Archives for category: Pearson

Jason Stanford has written a jaw-dropping article about what happened to the professor who debunked standardized testing. It’s not pretty.

Walter Stroup, a professor at the University of Texas College of Education, made a remarkable discovery about standardized tests: “what the tests measured was not what students have learned but how well students take tests.”

He shared what he learned with the Texas legislature in 2012, as the testing rebellion was heating up across the state among parents. Legislators had long clung to the dogma that the way to improve test scores was to test more and make the tests harder. The state had recently signed a big contract with Pearson to deliver the tests.

“Stroup testified that for $468 million the Legislature had bought a pile of stress and wasted time from Pearson Education, the biggest player in the standardized-testing industry.”

After 15 years of high-stakes testing, the state was still waiting for the promised results. What they got instead was a huge number of students who could not graduate high school and a parent uprising against testing.

What happened to Stroup was alarming. Pearson tried to discredit his research. Pearson has some high-powered lobbyists on its payroll in Texas.

“Stroup had picked a fight with a special interest in front of politicians. The winner wouldn’t be determined by reason and science but by politics and power. Pearson’s real counterattack took place largely out of public view, where the company attempted to discredit Stroup’s research. Instead of a public debate, Pearson used its money and influence to engage in the time-honored academic tradition of trashing its rival’s work and career behind his back.”

But even more alarming, the Pearson Foundationade was already a major benefactor of Stroup’s employer, the University of Texas College of Education.

“In retrospect, Stroup might have anticipated that the UT College of Education wouldn’t celebrate his scholarship on standardized tests. In 2009, the Pearson Foundation, the test publisher’s philanthropic arm, created a $1 million endowment at the College of Education, which in turn engendered the Pearson Center for Applied Psychometric Research, an endowed professorship, and an endowed faculty fellowship.

“Tax law allows corporations to establish charitable foundations. What tax law doesn’t allow is endowing a nonprofit to supplement the parent corporation’s profit-driven mission. Last December, Pearson paid a $7.7 million fine in New York state to settle charges that the Pearson Foundation “had helped develop products for its corporate parent, including course materials and software,” reported The New York Times. There is some evidence that the same thing is going on at UT, mainly because Pearson said so in a press release posted on the College of Education’s website:

“Pearson Foundation’s donation underscores the company’s dedication to designing and delivering assessments that advance measurement best practice, help ensure greater educational equity and improve instruction and learning in today’s global world,” wrote Steve Dowling, Pearson executive vice president. “Through our endowment with The University of Texas at Austin, we are investing in technology-driven assessment research that will promote and personalize education for all.”

Six months after Stroup testified before the Legislature, he learned that his tenure was in jeopardy.

The story is not over. It is about politics and power. It is not about what’s best for children or how to improve education.

Zak Jason wrote a fascinating interview in “Boston” magazine with Barbara Madeloni, the recently elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest union in the state with 110,000 members.

I first learned of Madeloni when she was preparing teachers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and she refused to give the Pearson test to evaluate new teachers. Michael Winerip wrote a story about her defiance in the New York Times, and within a matter of days, her contract was not renewed. Now all teacher candidates across the university are required to take the Pearson exam.

I learned many things from this article. I learned that Barbara was a psychotherapist before she became a high school English teacher. I learned that when she ran for union president, she was considered a very long shot. Some people thought she had no chance at all.

I learned that the State Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, is also chair of the governing board of PARCC, one of the two federally-funded Common Core tests. Some in the state say he has a conflict of interest.

Madeloni has called for a three-year moratorium on all testing and teacher evaluations:

“We’ve been trying to do scale, instead of human beings. We need to do human beings,” she says. She lambasts the Common Core, a national set of curriculum standards that the state adopted in 2010, as “corporate deform,” and described its architects to CommonWealth magazine as “rich white men who are deciding the course of public education for black and brown children.”

“The past and present heads of the state’s top education offices I talked to dismiss Madeloni’s rhetoric as naive, absurd, and, in the case of the moratorium, illegal. Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), says he’s concerned that her “hyperbolic” vision may force the DESE to tune out the entire union.”

