Archives for category: Pearson

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?

Pearson, the British megacorporation, appears to have won the PARCC Common Core contract, which is worth about $1 billion. Its tests will be administered to 6-10 million children in 14 states. The third grade tests will take eight hours. The high school tests will take 10 hours. PARCC is also developing tests for kindergarten, first and second grades.

FAIRTEST has compiled a catalogue of known Pearson errors:

PEARSON’S HISTORY OF TESTING PROBLEMS

compiled by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Updated May 5, 2014

1998 California – test score delivery delayed

1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key

2000 Florida – test score delivery delayed resulting in $4 million fine

2000 Minnesota – misgraded 45,739 graduation tests leads to lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.” http://www.news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200211/25_pugmiret_testsettle/ (FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)

2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored

2002 Florida — dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the DOE. One Montessori school never received scores because NCS Pearson claimed not to have received the tests.

2005 Michigan — scores delayed and fines levied per contract

2005 Virginia — computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_8014/is_20051015/ai_n41291590/

2005-2006 SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)

2007-2011 Mississippi – subcontractor programs correct answer as incorrect resulting in erroneous results for almost four years during which time 126 students flunked the exam due to that wrongly scored item. Auditors criticized Pearson’s quality control checks, and the firm offered $600,000 in scholarships as compensation

2008 South Carolina –“Scoring Error Delays School Report Cards” The State, November 14, 2008

2008-2009 Arkansas — first graders forced to retake exam because real test used for practice

2009-2010 Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_d7fae426-7358-5000-a86b-aefcae258a2a.html

http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_263ceb44-833a-11e0-911d-001cc4c002e0.html

2010 Florida – test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/florida-hits-fcat-contractor-pearson-with-another-12-million-in-penalties/1110688

2010 Minnesota — results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error http://www.twincities.com/ci_15533234?nclick_check=1#

2011 Florida – some writing exams delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/testing/testmaker-pearson-replaces-faulty-fcats-missing-cover-sheets/1153508

2011 Florida – new computerized algebra end-of-course exam delivery system crashes on first day of administration http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-05-17/features/os-algebra-test-pearson-problems-20110517_1_tests-algebra-high-schools

2011 Oklahoma – “data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery — http://newsok.com/errors-in-testing-data-hold-up-results-for-oklahoma-districts-students/article/3597297
Pearson ultimately replaced by CTB/McGraw Hill http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20120714_19_A1_Afters391504

2011 Guam – score release delayed because results based on flawed comparison data; government seeks reimbursement — http://www.guampdn.com/article/20111021/NEWS01/110210303

2011 Illinois – 144 student in five Chicago schools wrongly received zeroes due to scoring error. The state sought nearly $1.7 million from Pearson, which could not explain how the errors occurred.

2011 Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation — http://news.yahoo.com/formal-complaint-against-iowa-education-chief-190455698.html

2011 New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/education/new-york-attorney-general-is-investigating-pearson-education.html

2011 Oklahoma – State identifies 18 significant problems with Pearson’s tests leading to $8 million penalty settlement. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-education-department-reviews-contracts-in-wake-of-standardized-testing-errors/article/3601417

2011 Wyoming – Board of Education replaces Pearson as state’s test vendor after widespread technical problems with online exam (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/state-education-officials-choose-new-paws-vendor/article_6ba18e9f-858c-5846-8274-db31c13494c1.html)

2012 New York – “Pineapple and the Hare” nonsense test question removed from exams after bloggers demonstrate that it was previously administered in at least half a dozen other states –

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.html

2012 New York – More than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson — http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304203604577394492500145150.html

2012 Florida – After percentage of fourth grades found “proficient” plunges from 81% to 27% in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency. http://www.clickorlando.com/news/Passing-score-lowered-for-FCAT-Writing-exam/-/1637132/13396234/-/k1ckc2z/-/index.html

2012 Virginia – Error on computerized 3rd and 6th grade SOL tests causes state to offer free retakes. http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Error_on_SOL_Reading_Test_Gives_Students_Option_to_Retake_154191285.html

