Archives for category: Standardized Testing

Over 100 teachers in Toledo demonstrated in front of school district headquarters, asking the district to opt out of the PARCC tests.

Teachers said there was too much testing and it is used punitively, not to inform instruction.

Audrey Beardsley, one of the nation’s leading experts on teacher evaluation, recently visited Néw Mexico and there found an unhappy, test-obsessed school system.

She says Néw Mexico has gone “high stakes silly.” She attributes this to state commissioner Hanna Skandera, who was deputy commissioner in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. Hanna never taught. She believes in the Bush gospel of testing.

What’s more, teachers in NM must sign a contract promising never to disparage the tests in school or in public. Beardsley tried to make sense of the state’s VAM program but couldn’t. Then she learned that a group of rocket scientists at Los Alamos tried to understand it, and they couldn’t either.

I recently posted testing expert Fred Smith’s discovery that several test questions on New York’s Common Core exam had “disappeared.”

Susan Edelman of the Néw York Post read Fred Smith’s article and went searching for the answer. She found it.

“These tests were rotten to the Common Core.

“Student performance on four questions on the much-ballyhooed state English Language Arts exams was secretly scrubbed by state ­education officials because too many students didn’t answer them or were confused by them.

“After the tests were given last April 1-3, the state decided to eliminate the results of one multiple-choice question on the seventh-grade ELA exam, two on the third-grade ELA exam, and a four-point essay on the third-grade test.
Six of 55 points were whacked from the third-grade test.

“The axed essay question, called a “constructive response,” aimed to gauge a prime goal of the Common Core standards — whether students think critically and write cohesively, citing evidence from a text to support their ideas.

“They produced a defective product, and don’t want you to know about it,” said Fred Smith, a former city test analyst who discovered the missing items.

“In touting an uptick in scores last August, the state didn’t mention the erased results. The number of city kids rated “proficient” increased 2.9 percent from 2013 on the third-grade ELA test and 3.9 percent on the seventh-grade test.”

In short, by removing these four questions, the State Education Department produced a slight increase in scores, which enabled then-State Commissioner John King to assert that the state was making progress.

Sheri Sobel, a mom in Chicago, writes:



“PARCC testing in Chicago!! My son is in 6th grade and was part of the 10% of CPS population scheduled to take the test; originally. As we are aware NOW, that CPS has to administer the test to 100% or lose IL funding to the tune of $1.6B, He suffers from an Anxiety Disorder and has been distraught, crying, literally freaking out about taking the test for the past 4 weeks.


“He was so distraught 3 weeks ago that I had to take him back to his dr. and therapist ASAP (he has been stable for the past 2 yrs. and seeing his dr. every 3 months and a therapist 1 or 2 times per month as needed). Now he has to go weekly.


“Yesterday was the last straw. No child has to take a standardized test and can opt out; however, this is not what my son was hearing from the teachers. I wrote a notice of refusal; sent it out to his teachers, counselors, and CPS testing director. When i picked him up from school yesterday and gave him a copy of the letter I sent out; it was like a wave of happiness and calm came over him.


“What are we doing to our kids that there is so much pressure on their performance for funding?”

Todd Farley wrote an insider’s view of the testing industry called “Making the Grades.” I highly recommend it. He said in the book that the standardized tests should not be used to determine anyone’s future. Read it!

He writes:

Opting Out?

​I spent fifteen years working in the testing industry, so of course I’ll be opting my sons out of the state tests.

Like I’d allow a completely-unregulated multi-billion dollar industry with a staggering history of errors to have any say in my children’s lives???

In fact, not only will I be opting my boys out, I’m doing it preemptively: My oldest is only in kindergarten, but I’m getting the letter ready now. My youngest is about seven years away from third grade, but if these silly tests still reign supreme then I can promise you I just won’t be opting the kids out: I’ll be leading a torch- and pitchfork-waving mob up to Pearson’s headquarters in midtown New York City, where some meddlesome education reformer who thinks he can make decisions about my boys’ lives is gonna’ get himself tarred and feathered.

And if anyone has any doubt that opting out is the only sane choice for your children, hear what really goes on behind the curtain of the standardized testing industry:

March 24

Earth School Auditorium
(600 E 6th St)

“Your Kids, Bad Data, and Corporate Profits:
Why a Testing Industry Insider
Is Refusing the Tests”

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.



Jennifer is a Momma Bear in Tennessee. The Momma Bears are a parent group that fights for their children and their schools.

Jennifer had a fantasy: She imagined she was stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates. Trapped between floors. And she told him what she thought. In the time they were stuck, she insisted he watch a video that disproved his world-view. She even gave him fruit snacks (he was famished).

