and I wouldn’t have to pay anything.”

 

“The recruiter called Courtright repeatedly for two days, pressuring her to make a decision. “They said classes were starting and ‘If you don’t do it now, you never will.’ So I went down again and signed up.” Courtright spent four years at Everest, earning a bachelor’s degree in applied business management. She said recruiters promised she wouldn’t pay a dime; she ended up with $41,000 in student debt.

 

“High-pressure sales tactics like that were deliberately targeted at vulnerable demographic groups, including single mothers and the unemployed, according to Lueck, the former Corinthian manager. Recruits were often the first in their families to attend college. Almost anyone could qualify.

 

“Laurie McDonnell, a librarian at the Everest-Ontario Metro campus, resigned after learning that her school had enrolled a man who read at a third-grade level.

 

“The goal was simple: profits. Smaller chains like Lincoln Tech or DeVry used to dominate the for-profit college industry. But toward the end of the last decade, larger, publicly traded companies took over. By 2009, three-quarters of all U.S. students enrolled in for-profit colleges were at schools owned by a corporate conglomerate or private equity firm. Goldman Sachs owns around 40 percent of Education Management Corporation, another operator of for-profit colleges.

 

“Many for-profit college companies own multiple university brands. Corinthian, which traded on Nasdaq, ran Everest, Wyotech and Heald Colleges. The consolidation of the industry changed how for-profit schools operated, argues Elizabeth Baylor, senior investigator on a landmark 2012 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study of for-profits. “Student success was not the primary focus of the entity. It was returning investor value,” Baylor, who now works at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost.

 

“One-quarter of the average for-profit college budget goes to marketing and recruitment, Baylor said. The goal is to capture and retain students, and squeeze as much money out of them as possible. The 2012 Senate report found that Corinthian’s students defaulted on their loans at a rate that was “by far the highest of any publicly traded company” that investigators scrutinized.”

A principal sent this account of a teacher’s experience to me:

 

 

“Common Core Training for ENCORE Teachers

 

“(ENCORE = subjects like Health, Physical Education, Art, Music, Technology, Home & Careers)

 

“The ENCORE subjects were assigned a period to meet with a Common Core Specialist. We were told to bring a sample lesson or activity that we use in class.

 

“I presented a project that I use at the end of my Violence Prevention Unit. This project allows students to research and bring in any article that interests them about Bullying. The article could represent facts about bullying, prevention tips, victim accounts or any other related material. The article could be from a magazine, a newspaper or an on-line source. Students then are asked to answer 5 questions based on the article they chose.

 

1. Summarize the Article

 

2. Personal Reaction to The Article

 

3. Victim’s Reaction – if you were a victim of bullying how could the information in the article help you work out the situation in a positive way.

 

4. Parent’s Reaction- if you were a parent of a child being bullied, how could you as a parent use the information in this article to help your child.

 

5. Your Future- How would this article influence your decision next time you are bullied or you are tempted to bully someone.

 

“Students then volunteer to share their responses. The responses are powerful.

 

“The Common Core Trainer stated that this did not follow Common Core Standards because the students need to extract evidence from the article.

 

“When I stated that the goal of the unit as well as this assignment was to promote empathy and give students the skill to be an upstander for themselves as well as others, I was told by the Common Core Trainer “We don’t care how students feel we want them to be able to extract evidence from the text”. When I challenged that statement I was labeled as uncooperative.”

 

The Supreme Court hasa cepted for review a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It is a challenge to the fair share fees that unions charge non members. If the CTA loses, unions would be weakened by a loss if members and revenues. The Democratic Party would also be weakened. Some of the most conservative judges have been carefully biding their time, waiting for a case to finish off organized labor. Will this be the case that lands the death blow to public sector unions.

Without teachers’ unions, there will be no one to fight for adequate funding of schools, smaller classes, decent salaries, or teachers’ rights to due process.

Here are some readings:

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17595/friedrichs_v_california_teachers_association

http://m.watchdog.org/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwatchdog.org%2F226369%2Fscotus-will-hear-friedrichs-v-california-teachers-association-case%2F&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F#2902

http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/07/02/how-the-supreme-court-could-doom-teachers-unions

Here is the unions’ reaction:

http://www.aft.org/press-release/joint-statement-public-service-workers-supreme-court-grant-cert-friedrichs-v

Mike Klonsky updates us on Rahm’s financial hustle. 

Rahm Emanuel, who learned his creative financing tricks, like “scoop and toss” bond financing while working for Bruce Rauner at GTCR, plans to borrow $500M from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, one day after paying the Fund $634M in overdue required city contributions.

The real cost of this trickery is felt right in the classroom with 1,400 teachers and staff being hit with lay-off notices yesterday.

That is what is called “chutzpah.” He pays the pension contribution, borrows from the teachers’ pension funds, and lays off 1,400 teachers.

Here is the list of 110 groups from across the nation that have signed a petition to Congress opposing high-stakes testing.

This is the petition. Your organization should sign too:

We, the below undersigned organizations, oppose high-stakes testing because we believe these tests are causing harm to students, to public schools, and to the cause of educational equity. High-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish Black and Latino students, and recent immigrants to this country.

We oppose high-stakes tests because:

There is no evidence that these tests contribute to the quality of education, have led to improved educational equity in funding or programs, or have helped close the “achievement gap.”

