Archives for category: Common Core

This is very puzzling. Standardized tests usually arrive with seals or stickers so that no one can read them without authorization. In the case of the PARCC test administered in Louisiana, there were no seals or stickers. Students could flip ahead to the next day’s tests.


That has raised concerns among some critics of the test, and the related Common Core national academic standards, that the partnership test made it easier for students to get a head start the content of the next unit — or even for administrators to get a look and prepare a study guide for students.


Those concerns are only the latest to be aired in the most controversial and politicized public school testing period that Louisiana has seen in years. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to Common Core and the national tests, and a vocal but small test-boycott movement, put extra pressure on educators. Low test scores may mean that charter schools close, voucher schools get cut off and conventional schools get taken over by the state.


State Education Department officials said the new booklet didn’t cause problems. But at least three New Orleans schools ran into trouble. And some educators expressed fear that the new test format will give their critics, and opponents of Common Core, yet more reason to doubt.


If scores unexpectedly go up, will it have something to do with the lack of security?

This is one of the most powerful letters I have read. I hope Diane Sekula doesn’t quit. I hope she changes her mind and stays to fight.

Veteran teacher to resign over Common Core and SBAC

A statement from Diane Sekula, experienced educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Moldova, ’99-01):

I have been a teacher for well over a decade and this spring, I will turn in my resignation because of Common Core and its associated data collection through SBAC and other means.

Common Core is substandard and the required data collection highly UNETHICAL. It is causing stress amongst students, teachers, and parents alike and has taken much joy out of teaching and learning.

I have witnessed extreme anxiety and tears from both teachers and students because of the pressure, confusion and uncertainty surrounding Common Core and SBAC Testing.

When I taught in the Soviet Union as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1999-2001, I was told by our federal government to help teachers design lessons that included opportunities for creativity and innovation as this was not done under Soviet Rule. Under Soviet Rule testing was everything and you were labeled because of it. Labels work for bottles of poison BUT NOT FOR CHILDREN OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES. Our ability to nurture individual dreams encourage innovation is one of the things that makes the United States better than socialized countries in many ways.

The Common Core is not what it was sold as.

It encourages uniformity through one-size-fits-all standards at the cost of individuality, individual thinking and individual differences.

The Derryfield School has referred to it as INFERIOR.

It is not used at Thomas Hassan’s school, Philips Exeter.

The way this is going, public school children will be trained as workers while those who can afford it will get a true education.

New Hampshire children, families and teachers deserve better than Common Core.

Nicholas Tampio, political science professor at Fordham University, here explains the profit-driven ambitions of Pearson and the philosophy of Michael Barber, the chief academic officer of Pearson. It is no surprise that Pearson looks to the American testing market as a cash cow. It is no surprise that it hires the best lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and in the key state capitols. It is no surprise that it is extending its reach across the globe, trying to persuade other nations that they need standardized tests to measure children and adults.


But what you need to read about is Michael Barber’s driving ideology, which he summarized in his book “Deliverology.”


We can learn more about Pearson and its sweeping vision for the future by turning to a 2011 book by the company’s chief academic officer, Michael Barber. In “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders,” he lays out his philosophy and, unintentionally, reveals why parents, teachers and politicians must do everything they can to break Pearson’s stranglehold on education policy around the world.


Barber has worked on education policy for British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as for McKinsey & Co. “Deliverology,” written with assistance from two other McKinsey experts, is clearly inflected by the worldview of management consulting.


The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.


Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”


In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.


Barber believes in the “alchemy of relationships,” or the power of a small group of people working together to enact structural change. For example, Barber applauds Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program for providing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public education in America,” including through the Common Core. Barber’s book offers leaders advice on how to implement the Common Corestandards that Pearson employees helped write.


Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.


This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.


Deliverology even instructs leaders how to respond to common excuses from people who object to education reform.


“Deliverology” is a field guide — or a battle plan — showing education reformers how to push ahead through all resistance and never have second thoughts. As Barber quotes Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Parents and teachers who do not want to adapt to the new state of affairs are branded “defenders of the status quo.” Barber ends the book by telling reformers to stick with their plans but acknowledge the emotional argument of opponents: “I understand why you might be angry; I would not enjoy this if it were happening to me either.”


The best way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the “deliverologists” is to resist. Opt out. Refuse the test. Join with other parents to resist. Say no. Don’t let Pearson define your child.





This just in:

Local Teachers Condemn New Standardized Tests

REDMOND, Washington-March 26, 2015-Teachers at Redmond Middle School in the Lake Washington School District have publicly announced their objection to the “Smarter Balanced Assessments” to be administered to students this spring. Their announcement comes as educators across the nation have begun to react against standardized testing and its negative effects on teaching and learning.

