Archives for category: Common Core

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

Can you top this?

Ever wonder who does the fun job of reading your children’s tweets, Facebook pages, and Instagrams? Stephanie Simon has done the investigative work, on behalf of, but really on behalf of parents and children across America.

In the new age of Common Core and online testing, student privacy is dead.

Simon visits companies that do the “monitoring.” She calls them “Common Core’s cyber-spies.”

She writes:

“Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.

“School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

“A dozen states have tried to limit cyber snooping by banning either colleges or K-12 schools, or both, from requesting student user names and passwords, which could be used to pry open social media accounts protected by privacy settings. Among those taking action: California, Illinois, Michigan and Utah.

“At least five other states, among them New York and Maryland, are considering similar laws this session, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“But such laws protect only accounts marked as private. Many kids post publicly to build up their online followings.

“And when they do, companies with names like Social Sentinel, Geo Listening, Varsity Monitor and UDiligence are there to read them.
The rise of online student monitoring comes at a time of rising parent protests against other forms of digital surveillance — namely, the vast quantities of data that technology companies collect on kids as they click through online textbooks, games and homework. Companies providing those online resources can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day. Much of that information is not protected by federal privacy law.”

Think of it: these companies “can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day.”

And that’s not all:

“Some of the monitoring software on the market can track and log every keystroke a student makes while using a school computer in any location, including at home…..

“Sometimes the monitoring is covert: One company advertises that its surveillance software, known as CompuGuardian, can run on “stealth mode.” At the other extreme, some high schools and colleges explicitly warn students that they are being watched and advise them not to cling to “a false sense of security about your rights to freedom of speech.”

Privacy is dead. Privacy is dead. Yes, your children are being watched. Companies you never heard of have collected vast amounts of information about them.

As the CEO of Sun Microsystems famously said in 1999, “you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

Read more:

This wonderful photo is making the rounds on Twitter. The quote was taken from Monroe County ICPE (Indiana Coalition for Public Education) chairperson Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer’s speech at the Indiana State House last month. When I hear about “college and career ready standards” for elementary school and middle school children, I am reminded of the famous words of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who once famously said:


“We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”


When I look at my young grandchildren, ages 8 and not quite 2, this is the same thought that occurs to me, as I feel sure it does to most parents and grandparents:







NY Teacher wrote the following comment in response to the TeachPlus survey, which said that teachers think the PARCC test is better than their own state tests. This gave me a belly laugh.



“Before the teachers were allowed to assess the tests, Teach Plus provided them with training to ensure they had the necessary background knowledge.”


“This training was preceded by a snack of psilocybin mushrooms laced with a generous sprinkling of lysergic acid diethylamide. Teachers were not only impressed with the quality of the PARCC items but were also mesmerized by cursors that continuously changed size, shape, and color, keyboard keys that greeted them by spelling out their name, and wallpaper in the test room that breathed as if alive.”

It is crucial that the public understand the concerns that are frequently shared on this blog among readers about the corporate takeover of public schooling, in its many forms.


One version of this takeover is the close collaboration between the White House and the mega-corporations that sell software and hardware and testing to the schools, that is, the needs created by the politicians are satisfied by the marketplace. In education, the marketplace is dominated by one giant, referred to in this article as Goliath: Pearson. Parents are beginning to understand that Pearson owns the tests, the textbooks, and the curriculum, and it is all aligned with the Common Core. They also own the GED, in case students can’t finish high school (having failed the Pearson tests). Probably they will also fail the GED, because Pearson has aligned the GED with the Common Core and passing rates plummeted by 90%. Maybe Pearson will create a new service for young people and adults who failed high school and failed the GED. But will it too be aligned with the Common Core? Or will we have a permanent army of the unemployed and unemployable who can’t pass Pearson tests?

G.F. Brandenburg, a retired math teacher and outstanding blogger,here revisits Steven Rasmussen’s critique of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s math tests. Rasmussen was co-founder and publisher of Key Curriculum Press for many years and is a mathematics specialist. (I posted on Rasmussen’s critique here, but unlike Brandenburg, I am not a math educator.)

Here is a sample from Brandenburg:

““…the Smarter Balanced tests are lemons. They fail to meet acceptable standards of quality and performance, especially with respect to their technology-enhanced items. They should be withdrawn from the market before they precipitate a national catastrophe.”

[Brandenburg:] Here is some of the rest of his critique:

“Flaws in the Smarter Balanced Test Items

“What happened? Despite elaborate evidence-centered design frameworks touted by Smarter Balanced as our assurance that their tests would measure up, the implementation of the tests is egregiously flawed. I wish I could say the flaws in the Smarter Balanced tests are isolated.

