Archives for category: Common Core

Laura H. Chapman, a frequent contributor to the blog, raises some important points about Common Core test and its reach into kindergarten and into the future:

 

 

You should be aware that PARCC tests are in the works for Kindergarten. They are called “formative tasks.” They are more accurately labeled “Tests for Tykes. You can find a draft of the exam for reading informational text as called for in the Common Core category at http://parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20DRAFT%20K-1%20Prototype%20ELA%20K_Reading_Spring_Informational%20Texts.pdf

 

The test is completely embedded in fully scripted lessons for the teacher. Judging from the reproducible worksheets designed for students, the test makers seem to assume that by the Spring of the school year, Kindergarten students will have learned, or been taught, to write complete sentences (with the proper heights of letters). They will also know how to color in a drawing of a fish. All of the questions are based on one “informational text” about fish. Additional plans are in the works for at least three more kindergarten tests, all of them called “formative tasks.”

 

There is a real mazy-hazy problem with retrieving trustworthy information about testing materials on line. For example “parcc.pearson.com” seems to be as authoritative as “parcconline.org/parcc-assessment‎. Then there is parcconline.org where you will find 194 pages of information prepared in 2012 by Achieve, Inc. and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, the latter an organization lead by Sir Michael Barber, of Great Britain, and also the chief education advisor to Pearson. The lines bewteen the federally financed tests developed by PARCC and Pearson’s pursuit of profits is not at all clear.

 

Readers should know that parcc.com has test-prep materials for kindergarten math. They are called “games” and they are the product of a cartoon company in Great Britain, complete with audios in a British accent http://parccgames.com/?page_id=25 . The bottom of the page on the games website says: “This site is intended to match students and teachers with the most effective games for reinforcing Common Core curriculum.” Of course, there is no single curriculum for the Common Core.

 

At http://www.corecommonstandards.com/common-core/kindergarten-common-core-workbooks, you can find three “Common Core Assessment Workbooks” —test prep materials for Kindergarten, I kid you not. Another version of test prep for Kindergartener is discussed by a master educator who has a personal stake in the test-em-til-they drop ethos created by federal and state policies. Go to http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/11/26/my-daughters-kindergarten-common-core-math-workbook/

 

Not to be outdone by the PARCC tests, and CCSS, The Maryland State Department of Education, has PreKindergarten Common Core standards!!! These “specify the mathematics that all students should study as they begin preparing to be college and career ready by graduation.“ The language in these extrapolated standards is so exotic that the writers of the publication had to color-code the language in the standards. See http://mdk12.org/share/frameworks/CCSC_Math_grpk.pdf

 

So there are more Common Core tests in the works, Kindergarten and perhaps preschool, multiple tests, every year. They are coupled with a cockamamie idea that the Common Core Standards and associated tests are perfect predictors and guarantors of college and career readiness of children in grades K-12, who may survive the testing regime and graduate in 2025-2028…Meanwhile a new Cngress is uncertain whether to say “college OR career,” or “colege AND career.”

 

The promoters of this belief system and agenda for public schools seem to think that this generation should be locked in a time capsule of ideas and tests. This frozen–in-time agenda for American education has been embedded in federal and state legislation as if to say: There are no paths to useful and rewarding work and the good life, except as set forth in the first decade of this century when these standards were written. The writers said, in effect, there is no need for educators, or parents, or students to think about what life offers and may require beyond passing these tests, getting a job, and going to college. Pathetic.

 

This is the awful mind-trap that has been set for this generation. Parents and teachers who will not comply with these tests know that the test scores are not 100% faithful and true predictors of life outcomes. For having this warranted knowledge and wisdom, they are being threatened by the purveyors of the non-sense.

 

Parents who are lawyers or who have access to legal help may want to look at whether districts are in full compliance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, and especially with COPPA—the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, not the US Department of Education.
The primary goal of COPPA is to allow parents to have control over what information is collected online “from their children” under age 13.

 

The FTC “consumer protection office” appears to be getting a batch of questions about the PARCC/Pearson relationship and specifically the on-line testing environment where Pearson—a commercial contractor—is empowered to get personal information from tests and social media websites.

 

You will find a lively discussion there, along with a clear indication that this matter is just now beginning to show up on the radar screen of a lot of people, especially those who say that parents have no legal right to opt-out. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2015/01/testing-testing-review-session-coppa-schools

The fast-shrinking PARCC testing consortium dropped by another one as Ohio pulled out.

 

Governor John Kasich signed a bill to replace the trouble-plagued PARCC with another test.

 

The number of states in the federally-funded PARCC consortium has declined from 25 in 2011 to only 11 in 2015.

 

The Ohio decision was the result of voluminous complaints about PARCC, from technology glitches to the hours of time the tests require. PARCC has agreed to cut

 

AIR may well get the Ohio contract, but some parents and educators are unhappy with AIR.

 

PARCC also agreed in May to shorten its tests by 60 minutes in math and 30 minutes in English.

 

But that change wasn’t the dramatic reduction many sought. Students took about 10 to 11 hours of PARCC exams in just English and math this year, depending on their grade. With that much testing, the combined 90-minute drop amounts to a 15 percent cut at the most.

 

PARCC is rapidly losing states who are unhappy with the quality and time required for the PARCC tests.

 

PARCC states, as of 2011(25): Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, District of Columbia.

 

Note that some states, like New York and Massachusetts, use PARCC in a far more limited way than Ohio has.