High-stakes testing has become intrusive in our schools, consuming huge amounts of time and resources, and narrowing instruction to focus on test preparation.

Many of these tests have never been independently validated or shown to be reliable and/or free from racial and ethnic bias.

High-stakes tests are being used as a political weapon to claim large numbers of students are failing, to close neighborhood public schools, and to fire teachers, all in the effort to disrupt and privatize the public education system.

The alleged benefit of annual testing as mandated by No Child Left Behind was to unveil the achievement gaps, and by doing so, close them. Yet after more than a decade of high-stakes testing this has not happened. Instead, thousands of predominantly poor and minority neighborhood schools —the anchors of communities— have been closed.

As the Seattle NAACP recently stated, “Using standardized tests to label Black people and immigrants as lesser—while systematically underfunding their schools—has a long and ugly history. It is true we need accountability measures, but that should start with politicians being accountable to fully funding education and ending the opportunity gap. …The use of high-stakes tests has become part of the problem, rather than a solution.”

We agree.

Yours sincerely,

Network for Public Education

Andrea Gabor wrote a piece referring to testimonials to Rafe Esquith by former students.

 

Now other Esquith alums have contacted her, and she reprints their reactions here to the LAUSD disciplinary actions against him. He has been suspended with pay, and his class trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was canceled this year.

 

One student writes about how Esquith changed her life; the other expresses his suspicions that administrators are out to get Esquith because he never followed orders. With all the national and international honors heaped on him, the LAUSD has conspicuously never celebrated his renown as a teacher.

 

 

Bob Braun listened to Chris Christie’s announcement of his candidacy for the GOP nomination, and he was struck by Christie’s peculiar version of the “American Dream.”

While other candidates–past and present–spoke of fleeing religious persecution, tyranny, and privation to find refuge in America, Christie spoke of fleeing a racially-changing Newark for the comfort of an all-white suburb.

Braun writes:

“The Christie family did not escape from English monarchs who insisted on a state religion. Not from revolutions in southern Europe. Not from the potato famine. Not from the czar. Not from pogroms or the Holocaust. Not from grinding poverty. The Christie family escaped from black families moving into the neighborhood–new neighbors whose ancestors were brought to this country as slaves in chains. The Christies did not face the unknown wilderness or the known hostility of earlier settlers. They faced the grass, the open space, the all-white neighborhoods, of Livingston, New Jersey.

“I cannot speak for people of color but I can imagine the pain many must have felt when Christie told the adoring and mostly white crowd at Livingston High School, “I’m here in Livingston because all those years ago, my mother and father became the first of either of their families to leave the city of Newark to come here and make this home for us.”

“Not Jamestown. Or Plymouth. Or Ellis Island. Livingston.”

Not everyone who scores Pearson tests is hired from Craig’s List or Kelly Temps. Julie Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher in Néw York recently scored student responses. She stresses that she is not opposed to Common Core or to standardized tests, but she is very troubled by the kind of thinking that is rewarded in the tests.

 

 

Because she signed a confidentiality agreement, she does not discuss items on this year’s exams, but released questions from last year.

 

 

She writes:

 

 

“First things first, one of the most disturbing trends that I have found examining this year’s and last year’s (released) tests is a shift in thinking toward a kind of intellectual relativism. In other words, any claim that a student makes is correct if he or she substantiates it with some evidence. On the surface this doesn’t sound terribly problematic, but when you start to examine some of the anchor papers, the dilemma with this vein of thinking becomes shockingly apparent. The truth is, not all claims are correct and not all evidence is created equal. Making a feeble claim and using evidence out of context to support that claim is an all too common occurrence on these tests….

 

“According to Pearson “you choose what you think is right” is the first inference. The list of upsides and downsides is one detail. The student then uses an unrelated second detail about joining clubs and school and makes a second inference that you may really end up enjoying it. Formulaically speaking: inference + 2 details will always yield a correct answer[2]. What we have here is a confusing and clumsy answer to a confusing and clumsy question.

 

“One might argue that this way of scoring allows students to scrape up extra points and is actually a boon to teachers and students alike. It boosts scores! Hurrah!

 

“But in fact, it creates a terrifyingly slippery slope. I think about climate change deniers, the Creationist Museum in Kentucky that shows humans and dinosaurs roaming Earth side-by-side, 9-11 conspiracy theorists, and the Holocaust itself! Throughout history, people have made misguided claims and have supported their thinking with spurious details and evidence. Don’t our children deserve better?

 

“Another disturbing pattern that emerges as one reads the anchor responses for the ELA is what I call “The Easter Egg Hunt.” When it comes to short answer questions in particular, the question that is actually being posed rarely matches the answer required. The wordier the written response, the more likely it is that the student will stumble upon the correct answer, find the decorative egg. (Strategy!) Time after time there is a clandestine condition that must be met in order for an answer to get full credit – “Magic Words.” As my scoring instructor illustrated, it’s kind of like tossing all of the words into a bucket and looking for certain key phrases or ideas to float up to the top.”

 

 

The nitty-gritty of the scoring process demonstrates that we have outsourced the most important functions of education to a mega-corporation that is incapable of assessing critical thinking. No standardized test can,no matter who writes it or scores it. Standardization itself is antithetical to the intended result.

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