Archives for category: Students

According to a news story from Minneapolis, scores plunged at some of the best high schools in the city due to students who opted out of the testing.


The acting superintendent is upset by the falling scores, but parents are making their voices heard against the deluge of testing that has overtaken their schools. They are protesting the “reforms” based on test scores in the most effective way possible: by not letting their children take the tests.


With so many missing scores, the scores are invalid. Before the students opted out, the tests were invalid and unreliable, not available for review by independent experts. Parents know that the absence of transparency by the test-makers in not in the interest of their children and that the tests are designed to fail the majority of students because their passing score is set unrealistically high. Some parents understand that the tests provide little or no diagnostic information about their children (most Common Core tests provide NO diagnostic information, just a score.) Some are protesting the Common Core,  some are protesting the federal takeover of their state and their local schools. Some are protesting the tests themselves. As more students take the tests, the opt out movement will grow.

This is a lovely story about the graduation ceremonies at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia.

The story describes the school as probably the most diverse school in north Georgia. Look at the photo. This is American public education. This is what it should be. No one was excluded because of their disability or their lack of English skills. This is a community public schools, built by the community, for the community, of the community.

If the governor and the legislature have their way, charters will open, and students will be lured away, most to racially separate schools.

Can we afford to lose Clarke Central High School? I don’t think so.

This just in:

For immediate release: April 29, 2015

Contact: Rachael Stickland, 303-204-1272,

Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329,

Messer/Polis Privacy Bill Still Inadequate to Protect Children from Commercial Exploitation and Data Breaches

The student privacy bill just introduced by Representatives Messer and Polis is an improvement from their previous draft, but still has many loopholes that make it inadequate to address many parental concerns about their children’s privacy and safety.

Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy said, “The bill still doesn’t require any parental notification or consent before schools share personal data with third parties. It wouldn’t stop the surveillance of students, or the collection of huge amounts of highly sensitive student information by third parties, as inBloom was designed to do.”

“The bill still allows targeting ads to kids –as long as the ads are “contextual” or selected based on information gathered via student’s single online session. We strongly believe that there should be no advertising allowed in instructional programs assigned to students at school, as ads do not aid learning but is a huge distraction to kids. Moreover, how can a parent know if their child is subjected to an ad, whether it is based on data-mining during one session or over time?”

Rachael Stickland, Colorado co-chair of the Parent Coalition said: “We’re pleased to see some of our recommendations reflected in this draft, including enhanced transparency and some limitations on redisclosures. This bill allows parents to delete personal information from the data collected from their children, but it doesn’t require that parents be informed by either the vendor or the school that this data is being disclosed, collected and data-mined, so how would parents know to ask to delete it? It also allows vendors to data-mine personal information to improve their products or create profiles that could severely limit student’s success by stereotyping them and limiting their opportunities.”

Other remaining weaknesses of the bill:

There are NO specific security protections outlined in the bill, only that procedures should be “reasonable.”

We believe that any vendor collecting and using sensitive student personal information should be required to employ data encryption, undergo regular security audits, and other important measures to protect against damaging breaches.

Vendors would not have to inform parents or even school officials of data breaches unless they deem this “appropriate” without defining when that would be required, and there are no specific amounts required for fines.

Vendors could transfer the personal student data to another company if there is a merger or acquisition.

Vendors would be able to redisclose students’ personal information to an unlimited number of unspecified service providers, without the knowledge or consent of schools or parents

Vendors would be allowed to disclose de-identified and aggregate data, while using “reasonable” methods to ensure that the data could not be re-identified.

This again is inadequate protection, given how easy it has become to re-identify personal information with current methods and widely available data sets.

The bill’s protections would not apply to children in preschool and”K-12 Purposes” is only vaguely defined.
· Vendors could use student information for many commercial purposes including “maintaining, developing, supporting, improving, or diagnosing the operator’s school service.”

Rachael Stickland concludes: “This bill is clearly a step in the right direction but it needs to be further improved if it is going to protect our children from commercial exploitation and devastating breaches. Our children’s privacy and safety is invaluable and should not be put at risk by being handed off carelessly for profit or for gain.”


Peter Greene here takes apart the claim by Mike Petrilli and Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute in the Wall Street Journal that closing schools is good for students. By good, they mean that the students will get higher test scores if their school is closed and they move to a different school.

Greene calls this “four kinds of wrong.”

To begin with:

“Before we even get into what they said or why it’s baloney, let’s open with the caveat that they themselves left out of the article. The study looks at the benefits of closing schools and was done in Ohio, where the Fordham operates charters that directly benefit from the closing schools. So this is, once again, a study touting the benefits of cigarette smoking brought to you by your friends at the Tobacco Institute.”

They claim that students gain an extra 49 days by switching schools. No serious researcher, he says, uses this metric. It is a meaningless reformer extrapolation, Greene says.

He adds, an increase from the 20th to the 22nd or 23rd percentile is a statistical blip.

Worst of all, they propose destroying social capital, which children need even more than a few points on a standardized test.

Seattle may top Long Island as the epicenter of opt out.

95% of students at Garfield High School–the very same school where teachers refused to give the superfluous MAP test–opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“None of the students at Nathan Hale took the test, and at both Roosevelt and Ingraham, 80 percent of students opted out.

“Earlier this month, more than 100 juniors at Garfield submitted “opt out” slips.

“Many parents and teachers believe the state-required Smarter Balanced test is unfair, that it sets up the majority of the students to fail, and that it’s a high stakes test that could penalize the teacher or the school.”

