Archives for category: Race to the Top

The Néw York Times says Hillary Clinton will be forced to choose between the Wall Street big donors and the teachers’ unions.

The real choice is between Wall Street money on one hand and millions of parents and teachers who are fed up with high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, on the other.

Then it refers to the Democrats for Education Reform as a “left of center group,” even though its program is indistinguishable from that of Republican governors and it was denounced by the California Democratic Party as a front for corporate interests.

Arthur Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., warns that bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may be bad news.

 

Just as parents are expressing their disgust with annual testing, Congress is close to mandating annual testing for yet another seven years (or maybe another 12 years if past experience is any guide).

 

 

He writes:

 

Bipartisan agreement makes for strange bedfellows as seeming opponents engage in an uncomfortable collective embrace of federal mandates of yearly, high stakes assessment. In the absence of obvious political alternatives some civil rights groups fear that without the harsh light of disaggregated data poor performance will be ignored. Those whose ideology bends their policy choices toward privatization see inevitable failure in the face unreasonable demands as a means to undermine faith in public education. Some are in the campaign contribution thrall of testing companies that stand to gain or loose billions from publically funded testing expenditures. Still others have an abiding faith in the power of rewards and punishments to compel behavior.

 

The continued focus of high-stakes assessment is the education equivalent of building inspectors requiring pipe wrenches to be used by all plumbers, framers, electricians, roofers and tile-setters, while bypassing the advice and needs of contractors and workers. For education, the sure losers are deep sustainable learning and equity.

 

Like building a home, creating an education system is a complex endeavor. As anyone who has undertaken it knows, significant remodeling may be even more challenging. When building or remodeling a complex system, it’s best to have a large, varied set of tools. Choosing the right tool for the right purpose is an obvious but often ignored principle- not least in education assessment policy. Pipe wrenches are great for large plumbing valves, but wreak havoc on smaller nuts. They have nasty teeth that rip and apply too much torque. Selection from a full set of open-ended wrenches would be a far better choice. Needle nose pliers are just the right tool for bending wires for electrical connections, but far too imprecise for removing the accidental building-related splinter. So it is with large scale standardized testing in education. The right tool can get the job done. The wrong tool fails and often causes damage….

 

Let’s start with the big picture. Education has three equally important purposes: Preparation for students for life, work and citizenship.

 

The values principle of equity implies that the design of our education system should accommodate and address the diverse needs of all students. To be clear, equity as used here has two meanings: opportunity equity and lived equity. The former refers to what is often called a fair shot to move up the socioeconomic ladder. The latter refers to a shorter ladder, in which position on the lower rungs does not preclude access to a decent secure life, with adequate food, clothing, housing and health care– what we have come to expect of a middle class life. The United States has neither kinds of equity and needs both.

 

The precision principle suggests the need to develop and select a variety of tools to assess progress and success with respect to all of the purposes and components of an effective education system. To assess education’s how are we doing questions, we need subsystem precision, lest we make the education-equivalent mistake of using meter sticks when micrometers are needed….

 

 

Equitable resources are essential, but they do not ensure equitable outcomes. While constitutionally, much of education decision-making authority in U.S. is delegated to the states, the interconnectedness of the nation clearly indicates that local outcomes are a national concern. Ineffective or poorly funded education in one state impacts another. The periodic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) serves to monitor outcomes across the states. The NAEP is not given to every student at every grade in every year. Instead, it is administered at the end of grade bands and uses the well-known statistical strategy of sampling. Politicians know this technique well. They rely upon it extensively when they do polling to gauge potential policy positions because querying every citizen is impractical and not needed to get the information they need. As a tool for fair state or large city level big-picture achievement monitoring, NAEP does the trick, but different non-comparable state-designed tests do not….

 

 

ESEA reauthorization should not:

 

Mandate consequential state testing;
Include requirements for student assessment-based teacher evaluation.

 

ESEA reauthorization should:

 

Ensure funds to provide for and measure the attainment of equitable resources;

 
Provide funds to locales to increase educator expertise in the use formative assessment strategies to improve daily learning.

 
It is past time for all supporters of equitable education for life, work and citizenship to call out No Child Left Behind with its high-stakes testing centerpiece as a failed Faustian bargain. Choosing the right tools for the right purposes is a common sense starting point.

 

 

High-stakes testing has reached down into kindergarten, where it is developmentally inappropriate. Kindergarten is supposed to be the children’s garden. It is supposed to be a time for learning to socialize with others, to work and play with others, to engage in imaginative activities, to plan with building blocks and games. It is a time when little children learn letters and numbers as part of their activities. They listen as the teacher reads stories, and they want to learn to read.

 

But in the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, kindergarten has changed. Little children must be tested. The great data monster needs data. How can their teachers be evaluated if there are no standardized tests and no data?