Chester may dismiss her, but teachers view her as a savior. “She’s the first MTA leader willing to listen to their agony, and to tell the truth about how teaching in the age of accountability can be, as Holyoke teacher Cheri Cluff puts it, “like waiting tables at a busy restaurant; you’re running and running and running, and you’ve lost your head.” Whereas past presidents and her opponent, MTA vice president Tim Sullivan, were willing to compromise with state administrators, Madeloni is combative, unapologetic, and, as Agustin Morales, another Holyoke teacher, says, “unafraid to make her life uncomfortable.”

Morales, the article notes, was elected president of his local in Holyoke with a 70% majority; he complained about the data walls, where students’ names and test scores are publicly posted. He was fired.

Madeloni is a fighter. She is outspoken and unafraid. Will she be marginalized by the state? Can the state alienate its largest union? Watch for the battles ahead. Madeloni was elected to stand up for teachers. Richard Stutman of the Boston Teachers Union has agreed to collaborate with her.

Zak Jason concluded:

“When I first talked to Madeloni soon after her election, she agreed to have me follow her throughout her first week. But just before her presidency began, she told me, “As a psychotherapist, I know the presence of someone else in the room can affect how the room behaves,” and said she would only be available for an interview, and her communications director James Sacks would join.

“As I’m about to leave her office, Madeloni turns to Sacks and asks, half-joking, “Is there anything I didn’t say that I was supposed to say?”

“What’s your vision?” he says.

“That we reclaim the vision of public education as a space for democracy, for joy, for hope, for a better future for all of our children. All of our children.”

Following the release of internal emails that suggested inappropriate contact between Superintendent John Deasy, other LA officials, and top officials at Apple and Oearson, Deasy canceled the contract and announced he would start the bidding again.

The LA Times wrote:

“The suspension comes days after disclosures that the superintendent and his top deputy had especially close ties to executives of Apple, maker of the iPad, and Pearson, the company that is providing the curriculum on the devices. And an internal report that examined the technology effort showed major problems with the process and the implementation.”

In a memo
to the board, Deasy presented the cancellation of an ethically-challenged contract as an opportunity:

“Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the [Common Core Technology Project] and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments,” Deasy wrote.

The remaining question is whether the LAAUSD board will hold Deasy accountable for the inappropriate meetings with the winning bidders, the use of repair funds from a bond issue, or any other aspect of the fiasco.

AFT President Randi Weingarten Calls for Full Release of Test Questions

WASHINGTON— Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten following news that a portion of the Common Core-aligned testing questions were released in New York as teachers and community members protest the overuse of testing in Albany.

“Releasing just some of the Common Core-aligned test questions in the middle of the summer doesn’t cut it. Parents and educators repeatedly have called for the full release of the questions—even taking our call to the Pearson shareholder meeting this past spring.

“We renew our call for the full release of the test questions—in a timely manner and in a way that is most useful for parents, educators and kids—not in the middle of the summer and right before the test results are announced.”

###

Fred Smith worked for many years at the New York City Board of Education as a testing analyst. For all the parent groups who are upset by the over-testing of their children and concerned about the quality of the tests, Smith has become the go-to guy, who can be counted on to give a tough review of what the testing corporations are doing and what they should be doing.

 

In this post, Smith takes the New York State Education Department to task for withholding the technical report on the 2013 state tests. Just this week, responding to public outrage about its lack of transparency, the Department released 50% of the questions on the April 2014 tests. Until 2011, the SED released the entire exam with questions and answers. But no more. Since Pearson became the state’s testing agency, the state has been parsimonious in releasing questions and also technical data needed to understand the validity of the tests and the items.

 

The technical report for the 2013 tests should have been released in December 2013, but was not made public until July 2014. This is ridiculous. The information was available in Albany but was kept under wraps.

 

Smith says it is time for transparency and truth in testing. The public cannot trust the tests without seeing it and without allowing experienced experts like Smith to review its technical quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While visiting his sister in Albuquerque, Paul Horton encountered the same corporate reform claptrap that he read regularly in the Chicago Tribune and sent the following letter to the editor:

“Dear Editor,

I read your banner article, “SBA scores in NM lower now than five years ago” with great interest. As a teacher with thirty-two years experience, I am very concerned with the obsessive focus on SBA scores in the article.

While I understand that lower test scores might be a concern, I am more concerned with the scripted response of Hannah Skandera, New Mexico Education Secretary designate.

Ms. Skandera is clearly on the bandwagon of a national education reform movement that is funded by the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council that is heavily funded by the Koch brothers.

