Archives for category: Testing

The latest from Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, which tracks the anti-testing resistance:

 

 

As you give thanks over the upcoming holiday, please join FairTest in our gratitude for the thousands of parents, teachers, students, administrators, community activists, school board members, researchers and commentators who are standing up to protect our children from standardized testing misuse and overuse. Here are a few of their recent stories.

 

 

Test Scores Likely to Plunge on New Common Core Tests
http://www.vox.com/2014/11/18/7236175/common-core-test-scores

 

Colorado State Board of Education Unanimously Endorses Testing Cutback
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/20/state-board-calls-for-testing-cutbacks/#.VG6abnvvcZw
Study Finds Colorado Testing Costs $78 Million a Year Plus Teacher Time
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/20/study-testing-costs-up-to-78-million-covers-most-of-school-year/#.VG83TXvvcZw

 

Jeb Bush Faces Presidential Campaign Backlash for Florida Education Policies
http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/283256251.html
Central Florida School Board Advances Resolution to Allow Parents to Exempt Children Out of Standardized Exams
http://www.ocala.com/article/20141120/ARTICLES/141129963/1001/NEWS01?p=all&tc=pgall
Orlando Florida School Board Supports Two-Year Exemption From Test-Based Teacher Evaluation
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-teacher-evaluations-test-scores-florida-20141122-story.html

 

Illinois Parents, Teachers Fight to Delay New State Exam
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/11/20/new-standardized-tests-come-under-fire/
Standardized Testing Blocks Teaching and Learning in Illinois
http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/31188191-452/standardized-testing-stops-learning.html#.VG-sZXvvcZw

 

Massachusetts Drops Plan to Base Teacher Licenses on Student Test Scores
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/11/15/teachers/Q2VoPPcp1AJTV8PWCeUptO/story.html
Massachusetts Should Look to New York Performance Standards Consortium Model
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters/2014/11/21/look-model-for-performance-based-standards/eeISUUr0gfwR1pAqlElUHP/story.html

 

One-Size-Fits-All Testing Not the Answer for Missouri Schools
http://www.news-leader.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/11/18/one-size-fits-answer-missouri-schools/19245501/

 

New Mexico “Take the Test” Day Shows Parents, Teachers What Today’s Students Face
http://www.kob.com/article/stories/s3629005.shtml
Albuquerque, N.M., Schools Unsure They Have Capacity for New Computerized Testing
http://www.koat.com/news/temporary-labs-prepped-for-parcc-testing/29921236

 

Testing Fuels Anxiety in New York State Schools — great letter to the editor
http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141119/OPINION/141119300
New York Parents Reject State’s “Mandatory” Field Test Plan
http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/11/20/common-core-field-tests-mandatory-new-york-schools-lohudreacts/70018076/
New York Teachers Say Field Tests Waste Valuable Education Time
http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-Top-Stories-c-2014-11-24-90003.113122-Field-tests-a-waste-of-valuable-time-NYSUT.html

 

Ohio House Passes Bill to Cut Student Testing Time in Half
http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/ohio_house_passes_bill_to_limi.html
Time Limits on Ohio Testing Time A First Step Toward Assessment Reform
http://www.cantonrep.com/article/20141120/OPINION/141119153

 

Oklahoma Teachers’ Refusal to Give Tests Puts Jobs at Risk
http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepage2/two-teachers-refusal-to-give-tests-puts-their-jobs-at/article_a3b1005b-09c2-555f-9a5d-39eaeb497205.html

 

Pennsylvania Opt-Out Movement Grows as Philadelphia City Council Holds Hearing on Testing
http://thenotebook.org/blog/147941/phillys-opt-out-movement-grows-council-holds-hearing-standardized-tests

 

A Path Beyond the Opt-Out Movement
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-welner/a-path-beyond-the-optout-_b_6198170.html

 

A Generation Betrayed By Standardized Testing Obsession
http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-generation-jeopardized-by-obsession-5894103.php

 

Educational “Accountability” As Disaster Bureaucracy
http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/education-accountability-as-disaster-bureaucracy/

 

True Accountability: Giving All Kids a Fair Shot
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2014/11/true_accountability_giving_all_students_a_shot.html

 

Education Reform Lexicon for Paradigm Busters
http://www.livingindialogue.com/education-reform-lexicon-paradigm-busters/

 

 

 

 

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

According to Politico.com, the U.S. Department of Education will cut federal funding to education schools whose graduates have students who get low scores. This could incentivize education schools to direct their students away from urban districts with high poverty, or from teaching children with disabilities and English-language learners. Researchers have repeatedly warned about the danger of over reliance on test scores for high-stakes decisions. It is always wise to think about unintended consequences.