 

This frightening article in Slate by Alexandria Neason describes how high-stakes testing now permeates kindergarten.

 

The author describes the kindergarten classroom of Molly Mansel in Néw Orleans.

 

“Mansel’s students started taking tests just three weeks into the 2014–15 school year. They began with a state-required early childhood exam in August, which covered everything from basic math to letter identification. Mansel estimates that it took between four and five weeks for the teachers to test all 58 kindergarten students—and that was with the help of the prekindergarten team. The test requires an adult to sit individually with each student, reading questions and asking them to perform various tasks. The test is 11 pages long and “it’s very time-consuming,” according to Mansel, who is 24 and in her third year of teaching (her first in kindergarten).

 

The rest of the demanding testing schedule involves repeated administrations of two different school-mandated tests. The first, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, is used to measure how students are doing compared with their peers nationally—and to evaluate teachers’ performance. The students take the test in both reading and math three times a year. They have about an hour to complete the test, and slower test takers are pulled from class to finish.

 

The second test, called Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP, is a literacy assessment that measures and ranks children’s progress as they learn letters, words, sentences, and, eventually, how to read. Mansel gives the test individually to students four times throughout the year. It takes several days to administer as Mansel progresses through a series of tasks: asking the students to write their names, to point to uppercase and lowercase versions of letters, and to identify words that rhyme, for example.

 

Although more informal, the students also take about four quizzes per week in writing, English, math, science, and social studies. The school’s other kindergarten teacher designs most of the quizzes, which might ask students to draw a picture describing what they learned, or write about it in a journal.

 

“By the end of the school year, Mansel estimates that she’ll have lost about 95 hours of class time to test administration—a number inconceivable to her when she reflects on her own kindergarten experience. She doesn’t remember taking any tests at all until she was in at least second grade. And she’s probably right.”

 

Whoever made this happen should be arrested for child abuse and theft of childhood.

Paul McKimmy, a professor at the University of Hawaii, tells the story of his two children, one of whom was a very successful student, the other–Noah– fared poorly.

What to do? According to reformers, Noah’s teacher was a failure; she should get a low evaluation, en route to being fired. The education college she attended should be downgraded for Noah’s failure.

McKimmy shows how absurd this approach is. In fact, both children had excellent teachers. One, his daughter, had been raised with every advantage. Noah, a foster child, had been raised in squalor.

“Noah’s lack of progress in school is easy to pin on the “failure” of his teacher, his school and the education system — until you look at him as a person and not a test score. Every dollar we spend to increase his academic success by testing him, evaluating his school, and making a show of holding the public education system accountable is a joke. Noah doesn’t need a standardized test. He doesn’t need a more highly effective teacher, and he doesn’t need us to spend another billion dollars tracking his test scores with the goal of holding the teaching profession accountable for his success.

“Noah needed preschool. Now he needs a bed with a roof over it. His parents need employment skills. His school may be the only public institution that has done right by him, and as far as I’m concerned his teachers are heroes. He needs you and me to prioritize our social service systems while investing in education. It is an absolute embarrassment, that instead, we continue defunding, attacking and blaming our public schools for his lack of success.

“You may believe that Noah represents just one case, but he’s not alone. Just drive by our Kakaako medical college and witness the tent city nearby — there are many, many kids living on the edge right next to our luxury condos.

“Nearly every study that examines the factors contributing to student success acknowledges that poverty has the greatest impact, and that teacher effectiveness is elsewhere down the list. So why do we continually gloss over this obvious point and rush to find new ways to try holding teachers and schools accountable for results? Because it’s easier than fixing the real problem, and because it suits political agendas to paint our education system as “broken” so that some group or company can sell us their program (quick-fix circumvention of quality teacher preparation), product (textbooks and software) or service (test preparation).”

Daniel S. Katz of Serin Hall University explains here why the New York Times is wrong about the value of annual standardized testing.

The editorial acknowled that there is too much testing, but failed to acknowledge that this condition is the result of federal mandates. It credits the high-stakes testing regime with higher achievement but doesn’t recognize that test scores increased faster before NCLB.

It is hard to believe that the Néw York Times editorial board is so out of touch with parents, students, teachers, and the realities of school.

This is a terrific short video, created by the BadAss Teachers Association. In images, it simply explains the blight that has descended on American public education because of the misguided policies of George W. Bush, President Obama, and Arne Duncan, because of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Lots of kids have been left behind, and the Race to the Top was won by Pearson and McGraw Hill.

 

 

This post, written by Joseph Ray Lavine, gives an account of Anthony Cody’s speech at the University of Georgia. Cody told the audience that programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top had squandered billions of dollars, and that methodologies like “value-added measurement” could not measure what mattered most in education. Teachers want students who can engage in critical thinking, collaboration, and who can persevere, but the testing regime does not promote or encourage these qualities, nor can it measure them. We are not raising the bar, he said; we are actually lowering expectations by relying so heavily on high-stakes testing.