Ms. Skandera clearly serves the interests of these organizations and not the children of New Mexico. Her agenda insures that millions of hard-earned tax dollars of the citizens of New Mexico will flow to Pearson Education, an English company that has taken over the standardized testing industry in the United States.

The biggest issue facing the students in New Mexico is increasing levels of poverty exacerbated by increasing levels of income inequality. Your education reporters need to disaggregate the SBA scores to correlate them to average income levels in schools and districts.

Ms. Skandera will tell you in the coming months that scores for the new PARCC tests will decline by 30% on average. She does not tell you that Pearson Education will control the determination of “cut scores.” This is a part of the script that she will continue to read. She has no real direct knowledge of education issues, she is simply following the “toolkit” that is being used in many other states and the citizens of New Mexico are being played for suckers.

In point of fact, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) has been measuring student achievement for over forty years and it remains the best and most accurate reflection of student achievement across the United States. The fact that scores across the country have flattened on average over the last several years is mostly the result of increasing poverty, rising income inequality, and the deteriorating living conditions and shortage of jobs in urban and rural areas all over the country.

Even more important, the current flattening and decline of scores in areas where poverty is prevalent is more the result of the failure of national policies that focus teaching on producing higher test scores. In this regard, the NCLB and Mr. Duncan’s Race to the Top (RttT) are only making these issues worse with their obsessive focus on standardized testing and the defunding of public schools.

The citizens of the great state of New Mexico need to stop paying Pearson Education and start paying for lowering class size, hiring more special education teachers, librarians, art teachers, language teachers, and clinical social workers.

Human investment, not investment in education corporations, will lead to better results for the state of New Mexico. Ms. Skandera is more concerned about pleasing Pearson Education that the parents of New Mexico. Wake up and smell the green chilies cooking! Pearson Education does not care about your kids!

Paul Horton
History teacher and former APS student
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
phorton@ucls.uchicago.edu
http://www.ucls.uchicago.edu”;

This is a must-read article.

One of the best education writers in New York State is Gary Stern of lohud.com, which covers the Lower Hudson region. This article shows how the passing marks (“cut scores”) were set for the state’s Common Core tests. It is a story that should have appeared in the New York Times. The State Education Department likes to boast that the cut scores are set by teachers. This is supposed to make them legitimate, on the assumption that the teachers have reasonable expectations and know the students’ capacity. All 95 teachers who participated in the process of setting cut scores were required to sign a confidentiality agreement, but Gary Stern persisted and found 18 who were willing to talk about the process without violating the agreement.

What Gary Stern found was that Pearson called the shots, not the teachers.

Here are some quotes.

“How does the state determine the crucial break between a 2, which means that a student is not quite proficient in, say, fifth-grade math, and a 3, which signifies that he or she is on track for college?

“These scoring scales were set last summer by a group of 95 educators that the state gathered at a hotel in Troy for several days. Teachers, administrators and college professors from across New York signed confidentiality agreements and were given the task of setting the cuts between 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 3 and 4 for the new tests. But the scores would be widely questioned and even ridiculed after one-third of New York students were deemed to be on pace……”

“To most parents, passing a test means earning 65 out of 100 points. Cut and dried.

“The process of setting a scoring “scale” and cut scores for an annual test, based on all-important, predetermined goals, is an entirely different animal that is not easily described. In fact, the panelists met to set the 1-4 cut scores after students took the first new tests in spring 2013 and the raw data was in.

“It’s like you’re jumping over a hurdle that’s 2 feet high, but after you jump they say it was 3 feet and you missed,” said Cary Grimm, another panelist who is math chairman for the Longwood school district on Long Island.

“In brief, panelists were assigned to small groups that looked at several grades’ exams in math or English language arts. They were given detailed descriptions of what students should know in each grade — prepared by state officials and experts from Pearson Inc., the mega-corporation signed to create New York’s tests…..”

“Panelists were told whether various cut scores would jibe with research on what it supposedly takes to succeed in college.

“Jane Arnold, an English professor at SUNY Adirondack, said the Pearson people provided confusing data that didn’t seem to apply to grades 3-5, her group’s focus.

“Then they gave us a chance to change our minds,” she wrote in a statement. “In other words, we all knew that most of the student scores would be substandard…..”