2012 New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process http://rochesterhomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=322122

2012 Oklahoma – After major test delivery delays, state replaces Pearson as its testing contractor http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=19&articleid=20120714_19_A1_Afters391504

2012 New York – More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/ed_blunder_mad_grads_JI2z8N6tA6Td0FGiwYSraP

2012 New York – State officials warn Pearson about potential fines if tests have more errors http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/fines-bad-questions-state-tests-article-1.1187220

2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20121025/NEWS01/310240052/Pearson-North-America-scoring-error-prevented-5-Mississippi-students-from-graduating-affected-121-others

2012 Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at log on http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/computer-glitch-prevents-some-texas-students-from-/nTMCP/

2013 New York – Passages from Pearson textbooks appear in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/practice-material-found-upstate-exams-article-1.1321448

2013 New York – three Pearson test scoring mistakes block nearly 5,000 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/education/score-corrections-qualify-nearly-2700-more-pupils-for-gifted-programs.html

2013 Worldwide – Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe experience major technical problems, leaving thousands unable to take scheduled exams or register for new ones http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/04/26/pearson-vue-test-centers-experience-major-problems

2013 New York – Second error found in New York City gifted-and-talented test scoring makes 300 more students eligible for special programs http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/education/new-error-found-in-test-scoring-for-gifted-programs.html

2013 England, Wales and Northern Ireland – General Certificate of Secondary Education exam in math leaves out questions and duplicates some others http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10118879/Exam-board-apologises-over-GCSE-test-paper-blunder.html

2013 Texas – State Auditor finds inadequate monitoring of Pearson’s contract: vendor determined costs of assessment changes without sufficient oversight and failed to disclose hiring nearly a dozen former state testing agency staff http://www.texastribune.org/2013/07/16/state-auditor-finds-testing-contract-oversight-lac/

2013 Virginia – 4,000 parents receive inaccurate test scorecards due to Pearson error in converting scores to proficiency levels http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/pearson-miscalculates-scorecards-for-more-than-4000-va-students/2013/08/13/5620cc42-042d-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html

2013 New York – New Pearson Common Core textbooks are “full of errors,” including in sample test items http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/textbooks-recommended-dept-education-full-errors-teachers-article-1.1512852

2013 New York – Pearson fined $7.7 million by New York State for using its non-profit foundation arm to steer business to the firm http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/nyregion/educational-publishers-charity-accused-of-seeking-profits-will-pay-millions.html

2014 National – Pearson notifies students who took the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in 2011 that their exams had been miscored http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/17/pearsons-errors-matter/

2014 Florida – State education commissioner seeks penalties after schools in 26 counties suspend Pearson’s new computerized tests because server problems prevent students from logging on and freeze screens http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/pasco-hernando-schools-battling-computer-problems-during-fcat/2176268

2014 New York – Printing errors result in missing questions and blank pages in Pearson-designed statewide math assessment http://news.wbfo.org/post/missing-pages-statewide-math-assessments

2014 Texas – Pearson emails out two test questions to teachers days before the exam is administered http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2014/05/questions-on-two-staar-exams-were-accidentally-emailed-out-last-month.html/

If you have questions or additional examples, contact Bob Schaeffer.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

This teacher laments the explosion of testing in school, which has reduced or eliminated time for play, recess, and activities. This is the brave new world of Common Core and PARCC:

H/she writes:

“The Common Core and PARCC will ruin education as we know it..And, of course, it is all part of the overall plan. My school starts PARCC this next school year. My 2.5 hour paper and pencil test (in only one subject).. will be replaced by three (3) two hour “tasks” in February. (My students will have to sit down at a computer THREE times at 2 hours each in February.) I’m not done yet….In May my students have to sit down at the computer for two (2) hour tests on the computer. My 2.5 hour paper and pencil test is now replaced by 10 hours of testing for only one subject. My students will also do the same amount of testing in three (3) other subjects. My students now will be completing 40 hours of testing on a computer in a given year. Oh, and my students are only 11 and 12 years old. They yearn to go outside and play kickball and basketball at recess. But, they have no recess. They only have 10 extra minutes after they finish lunch to play outside.

