Archives for category: Standardized Testing

Rick Bobrick is a veteran teacher in New York. He is sick of the punitive high-stakes testing that he is compelled to administer. This regime is child abuse. He is a conscientious objector. He thinks that teachers should have the same right to opt out that parents and children have. He knows if he refuses to give the tests, he puts at risk his job, his income, and his pension. He asks a simple question: why not a law protecting the rights of teachers to refuse to do what they know is wrong? Why not give teachers the right to be conscientious objectors?

Here is his letter:

I teach 8th grade science in a small city school district located in the Mid-Hudson Valley. I am in my 35th year in the classroom, the last 13 of which I have been required to administer punitive, high-stakes tests in math, ELA, and science. Last spring I hit the wall and I have decided that, in all good conscience, I no longer want to participate in this detrimental practice. However, like most teachers, I am unwilling to risk losing my income, or my pension, or my even my reputation, in order to take a principled stand against this new wave of failed reform. On the other hand, why should I have to risk anything in order to stand against what I know is wrong?

No teacher or administrator should be required to ignore their moral and professional compass out of fear of violating NY state law. No teacher or administrator should have to comply with educational policies more harmful than helpful to children. No teacher or administrator should be forced to remain complicit to policies that are tantamount to educational malpractice at best – and child abuse at their worst. No public school educator should ever submit to inaction out of fear of jeopardizing their professional standing, personal well-being, or their family security. The fear, the veiled threats, and the de-facto intimidation are all very real concerns for many NY public school professionals. There is something deeply wrong with a system in which teachers and principals are afraid to act in the best interest of children.

My proposed solution to this professional dilemma is to try to establish legal protections for any NY educator who no longer wishes to comply with New York’s RTTT commitment. Following the advice of my local NYSUT representative, I have drafted a resolution that would establish a ‘Conscientious Objector’ status for any NY teacher or administrator who wants to abstain from the malpractice of high-stakes testing. I have never been politically connected, nor a particularly strong supporter of our union. All I ever wanted to do was to teach science and provide my students with the best learning opportunities possible.

I will be working with a group of like-minded citizens to convince lawmakers to support this initiative. If this proposal is submitted as a bill and passed into law it would provide legal protection for any teacher or administrator who wants to opt out of the testing debacle. As has been seen over the past two years, parents can ‘refuse the test’ without fear of legal consequences. Nearly 60,000 students across New York State sat out the 2014 round of Pearson testing, supported by parents who wanted nothing to do with tests designed to fail students and intimidate their teachers. It is my strong belief that teachers and administrators should have the same right of refusal, a legally protected right to, ‘refuse to test’. Passage of this resolution into law may be viewed by some as a long shot; if successful it would open a very messy can of worms for Governor Cuomo, the Board of Regents, John King, and the State Education Department.

Regardless of the end result, the message this sends to our political leaders could open some eyes and help bring this federal testing regime to an end, sooner rather than later; one more nail in the coffin of New York’s Regents Reform Agenda. At the very least it would let parents, boards of education, and the media get a better handle on just how much opposition there is from the educators who are being forced by the power of state and federal law to pursue education policies and practices that we know are inflicting harm to our students. Teachers whose voices are being silenced by fear of professional retribution, would be muzzled no longer. To sit back and continue to be a part of this testing madness, in my view, makes us part of the problem – ‘refusing to test’ makes us part of the solution.

If we do nothing, this whole mess will eventually die a slow death by a thousand cuts, collapsing under its own weight – but not after a generation of students has been short-changed by the educational blinders of the Common Core and damaged by the pressures of punitive, test-based reform and all the negative labels that come with it. Parents, college professors, and others will be pointing fingers and asking very serious questions as they try to make sense of what happened to our collective professional voice if the majority of us remain complicit through inaction. The ‘Nuremburg Defense’ doesn’t cut it for me. Burris, Farley, Naison, Lee and a small handful of other strong voices from within the trenches of New York’s schools are not enough. We have a choice to make, nearly half a million strong: defiance or compliance?

If adopted, the Conscientious Objector legislation will make it possible for the majority of NY educators to speak out against the misguided attempts of reformers; changing fearful whispers into strong and meaningful action. By granting the right of refusal, this proposed resolution would also help to restore our status as professional educators whose judgment and trust are valued by the communities we serve. Teachers, coaches, supervisors, principals, and parents, please keep your ears to the legislative track and when the time comes lend your support at the local and state level. Together we can make this happen and bring the joy of learning back to our children’s classrooms.

