Archives for category: Standardized Testing

A few weeks ago, I went with my eight-year-old grandson to Philadelphia with a friend of his who is the same age. Three grandmas, two grandsons. We visited the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, the Science Museum, and the Reading Market. A wonderful weekend.

I asked him what he was doing in school, and he said they were learning how to fill in bubbles to take a test. He said, without my prompting, “this is a really stupid way to find out what I know. If I don’t fill the bubble in correctly, my answer is wrong. And I know so much more than they ask.”

Then came testing time, and I asked him if he would be taking the tests. This child, you should know, is a voracious reader who retains everything he reads and is passionately interested in animals, dinosaurs, and everything to do with science. He has a prodigious vocabulary. He told me that he was not taking the tests. I asked why. He said, “I don’t mind taking tests. I like taking tests. But I think it is wrong to evaluate my teacher by how I answer questions on the tests.”

And he doesn’t read my blog.

A teacher wrote this little essay and dedicated it to Governor Andrew Cuomo:

“There is a man in Albany, who I surmise, by his clamorous paroxysms, has an extreme aversion to educators. He sees teachers as curs, or likens them to mangy dogs. Methinks he suffers from a rare form of psychopathology in which he absconds with our dignity by enacting laws counterintuitive to the orthodoxy of educational leadership. We have given him sufferance for far too long. He’s currently taking a circuitous path to DC, but he will no doubt soon find himself in litigious waters. The time has come to bowdlerize his posits, send him many furlongs away, and maroon him there, maybe Cuba?

She added:

I’m not supposed to say this, but all these insanely hard words appeared on the 4,6, and 8th grade tests last week.

Pearson has a long history of errors in its textbooks and tests. Sarah Blaine, a parent and lawyer in New Jersey, discovered an error in a textbook and a Pearson representative apologized and promised to correct the error in future editions.

What if this had happened on a high-stakes test, Blaine wondered. Children would puzzle over the choice of answers and lose time on a timed test. They would lose points for choosing the correct answer. Suppose Pearson refuses to release the test questions–which is now its protocol–and no one finds out that the question is absurd (remember “The Pineapple and the Hare” question?), or the language was confusing, or the answer was just plain wrong. No one will know if there is no transparency. That is why parents must continue to insist that the tests be released for public review after they are administered. And that is why parents should show their opposition to this secretiveness by refusing to let their children take the tests.

If a large corporation is going to have the power to judge the child’s worthiness, parents and teachers should have the right to check the worthiness and accuracy of the testing instrument and catch errors. No one can catch errors if the tests are not made available for public review.

Andy Smarick is a reformer with a low opinion of public schools, like other reformers. But in some of his writings, he has shown a willingness to challenge the formulaic party line of corporate reform.

In this post, he disagrees with his fellow reformers who scoff at parents who opt out. As he shows, the reformer party line is that parents who opt out are white suburbanites who fear accountability for their children and their teachers and don’t care about closing the achievement gap.

Smarick says that the opt out movement is a test of reformers’ humility. Will they stop scoffing at parents long enough to hear them?

Smarick writes:

“I don’t want to infer too much about these individuals’ [reformers] intentions. But I’m worried that such statements, when taken together, give the impression that education reform believes that the opinions of white or middle-class families should be viewed with skepticism or antipathy.

“Non-poor, non-minority families love their kids and have every right to participate in the public debate about public education. I’m a strong supporter of assessments and accountability, and I wouldn’t opt out. But I think it’s unfair to discount the views of those who disagree, and it would be untoward to suggest they don’t care about other kids or are insensitive to issues of race and income.

“My reading of the situation is that a significant number of American families have misgivings about what’s happening in their public schools. Most of the issues about which they have concerns—whether it’s standards, assessments, teacher evaluation, or something else—are policies developed at the state or federal level.

“Had these policies been created locally, families could petition their local school boards for redress. But now, unable to change decisions made by faraway state and federal policymakers, these families are employing a kind of civil disobedience. They are using the power they do have—to decline participation in state tests—to demonstrate their frustration with the status quo.”

I salute Smarick for recognizing that opt out parents are not tools of the unions, racists, dolts, or helicopter parents. He deserves credit for acknowledging that parents who opt out have no other way of making kmown their opposition to the status quo of high-stakes testing. When these decisions are made by politicians who would be unable to pass the tests they are imposing, it is doubly galling.