“Maria Baldassarre Hopkins, assistant professor of education at Nazareth College in Rochester, said the process was driven by the introduction of outside research about student success.

“I question how much flexibility and freedom the committee really had,” she said. “The process was based solely on empirical data, on numbers. … There are ways to make the numbers do what you want them to do.”

“Tina Good, coordinator of the Writing Center at Suffolk County Community College, said her group produced the best possible cut scores for ELA tests in grades 3 to 6 — playing by the rules they were given.

“We worked within the paradigm Pearson gave us,” she said. “It’s not like we could go, ‘This is what we think third-graders should know,’ or, ‘This will completely stress out our third-graders.’ Many of us had concerns about the pedagogy behind all of this, but we did reach a consensus about the cut scores.”

“Eva Demyen, superintendent of the Deer Park district on Long Island, said she still doesn’t grasp how the state determined that two-thirds of students were not proficient in English and math.

“How they got the 33 percent (passing) was beyond us,” she wrote. “It just seemed very strange to me … and I’m a mathematician!….”

“Another panelist, Karen DeMoss, a professor of education at Wagner College on Staten Island, said she is increasingly convinced that standardized testing is “scarring” students and not promoting achievement.

“Our process was perfectly fine, and the Common Core standards may be the best thing the country has ever had in education,” DeMoss said. “The problem is the underlying assumption that these tests are helping us. They’re not. Pearson’s tests were unbelievably bad, the worst I’ve seen, and the reality of using tests designed to rank students is something we haven’t gotten our heads around.”

There are at least three lessons are to be learned from this fiasco: one, it was Pearson, not the educators, that decided what students should know; two, Pearson’s standards will cause massive failure wherever they are used; three, as many panelists noted, teachers did not have the training to teach the standards.

And there is one more lesson: if the standards themselves are developmentally inappropriate–if the tests expect fifth-graders to learn material that is appropriate for seventh graders, failure is inevitable. Unless, that is, Pearson and the State Education Department decide to lower the cut scores to give the illusion of progress.

As Gary Stern wrote: “A 2006 primer on cut scores prepared by the Educational Testing Service found that cut scores can be reliable, but are based on a group’s opinions.

“It is impossible to prove that a cut score is correct,” the report said.

Remember that the cut score is NOT an objective measure. It is a judgment call, a matter of group opinion, shaped by assumptions, and it can be manipulated to make scores appear higher or lower, depending on what the state wants. If New York’s scores go up, it means that the State Education Department decided to reduce parent anger by lowering the failure rate.

This is what happened in New York. It is wrong, it is cynical, it is misguided. Thousands of children were falsely labeled as failures. This is not good education. This is not about the needs of children. This is institutional incompetence.

If your state plans to use Pearson and PARCC for Common Core testing, consider this a cautionary tale. As Peter Greene writes in his blog,

“In fact, among the CCSS supporters who spoke (and really– did you think NYS would fill this committee with people who didn’t love the Core), there was a recognition that the implementation is a hash and the tests are a bogus joke. Yes, they haven’t figured out that what we’ve got is exactly what the Core were designed to give us, but at least they recognize some of the suckage, and not simply from a practical political calculus angle (and remember– everyone must take calculus now). This is undoubtedly part of the reason that CCSS enjoys the kind of support in NYS usually reserved for politicians who cannot keep their private parts off the internet.

“It’s an illuminating batch of reportage, well worth your time to read. Because you may not live in New York, but wherever you are in America, you’re still living in the United States of Pearson.”

New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James wrote the following letter to John King but has received no answer. King believes that children must be tested as a matter of civil rights. James, who is also African American, does not agree. What do you think?

PUBLIC ADVOCATE FOR THE CITY OF NEW YORK

Letitia James

June 25, 2014

Commissioner John King
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234

Dear Commissioner King:

I am writing you to express my concern regarding the New York State Education Department (SED) stand-alone field testing policy. I am strongly recommending that the New York State Education Department ban field testing for all New York City students. SED’s $32 million, five-year contract with test publisher Pearson did not include stand-alone field testing of multiple-choice items in math and English language arts (ELA). Pearson’s approach to test development is costly and unworkable and uses our students as guinea pigs.
My office met with educators, parents and advocates who are concerned about stand-alone field tests. They are frustrated with the SED lack of transparency and the pressure for teachers to teach to the test. High stakes testing has put unnecessary pressure on many families and educators and averts schools from developing curricula that promotes critical thinking. Stand-alone field testing is yet another test that takes teachers away from the classroom. In a 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed America’s test-based accountability systems and concluded, “there are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress.”