 

TEACHER PREP IS – FINALLY – HERE: The long-delayed rules, released by the Education Department on Tuesday, would punish low-performing programs by cutting students’ access to federal TEACH grants they could use to pay for school. And it would compel every state to collect more information and evaluate their programs by several key metrics, including how many graduates lock in jobs, how many stay in the profession and whether teachers are boosting student learning. The timeline for the proposed rule [http://politico.pro/1zrLW2e ] extends to 2021 and it would cost states and providers about $42 million over 10 years or less. I have the story here: http://politico.pro/11T4OwC

- Democrats for Education Reform Policy Director Charles Barone said the rule is a crucial first step for overhauling the way teachers are prepared and raising the bar for the teaching profession. “The U.S. Department of Education is stepping in here because unlike other fields, education has repeatedly abdicated its responsibility to set and enforce its own high standards for the teaching profession,” he said. “Once states set benchmarks that draw on newly available data we should give schools appropriate time to meet them. But instead of condoning wasteful practices indefinitely, as in the past, those responsible for overseeing federal funds must issue an ultimatum: shape up or lose subsidies.”

Arne Duncan gave $360 million to two consortia to create tests for the Common Core. By law, no federal official may attempt to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction, but every one either ignores the law or pretends that tests have nothing to do with what is taught or how.

Mercedes Schneider here takes a close look at the efforts of one of those consortia to set achievement levels so everyone will know who is college ready.

“SBAC has purportedly anchored its assessment to empirically unanchored CCSS. How doing so is supposed to serve public education is an elephant in the high-stakes assessment room.

“Regarding its assessment scoring, SBAC decided upon cut scores that divide individual student scores into four “achievement levels.” SBAC knows it is peddling nonsense but does so anyway, apparently disclaiming, “Hey, we know that these achievement levels and their cut scores are arbitrary, but we have to do this because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is making us. But we want to warn about using the achievement-level results of this high-stakes test for any high-stakes decisions…”

“The reality is that the media will publish percentages of students falling into the four categories as though the SBAC-created classification is infallible, and once again, schools, teachers, and students will be stigmatized.

“Forget about any cautions or disclaimers. Offer a simplistic graphic, and the media will run with it.”

I think it is fair to say that Schneider thinks the standards and tests are harmful nonsense.

Two Tulsa teachers risked their jobs by refusing to administer state tests to their first grade students, reports John Thompson.

Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones hereby join the blog’s honor roll as heroes if American children, defending the rights and childhood of their students.

He writes:

“These first grade teachers, Miss Karen Hendren and Mrs. Nikki Jones were featured in a front page Tulsa World and the United Opt Out web site. They wrote an open letter to parents documenting the damage being done by testing and the new value-added evaluation system being implemented by the Tulsa schools under the guidance of the Gates Foundation.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones explain how this obsession with testing “has robbed us of our ethics. They are robbing children of their educational liberties.” Our poorest kids are falling further behind because they are being robbed of reading instruction. By Hendren’s and Jones’ estimate, their students lose 288 hours or 72 days of school to testing!

“They inventory the logistics of administering five sets of first grade tests, as classes are prepared for high-stakes third grade reading tests. More importantly, they described the brutality of the process.

“Miss Hendren and Mrs. Jones recount the strengths of four students who are victims of the testing mania. One pulls his hair, two cry, one throws his chair, and the fourth, who could be categorized as gifted and talented, is dismayed that his scores are low, despite his mastery of so many subjects. Particularly interesting was the way that “adaptive” testing, which is supposed to be a more constructive, individualized assessment, inevitably results in students reaching their failure level, often prompting discouragement or, even, despair….”

Their superintendent Keith Ballard is no fan of high-stakes testing. But he has a problem: he accepted Gates money:

“Tulsa has an otherwise excellent superintendent, Keith Ballard, who has opposed state level testing abuses. He has invested in high-quality early education and full-service community schools. Ballard also deserves credit for investing in the socio-emotional. I doubt he would be perpetuating this bubble-in outrage if he had a choice. But Tulsa accepted the Gates Foundation’s grant money. So, Ballard is threatening the teachers’ jobs.”

Will Superintendent Ballard listen to his professional ethics or to the Gates Foundation?

This video was made by NYC public-school parent and film-maker Michael Elliot. It is a powerful video that expresses the views of parents and students.

 

It is available on Youtube and vimeo.

 

 

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.

 

Laura Chapman writes:

 

 

 

Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.

 

In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.

 

The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.

 

This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.

 

The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.

 

The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.

 

In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”

 

In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”

 

This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.

