Archives for category: Colorado

A watchdog website has blown the whistle on a study of the cost of new testing in Colorado. Critics say the study far understates the cost of testing.

 

Joshua Scharf of Watchdogwire writes:

 

A $74,000 commissioned report by Augenblick Palaich and Associates (APA), detailing the costs and time of statewide school assessments is coming under scrutiny for data analysis, key omissions, and potential conflicts of interest….

 

The APA Assessment Study Report analyzing the cost and time of Colorado assessments, was formally presented to Colorado’s HB14-1202 Standards and Assessments Task Force on Nov. 17, but critics charge it omitted outlying data, failed to account for necessary capital expenses, and is unclear in its calculation of student- and district-level averages.

 

Of 179 districts in Colorado, APA surveyed only 5 and excluded capital costs associated with new assessments. Here was one big omission: APA’s HB1202 report does not include costs incurred by schools for computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth necessary to take the state-mandated online PARCC and CMAS tests. Ah! So the contractor calculated the cost of testing but did not include the cost of computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth! Parents–and even some members of the state’s Task Force are calling for an investigation.

 

Scharf writes:

 

Technology costs associated with online testing are steep. This Pioneer Institute report shows average testing costs $1.24 billion pale in comparison to technology costs $6.27 billion, nationally. Many Colorado districts have already spent millions just to meet the technological demands, and although the HB1202 APA survey did collect “some information” on technology costs to schools, again, they refused to show it. Task force members have repeatedly asked to see the quantitative data collected by the APA survey both on reported testing time and cost.

 

APA’s private Draft report records significantly different numbers from its public report. The “Private Draft” reports testing costs for state, federal, and local tests to range from $55 million to $130 million while the study that the public sees reports the weighted average cost of testing as $61 million, and doesn’t explain that the range was double that….

 

Despite the competition placed by the CDE for study, APA’s was the sole proposal received. While 109 other bidders expressed interest, some demurred, commenting that the $74,000 budget was too small for a study of proper scope.

 

In addition, according to this CDE document, the task force itself expressed many concerns on APA’s proposal, including conflict of interests stemming from APA’s previous work with the Bill Gates-funded Colorado Education Initiative (CEI). CEI paid APA to do a similar assessment study just two years ago. The task force worried this prior work with CEI “could slant the focus and, consequently, the results of the HB1202 study”. They also cited APA’s tendency to not use quantitative data, resulting in reports based mostly on “perceptions and opinions, rather than actual school and district budgets and expenditures.”

 

Even more fascinating than the report were the public comments, most of which expressed strong opposition to the time and costs of new testing. Read them here.

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Colorado has one of the very worst, most punitive educator evaluation laws in the nation, called SB 191. It was written by ex-TFA member State Senator Michael Johnston.

Please sign this petition to repeal 191.

In typical corporate reform fashion, the bill has a deceptive title,”like “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” but the mechanism of “greatness” is to tie 50% of teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. In 2010, when the bill was passed, value-added-assessment was new and promising. The Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education promoted it. To be eligible for Race to the Top funding or for a waiver from the impossible mandates of No Child Left Behind, starred were required to evaluate teachers by their students’ scores.

Now we know that VAM doesn’t work. It is inaccurate , unreliable, and demoralizing. It says more about who is in the class than teacher quality.

It is time to get rid of VAM.

John Merrow notes that 5,000 students in Colorado opted out from state tests. Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will there be an. “Education Spring” in 2015?

Leaders of the anti-testing movement want to place two large billboards on major highways. informing parents of their right to opt out. They need only $300 more to meet their goal of $3,700.. Can you spare $10?

 

“Here at revolutionary headquarters, thanks to recent contributions from Colorado Springs, Denver, Loveland, and Washington State, our account at the Weld Schools Credit Union has grown to just shy of $3,000. We have come a long ways from the $700 we started with just after Labor Day. If you have yet to donate to the campaign to inspire parents to exempt their children from the fraud of the testing regimen, now would be a great time to contribute and help us reach our goal of $3,700.

 

“As you know, we have absolutely zero administrative costs. All contributions go toward our two billboards. (I’ll attach the board from last year, and the proof of this year’s board.)

 

“Please send your donation to:
The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.
2424 22nd Avenue
Greeley, Colorado 80631

 

All donations regardless of amount are greatly appreciated. Now more than ever we can see the wheel of history begin to turn toward more humane educational policies. Let’s keep raising our voices. The billboard campaign is one outstanding way to do just that.

 

In solidarity,

 

Don Perl
The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.
http://www.thecbe.org

Department of Hispanic Studies
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado 80639
don.perl@unco.edu
970-351-2746

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COLORADO COURT DENIES STATE’S MOTION TO DISMISS SCHOOL FUNDING CASE

November 14, 2014

On November 12, 2014, the Denver District Court brought the State of Colorado one step closer to fulfilling the promise of increased per pupil education funding that Amendment 23 in the Colorado Constitution requires.