The data generated by students taking a stand alone field test is unreliable and does not provide Pearson with meaningful information needed to design a valid test. This flawed approach is evident in the poorly developed 2012 and 2013 ELA and math exams. As field tests continue this June, these problems will still be prevalent and irrelevant exams will continue to be produced. Teachers and parents have publicly criticized testing materials stating that the items were not aligned with children’s developmental levels.

Rather than administering field tests, schools should focus on spending more time in the classroom to improve performance and encourage students to reach their potential. I trust that you understand the pressures that these students must be experiencing and urge you to stop field-testing in our state.

Please feel free to contact my office with any further questions and I look forward to your reply.
Sincerely,

(signed)
Letitia James
Public Advocate of the City of New York

1 CENTRE STREET NEW YORK NY 10007 TEL 212 669 7200 FAX 212 669 4701 WWW.PUBADVOCATE.NYC.GOV

In recent days, there has been an extended discussion online about an article by California whistle blower Kathleen Carroll, in which she blasts Randi Weingarten and the Teachers Union Reform Network for taking money from Gates, Broad, and other corporate reform groups, in some cases, more than a dozen years ago. Carroll also suggests that I am complicit in this “corruption” because I spoke to the 2013 national meeting of TURN and was probably paid with corporate reform money; she notes that Karen Lewis, Deborah Meier, and Linda Darling-Hammond also spoke to the TURN annual meeting in 2012 or 2013. I told Carroll that I was not paid to speak to TURN, also that I have spoken to rightwing think tanks, and that no matter where I speak and whether I am paid, my message is the same as what I write in my books and blogs. In the discussion, I mentioned that I spoke to the National Association of School Psychologists at its annual convention in 2012, one of whose sponsors was Pearson, and I thought it was funny that Pearson might have paid me to blast testing, my point being that I say what I want regardless of who puts up the money. At that point, Jim Horn used the discussion to lacerate me for various sins.

Mercedes Schneider decided to disentangle this mess of charges and countercharges. In the following post, Schneider uses her considerable research skills to dissect the issues, claims and counterclaims. All the links are included in this piece by Schneider. Schneider asked me for my speech to the National Association of School Psychologists as well as my remarks to the TURN meeting, which are included.

I will make two points here. First, Randi has been my friend for 20 years, and I don’t criticize my friends; we disagree on many points, for example, the Common Core, which I oppose and she supports. I don’t hide our disagreements but I won’t call her names or question her motives. Friends can disagree and remain friends.

Second, I recall learning how the left made itself impotent in American politics by fighting among themselves instead of uniting against the common adversary. I recall my first job at the New Leader magazine in 1960, where I learned about the enmity among the Cannonites, the Lovestonites, the Trotskyites, the Mensheviks, the Schactmanites, and other passionate groups in the 1930s. That’s when I became convinced that any successful movement must minimize infighting and strive for unity and common goals.

Even earlier, Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

If data and research matter, the worst reform in U.S. education is the virtual charter school.

The League of Women Voters–one of the few national organizations with integrity about education issues (I.e. has not been bought by the Gates Foundation) issued a report about these floundering “schools,” that typically have low test scores, high dropout rates, and low graduation rates. Only a devotee of the Jeb Bush reform school would want to invite these ineffectual schools into their state. Poor New Mexico. Its acting state commissioner Hannah Skandera used to work for the Jebster himself, so whatever Florida has done to bring in for-profit hucksters must be brought to New Mexico, of course.

So New Mexico has a K12 virtual charter (listed on the New York Stock Exchange, founded by the Milken brothers), and a Connections Academy, owned by the much unloved Pearson.

Here is the study conducted by the New Mexico League of Women Voters.

Here is an article by Bonnie Burn in the Las Cruces Sun-News explaining why the League of Women Voters opposes for-profit schools. Actually, she is wrong on one point. There is a growing body of research that shows the ineffectiveness of virtual charters. However, they are highly profitable.

Will the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak out against for-profit virtual charters? Will elephants fly?

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