“I was blessed to teach in the what I now know were the “good ole days” of yesteryear. I dearly miss and mourn for those years. I was able to teach through fun and meaningful learning activities! We had TIME! (: As I go through my files over my almost 30 year career in the same subject and grade level, I don’t begin to get the material taught and covered as what I used to. I have thick files of learning activities that I never get to anymore. The curriculum director at our school has already said that he has no clue how he will get all that testing done for all of our kids. He said there is a 4 week window in February and April/May, so students will be gone at different times in my classroom. It will be a nightmare.

“It’s a shame that Pearson has to take away the childhood of our children, so they can earn their millions. I teach children. They are children. They love to run, play, draw, make faces, jump up and down, play tag, tease each other, hide, run around, make jokes, and enjoy being a child. With all of these hours of testing, I will not have time to teach anymore. The test preparation for a 2.5 hour test was bad enough, but this is totally ridiculous. Then, take the time to read over the Common Core and you will laugh to yourself. In Language Arts, they will be teaching adverbs to 3rd graders, with not much more emphasis on it after that. I think they know the Common Core will be the bullet that finally kills all public education in the U.S. The kids will not score well on this silly curriculum, which will be recorded on the teacher’s evaluation . . .and teachers will be let go. Yes, it’s all a part of the sad overall plan. It’s evident that the Common Core was created by people who knew very little about the developmental stages of our children. No one ever mentions Piaget anymore. It’s all so sad. But, Sasha and Alieah don’t have to follow these communist socialist education rules. Do they?”

Now that the purchasing agent for New Mexico approved the $1 billion PARCC contract tailor-made for Pearson, that lucky British company will write the Common Core tests for 6-10 million American children.

But consider Pearson’s history of testing errors:

“PEARSON SCORE FOUL-UP HISTORY, by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director, FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing (updated February, 2011)

1998 California – test score delivery delayed

1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key

2000 Florida – test score delivery delayed resulting in $4 million fine

2000 Minnesota – misgraded 45,739 graduation tests – lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.” — (note FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)

2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored

2005 Michigan — scores delayed and fines levied per contract

2005 Virginia — computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships

2005-2006 SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)

2008 South Carolina –“Scoring Error Delays School Report Cards” The State, November 14, 2008

2008-2009 Arkansas — first graders forced to retake exam because real test used for practice

2009-2010 Wyoming – new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state ordered Pearson to repay $9.5 million for “complete default of the contract”

2010 Florida – test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid. School superintendents still question score accuracy.

2010 Minnesota — results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error

2011 Florida – some writing exams delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about”

New Mexico’s purchasing agent approved the award of a contract to Pearson to develop the Common Core PARCC tests, despite the absence of competitive bidding. AIR had lodged a complaint against the process since Pearson was the only bidder. The New Mexico contract covers testing of 6-10 million students in 14 states. It is worth about $1 billion to Pearson.

“Last December, the Washington DC-based American Institute for Research filed a protest with the state purchasing agent arguing that the bid for the contract was written favorably for Pearson. Namely, AIR’s takes issue with how the bid required the winner of the contract—whether it was Pearson or a different company—to use Pearson’s online testing system for the first year of testing.

“Such requirements were uncompetitive to other companies, AIR argued. Indeed, only Pearson responded to the request for proposal for the PARCC contract.”

AIR is deciding whether to appeal the decision to the judicial system or drop their appeal.

Anthony Cody points out the contradiction between claims that the Common Core will prepare students for college and careers and the reality that the Common Core tests are designed to fail most students.

He also notes what happened to the GED graduation rate after Pearson took control of the program. The pass rate on the GED plummeted.

