Archives for category: Standardized Testing

Paul Lauter is an emeritus professor of literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is general editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

He writes:

“Why have Democrats been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education?

“There seem to me to be two critical answers. First, the Democrats are very attached to the views of the mainstream civil rights organizations, which have continued to back high-stakes testing. Perhaps those organizations believe that high-stakes testing, reporting of “failing” students and teachers, closing down of schools, substitution of profit-making charters for public education, and the rest will somehow transform the segregated, feeble education provided in most schools of poverty. One would think that after all these years of “No Child Left Behind—Except Ours” they would arrive at another agenda: like joining activist students in demanding full-funding of public schools, enabling them to continue as community centers, supporting (and decently paying) teachers, and the like. Is it cynical to ask whether the organizations pay too much attention to those, including those in the federal government, who fund the attacks on public education?

“Second, the Democrats, for good historical reasons, have been too attached to establishing policy priorities through national elections and legislation, and federal agencies. After all, “States Rights” for years cloaked racist and retrograde local policies. Civil Rights activists therefore tried to move court cases from state to federal jurisdictions; appealed to federal farm bureaus to challenge racist state and local policies regarding support of black and Hispanic farmers and farm workers; and opposed efforts of states like Texas to impose backward ideas on nationally-circulated textbooks (think the Texas Book Depository), and the like. And they have turned to the federal government to fund schools of poverty functionally abandoned by state and local governments. So it’s no surprise that Democrats have paid far more attention to presidential races and too little to local politics; the results of the 2010 and 2014 elections show what a disaster that has been. What, then, to do?

“Republicans are, on the whole, clearer about their policy priority: substitute private for public education. That has the virtue, from their perspective, of getting rid of experienced (aka “expensive”) teachers and their unions, utilizing the idealism of Teach for America and other short-term recruits, and—above all—providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn schools into profit centers. And it fits the Reaganist—and quite stupid—ideology that says government is always the problem and never the solution. One would like to be able to turn from that agenda to positive alternatives fostered by Democrats; instead of which we get Murphy, Cuomo, Rahm and Arnie.

“So, yes, good schools, schools as centers for learning and community, will have to be fought for locally and regionally. With the support of institutions like this blog, and other organizations. And, one would hope, eventually politicians who have detached themselves sufficiently from the past to create a future.”

There is a very deceptive petition now being circulated by Care2, which customarily promotes worthy causes. This petition asks you to sign if you support education as a civil right.

When you open it, it asks you to support the punitive accountability measures of NCLB, and criticizes the Senate ESEA bill for not including the mandated tough accountability that closed public schools in poor communities, but did not close opportunity gaps.

It says:

“Keep Education Bill’s Civil Rights Promise

23,101 SIGNATURES BY:Loron HaysTARGET:Senate Majority and Minority Leadership and Education Committee Chairs

“The US Senate has passed Every Child Achieves without the equity provisions that are so central to equitable education opportunities for ALL children.

“Without access to educational resources and much needed Title 1 funding, many of America’s children will continue to slip through the cracks. This Ed Week article articulates the concern being raised by some advocacy groups that, without meaningful federal accountability, educational opportunities for every student are not properly protected.

“According to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ letter to Congress, ESEA, in its current form, promises that the opportunity gap for minorities, ESL students, and students receiving special education services will remain in place due to a push from the House for less federal involvement with providing equal services for disadvantaged students.

“Differences between the House bill and the Senate bill must be reconciled before it is placed on the President’s desk which means THERE IS STILL TIME TO ACT. It is our duty to remind the Leadership that the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) is civil rights legislation. We must act NOW as their summer break – beginning July 30 and lasting until September – is quickly approaching.

“Sign the petition today. Let your voice be heard. Tell congress to strengthen the accountability in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and provide the necessary support to close the opportunity gap for underserved student populations in underperforming schools.

“We MUST invest in ALL of our students, not just the privileged.”

Bill and Melinda Gates told Nicholas Kristof that they have poured billions into education reform, but there’s been “no dramatic change.”

Although the Gates’ normally pay attention to results, in the case of education reform they are unfazed by failure.

As Inside Philanthropy reports:

This is significant for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that the Gateses still have not tapped the bulk of their personal fortune for philanthropy, as we’ve discussed in the past. While the Gates Foundation lists assets of $43 billion, Forbes pegs Bill Gates’ personal fortune at nearly $80 billion—most of which will likely go to philanthropy eventually.