It would be good if reformers showed understanding of what is happening on the ground. Children as young as eight take tests in reading and math that may require 7 or 8 hours. Does that seem right? Why should a test in basic skills require so much time? Many adults would find it hard to sit for so long being tested.

Many teachers have reported that the tests are two grade levels above the students’ actual grade. This guarantees a high failure rate?

Teachers also criticize test questions with more than one plausible answer or passages that are confusing.

Do reformers agree with the testmakers’ demand that test questions never are released, that neither teachers or students are allowed to discuss the tests? Do they think it is reasonable that the tests report a score but release no individual report about what the student got right or wrong?

Why is it valuable to have a score for every student but nothing more? How can these scores, when aggregated, improve curriculum or instruction or help students?

I appreciate Andy Smarick’s willingness to listen. I hope he continues to do so.

Randi Weingarten is on her way to speak at the Network for Public Education’s second annual conference in Chicago this weekend.

But she detoured to London to attend the Pearson shareholder meeting. She took the opportunity to tell Pearson to stop spying on children through their social media accounts. And she requested that Pearson stop lobbying and making campaign contributions to politicians for the sake of their testing business.

I am not sure that the folks at Prstson ever heard such straight talk.

Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest has kept track of computerized testing systems. They have failed in seven states:  Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

U.S. COMPUTERIZED TESTING PROBLEMS: 2013 – 2015

compiled by National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest)

The ongoing litany of computer exam administration failures reinforces the conclusion that the technologies rushed into the marketplace by political mandates and the companies paid to implement them are not ready for prime time. It makes no sense to attach high-stakes consequences to such deeply flawed tools

Updates to this list will be posted at: http://fairtest.org/computerized-testing-problems-2013-2015

2015

INDIANA – “ISTEP Testing a Mess Again This Year,” WISH-TV, April 23, 2015

MINNESOTA – “Minnesota Suspends Statewide Testing Amid Technical Woes,” Minnesota Public Radio, April 21, 2015

NEVADA – “Breach of Contract Declared After Common Core Testing Crash,” KOLO-TV, April 21, 2015

FLORIDA –“Statewide Computer Glitch Causes More School Testing Woes,” Ocala Star Banner, April 20, 2015

NEVADA – “Common Core Test Crashes Again on First Day Back,” Associated Press, April 20, 2015

MONTANA — “Montana Lets Schools Cancel Smarter Balanced Testing After Technical Woes,” Education Week, April 15, 2015

NORTH DAKOTA – “More Glitches Plague Standardized Tests,” Bismarck Tribune, April 15, 2015

COLORADO – “Technical Difficulties Cause Statewide Shutdown of Standardized Testing in Colorado,” Colorado Springs Gazette, April 15, 2015

MINNESOTA – “Minnesota Student Assessments Snarled by Computer Crash,” Pioneer Press, April 15, 2015

WISCONSIN – “Latest Glitch Delays Common Core Testing in Wisconsin,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 26, 2015

COLORADO – “Computer Attack During Standardized Testing Delays Some Exams in Colorado Springs School District,” Colorado Springs Gazette, March 20, 2015

RHODE ISLAND – “Computer Glitch Forces Postponement of PARCC Tests in Bristol,” Providence Journal, March 17, 2015

CALIFORNIA – “New State Standardized Tests Begin After Rocky Trial Run,” Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2015.

FLORIDA – “Amid Technical Problems, Miami-Dade School System Postpones New Tests,” Miami Herald, March 2, 2015

GEORGIA – “Milestones Online Student Testing System Crashes in Test Run,” Athens Banner-Herald, January 21, 2015

ILLINOIS – “After Computer Hiccup, PARCC Test Up and Running at District 308,” Chicago Tribune, March 3, 2015

INDIANA – “Trial Run of ISTEP+ Online Exam Reveals Connection Issues,” Associated Press, January 16, 2015 and “When Testing Technology Fails, Students Fear They Will Too,” State Impact Indiana, February 5, 2015

MAINE – “Commissioner: State Will Look Into Lewiston Online Testing Concerns,” Sun-Journal, February 5, 2015

NEW JERSEY – “PARCC Tests Postponed at One School After Glitch,” NJ.com, February 20, 2015 and “Possible Hacking Postpones Tests in Union Township,” NJ.com, March 3, 2015