In Dwyer v. State of Colorado, the Court denied the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means the Court will now hear and rule on the merits of whether the State has violated Amendment 23 by cutting K-12 education by $1 billion each of the last four years. Added to the constitution by the voters in 2000, Amendment 23 requires the state to adjust annually the statewide base per pupil funding proportional to the rate of inflation.

On hearing the news, lead plaintiff Lindi Dwyer said, “This is a good start and a good day for Colorado. The voters made a promise in 2000 that the state would increase funding and provide educational opportunities to all students. The promise is in our constitution and today takes us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.”

Judge Herbert Stern, III ruled that, “Amendment 23 prescribes minimum increases for state funding of education.”

As explained by the plaintiffs’ counsel, the Dwyer suit “alleges that the General Assembly violated Amendment 23 by slashing education funding by over a billion dollars through a gimmick the State calls the Negative Factor.” In 2010, the legislature adopted the negative factor in a statute in an attempt to override its Amendment 23 responsibilities.  

Related Stories:

Keep the Promise” to Fund Schools as Colorado’s Constitution Requires

Press Contacts:
Kathy Gebhardt, Children’s Voices:
(303) 588-8804
Timothy Macdonald, Arnold & Porter, LLP:
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Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
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Large numbers of high school students at Fairview High School in Boulder opted out of state tests.

“More than 5,000 Colorado 12th graders have refused to take the new state-mandated science and social studies tests as student anxiety about over-testing grows.

“Hundreds of high schools students in Boulder staged a mass walk out Thursday and Friday, refusing to take their 12th grade social studies and science tests.

“Fairview High School students say they want to send a clear message that when it comes to testing, enough is enough.”

They also objected to the idea that their teachers and schools might be harmed by their scores.

“Students complain the new tests don’t reflect what they’ve learned in school. Fairview Senior Jennifer Jun says some of the material was taught years earlier, or not at all.

“For them to be testing us on things that we never learned about just doesn’t make sense to us,” Jun says.

“Senior Chaya Wurman says students also worry that part of a teacher and school’s evaluation could eventually be tied to the results of tests.

“Our school is going to be harmed and our teachers are going to be harmed if students don’t do well on this test and obviously they won’t do well on this test because we’ll be tested on material that we have never learned or haven’t learned in years,” she says.

“Thursday morning, nine Fairview High students took the science test out of 538 seniors. Friday, 10 students took the social studies test.”

- See more at: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/thousands-students-protest-colorado-standardized-tests#sthash.DGG400IW.dpuf

Students in Colorado took action against pointless testing.

97% of the seniors at Cherry Creek High School stayed home to boycott the new state tests. Of 877 seniors, only 24 showed up.

The test results won’t be available until next fall, long after the seniors have graduated. The students know that the tests are meaningless.

Chalkbeat in Colorado reports that school authorities are worried about a mass opt-out by high school students in Boulder and in Douglas County and possibly other districts. The students say they have been tested nonstop during their entire school careers, and “enough is enough.” They are right.

 

This letter just in from a student leader in Colorado, who attends Fairview High School in Boulder, the epicenter of the student revolt. When the students organize and push back, they will change the national climate. Students are the true victims of our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing and standardized testing. It is they who are losing a real education while their schools are compelled to administer test after test, taking away a month or more of instruction, dropping the arts and other subjects that encourage creativity. When teachers and administrators protest, they can be fired. The students cannot be fired. They are powerful because they are free to voice their opinions without fear of retribution.  If this time of national test mania should ever subside, it will be because students like these in Colorado stood together and demanded real education, real instruction, instruction meant to recognize their talents and to inspire them to ask questions, not to check the right boxes. As the scholar Yong Zhao writes in his last book about Chinese education, standardized tests are inherently authoritarian; they require students to give the answer that the authorities demand. These students reject authoritarianism; they want an education that challenges them, inspires them, brings out the best in them. And they are right. They are the Tom Paines of our time. May their numbers multiply. They act in the authentic American tradition of revolt against distant and oppressive authorities.

 

For their intelligence, their courage, and their resistance to mindless demands that destroy their education, I name these students to the honor roll of the blog. The adults are “just following orders.” The students are taking an active role in their own education.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Ms. Ravitch,
My name is Jennifer Jun and I am a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. I’m writing to tell you that the senior class of our school, along with several other schools, is planning a protest of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test that is expected to take place this Thursday 11/13 and Friday 11/14.

 

I have been following your blog and updates to educational issues for some time now, and I simply wanted to reach out and let you know. It would be an honor to have our event recognized by a key individual in the national education reform dialogue like you.
After extensive and research and discussion our senior class has decided that the implementation of this test did not take into account student opinions, and also does not accurately reflect the Colorado social studies and science curriculum. Therefore, we students have decided to opt out of the test and gather by the school during the testing hours to protest the lack of student voice that goes into such educational reform.

 

The students have been actively initiating dialogue with school administration, the district, and intend to find other channels to talk to policy makers and individuals that are involved in implementations of such tests.