Rick Bobrick

Steven Singer, teacher, describes the accumulating series of insults and indignities heaped upon teachers by the federal and state governments and by politicians who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom.

He writes, in indignation and fury:

“You can’t do that.

“All the fear, frustration and mounting rage of public school teachers amounts to that short declarative sentence.

“You can’t take away our autonomy in the classroom.

“You can’t take away our input into academic decisions.

“You can’t take away our job protections and collective bargaining rights.

“You can’t do that.

“But the state and federal government has repeatedly replied in the affirmative – oh, yes, we can.

“For at least two decades, federal and state education policy has been a sometimes slow and incremental chipping away at teachers’ power and authority – or at others a blitzkrieg wiping away decades of long-standing best practices.

“The latest and greatest of these has been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Earlier this week, the state-led School Reform Commission simply refused to continue bargaining with teachers over a new labor agreement. Instead, members unilaterally cancelled Philadelphia teachers contract and dictated their own terms – take them or get out.

“The move was made at a meeting called with minimal notice to hide the action from the public. Moreover, the legality of the decision is deeply in doubt. The courts will have to decide if the SRC even has the legal authority to bypass negotiations and impose terms.

“One doesn’t have to live or work in the City of Brotherly Love to feel the sting of the state SRC. For many educators across the nation this may be the last straw.

“For a long time now, we have watched in stunned silence as all the problems of society are heaped at our feet…..”

“Teachers dedicate their lives to fight the ignorance and poverty of the next generation and are found guilty of the very problem they came to help alleviate. It’s like blaming a doctor when a patient gets sick, blaming a lawyer because his client committed a crime or blaming a firefighter because an arsonist threw a match.

“The Philadelphia decision makes clear the paranoid conspiracy theories about school privatization are neither paranoid nor mere theories. We see them enacted in our local newspapers and media in the full light of day.

Step 1: Poor schools lose state and federal funding.

Step 2: Schools can’t cope with the loss, further reduce services, quality of education suffers.

Step 3: Blame teachers, privatize, cancel union contracts, reduce quality of education further.

“Ask yourself this: why does this only happen at poor schools?…”

“Poverty has been the driving factor behind the Philadelphia Schools tragedy for decades. Approximately 70% of district students are at or near the poverty line.

“To meet this need, the state has bravely chipped away at its share of public school funding. In 1975, Pennsylvania provided 55% of school funding statewide; in 2014 it provides only 36%. Nationally, Pennsylvania is 45th out of 50 for lowest state funding for public education.”

“Since the schools were in distress (read: poor), the state decided it could do the following: put the district under the control of a School Reform Commission; hire a CEO; enable the CEO to hire non-certified staff, reassign or fire staff; allow the commission to hire for-profit firms to manage some schools; convert others to charters; and move around district resources.

“And now after 13 years of state management with little to no improvement, the problem is once again the teachers. It’s not mismanagement by the SRC. It’s not the chronic underfunding. It’s not crippling, generational poverty. It’s these greedy people who volunteer to work with the children most in need.

“We could try increasing services for those students. We could give management of the district back to the people who care most: the citizens of Philadelphia. We could increase the districts portion of the budget so students could get more arts and humanities, tutoring, wraparound services, etc. That might actually improve the educational quality those children receive.

“Nah! It’s the teachers! Let’s rip up their labor contract!

“Take my word for it. Educators have had it.”

Don’t be a scapegoat any longer, Singer says.

Here is his clarion call, his war cry: Refuse to give the tests they use to label you and call you a failure.

“It follows then that educators should refuse to administer standardized tests across the country – especially at poor schools.

“What do we have to lose? The state already is using these deeply flawed scores to label our districts a failure, take us over and then do with us as they please.

“Refuse to give them the tools to make that determination. Refuse to give the tests. How else will they decide if a school is succeeding or failing? They can’t come out and blame the lack of funding. That would place the blame where it belongs – on the same politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists who pushed for these factory school reforms in the first place.

“This would have happened much sooner if not for fear teachers would lose their jobs. The Philadelphia decision shows that this may be inevitable. The state is committed to giving us the option of working under sweatshop conditions or finding employment elsewhere. By unanimously dissolving the union contract for teachers working in the 8th largest district in the country, they have removed the last obstacle to massive resistance.