What did she teach him? Read and enjoy.

Bill Ashton, a teacher in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was suspended for discussing opting out with his students. They launched a campaign to “Bring Back Ashton,” and he was reinstated.


But the leaders of the school and the district made it clear that he had violated district policy and was on thin ice. They accused him of editing anti-testing fliers that ridiculed the Rhode Island Department io Education. They were especially angry that his son was leading an anti-testing protest.


“Ashton was sent home on paid leave last Friday after telling students at the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts that the school would not lose funding if they did not take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, according to a letter written that same day by JMW Principal Elizabeth Fasteson. Ashton was back to work on Tuesday morning, according to school.”

Can you believe this? A reader of Peter Greene’s blog pointed him to New Mexico’s administrative code.


Section of the NMAC deals with staff responsibilities regarding testing, and it includes a list of “prohibitive practices”– things that staff are forbidden to do. At the end of the list, that it shall be prohibitive practice for the staff member

disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of the standardized tests.


This is ridiculous. Imagine if a class read chapter 4 in my book Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform. They would learn about the history of standardized testing, about the flaws of I.Q. testing, about the eugenics movement, about the origins of the SAT. This would start a great debate about how students should be tested. But part of the discussion might lead some students to disparage the standardized tests and to question their significance, importance, use, and misuse.


But this discussion is prohibited. So which takes precedence: The First Amendment to the Constitution or the New Mexico Administrative Code. I wonder if any other states have similar gag rules for discussions of standardized testing.

Richard K. Munro, a veteran high school teacher in California, posted an interesting comment about the uses, abuses, and misuses of standardized tests:


“A highly qualified teacher knows his or her subject material. He or she also knows what works with students and what units are very difficult for students (Industrial Revolution/ Russian Revolution, “Cold” War; or in English conventions of grammar or literary devices). Putting too much emphasis on “the scantron God” (standardized testing) takes away from the teacher’s class and eventually makes his or her grades meaningless. If the grades become meaningless then classroom motivation and discipline decay too. If all the emphasis is “accountability” the temptation for administrators or teachers to cheat or let the students teach is enormous.


“We have an APEX program on the computer so students can make up credits. I only know the program indirectly from students and from subbing occasionally in that room. I find it amazing that students who are completely incompetent can pass all their APEX tests in just weeks and get credits for a Semester or Two Semester class. But then who is really taking the tests? Students tell me there is a black market business to log in with someone else’s ID and take the test. The time to do this is when the classroom teacher is absent. The teacher of record knows the students and has a special screen to watch log in and monitor each screen from his or her desk. But substitutes do not have access to that screen and cannot monitor (easily) log ins. All they can see is students are “on task” taking the test. If there is a way to cheat (using cell phones to take pictures of a good student’s screens or test papers) or having someone else log in for you using your password it will be done. Belief in mass testing like this is scientism. Mass testing is merely a dip stick. Ask any classroom teacher who has graded A VARIETY of assignments (maps, essays, charts, short answer etc.) and that teacher will know more correctly the academic level of student than a scantron test alone. And more importantly that teacher will know what remediation the student needs.


“I find mass testing an important piece of information to VERIFY and CLARIFY what I already know -the student has low reading ability or the student cannot do basic arithmetic or does not know literary devices or has poor grammar or punctuation skills. But once that information is shared it is up to the teacher to motivate and instruct the student. And yes, the student has to be willing. I had an Asian student who is a senior. He was DESPERATE to pass his English exit exam. He asked if he could study with me after school and during lunch for SIX WEEKS prior to the exit exam. In addition he attended Saturday sessions with other teachers. The result? He improved his CAHSEE (exit exam) score not 5 points or 10 but 39 points easily passing the exam (350 is passing and ALMOST scoring “proficient at grade level” 378 -380 is proficient). I don’t need to add he improved more than any other of his peers. One could put students in two categories : 1) those with almost 100% attendance and who also came for extra tutoring whenever they could 2) those with poor attendance -long tardies and 20% or more absenteeism who NEVER came for tutoring and who only occasionally completed class assignments. Most in the second category (not all) failed. Those who passed showed very little improvement and most passed by one 1 point or more.


“BEWARE OF THE SCANTRON GOD. BEWARE of COMMON CORE COMPUTER TESTS as a panacea. At best they are an imperfect dipstick. Such tests should inform classroom teachers. They should not drive graduation rates or have anything to do with school rankings or school sanctions. Quizzes and tests should be used only as review exercises to help students learn and to help them identify their deficiencies. The real test, as my old DI said, is the battlefield. The real test as I tell my students…is life itself. Learn as if your life and career depended on it. Because it does.”


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