This is actually a fatuous and unknowing article, as it praises the widespread adoption of the Common Core standards without mentioning how many states have dropped them or dropped the tests aligned with them or how they have become an issue in state and national campaigns. It also states that Gates spent “tens of millions” on the CCSS, when it was long ago reported by the Washington Post that Gates paid about $200 million to underwrite the effort, and some think it may have been ten times that amount. To discuss CCSS without referring to the controversy surrounding the standards is lazy (or star-struck) journalism.

The writer predicts that the Gates will shift their focus to early childhood programs, like the one run by Illinois Governor Rauner’s wife (Ounce of Prevention), and to teacher preparation programs. Again, no mention of the meager results from the Gates Foundation’s efforts to quantify teacher quality.

More testing on the way. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count. But don’t expect accountability; accountability is for the little people, as the super-wealthy Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes.

This post was written by Fred Smith, who worked for many years as a testing expert in the New York City Board of Education. In recent years, he has advised anti-testing groups like Change the Stakes.


I’ve passed the point of exasperation. But, after 40 years in New York’s testing trenches, giving up now is a luxury I can’t afford. Call it over-investment.


And here today is this email I get from a friend sending me the following link from Education Dive (a new one to me), which does a very short summary of a July report from the National Center for Educational Statistics. It compares common core standards and core-aligned test results across the states. Headline: New York Tops List of States with Most Difficult Tests.


The study examines proficiency cutoff scores and equates statewide performance on reading and math exams with corresponding results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It shows the relative standing of each state in terms of the NAEP scale.



Given the high regard in which NCES and NAEP are held, their methodology and findings must be respected. Here is the link to the report


Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Results From the 2013 NAEP Reading and Mathematics


I have two immediate reactions to this. First, making a test difficult in a statistical sense–does not make it valid, nor does it make it rigorous, a measure of critical thinking or more challenging—as proclaimed by proponents of core-aligned exams. More than 200,000 children, whose parents opted them out of the exams this year, loudly reject this proclamation.


Confusing, badly constructed items, inadequate time limits, developmentally inappropriate content–make a test “more difficult.” So does taking exams in an unlighted classroom, or when you’re hungry, homeless, sleep-deprived, just learning English or have special needs.


The study itself issued this caution about interpreting the results. The analyses in this report do not address questions about the content, format, exclusion criteria, or conduct of state assessments in comparison with NAEP.


Second, the fact that 2013 is the centerpiece of this report is important. According to the New York State Education Department (SED), 2013 was supposed to be the foundational year—the baseline, if you will, that would usher in the common core and assessments against which progress toward meeting the standards would be measured. NCES’s report merely shows that New York produced the most difficult tests. And…??


Finally, we come back to exasperation. Two recent events let us know that despite our protests and the importance of gaining necessary reform, we the public, remain where the politicians want us, on the outside looking in. The New York State legislature in the shoddiest, last-minute way possible just passed the weakest test-related bill imaginable. It does nothing to require truth in testing, which had been the focus of proposed legislation that was evidently abandoned. (A real T-in-T measure could have passed in this session. It was an extraneous item insignificantly glommed onto a much larger omnibus bill that satisfied the diverse interests of the legislators and was crafted to pass.)
And SED managed to award the next 5-year testing contract to an outfit called Questar Assessments. It has worked closely on testing projects with Pearson, Inc. in the past. And, before the contract was awarded, Pearson was quietly granted a one-year extension of its expiring 5-year contract. It will work to assure a smooth hand-off to Questar, especially in the matter of field testing, which may project Pearson’s involvement beyond 2016. We all know how sound Pearson’s test development expertise proved to be. Why not reward it for more of the same.


Will Pearsona non grata silently become the subcontractor, running the testing program from the shadows. Again, SED has gone about its decision-making with no transparency—leaving us to find out the details too late.

Here is Bob Schaeffer’s weekly update on the latest news about testing.

As the assessment reform movement monitors Capitol Hill where a congressional conference committee will soon take up the rewrite of “No Child Left Behind,” pressure to cut back testing volume and reduce high-stakes consequences continues to build at the grassroots. Be sure to check out the excellent new public education resources available for your local campaigns listed at the end of the news clips.

National How Changes in the Federal Education Law Might Cut Testing Time
National Still Need to Eliminate Annual Testing Mandate

Multiple States Are the PARCC Consortium Exams Toast?