“Teachers want to opt out. They’ve been chomping at the bit to do this for years. We know how destructive this is to our students. But we’ve tried to compromise – I’ll do a little test prep here and try to balance it with a real lesson the next day. Testing is an unfortunate part of life and I’m helping my students by teaching them to jump through these useless hoops.

“But now we no longer need to engage in these half measures. In fact, continuing as before would go against our interests.

“Any Title 1 district – any school that serves a largely impoverished population – would be best served now if teachers refused to give the powers that be the tools needed to demoralize kids, degrade teachers and dissolve their work contracts. And as the poorer districts go, more affluent schools should follow suit to reclaim the ability to do what’s best for their students. The standardized testing machine would ground to a halt offering an opportunity for real school reform. The only option left would be real, substantial work to relieve the poverty holding back our nation’s school children.

“In short, teachers need to engage in a mass refusal to administer standardized tests.

“But you can’t do that,” say the politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists.

“Oh, yes, we can.”

Colorado State Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond sent a letter to all districts warning them not to opt out of state or federal testing. The gist of his letter was: it may be harmful; it may be child abuse; it may violate your professional ethics; Italy be a waste of time and money; but it is the law and in our state, we follow orders.

Superintendent Nicholas Gledich said District 11 did not intend to break the law. “”We’ve never had a desire to not be in compliance with the laws; we’ve had a desire to create change and coordination by which the conversation could be held,” he said.

“But D-11 isn’t conceding defeat.

“We’re not ready to just drop everything,” said Elaine Naleski, vice president of the district’s board. “We’re still having the conversations. At this point, I don’t want to say OK, they said we can’t do it so let’s go back to doing what we have been doing. We believe in local control and will do what we can locally because we believe it’s good for the kids.”

“Gledich said Hammond didn’t shut the door on D-11’s request. In his letter to Gledich, Hammond said he will have CDE staff reach out to D-11 to “explore ways in which the department can continue to collaborate and incubate innovative approaches to these issues.”

“What I see in his response is he’d like to work with us to explore innovative approaches,” Gledich said.

“However, he and I both understand that we have to work within the federal requirements.”

“The mounting resistance to standardized testing is coming at a time when Colorado education officials are reviewing a frustrating picture of a lack of academic improvement over the past 10 years of testing.

According to an annual report the CDE submitted to the State Board on Wednesday, while the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on math tests has increased by 12 percent since 2004, it’s only advanced by 
3 percent in reading and 

“School readiness of 4-year-olds has declined in literacy and math in the past three years and the percentage of third-graders reading at or above grade level has stagnated at about 72 percent.”

Remember how Arne Duncan says he wants less testing? Don’t believe him. In Colorado, such requests are routinely rejected by Duncan’s DOE. Do you think he doesn’t know?

“The U.S. Department of Education “has made it clear to us” that if a state or district fails to comply with the assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, or a state-approved flexibility waiver, its federal funding for low-income students could be in jeopardy, Hammond’s letter to superintendents states.”

Thanks, Arne, for reminding us to watch what you do and ignore what you say or write.

The Colorado Springs school board, District 11, voted to opt out of state and federal Common Core testing.

The vote was unanimous.

“Unprecedented action Wednesday night by Colorado Springs School District 11, as the Board of Education voted unanimously to try and opt out of standardized testing mandated by the State and the federal Common Core Curriculum.

“The District’s resolution regarding state mandated testing would mean students and teachers can focus more on education and life skills in the classroom and spend less time preparing for standardized tests. It’s designed to give the district flexibility in the classroom.

“I’m so excited that D-11 has taken a stand,” said Sarah Sampayo, who’s children attend Lewis-Palmer District 38 schools.

“Parents from across the state, including Denver, Pueblo and Monument, attended the board’s meeting to voice their support for D-11’s bold plan.

“I want my young kids to enjoy education and learning, I don’t want them staring at a test for hours day, after day, after day,” explained Denver mom, Kellie Conn.

“These parents hope that if D-11 can do it, the rest of the state will follow suit.

“Hopefully it will creep into Jefferson County, it will creep into Denver, it will creep into Littleton,” said Conn.

“D-11 Superintendent, Dr. Nicolas Gledich, explained that he isn’t against assessing students’ progress, but wants to do it in a more individualized way. That’s the goal of the district’s plan to modify standardized testing over a three year period.”