“Unfortunately, they are not. While the shortcomings are omnipresent and varied, they fall into categories, all illustrated multiple times by the examples in this critique:

• Poorly worded and ambiguous mathematical language and non-mathematical instructions;

• Incorrect and unconventional mathematical graphical representations;

• Inconsistent mathematical representations and user interfaces from problem to problem;

• Shoddy and illogical user interface design, especially with respect to the dynamic aspects of the mathematical representations; • Consistent violations and lack of attention to the Common Core State Standards;

• Failure to take advantage of available technologies in problem design….

“The result? Untold numbers of students and teachers in 17 Smarter Balanced states will be traumatized, stigmatized and unfairly penalized. And the quagmire of poor technological design, poor interaction design, and poor mathematics will hopelessly cloud the insights the tests might have given us into students’ understanding of mathematics.”

Rasmussen then analyzes sample SBAC test questions.

Nancie Atwell, a teacher of literacy in Maine, won the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million prize as the Global Teacher of the Year. This is like the Nobel prize of teaching. She was interviewed on CNN about teaching, and she talked about encouraging children to read and write, following their interests and passions. She is donating the $1 million to her school, which needs a new furnace and other improvements. When one of the interviewers asked her what she would tell a young person interested in teaching, she said she would tell them to go into the private sector, not into public school teaching. The interviewers were taken aback. Atwell explained that the Common Core and the testing that goes with it had turned teachers into “technicians,” making it hard for them to teach the best they knew how. She would urge them to find an independent school where there is no Common Core and no state testing.


Please forward this interview to your legislators, your governor, and especially to Arne Duncan.

Laura H. Chapman, a retired teacher and curriculum advisor in the arts, posted this comment:



People who work in the “orphaned subjects” have a long history of playing tag-a-long to subjects deemed to be “core.” There is a persistent hope that writing standards in great detail will somehow get you a bit more curriculum time.
Just published standards in Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Art, and Media Studies (new discipline) seem to have been written in the wild hope that all of the standards will be tested with “authentic” assessments.


These standards are grade-specific, starting in Pre-K. The standards come to a screeching halt in high school, with three levels defining studies: Proficient, Accomplished, and Advanced. The writers of the standards wanted a parallel structure for each art form.


I have seen the standards for the visual arts and media arts. Each of these art forms has acquired 234 standards. If the writers followed that rule across all of the arts, then students and teachers are facing 1,170 arts standards.


I see that a model evaluation for the new Dance standards for grade 2 has nine conventional “knowledge and skills” statements…. (“students will…” ). Then the same assessment guide throws in five references to the CCSS,  four references to “Blooms,” three “21st century Skills,” four DOK’s, and ten “habits of mind.”


Some arts educators hoped to hitch their star to STEM subjects. Just transform the acronym into STEAM.


Same for those “21st century Skills.” They have been like sticky glue. Most of the skills are not distinct to the 21st century, are modified statements from personnel managers, and came into being by virtue of the political savvy of Ken Kay, a lobbyist for the tech industry (KAY tried twice to get his mixed bag of terms and phrases into federal legislation.)


When I entered teaching, there were frequent claims and articles to the effect that arts educators were going to help the nation beat the Russians, win the Space Race because we knew how to educate “creative scientists.”


Some readers may recall the standards written under the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (H.R. 1804, 1994). At that time, K-12 standards were written in 14 domains of study, 24 subjects, then parsed into 259 standards, and 4100 grade-level benchmarks.


A dispute over the status of history versus social studies ended in no “approved standards” for the latter, but 1,281 grade level standards for history. In those history standards, facts are supposed to matter. Even so, students were (falsely) expected to know that Mary Cassatt was a famous American Regionalist painter. (Wrong. The artist lived in Paris for most of her life, is best known as an Impressionist). Source: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education, “Process” Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, (2011),


Teachers are drowning in standards and the waters keep on getting churned. The tsunami of expectations is just short of asking all of our students to be omniscient. Writers of the CCSS think their version of the 3R’s are just fine and that all teachers should comply even with the ridiculous Lexile Score in ELA.


Ohio currently has 3,203 standards on the books, including 1,600 CCSS (counting parts a-e). That’s about 267 per grade level. The arts standards in Ohio were developed and approved at the state level before the NEW arts standards were written. Which ones really matter will be determined by which ones are acceptable for teacher evaluations.


If Ohio’s current standards are typical, there has been no crosschecking of the sets of standards for duplications, synergies, contradictory expectations, feasibility, developmental coherence, or simply dead wrong content.