2014

ARKANSAS – “Dardanelle Experiences Testing Problems,” Courier News, May 13, 2014

CALIFORNIA – “State’s New Computerized Exam Tryout Plagued by Glitches,” Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2014

CONNECTICUT – “Stamford’s Common Core Testing Problematic,” Stamford Advocate, July 25, 2014

FLORIDA – “Computer Problems Shut Down FCAT Testing in Pasco, Hernando and Across the State,” Tampa Bay Times, April 22, 2014

INDIANA – “New ISTEP Glitches Put Educators on Edge,” Indianapolis Star, April 24, 2014

KANSAS – “Kansas Education Officials Extend State Testing Period Amid Computer Glitches,” The Wichita Eagle, March 30, 2014, and “Kansas Won’t Release Data From Reading, Math Tests,” Associated Press, July 8, 2014

MARYLAND – “Field-Testing of Common Core Exams Gets Off to a Shaky Start at MD High School,” Education Week, April 3, 2014 and “Md. School System Raises Concerns About Readiness for PARCC Common Core Exams,” Washington Post, November 9, 2014

NEBRASKA – “Problems With State Writing Tests Prompts Education Officials to Toss Results,” (Lincoln) Journal Star, July 22, 2014

NORTH CAROLINA – “North Carolina Warns About Problems with Online CTE Tests,” (Raleigh) News & Observer, May 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA – “President of CTB/McGraw-Hill Apologizes to Oklahoma for Disrupted Testing,” Tulsa World, April 25, 2014

SOUTH DAKOTA – “’Spinning Cursor’ Among Sioux Falls Common Core Testing Issues,” KELOland.com, May 12, 2014

WASHINGTON – “Glitches Disrupt Online State Testing for Students in Tacoma,” The News Tribune, May 1, 2014, “Digital Attacks on Kennewick School District Servers Affect Student Testing,” Tri-City Herald, May 30, 2014

2013

INDIANA, KENTUCKY, MINNESOTA, OKLAHOMA – “State’s Online Testing Problems Raise Common-Core Concerns,” Education Week, May 3, 2013

ALABAMA, OHIO – same problems with ACT testing technology as Kentucky

updated by Bob Schaeffer, 04/22/15

The New York Times has written another article about the historic Opt Out movement in New York. Thus far, we know that 150,000-200,000 students opted out of the ELA, and we don’t know yet how many opted out of the math tests. The subject of the article is whether opt out students are treated unfairly when forced to “sit and stare,” rather than going to the library and reading while their classmates take the test. The article raises another point: Are the opt out students “bullying” their classmates who are taking the tests?

While these are interesting points, they seem to be trivial as compared to the reasons why parents opt out. It is not simply to protect their children. Is it not simply to thwart public officials who want data. It is because parents know that the tests provide no information of any value to their child.

I have in front of me a report from this year’s ELA exam in New York. It was for a third-grader. The names of the child and the school are removed. The report gives the child a score and a ranking. Of what value is that for the child or her teacher? How does that show whether the school is making progress? How does it lead to improved curriculum and instruction? The teachers and parents are not allowed to see the test questions and answers, or to know which ones the students got wrong. How can anyone learn from such paltry information?

The parents seem to understand this. Their numbers will grow, and as they do, the threats will grow shriller but more hollow.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs has surmised that this is an ominous situation. Before you go into a paroxysm of laughter, remember that life is ephemeral.

If you wonder why the outbreak of clamorous verbiage, please note that Jacobs has collected some of the unusual words that appeared on the 6th grade Common Core test in Néw York.

She writes:

“Arguably there is universal admiration for a command of vocabulary, but the thought of eleven and twelve year olds wrestling with these words in a timed pressure cooker suggests an “ominous situation”.

“What were these test makers thinking? Perhaps they yearn to design those SAT exams for seniors. The sobering fact that the results will have a direct impact on how a teacher is evaluated points to a profound disconnect.”

Minnesota testing was briefly halted when Pearson servers became overloaded–were they not expecting so many students?–and a “denial-of-service” hacker broke into the system.

“An overloaded processor and a “malicious denial-of-service attack” led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota’s statewide student testing system, the state’s testing contractor said Wednesday.

“Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

“We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly,” department spokesman Josh Collins said.”

In an age when hackers can break into the computer systems of major corporations, can Pearson expect to remain immune?