Dr. Gledich was previously named to the blog’s honor roll as a hero for proposing a three-year moratorium on standardized testing.

When will Congress get the message? More and more parents and educators are fighting the education-industrial complex. Good for profit, bad for education. Bad for children.

Fairtest reports:

As the national testing resistance and reform movement rapidly accelerates, FairTest proposes a moratorium on all high-stakes exams to allow time to overhaul assessment at the federal, state and local levels. Check out the plan and incorporate it in your grassroots advocacy!

Time for a National Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing: How It Would Work

See FairTest Fact Sheet “Time For a Real Testing Moratorium”

Push to Limit Federal Test Mandates Gathers Steam

Federal Standardized Exam Rules Limit Colorado’s Assessment Flexibility

Testing is Key Issue on Colorado Election Campaign Trail

Connecticut Gears Up to Oppose Common Core Assessments

Firing Delaware Educators for Low Test Scores is Bad for Students and Schools

Educators Press to Suspend Florida’s Test-Based School Grades

Florida Parents Say Testing Overkill Taking Toll on Students, Teachers and Schools

Georgia School Testing Regimen is “A Crippling Lunacy”

Georgia Test Scores Won’t Be Used for Grade Promotion in 2015

Kentucky Testing More Aimed at Abusing Teachers Than Helping Students

Montgomery, Maryland Seeks Two-Year Delay in Common Core Grad Test

Is Massachusetts Ed. Commissioner Chester Listening?

Worcester Mass. Education Advocates Decry Standardized Testing Fixation

No Matter What Test Massachusetts Uses, Students Will Be Short-Changed

Bloomfield, New Jersey School Board Adopts Resolution Supporting Parents Who Opt Children Out of Tests

Statewide New York Assessment Reform Coalition Launches Online Opt-Out, Letter Writing Campaign

Test-Based Teacher Bonuses Hurt Kids

New York Teachers Challenge Gag Order on Common Core Tests

Bill Would Limit Ohio School Testing to Four Hours Per Year for Any Student

Test-Based Ohio School Grades Distort “Accountability”

Oklahoma Testing Contract in a State of Limbo

Portland Oregon School Board May Refuse to Set Common Core Test Achievement Targets

At Forum, Pennsylvania Parents Criticize New Three-Part Keystone Exams

In Pennsylvania, All Common Core Testing, No Common Sense

South Carolina Testing Mess

Use of Test Scores is Big Issue in Texas Governors Race

No Child Left Behind Law is Failing, Not Washington State Schools

Wyoming Fails to Get Testing Right for Yet Another Year

Why Cash Incentives Are Not a Good Idea in Education

The Failure of Standardized Testing

Pearson’s Wrong Answer . . . And Why It Matters in The Era of High-Stakes Testing

The Educator and the Oligarch: Anthony Cody Takes on Gates Foundation Policies in New Book

The Serious Problem of 2014 SAT Scores

SAT Scores: A Measure of Wealth, Environment

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Peter Greene warns you not to be fooled when the biggest advocates of high-stakes testing say they want fewer and better tests. Consider the source.

Greene writes:

“The big news on the street is that the CCSSO and CGCS (state ed leaders and big city school folks respectively) have announced an intention to rein in the testing juggernaut.

“I’m not impressed. To begin with, they put front and center NY State’s John King, Louisiana’s John White, and DC Public’s Kaya Henderson– three big fresh faces of the anti-public school reformster movement (two TFA temps and a charter profiteer). That’s a big fat signal that this not about changing course, but about protecting the current high-stakes test-driven status quo.

“And in fact these folks were not there to say, “We realize something is wrong and we’re committed to fixing it.” They were there to say, “We recognize that we’re taking some PR heat on this, so we’re going to see if we can’t tweak the optics enough to get everyone to shut up while we stay the course.” They’re going to “look at” testing. Maybe “audit” the number. “

He adds:

“The whole trick of this new position is that it carefully avoids the most important question. And so we’re having a conversation about having less testing without discussing the quality of testing and its role in driving education. We’re going to combine tests and streamline tests, but we’re not going to discuss the value of the tests or the uses of their results. It’s as if we discovered that students were getting arsenic on their school lunch every day and the compromise response was, “Well, let’s just look at putting a little less on there.” It’s like living in a crime-ridden neighborhood and being told, “Good news! The muggers have gotten together and decided that they will coordinate more carefully so that you only get robbed once a day.”