The CCSS standards are surrounded with all of the mandatory rhetoric of the day. They are strictly academic. They are rigorous. Students must master them on time, grade-by-grade with no regard for networks of understandings that may later produce unexpected insight and understanding. Not all learning occurs in a tidy progression within or across the grades.


Federal officials seem to want national standards for every subject, as if the sum of all the separate standards that can be conjured will make educational sense and favor the development of coherent and feasible curriculum work. They are clueless and learned nothing from the Goals 2000 project.


In any case, well-informed work on curriculum does not begin with standards. It begins with a vision of what education is for, and who should be involved in deciding that, especially in a democratic society.

Bob Braun says that Pearson closely monitors students during and after testing, to protect test security. They expect educators to collaborate with the state contract with Pearson.

“Another New Jersey school district–Hanover Park Regional in East Hanover–was notified by state officials that “monitoring”–spying?– by the British test publisher Pearson revealed at least one student had used a social media account to post a forbidden message regarding the PARCC tests. No surprise, really–it’s happening everywhere, including Maryland where a state official said he gets daily reports from Pearson on what students are saying about testing on their social media accounts.

“PARCC has a very sophisticated system that closely monitors social media for pretty much everything (comments like the one you shared, test item questions that students use cell phones cameras and take),” said Henry Johnson, the state assistant education commissioner in Maryland. The state, like New Jersey, has a contract with Pearson.

“We get those reports daily.”

Let’s run that one by you again:

“PARCC has a very sophisticated system that closely monitors social media for pretty much everything….”

The phrase “pretty much everything” aptly describes the broad reach of how this brave new world of testing and cooperation with government works. Pearson will say–as it told the Washington Post–that it is doing it for “security” reasons.

But security is itself a broad term. Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach–it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:

“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.”

Another opportunity for repetition for emphasis here–discussing? Any other form of communication?

So, if children come home from school and their parents ask–”How was your day, sweetheart?” and the children talk about a really dumb question on the PARCC, they will be violating the rules and be subject to whatever punishment is meted out for cheating–as a blogger did who learned from a child who hadn’t taken the test that there was a passage on it about The Wizard of Oz.”

New Jersey is paying Pearson $108 million to run its PARCC testing program

Meanwhile Breitbart reports that a Superintendent in New Jersey confirmed Bob Braun’s initial story about spying on students.

A reader (nextlevel2000) left a comment with a link to the social media guidelines of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. What is amazing is that the guidelines tell school officials how to monitor their students on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to see if they are violating test security.

Privacy is truly dead.

Mercedes Schneider saw the same guidelines and appropriately skewers them.

How do you feel about a testing company encouraging educators to spy on students’ online exchanges?


Smarter Balanced Test Security

Maintaining test security during administration of the Field Test is critical to preserving the integrity of test items and validity of the test itself. The Consortium is closely monitoring social media networks for security breaches and escalating to states when appropriate. These guidelines provide recommendations for monitoring social media and we hope you find them helpful.

Test Administration Procedures

It is important to be vigilant before, during, and after testing for any situations that could lead to or be an impropriety, irregularity, or breach. Please remember that only individuals who have been appropriately trained and whose presence is required may be present during the administration of the Field Test.

To get ahead of the problem and reduce the number of security breaches on social media, we encourage you to refer to the Smarter Balanced Test Administration Manual (Appendix B) for detailed information on the impact and definition of incidences as well as the timeline for reporting these activities.

Sites to Monitor

Twitter (

 If your school has a Twitter account, you can take advantage of following your students by requesting their @username and/or encouraging them to the follow the school Twitter account.

Following @SmarterBalanced will also help you to monitor our news feed.

 To search for conversations and posts about the Field Test, consider the following search queries:

o #sbac or #smarterbalanced
o #[insert name of school] or @[insert school Twitter handle] o “smarter balanced” or “sbac”
Facebook (
 If your school has a Facebook page, invite your students to join.
 If your students have public profiles, you can also search their news feed and photo gallery for
security breaches.
 Similar to Twitter, you can conduct searches by entering “smarter balanced” or “sbac” or “[insert
name of school]”
Statigram ( )
 Statigram is a webviewer for Instagram and allows you to search and manage comments more
easily. You will need to create an account for yourself to search comments on Statigram. If you
have a private account, you can use this information to login and review information.
 To search for posts about the Field Test, use the same search queries recommended for Twitter.

What to look for

 Images of the computer screen that show ELA or math test items
 Any photographs that appear to be taken in the test administration room. These can be images
students have taken of themselves or their classmates as well as pictures taken by test
administrators of the testing session.
 Tweets that indicate test security policies are not being upheld.


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