“For me, it’s a matter of social justice,” said David Sudmeier, a twenty-eight year veteran teacher at Redmond Middle School. “We might as well pass out scores on the basis of family income. These tests pretend to offer an objective measure of student learning, but really discriminate against students who have parents working multiple jobs, who have limited home resources for activities that support learning, and who may go home to a bare cupboard instead of a warm, nourishing meal.”

“We care deeply about student learning,” remarked Shell Lockwood, who is about to end a long career as a teacher of gifted students, “but we don’t get any useful information from these tests. By the time scores are reported, those students have moved on. Every group of students is unique, and we can’t assume that the next group will have the same needs or abilities. These tests are more a distraction from productive teaching and learning than anything else.”

Some people might find it odd that teachers who object to the test are going to administer the test anyway.

“Our kids are the bottom line,” said Lockwood. “We want the public to know that we stand by our students to support them in a no-win situation. To abandon them just as testing begins would be unthinkable.”

So what can parents do in this situation? “Many of us are parents, too,” said Adam Wujick, math teacher at RMS. “I am disappointed in the lost instructional time for both my own kids and my students. I know that some parents are opting their children out of standardized testing entirely.”

It’s quite apparent that these teachers are determined to make their voice heard. “We have confidence in the wisdom of parents and the public,” said Sudmeier. “Now we just need our state legislators to heed our state constitution and lift public education to its rightful position as the paramount concern.”

From members of the Lake Washington Education Association of Redmond Middle School, east of Seattle, and part of the Lake Washington School District:


WHEREAS, the stated mission of the Lake Washington School District is that ”Each student will graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society;” and

WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and

WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each student to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and

WHEREAS, student computers and district infrastructure are unreliable and it is unacceptable for students to have learning time diverted to an activity so likely to be plagued with technical issues; and

WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is likely to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and

WHEREAS, student performance on this test is unlikely to be indicative of learning, but very likely to correlate directly with family socioeconomic status; and

WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant flux, confusing, and poorly communicated; and

WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests and End of Course exams deprives teachers of adequate time to provide instruction and for students to learn; and

WHEREAS, some of these exams may impact high school graduation; and

WHEREAS, during the testing window teachers are also administering unit tests, year-end finals and facilitating summative projects; and

WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on school schedules, student learning, teacher and administrative work time is out of proportion to the limited value of the test results; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, we, members of the Lake Washington Education Association at Redmond Middle School object to the administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to assisting students to “… graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society.”

David Sudmeier

Denise Gross

Shell Lockwood

Sacha DeBeaumarchais

Kristin Rhode

Heidi Knable

Adam Wujick

Kaylee Hansen

Mary Chandler

Melissa Brown

Dena Kernish

Carol McCaig

Eric Fredlund

Ben Pinneo

Sara Hall

Scott Nelson

Quinn Thompson

Paul Neet

Kelly Konicki

Meg Town

Kris Kornegay

Chris Fleharty

Testing expert Fred Smith first called attention to the mysterious disappearance of three questions from New York state’s Common Core tests last year. Then the New York Post published an article confirming the unexplained elimination of questions, but determined that four questions were dropped, not just three. When the scores were announced last fall, then-State Commissioner John King boasted that the scores were rising, confirming his belief that raising the bar would lead to higher achievement every year until one day all children would be proficient. Now we know that there was no score increase in ELA, that the reported “gains” resulted from the deletion of four questions that most students found confusing and either skipped or answered incorrectly. I spoke this morning to a high-level official in Albany, who told me that the scores last year did not increase, contrary to the Commissioner’s assertion. Now we know why. Had those missing questions been counted, my informant said, the scores would have declined or remained flat.



King now works directly for Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education. One of Duncan’s favorite refrains is that “we have been lying to our children,” by telling them they are meeting grade-level expectations, when in reality, their performance is rotten. Why does he want parents to believe that their children are doing terribly and their public schools are no good? Why does he defend standards and tests that fail 70% of students? Well, he has made clear by his words and deeds that he prefers charter schools to public schools, and that he admires the policy of closing public schools and firing the entire staff to “turn around” schools, so the “failure” narrative serves his policy goals. Given the revelations about Common Core testing in New York, who is lying to our children?


At some point, the public will get wise and realize that the passing marks on standardized tests are arbitrary, the scoring on written responses is graded by temps hired from Craigs List, and government officials can spin the data to achieve rising scores or falling scores, whatever serves their political interest best.

Jason Stanford, an investigative journalist in Texas, writes that he took the fourth grade ELA test, composed of sample questions from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He decided to do this after learning that a sixth grader challenged legislators to take the test.