Don’t be fooled.

Our leaders, even President Obama, are paying attention to the rising volume of complaints about testing. Oh, dear, they say, there is too much testing. The opt out movement is growing. We must pledge to reduce the number of tests. We pledge! We promise! We won’t make 8-year-olds sit for seven or eight or nine hours of tests.

Sorry, I think it is time to turn up the volume. How about a five-year moratorium on standardized testing?

When they talk about fewer tests and better tests, it is just smoke in your eyes. As long as the tests are used to evaluate teachers and to rate students and label them, there are too many tests. Ask Arne if he will drop the federal imposition of test-based teacher evaluation. Ask him if he will drop VAM? If the answer is no, then opt out.

Don’t enrich Pearson. Enrich the curriculum with the arts.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia speaks out. Time to stop toxic testing!


October 16, 2014

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications
202-270-5333 cell,

*** ‘Brave solution from federal government’ still needed to diminish volume, misuse of toxic tests ***

WASHINGTON—The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union with 3 million educators, has been sounding the alarm on the toxicity of the standardized testing mania that has been hijacking America’s schools. Recent statements by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools and today’s report from Center for American Progress have confirmed that too often and in too many places, the education system has turned into a system of teach, learn and test with a focus on punishments and prizes.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“We commend the CCSSO and CGCS for taking a much needed first step to address the sources of over-testing that stem from state and local tests. But in order to reduce the over-use and abuse of standardized tests, we still need a brave solution from the federal government—such as a return to grade span testing. The sheer volume of tests and test prep that students must endure because of over-testing in America’s schools takes away from students’ time to learn and does nothing to close opportunity gaps.

“As educators, we support testing as a way to guide instruction for our students and tailor lessons to their individual needs. When students spend increasing amounts of class time preparing for and taking state and federally mandated standardized tests, we know the system is broken. As experts in educational practice, we know that the current system of standardized tests does not provide educators or students with the feedback or accountability any of us need to promote the success and learning of students. It also doesn’t address the main issues that plague our education system, like ensuring equity and opportunity for all students.

“School is where childhood happens. Even if Civil War dates are forgotten and geometry becomes a blur, one lesson must stick: the love of learning. No bubble test can measure how a kid feels; no standard replaces figuring out how to get along with others. So much happens at school that shapes our children’s tomorrows, including the security, acceptance and joy they feel today.

“Parents don’t want their children to be treated with a one-size-fits-all education approach. And educators know that students are more than a test score, so let educators teach and put an end the toxic practice of punishing students, schools and educators based on test results.”

Brace yourself for a flurry of statements about how testing is out of hand, and we have to be careful. We need more transparency. We need accountability about accountability. That’s more or less what the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of Great City Schools said. Add the allegedly progressive Center for American Progress. What they did not say is that the testing mania is out of control. That the need to pump billions into the coffers of Pearson and McGraw-Hill is insatiable. That parents and educators are sick of the testing overload. That it is time to say, “Enough is enough.”

Behind both statements is a desire to protect the Common Core assessments. All of these organizations are funded by the Gates Foundation, and they are not about to align with Fairtest.

What the “leaders” refuse to see is that their followers are way ahead of them. Parents and educators don’t want higher-quality tests (that unicorn, that elusive mermaid). They want a moratorium on testing. They want the beatings to stop.

CCSSO and the other members of the Beltway establishment refuse to see that we are the over tested nation in the world; that a dozen years of testing have left educators demoralized, children graded like cuts of meat, thousands of schools closed, and urban communities devastated, their public schools closed and privatized by test scores.

There is a revolution brewing on the ground against this testing madness. It is time for the leaders to get outside DC and talk to teachers and parents. Or get out of the way.

For years, I used to see this graffiti in the New York City subways and on random walls: “Question authority.”


This is the message from Yong Zhao, who was born and educated in China and now is a professor at the University of Oregon.


In this post, EduShyster interviews Zhao about his new book, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and the Worst) Education System.


She questions his views about testing, PISA, and the future of education reform.


Yong Zhao is refreshingly candid. He thinks America became a great nation because it did not put too much emphasis on standardized testing.


Standardized testing, he argues, is synonymous with authoritarianism. It kills the creativity, the divergent thinking, the skeptical mindset that is necessary for entrepreneurialism and innovation.


He says it is not too late to change, not too late to escape “the witch that cannot be killed.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113,390 other followers