California Top Education Official Plans Multi-Dimensional State Accountability System

Colorado More Students Than Ever Opted Out of Spring Testing
Colorado Test Scores Don’t Reflect Student Learning or Teacher Commitment

Delaware Opt-Out Supporters Regroup to Overcome Governor’s Veto

Florida School Testing is Like an Old Saturday Night Live Skit

Georgia Superintendent Rolls Back Some State Testing Requirements

Massachusetts Debate About Three-Year Moratorium on High-Stakes Exams

Michigan New State Schools Chief Favors Fewer Tests

Minnesota Scores Delayed After Year of Exam Disruptions

Missouri New Exams Causing Unexpected Test Score Reporting Delay

New Jersey State Senate Passes Opt-Out Resolution

New York State Ed Chancellor Would “Think Twice” Before Subjecting Child With Severe Disability to State Testing
New York Chancellor Tish Should be Held Accountable for Testing Abuse of Children With Disabilities

Pennsylvania Analysis Shows Strong Link Between Poverty and Test Scores
Pennsylvania Testing Mandates Have Narrowed Student Learning

Rhode Island Teacher Survey Shows Negative Response to PARCC Tests

Texas Local Civil Rights Activists Split Over Standardized Testing

Vermont State Leaders Seek Change in Education Testing Standards

Virginia State Seeks Feedback From Parents About School Performance Reports

George Washington University Joins Rapidly Growing Ranks of Test-Optional Colleges

Parents Across America Decries Student Abuse From Test-Related Stress

New Book by “Rog” Lucido — Returning Sanity to the Classroom:Eliminating the Testing Mania

“Education Inc.” Shines Spotlight on Dark Money Beyond Corporate “Reforms”

“Defies Measurement” Shows How U.S. Is Failing Its Public Schools

Education “Reform” Is Malpractice

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

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Colorado Chalkbeat reports that the opt out numbers were high in the state, especially for high school students. Only five of the state’s 20 large districts met the federal government’s requirement of a 95% participation rate. The greatest concentration of opt outs was in the 11th grade.

Changes are planned, but test critics don’t think it will make a difference. The biggest source of information and support for opting out was, apparently, students talking to other students.

The PARCC language arts and math tests were given in two sections, one in March and the second at the end of the school year. Many districts reported that opt-out rates were higher for the second set of tests.

High school assessments and the testing schedule both will change in 2016. Juniors won’t be tested in language arts and math, and there will be only a single testing “window” in April.

“I don’t claim to be a prophet, but, yeah, I expected high opt-out percentages,” said Republican Sen. Chris Holbert of Parker, who was heavily involved in legislative testing and opt-out debates. He also suggested high school refusal rates were significantly driven by students. “The awareness and them advocating to each other is more important.”

“Folks have been wondering where those big districts would fall. It’ll be an interesting convers what we do about those big districts with a high rate” of opt outs, said Bill Jaeger, a vice president with the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Jaeger served on the state task force that studied testing before the 2015 legislative session and has followed the issue closely.

As for the variation among districts, Jaeger said, “It’s an interesting finding to me, and there’s a whole host of explanations that I don’t think anyone’s explored.”

Noting testing changes made by both the legislature and the PARCC, Jaeger said, “It will be interesting to see if there is a restoration of confidence in the assessments.”

One testing critic, St. Vrain Superintendent Bob Haddad, doesn’t think that will happen.
“I don’t think it will make a difference,” Haddad said of testing reductions. “I don’t think you’re going to get parents and students back at the table … because there’s no trust” in the state testing system. “CMAS was summarily rejected by our students and parents.”

Arthur Camins left the following insightful comment on Rick Hess’s analysis of “What Went Wrong with Common Core.” I agree with his claim that the purpose of setting a totally unrealistic goal was to make public schools fail, thus destroying public confidence in them and setting them up for privatization. It is also manifestly correct, based on Joanne Weiss’s comments posted here earlier, that the intention of the Common Core standards and tests was to create a large, unified national marketplace for products and consultants, thus spurring entrepreneurs to enter the “education market.”

Rick Hess highlights many important points about what “went wrong” with the Common Core State Standards, laying the blame on the Obama administration and inside the beltway technocrats. Missing from his analysis is exposure of any of the behind-the-scenes role for companies looking to profit from a more coherent and less fragmented market and the hopes of market ideologues searching for tools to undermine the power of teachers unions in particular and public education in general. The 100% proficiency demands were designed to undermine confidence in public education, as was the connection between teacher evaluation and common core testing in Race to the Top and School Improvement grants.

Absent from much of the media attention to the strident debates about federal v/ local control is the simple fact that no system in the world has made significant improvement based on standards and high-stakes testing. We are, I think stuck in a debate within an autonomy and control framework, while ignoring the great potential for mutual responsibility.

I wrote about this several years ago here:

New York State Commissioner of Education MayEllen Elia has been on the job since July 6, and she has won over many–but not all–critics.

Whereas Her predecessor John King was young, inexperienced, and had worked for a brief time in a charter school, Elia has many years as a teacher and administrator. She gets points for that.

But her agenda is the same as Cuomo, King, and Tisch: high-stakes testing, school closings, teacher evaluation by scores.