 

PARCC states now (11): Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, District of Columbia.

 

Arkansas is in the middle of a battle between the governor, legislature and state school board over PARCC’s future there.

 

 

Our blog poet, who signs as SomeDam Poet, contributed these words of wisdom:

 

Hail Arne
Full of Gates
The Core is with thee
Mes-sed art thou among Reformers
And mes-sed is the fruit of thy room, RTTT

 

Our Coleman
Who aren’t an educator
Hollow be they claim
Thy King-dom come,
Thy will be dumb,
In NY as it is in Washington
Spare us this Core our daily bore,
and forgive us our testpasses,
as we forgive those who testpass in charters ;
and lead us not into DAM nation,
but deliver us from Common Core.

 

Amen

Peter Greene brings us back to the halcyon days when central planners at the U.S. Department of Education dreamed of one big set of national standards–the Common Core–and two testing consortia, both dependent on the same set of standards. The Gates Foundation funded the Common Core and continues to fund various organizations to advocate for it and to “demand” annual testing mandates. The federal government funded the two testing groups–PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment–with $360 million of our taxpayer dollars.

 

It turns out not to have been a sound investment. PARCC started with 24 (or 25) states in its consortium, and more than half those states have abandoned the Pearson-made PARCC. With Ohio’s exit from PARCC, the number is down now to 10 states plus D.C. Some of those 10 are likely to drop PARCC. The technological problems have been extremely annoying, and the amount of time required for the testing (8 to 11 hours) is burdensome. Here is a question: Why is it that teachers can give a 45-minute test in reading and math and find out what their students know, but PARCC requires 8 to 11 hours to get the same information.

 

The market for PARCC has shrunk so dramatically that Peter Greene thinks it is only a matter of time until Pearson executives decide that the tests are not worth their time, the revenue stream is too small, and bye-bye PARCC.

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.”

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.”

 

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.

A confession: an anthology that I edited in 1990 is on the Common Core recommended reading list. It is titled “The American Reader.” It has songs, poems, and speeches (thus, a mixture of “literature” and “informational text.” The CC reading list does not mention my name as the editor. I didn’t discover this until I began to receive royalty checks for this book, published 25 years ago.

Regardless, I will continue to criticize the Common Core. I don’t think a group of self-appointed educrats should tell the nation’s teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or nonfiction

An educator forwarded an email he received, inviting him to apply for a fellowship at Néw York Educator Voice-America Achieve. If accepted, he would gain training in writing opinion pieces, speaking at public forums, and becoming a voice for Common Core. The organization would help him to get invitations to national conferences as a speaker and to become a prominent voice for the profession, on behalf of Common Core.

Here is the invitation:

“Dear Colleagues,

“Happy summer!

“The application deadline for the New York Educator Voice Fellowship is this Friday, July 3rd. The Fellowship is a really great program for teachers and principals who are interested in education policy and looking to make a difference in their communities and across New York. Don’t miss this chance to help one of your favorite teachers take advantage of this opportunity.

HERE is a link to our application website where you can learn more about the program and submit a nomination.”

The program offers to give teachers “voice,” but the voice must be used to support the corporate reform narrative. This is no voice at all; it is hiring teachers and principals to endorse someone else’s agenda.

The program is paid for by Michael Bloomberg, the Harry and Leona Helmsley Foundation (“queen of mean”), and the Gates Foundation.

In an interview, John White made it clear that he wants to keep his $275,000 job as state superintendent in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal pushed the state board to hire him after his brief stint as superintendent of the Néw Orleans Recovery School Diistrict. White loyally implemented Jindal’s agenda of vouchers, charters, for-profit schools, and attacks on teachers’ due process, as well as test-based evaluation. But then Jindal and White locked horns over Common Core. Jindal wanted out, White didn’t. (White’s only school experience is TFA. Also he attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents’ Academy.)

Now one of the leading candidates for governor has said White has to go. Open the statement for links.

John Bel Edwards issued the following statement;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@johnbelforlouisiana.com; 225-435-9808
Edwards: John White Will Never Be Superintendent On My Watch

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Representative and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) responded to news that State Superintendent John White wishes to remain in his current position under the next governor’s administration.

“I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as Superintendent when I am governor,” Edwards said. “We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

White’s tenure as State Superintendent has been frought with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing. In 2012, White was embroiled in scandal after emails revealed political motives behind his fight to ensure that expanded school vouchers were approved by the Louisiana Legislature. Thanks to testimony by Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Supreme Court later found the voucher scheme to be unconstitutional, because it did, as White denied, illegally divert funding designated for local city and parish public schools. Later, voucher schools approved under White’s watch were shown to lack a requisite number of teachers, lunch rooms, and other resources common to any proper school. In 2013, he was accused of having purposefully inflated letter grades for certain schools. For at least three years, White knew about inequities in special education funding which violated directives in the La. Constitution, but declined to take action to correct the problem even after the Legislature urged and requested that he do so in 2014. Under White’s watch per pupil funding for public k-12 schools was frozen despite many new unfunded mandates. During the same time period the per pupil amount paid to private schools through the state voucher program increased each year.

Citing these controversies Edwards said,”We need genuine leadership at the helm of the Louisiana Department of Education. We will have that when we elect a genuine leader as governor.”

White’s only formal training in educational administration was earned during six weekend trainings at the Eli Broad Superintendent’s Academy, meant to be an introduction to issues facing Superintendents at the local level.

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