This press release just arrived from Néw York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 parent and educator groups.

http://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-ny-parents-have-spoken.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2015

More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – http://www.nysape.org

NY Parents Have Spoken, Now It’s Time to Fix Cuomo’s Education Budget Debacle & Establish New Leadership for the Board of Regents

For the past two years, New York State Allies for Public Education has warned elected and appointed officials about serious concerns related to excessive high-stakes state testing based on flawed and experimental learning standards, as well as the collection and sharing of private student data.

This past week, the national attention focused on the parent uprising taking place in New York State. Spurred to action by the refusal of both the Governor and the NYS Education Department’s failure to respond to legitimate concerns, thousands of parents fought back to protect their children.

At this time, estimates indicate parents of close to 200,000 students this year have refused New York State’s Common Core testing agenda and the final figures are expected to be even higher.

The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever. On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, “The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership” in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside.

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News.

Chancellor Tisch must step down. The only way for the Board of Regents, Assembly, and Senate to regain trust of their constituents is to call for the Regents to empower a new leader to fix within its authority, the Cuomo budget legislation fiasco and the misguided Regents Reform Agenda.

“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

“For the past two years Chancellor Tisch has repeatedly ignored parents at forums throughout the state. She is incapable of leading the state in a new direction because she believes what is happening is just fine and her latest plea for asking for more time is just a distraction from the real issues. Her repeated calls for critics to “calm down” indicates her unwillingness to change course.” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“On Chancellor Tisch’s watch, the work of the State Education Department has been outsourced to a privately funded ‘Regents Fellows’ think tank. It is not surprising that the reforms put forth by this think tank advance the agenda of the wealthy ‘yacht set’ and corporate-linked groups that fund the Regent Fellows: The Robin Hood Foundation, Gates Foundation, and even Chancellor Tisch herself. When you replace a public service with a private organization that advances corporate agendas, New Yorkers know that is corruption,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent and Schools of Thought Hudson Valley, NY founder.

“While the Governor has demonstrated blatant disregard for the will of the people by doubling down on the use of high stakes testing, the State Education Department and Chancellor Tisch similarly ignored parent concerns regarding inappropriate test content by forcing children to read passages on last week’s ELA tests that were up to four years above grade level followed by vague and confusing questions,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent, Central NY Opt Out co-founder, and educator.

Fred Smith, testing specialist, NYC public schools retired administrative analyst, and Change the Stakes member said, “Instead of transparency and disclosure of complete and timely test data that would open the quality of the ELA and math exams to independent review, Tisch has ruled over an unaccountable testing program that flies at near-zero visibility–in a fog of flawed field testing procedures, age-inappropriate poorly written items, the covert removal of test questions after they have been scored, arbitrarily drawn cut off scores, and the misapplication of the results to reach unsupportable conclusions about students, teachers, and schools.”

“As seen with the budget debacle earlier this month, New Yorkers know when the ‘Albany Fix’ is in,” Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member. Mihelbergel went on to say, “We know that the opt out movement will ultimately invalidate the data and render these test scores useless. When some schools have opt outs as high as 70%, we know that any claims that opt out is “random” and that only a small sampling of test scores will yield usable data is illogical.”

To ensure clarity for all, NYSAPE calls for the following from the NYS Legislature & Board of Regents and will release a more comprehensive list in the near future:

1. A dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th, along with reasserting New York State’s authority to determine the education of its children by calling on the US Congress to reduce testing requirements and return to grade span testing. As former President Bill Clinton said we don’t need annual testing, “I think doing one [test] in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.”

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

3. An independent review of the NYS career and college ready standards to ensure that standards are research based and appropriate. Establish a taskforce including parents, educators, and stakeholders to study the Common Core Learning Standards and make recommendations to adjust and adopt NYS standards.

4. Adhere to a public and transparent process for selecting a new NYS Commissioner of Education.

5. Fix the Cuomo budget legislation debacle by passing legislation that decouples student test scores and restores local board of education control over teacher evaluations.

6. Pass legislation that REQUIRES parental consent to share ANY identifiable student data beyond school district administrators.

We want to restore our classrooms with a well-rounded education and drive testing compliance factory reforms out of our classrooms forever.

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– See more at: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-ny-parents-have-spoken.html#sthash.WPxXvbWx.dpuf

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