The one group not yet charmed by Elia are the opt out parents and educators at Néw York State Allies for Public Education. It is the agenda they oppose, not the messenger.

Gary Rubinstein keeps a close eye on Teach for America and watches how it shows its true colors from time to time. That happened with the votes cast on amendments to the Senate bill called “Every Child Achieves Act.”

TFA lobbyists urged Senators to support the Murphy-Booker amendments, which would have retained the worst, most punitive features of No Child Left Behind. They also publicly opposed parents’ right to opt their children out of state tests, on the flimsy claim that this would hurt poor and minority children. In fact, poor and minority children are victimized by high-stakes testing, by a greater emphasis on testing, and by closing of schools located mostly in their communities.

Rubinstein writes that the Murphy-Booker amendment:

says that the states must identify the schools most in need of intervention, which must be at least the bottom 5%. It seems that the Democrats did not learn the lessons from NCLB about the danger of putting specific numerical targets into federal law and how those numerical targets can be abused. The fact that there is always a bottom 5% no matter how good the schools are in a state. Also, schools where the graduation rate is less than 67%, a magic number for ‘failing school’ that is not grounded in any real research (not to mention one that is easy to game with different ‘credit recovery’ schemes, but that’s another issue altogether). For schools like this some of the federally mandated interventions are to inform the parents that their child is attending a failing school, to establish ‘partnerships’ with ‘private entities’ to turn around these schools, and to give the states the ability to make, and for this I’ll use a verbatim quote, “any changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for children in the school.”

So where does Murphy’s Law come in? What could possibly go wrong with this? Well for starters, there would need to be an accurate way to gauge which schools are truly in the ‘bottom 5%.’ I admit that there are some schools that are run much less efficiently than others and surely the different superintendents should have a sense of which schools they are. But as NCLB and Race To The Top (RTTT) taught us, with all the money spent on creating these metrics and the costly tests and ‘growth metrics’ that go along with those tests, it is likely to lead to way too much test prep and neglect of some of the things that make school worth going to. Then those ‘private entities’, could it be any more clear that these are charter schools taking over public schools? And as far as “changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for the children in the school”, well, firing teachers after school ‘closures’ in New York City hasn’t resulted in improved ‘educational opportunities.’ My sense is that with enough of these mass firings, it will be very difficult to get anyone to risk their careers by teaching at a so-called failing school and the new staff is likely be less effective than the old staff. So you can see why the NEA wrote a letter to the Senate urging them to vote against it. Sadly nearly all the Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders!) ignored the plea of the NEA.

TFA’s leaders gave their approval to an article sharply criticizing parents who opt their children out of standardized testing:

In The 74 [Campbell Brown’s website], disgraced former Tennessee Education Commissioner and TFA alum (not to mention ex-husband of Michelle Rhee-Johnston) Kevin Huffman wrote a completely incoherent comparison of parents opting their children out of state tests to parents opting their children out of vaccinations. The title of the article was “Why We Need to Ignore Opt-Outers Like We Do Anti-Vaxxers.” Not that we need to ‘challenge’ them, but we need to ‘ignore’ them. Don’t bother learning what motivates them to do what they do, just assume you know and ignore whatever concerns are causing them to want to do this. Huffman is also a lawyer, though his argument is quite weak. He says that wealthy opt-outers are selfish since they are doing something that somehow benefits themselves while hurting the other, less wealthy people. But does he consider that many opt-outers are doing it as a protest against the misuse of their students test scores to unfairly close schools and fire teachers? Or to protest an over emphasis on testing and testing subjects so they opt out to say “Since I’m opting out anyway, please teach my child as you would have before all this high stakes testing nonsense.” Now I can’t speak for every opt-out supporter, but I believe that opting-out helps everyone, especially the poor since the way the results of the state tests have been used has hurt them disproportionately with school closures and random teacher firings so the idea that all opt-out supporters do so knowingly at the expense of less fortunate others is something that I find offensive. Both co-CEOs of TFA, however, tweeted their approval of this article.

High-stakes testing and punitive policies widens the market for privatization, drives out experienced teachers, and clears the way for more positions for TFA.

United Opt Out recently announced that its annual conference will be held in Philadelphia from February 26-28, 2016.


This is the movement that will destroy corporate reform.


Suppose they gave a standardized test and nobody took it. Suppose they gave 25 standardized tests and no one showed up.


No profits for the test makers.


No data to label kids; no data to close schools; no data to declare teachers HEDI (highly effective, effective, developing, ineffective).


Suppose teachers wrote their own tests.




Join the revolutionaries in Philadelphia. Mark the date in your calendar.


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