Archives for category: Colorado

The Pearson server crashed in Colorado as tens of thousands of students were taking online assessments in science and social studies.

It was not what you would call an opt out, but it had the same effect. The Brave Néw World of online assessment is not quite ready for prime time.

The Colorado legislature is considering legislation permitting parents to opt their children out of state testing. The legislation is opposed by corporate reformer State Senator Michael Johnston and corporate reform groups like Colorado Succeeds.

Johnston, drawing on his experience in Teach for America and a brief stint as a principal, was author of legislation passed in 2010 that made test scores count for 50% of teacher evaluations.

I was in Denver the day his dreadful legislation came to a vote, and we were supposed to debate before about 100 civic leaders. Johnston waited outside the room for me to finish my presentation, so he heard nothing to contradict his love of high-stakes testing. As soon as he entered the room, he told the audience about the passage of his “great schools, great teachers” bill.

I was happy to see this part of the AP story about legislation in Colorado:

“Several more testing-related bills await hearings this week, including proposals to reduce social studies testing and to eliminate all statewide tests not required by the federal government. Another bill would dismantle a 2010 requirement that teacher evaluations rely at least 50 percent on student test scores.”

That last item is Mike Johnston’s “historic” bill.

According to the Cherry Creek News, Colorado parents are trying to beat back another high-stakes testing bill by State Senator Michael Johnston. This one is aimed at kindergarten children. They would be required to pass a reading test or take remedial instruction.

Maybe kindergarten kids will stage protests or their parents will.

The last education reform bill by Johnston made test scores 50% of every teacher’s evaluation. He called it “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” all accomplished by the magic of standardized tests. That was 2010. How did that work out?

Colorado students are rallying to demand testing reform. This is THEIR issue. They have been subjected to test after test after test. They lose instructional time. They lose time for the arts and history and foreign languages to make more time for testing. Their scores can get their teachers and their principal fired. They are genuine patriots. Despite 12 years of testing, they have not been turned into robots. They are standing up for their right to a real education. They refuse to be crushed by the standardization machine. These students can teach the nation what matters most.

 

On Saturday, March 7th, from 11 am to 12 pm, high school students from schools around the state will join on the West Steps of the Denver Capitol.

 

They aim to have their voices heard on the issue of standardized testing in Colorado. The Colorado Measure for Academic Success (CMAS) test proved to be the uniting factor that prompted these students to raise concerns regarding the corporate ownership of tests such as the CMAS, as well as the ways in which they feel these tests are misaligned with curriculum design.

 

Other grievances regarding these tests include the fact that teachers cannot see the tests their students take, and that depending upon the school district, they feel teachers and schools can be unfairly jeopardized based upon the students’ scores. After contemplating this myriad of complaints and concerns, a group of high school seniors in Fort Collins began an organization known as ‘The Anti-Test’, a group which seeks to peacefully protest certain aspects of standardized testing for the sake of testing reform. They have organized this rally in Denver so that the voices of civically engaged students may be heard in what they ultimately believe is a student issue.

 

I hope they bring a special message of dissent to State Senator Michael Johnston, who wrote Senate Bill 191, which made high-stakes testing the focus of “reform” in Colorado. Johnston is a former member of Teach for America. He insisted that 50% of educators’ evaluation should be based on test scores. Making testing so important, he claimed in 2010, would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.” How has that worked out?

Last night, I posted an appeal to support Peggy Robertson, who is under fire for her bold advocacy of opting out of mandated testing.

 

The story in the Denver Post said that the Colorado Education Association was ambivalent about standing by Peggy. Its story said:

 

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the state’s largest union has a legal duty to represent its members but also recognizes Colorado law requires standardized tests.

 

She said: “It may be difficult to defend those who don’t comply,. We absolutely will do our best to defend our members who are acting in the best interest of our students. “

 

There can be no doubt that Peggy Robertson is acting “in the best interest of our students” by defying the state.

 

In a comment sent to this blog, Kerrie Dallman, president of the CEA, says the Denver Post story was erroneous. The union will support Peggy.

 

She wrote:

 

There is no ambivalence, CEA will support Peggy if there is any job action take against her. We will do all that is within our power.

Clearly Denver Post writers did some picking and choosing from my comments provided to them.

Check out my guest commentary in the Denver Post on the same issue:

http://www.denverpost.com/guestcommentary/ci_27612734/education-reformers-denial?source=infinite

Peggy Robertson, the leader of United Opt Out, is under attack. In this article in the “Denver Post,” administrators warn that she might lose her job if she doesn’t give the test. Even union leaders express ambivalence about supporting her.

Peg has Ben a hero of the Opt Out movement. She has been fearless and outspoken. She belongs on the honor roll of the blog as one of the indispensable voices who support children.

Please write letters and tweets to the Denver Post and tweet your support for Peg.

The Denver Post is @denverpost

Peggy Robertson is @pegwithpen

United Opt Out is @UnitedOptOut

Stand with Peggy and UnitedOpt Out!

#IsupportPeggyandOptOut

Douglas County, Colorado, has a school board controlled by supporters of school choice. Normally, school boards see themselves as stewards of public schools. Not this one.

One local parent has been watching the money. She wonders, “Quid Pro Quo or Coincidence?”

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?

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