The Opt Out movement continues to grow. In Seattle, not a single junior showed up to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Nathan Hale High School.

Earlier this year, teachers at Nathan Hale passed a resolution against in the Common Core Standards test, but SPS Superintendent Larry Nyland threatened teachers with the loss of their teaching licenses if they didn’t administer the test, according to the Seattle Education blog.

Students who opt out were threatened with a zero.

Despite the threats and efforts at intimidation, the students did not show up.

This is civil disobedience in the finest tradition of American history. Think Henry David Thoreau, think Martin Luther King, Jr., think of the Suffragettes, think Nathan Hale.

Juan Gonzalez has a front-page article in the New York Daily News about the historic opt out that swept across New York State.


He writes:


The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.


This “opt-out” revolt has been quietly building for years, but it reached historic levels this time. More than half the pupils at several Long Island and upstate school districts joined in — at some schools in New York City boycott percentages neared 40%.


At the Patchogue-Medford School District in Suffolk County, 65% of 3,400 students in grades three to eight abstained from the test, District Superintendent Michael Hynes told the Daily News.


“There was a very strong parent contingent that spoke loudly today,” Hynes said.


At West Seneca District near Buffalo, nearly 70% of some 2,976 students refused testing. Likewise, at tiny Southold School District on Long Island’s North Fork, 60% of the 400 students opted out; so did 60% of Rockville Centre’s 1,600 pupils. And in the Westchester town of Ossining, nearly 20% of 2,100 students boycotted.


“It’s clear that parents and staff are concerned about the number of standard assessments and how they’re used,” Ossining school chief Ray Sanchez said.


The final numbers are not in, and may not be in for a few days, but it is already clear that the number of opt outs will far surpass last year’s 50,000.


Contrary to the official line that this is “a labor dispute between the Governor and the unions,” the opt out movement is parent led. Parents don’t work for the union, and parents aren’t dumb. Parents protect their children from tests that have no valid purpose. Parents protect their children from tests that were designed to fail them. Parents protect their children from tests that force schools to cut back on the arts, on recess, on anything that is not tested.


Bravo, New York state parents!


Bravo especially to the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 organizations of parents and teachers who have testified in Albany, held community forums, informed PTAs, met with their legislators, and raised funds to pay for billboards and roving trucks with banners, plastered towns with car magnets, opt-out stickers, and lawn signs, and been truly herculean in their dedication to bringing down the state’s mean-spirited and pointless testing regime. Go to their website to learn how they mobilized the Empire State to say no to the Governor and his misbegotten plan to bring down public schools and teachers.


This is grassroots democracy at work. The hedge fund managers have millions to buy allies, but they can’t buy millions of parents, whose first and only concern is for their children. As a parent said earlier today in the Long Island Press, “The most dangerous place on Earth is between a mother and her child. Cuomo has crossed the line.”


Make no mistake. This is parent resistance to high-stakes testing and to Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make the stakes even higher than they were. He was able to push his plan through the legislature, but parents have just thrown a huge monkey wrench into his ability to make it work. It won’t and it can’t. That is how democracy works. Only with the consent of the governed.


This a bizarre but true story, told by veteran education reporter Bob Braun about the superintendent of a Néw Jersey school district.

The superintendent, in a display of machismo, wrote a letter to his staff including this hope:

““I desperately hope my children are bullied at least once a year through their K-12 experience….”

“He begins his note by conceding the PARCC tests are difficult—“not for the faint of heart” he says, not terribly originally. But, so what?

“What’s wrong with hard? What’s wrong with some failure? Is adversity to be scrubbed from the adolescent experience altogether?”

Read the whole story. Do you want your children to be bullied at least once a year? Why not daily? That would toughen them up.

A group of teachers in New York have an audacious idea. They are raising money to make a Robo-call to every public school parent in the state. They are close to their goal. They need your help.

They write:

“We have, in a little over a week, come very near to achieving what seemed like the impossible. At the time of this writing, we are on the final push to our funding goal. We did a tremendous amount of work, sometimes going without sleep or meals, and hope that our action inspires others. We have raised enough funds to place robocalls to strategic areas throughout New York, and our ultimate goal is to call the entire state, so donations are urgently needed at this time. Our ripple in New York will add to the wave being felt throughout the nation. To donate and help us complete our mission, go to:

I will contribute, will you? If they got $10 from everyone who reads this, they would succeed and keep going.

The billionaires have the money. We have the ideas, the enthusiasm, and the energy of millions of educators and parents. And we are on the right side of history. Not high-stakes testing. Not privatization. Great public schools for all children.

Crazy Crawfish, a blogger also known as Jason France, used to work as a data analyst in the Louisiana Department of Education. He was recently shocked to discover that the department has released confidential student data to the research group CREDO. It even released the data of nonpublic school students.

France realized that the state released personal student data that CREDO didn’t need or use.

He writes:

“It’s only a combination of chance and persistence that I stumbled across the details of this agreement and am able to share my findings with you. How many more agreements like this are out there that are unknown to us? How poorly have they been reviewed? I can’t actually say. Someone outside of LDOE needs to review these types of disclosures (All of them) – before they happen. It is important for the public to have an accounting of both what was promised, but also what was actually delivered. Frankly, if LDOE doesn’t understand their own data, they shouldn’t be providing it to others. I also question whether they should be collecting it all or storing it for decades in the first place.”


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