 

Students have made a 3-minute informational video about the protest, which outlines additional details about the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38zAfVOu1tw&feature=youtu.be . We have also written an open letter discussing our opinions of the test: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tbDg-SEqpYrBUwixGh4wuMu6B0YYnfftt6u-cI5dWmQ/edit?usp=sharing

 

The protest was just released to the public today, and here is one of the several articles outlining the event: http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-schools/ci_26910001/boulder-valley-seniors-plan-protest-state-tests-this
Thank you for your time and for being such an active voice for the students and the betterment of education.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Jun
Fairview High School

jenniferjunfhs@gmail.com

Colorado released scores on its new tests in science and social studies, and the proportion of students labeled “college-reeady ” was disastrous. That is, if you expect  most students to graduate from high school and perhaps go to college.

 

Either the curriculum has been narrowed so much that students aren’t learning much science or math, or the tests were so hard that few students could pass it.

 

Officials said, as they always did, that they expected low scores. Any teacher whose class got such low scores would be rated “ineffective.”

 

Colorado has been in the firm grip of the corporate reform movement for a decade. Look at the results. Sad for the kids.

 

Colorado students scored dismally in new science and social studies test results released Monday, a sobering development as the state enters a new era of standards and tests meant to be more demanding.

 

Just 17 percent of Colorado fourth- and seventh-graders scored “strong” or “distinguished” in the state’s first social studies tests. That means those students are on track to be ready for college and career.

 

In science, 34 percent of fifth-graders and 32 percent of eighth-graders hit those marks in assessments given last spring.

 

The results are a test run for advocates of tougher standards and tests. Those supporters will face a similar situation — and possible backlash — after a larger round of tests this spring based on the politically divisive Common Core standards in math and language arts.

 

In portraying the social studies and science results, state officials were careful to emphasize two points — that the standards and tests are unique to Colorado, and low scores were anticipated.

 

And more:

 

To measure students’ mastery, the education department, educators and publishing giant Pearson Inc. developed new online tests, the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS.

 

The racial achievement gaps were stark in the results released Monday. In fifth-grade science, 13 percent of black and 15 percent of Latino students were strong or distinguished, compared to 46 percent of white students.

 

High-performing charter schools and district-run schools in affluent areas scored highly.

 

Districts in poor rural areas and close-in Denver suburbs posted the lowest scores. On average, just 6 percent of students in Commerce City-based Adams County School District 14 scored strong or distinguished on the tests.

 

In Denver Public Schools, 11 percent of fourth-graders and 12 percent of seventh-graders scored strong or distinguished in social studies. Twenty percent of fifth-graders and 22 percent of eight-graders did so in science.

 

“The results are not where we want them to be long-term,” said Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, DPS’ chief academic and innovation officer, adding they were not a surprise. “We obviously feel we have the opportunity to really grow and ensure deeper levels of command for students.”

 

Look at the bright side: There is lots of opportunity to grow when you are down so far. Rigor, rigor, rigor!

 

 

 

 

Colorado State Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond sent a letter to all districts warning them not to opt out of state or federal testing. The gist of his letter was: it may be harmful; it may be child abuse; it may violate your professional ethics; Italy be a waste of time and money; but it is the law and in our state, we follow orders.

Superintendent Nicholas Gledich said District 11 did not intend to break the law. “”We’ve never had a desire to not be in compliance with the laws; we’ve had a desire to create change and coordination by which the conversation could be held,” he said.

“But D-11 isn’t conceding defeat.

“We’re not ready to just drop everything,” said Elaine Naleski, vice president of the district’s board. “We’re still having the conversations. At this point, I don’t want to say OK, they said we can’t do it so let’s go back to doing what we have been doing. We believe in local control and will do what we can locally because we believe it’s good for the kids.”

“Gledich said Hammond didn’t shut the door on D-11’s request. In his letter to Gledich, Hammond said he will have CDE staff reach out to D-11 to “explore ways in which the department can continue to collaborate and incubate innovative approaches to these issues.”

“What I see in his response is he’d like to work with us to explore innovative approaches,” Gledich said.

“However, he and I both understand that we have to work within the federal requirements.”

“The mounting resistance to standardized testing is coming at a time when Colorado education officials are reviewing a frustrating picture of a lack of academic improvement over the past 10 years of testing.

According to an annual report the CDE submitted to the State Board on Wednesday, while the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on math tests has increased by 12 percent since 2004, it’s only advanced by 
3 percent in reading and 
writing.

“School readiness of 4-year-olds has declined in literacy and math in the past three years and the percentage of third-graders reading at or above grade level has stagnated at about 72 percent.”

Remember how Arne Duncan says he wants less testing? Don’t believe him. In Colorado, such requests are routinely rejected by Duncan’s DOE. Do you think he doesn’t know?

“The U.S. Department of Education “has made it clear to us” that if a state or district fails to comply with the assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, or a state-approved flexibility waiver, its federal funding for low-income students could be in jeopardy, Hammond’s letter to superintendents states.”

Thanks, Arne, for reminding us to watch what you do and ignore what you say or write.

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