What is going on? Cody has two hypotheses:

“Hypothesis #1:

“Corporations are unable to find an adequate supply of highly skilled and educated people, and if we make it harder to graduate high school or earn a GED we will get a larger number of people on track for these skilled jobs.

“This is the basic reason stated by the Gates Foundation and other advocates of “higher standards.” This has been the rationale for the Common Core, along with the idea that we are somehow losing in an international race for higher test scores.

“If this were the case, we should see employers experiencing some sort of shortage of skilled workers. Economists can find no evidence of such a shortage. This report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the top seven occupations with the largest projected numerical growth require at most a two-year Associates degree, and most require only short-term on-the-job training.

“Hypothesis #2:

“Employers actually need FEWER employees with college degrees, and perhaps even fewer workers overall, due to increases in efficiency that are coming through technology. This creates a challenge to the stability of the system – how can we justify leaving many people who are willing to work idle? Perhaps we need a system to label these people “unready for college and career.”

“I do find some evidence to support this hypothesis. We are already in what has been termed a “jobless recovery,” which means that while corporate profits are sky-high, these profits are being made with fewer and fewer workers. A report in the MIT Technology Review suggests that in the next 20 years, 45% of American jobs could be eliminated as a result of computerization.

“There is an idea, most recently expounded by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, that any student, including those with significant learning disabilities, can pass ever more difficult tests. If our entire education system is re-tooled to prepare for Common Core tests, teachers are evaluated based on test scores, and energetic innovators produce new devices and “learning systems,” ALL students will somehow rise to meet the challenge. Where have we heard this premise before? Oh yes. The mythical 100% proficiency rates of No Child Left Behind. We have abandoned one myth simply to embrace another. I think it is time to call an end to this charade.

“Tests do not and cannot accurately measure who is “ready for college and career.” They can only serve to stigmatize, rank, sort, and justify the abandonment of an ever larger number of our students. The Gates Foundation’s Common Core project, in spite of Vicki Phillips’ reassurances, is NOT acting in the interests of our students when it labels large numbers of them as rejects. It is putting millions of them in grave danger. Fortunately, the Common Core tests are encountering serious trouble. The Pearson GED test ought to be rejected as well, and the sooner the better.

“Our public education system has as its noble mission the elevation of all students to their highest potential. This is not defined by their future usefulness to employers. And if corporations find ways to make their billions while employing fewer and fewer of our graduates, that will not be a failure of our educational system, nor of our students themselves. Our economic system ought to be critically examined and re-thought, if, in fact, “all lives have equal value.” As advances in efficiency allow greater productivity, those gains should be shared widely, not hoarded by the .01%. Any testing system that results in massive failure is an assault on our students and should be fought by anyone who cares for their future.”

In response to a post by Peter Greene (“The Arne Duncan Drinking Game“), this reader describes the National PTA convention in Texas. The National PTA has received $2.5 million from the Gates Foundation, including $500,000 specifically for Common Core. Also, the National PTA provided a screening of the anti-public school “Waiting for Superman” at its annual convention in 2011. Odd.

She writes:

“I was at that PTA convention in Texas and I bit my tongue through his entire speech. I wanted to throw up. I have lost faith in the PTA. While I love what PTA does at a local level for our schools, I am sickened by what I see at the state and National PTA levels. Our voices as members have been sold out to corporate interests, and the top leadership is out of touch with parents today. Most of the top leaders dont even have children in public schools anymore so they think we are overreacting about the excessive testing and problems with common core. The leaders enjoy the power and prestige of their office and won’t listen to parents and teachers.

“Even more alarming, the general meetings at the national PTA convention were sponsored by Discover Card, Microsoft, and Pearson. During the general meetings, attendees were forced to sit through 15 minute commercials about their corporations and hear about their “partnerships” with PTA. The week before the convention, delegates received emails from PTA with advertisements for Pearson, telling us to be sure to stop by Pearson’s booth in the exhibit hall. How much did PTA get to spam our inboxes with marketing? We paid a lot of money to attend that convention, I don’t appreciate my email address being sold like that, especially to Pearson.”

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