A 6th grader in East Texas recently challenged state lawmakers to do what she and every other public-school kid have to do during testing season: “Sit in a room for up to four hours, without talking, writing, drawing, reading, or using your cell phone.” Because millions of children are taking Common Core standardized tests this time of year, I did her one better. I took a 4th-grade English Language Arts practice test. The good news is I passed.


The bad news is that the test is basically worthless, highlighting the folly of using standardized tests to measure a child’s ability to read and write. And to the Texas 6th grader’s point, in no way whatsoever was I able to quietly sit still for that long. Of course, it didn’t take me four hours to complete the sample test. I don’t want to brag, but I’m very advanced for a 4th grader.


There were questions that he found confusing. There were questions that made him want to strangle whoever wrote them. There was no real literature. There were questions with no right answers or possibly two right answers. The big problem, he concludes, is the assumption that standardized tests can assess what children understand or know or can do.


The writing portion of the test was ludicrous. Students were given a business card-shaped rectangle in which to record their analysis. You could replace this entire test with a book report and come out ahead. Actually, you could probably buy every child in America first editions and come out ahead. The price tag on SBAC tests in California alone is $1 billion.


We’re so focused on measuring children that we’ve stopped developing them. These tests don’t measure what we want our children to learn and are a waste of money. That Texas 6th grader has a point. I can’t sit quietly. This test is failing our children.



Blogger Alexander Russo informed a number of other writers that he was preparing an article about the coverage of the Opt Out movement for the Columbia Journalism Review, and Russo invited them to comment. Apparently the only one who did was John Merrow of PBS.


Russo wrote an article that was critical of Merrow’s television coverage, which he apparently considered too sympathetic to the Opt Out people and insufficiently willing to acknowledge how many students compliantly took the tests.


Russo believed that reporters were putting too much emphasis on the conflicts, giving too much attention to the protestors:


…so far, at least, much of the media’s coverage of this spring’s Common Core testing rollout has been guilty of over-emphasizing the extent of the conflict, speculating dire consequences based on little information, and over-relying on anecdotes and activists’ claims rather than digging for a broader sampling of verified numbers. The real story—that the rollout of these new, more challenging tests is proceeding surprisingly well—could be getting lost.


Merrow replied succinctly here, explaining how he shaped a story that had 8 minutes on national television.


Anthony Cody summarized the debate here, along with his own views. Cody says that Russo wants to appear to be above the fray, when in fact he is supporting and defending the Common Core testing and criticizing those who pay attention to the protesters. Russo would like to convince reporters that there is nothing worth reporting except the success of the tests. One might have said the same things about civil rights protesters and anti-war protesters in the 1960s and 1970s. Covering the protests didn’t change history; the protesters did.







Alyssa Katz is a member of the editorial board of the Néw York Daily News, which has been a reliable cheerleader for the Common Core, high-stakes testing, and all of Governor Cuomo’s bad ideas to punish public schools, teachers, and children.


But Alyssa Katz has a singular advantage over most editorial writers: she is a parent of a child in public school. She has seen what Common Core looks like and how confusing the sample questions on the tests are.


She understands why Cuomo’s popularity rating has plummeted and why it is rock bottom among public school parents. He has only a 50% approval rating. 28% approve of his education ideas, as do only 21% of public school parents.


Since Cuomo has asserted his education leadership in a state where he has no legal authority over education (he does not appoint the state board or the state commissioner), parents will blame him for incoherent Common Core assignments and for the failure of their child on Common Core tests. If favorite teachers are fired for low scores, it will be Cuomo’s fault.


Katz has had it.


She writes:


“With kids prepping for April tests, anxieties are again mounting. At least, that’s the view from my dining-room table, where my third-grader grapples with hair-tearing homework , and where her guiding inspiration for writing assignments is a laminated card drilling “RADD” — for Restate, Answer, Detail, Detail.


“If the questions on kids’ homework and, by extension, their standardized tests, are tough to understand, how does it make sense to base high-stakes teacher employment decisions on those tests?


“Take this math assignment: “Draw an array. Then write a fact family to describe your array.” The sound you hear is sweat trickling down my husband’s face.


“The question that follows asks whether it’s correct to surmise that a family whose members have 14 legs consists of 7 people. One kid answered — it became an internet meme — “Yes, because 14÷2 = 7, but not everyone has two legs. Go to”


“My breaking point came with a math problem asking kids to combine Grover Cleveland’s electoral votes won in 1884, 1888 and 1892, a sum that would mean nothing to even the most obsessive presidential historian.”

In response to the public outrage over Pearson monitoring of students’ social media, PARCC released a statement describing its fairness and security policy.

Mercedes Schneider discusses it here. Read her suggestion about the best way to protect test security.

Marie Corfield, teacher and education activist, tells here the worst PARCC story she ever heard. It is short and sad.

Can you top this?


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