 

Cody recently published a book about the Gates Foundation and its influence on current failed reforms. The book is “The Educator and the Oligarch”; it describes his exchanges with the foundation and his efforts to persuade it to change course.

Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE Policy Works, surveys the harmful impact of Race to the Top on early childhood education.

It was bad enough that No Child Left Behind turned into a Frankenstein:

“…narrowing curriculum, inspiring fear, trembling, and depression in the U.S. teaching corps, not to mention test anxiety among a growing — and ever younger — population of students.

“Today, kindergarteners, their fine-motor skills still wobbly, are darkening the circles of multiple-choice tests. Time for blocks and play is diminished. First and second graders are prepping for exams, exploration and skill-building sidetracked. Assessment in early childhood is hardly a recent concern, notes Kyle Snow, Director of the Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, in a paper on kindergarten readiness and other large-scale assessment systems. He cites Samuel Meisels, former head of the Erikson Institute, a Chicago-based graduate school of education, whose vociferous criticism of standardized testing goes back decades. He’s the father of work-sampling, the early childhood equivalent of portfolio assessment — collections of essays, lab reports, research projects, and other student work, with nary a bubble in sight. Snow also warned of the “great need for additional research and development of assessments appropriate for young children.”

But the train has already left the station — sans Thomas the Tank Engine. As states have applied for Early Learning Challenge grants, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, assessments of children’s kindergarten readiness are par for the course. Teachers are also administering standardized tests in the early elementary grades — the better, some argue, to meet the demands of increased accountability.”

Ochshorn describes the growing movement among parents to opt their children out of inappropriate testing. At one school, Castlebridge in Néw York City, most parents boycotted the bubble tests for the K-2 grades. The children love to learn through play. They love school.

Ochshorn writes:

“Isn’t that the point? And isn’t that worth preserving? It’s time to turn the tables, and assess the damage of Race to the Top. If we delay, we risk turning out the light for another generation of students.”

Adam Bessie is a professor at a California community college. He looks back wistfully to the era when free community college was guaranteed and a path to making one’s way in the world.

 

But he fears now that President Obama’s plan will turn into a Race to the Top for community colleges, with federal requirements for test scores, VAM, and graduation, along with punishments for not reaching mandated targets.

 

“I worry that “free” college may be a Trojan horse for implementing a Race to the Top (RTTT) for higher education, which has been a disastrous policy for K-12 education. RTTT, which is essentially No Child Left Behind rebranded, uses the force of the federal government to institute a regime of standardized testing and so-called “competition,” which has narrowed the curriculum (especially in poor schools, which many of my students come from), emphasizing only reading and math, and tossing aside the arts, sciences and other areas which can’t be tested. Beyond this, RTTT has wrested control of classrooms out of the hands of educators and communities, and placed them into the hands of distant technocrats in the federal government and corporate America.

 

“Free” college might mean that community colleges would cede local, community control to the federal government; thus, the policies of Washington and corporate America would drive the curriculum, rather than the needs of the community. And based on what we’ve seen with RTTT, it’s likely that community colleges again would become junior colleges – designed primarily as trade schools, or for transfer, with a focus on getting students in and out the door as fast as possible, using standardized, impersonal methods more focused on efficiency than education.”

Robert Cotto, Jr., an elected member of the Hartford (CT) board of education, says that the state could save millions of dollars by reducing testing. Annual testing has been a waste of money. Before No Child Left Behind, Connecticut tested children in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. Now it tests every child in 3-8 every year.

“Reducing the tests that students take in each subject to only grades four, six, eight, and ten could save millions of dollars. The funds saved could help limit any budget cuts that will affect communities across the state, particularly for the most vulnerable children and families. Cutting testing in this way could also result in yearly savings of up to $9.5 million. That’s half of current state spending to administer the tests.

“At best, the evidence is mixed regarding the impact of spending more on testing and ratcheting up punishments. Here are some trends:

“Same data: With the exception of a few new features, the State reports and uses nearly the same type of test information today as it did more than a decade ago.

“Addition through subtraction: Increases in test results over the last decade didn’t happen until students with disabilities (mostly low-income, Black and Latino children) were removed from regular tests.

“Same disparities: The results of the “low-stakes,” sample-based National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have shown high overall test results of children in Connecticut, but little diminishing of race and class-based disparities. This historical pattern remains even after more than a decade of increased testing and punishments.

“Collateral damage: Curriculum hours in Connecticut narrowed to focus on the tested subjects. Students spent more time taking and practicing for tests throughout the year, taking away time for instruction.

“The State now uses the test results to rate students, schools, districts, and teachers.

“This isn’t educational progress.”

What really matters, he writes, is support for students, families, and communities. That’s a far better investment than high-stakes bubble tests.

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