 

In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.

 

The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.

 

Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.

 

 

The quest for federal funds is found here at http://knowledgeworks.org/building-capacity-systems-change-federal-policy-framework-competency-education#sthash.Nr0OpfWq.dpuf

 

See more at the CompetencyWorks website http://bit.ly/cwk12fedpolicy

Valerie Strauss has a fascinating column about the scoring of the Smarter Balanced assessment. It appears that the achievement levels mirror the levels on NAEP. Understanding the scoring process is not easy. Apparently only the students in the top two levels will be considered “college-ready,” as befits a very rigorous curriculum. This means that less than half of the 11th grade students will be on track to go to college. In terms of mathematics, only one-third will be college-ready. The scoring ends with the rather ominous statement that Smarter Balance has not yet figured out a scoring guide for “career readiness.” Since there is so little in the Common Core that is related to career readiness, this is understandable. Very likely, the students who are involved in career and technical education will be in the lower bands and won’t be eligible to go to college.

 

I served on the NAEP governing board for seven years. NAEP Proficient is not grade level. It represents a very high level of achievement; in my view, NAEP proficient is an A or A-. To expect almost all students to reach NAEP Proficient is totally unrealistic. The only state in the nation where as much as 50% of students have reached NAEP Proficient is Massachusetts. The achievement levels were set in 1992 and are periodically revised. They are set by panels of judges who make estimates about what students should know and be able to do; they are arbitrary. Many scholars have contested their validity, as well as the validity of the standard-setting method, over the years.

 

If NAEP Proficient is used by PARCC and Smarter Balanced as a standard for graduation, most of our students will not graduate high school.

 

At some point, someone will have to admit that the Common Core and the tests are so “rigorous” that the students who succeed are being prepared for elite universities, not for state universities, and not for career readiness.

Gary Rubinstein posted a review of Joel Klein’s book by someone who worked in Klein’s Department of Education central offices for many years.

 

I have not read Joel Klein’s book. I have had calls from two reporters asking if what he said about me was true. I asked, what did he say? They said: He claimed that I had turned against “education reform” (e.g., charters, merit pay, school closings, and high-stakes testing) because he refused to give a job to my partner or promote her or fund her program. I answered that I never asked Joel Klein to give a job to my partner; I never asked him to promote her or to fund her program.

 

When Klein arrived in 2002, she was executive director in charge of principal training at the New York City Board of Education. Just about the time Klein started as Chancellor, her program won a competitive federal grant of $3 million as one of the best principal training programs in the nation. My partner had been a teacher for many years, the chairman of social studies at Edward R. Murrow High School, one of the best in the city, and the founder and principal of a small public high school in Manhattan, affiliated with Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools and Deborah Meier’s network of small schools.. Chancellor Harold Levy asked her to create a program to help hundreds of new principals. Her program was built around the concepts of collaboration, mutual respect, and mentorship; she recruited some of the city’s best, most experienced principals to exchange regular visits with new principals, and she started a summer institute where the mentor principals taught the new principals whatever they wanted and needed to know. The members of her corps of principal-leaders were called the Distinguished Faculty, and principals were honored to be invited to join the Distinguished Faculty.

 

When Klein arrived, he had a deputy tell Mary he was disbanding her program, appropriating the $3 million federal grant her program had just won, and turning it over to his new Leadership Academy. He selected a businessman from Colorado with no experience in education to direct the Leadership Academy. My partner stayed on at the Leadership Academy for a year; she retired in 2003. It seemed that Klein wanted very few experienced educators in decision-making roles. He preferred young MBAs, businessmen, and management consultants to guide him. He did not respect teachers, principals, or others who had made a career in the school system.

 

Was his treatment of Mary responsible for my change of mind about “education reform”? He flatters himself. I remained on the boards of two conservative think tanks until 2009 (the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution). But at the same time, what I observed in New York City affected my views: the heavy emphasis on testing as the measure of all things; the favoritism showed to charter operators; the explosion of no-bid contracts; the contempt expressed towards parents who wanted to save their schools or wanted class size reduction; the gaming of the system by opening small high schools that were allowed to exclude students with disabilities and English language learners, then boasting about their success; the closing of large high schools that Klein turned into dumping grounds for the students excluded from the small schools; the school report cards based mainly on test scores; the endless reorganizations of the entire system; the exodus of highly-respected principals.

 

Yes, Joel Klein did influence my views, but not because of what he did or did not do to my partner. That is his pettiness and vaingloriousness speaking. He made me realize over a period of years that the business model was wrong for education; that experienced educators had more wisdom than his cadre of management consultants, Sir Michael Barber, McKinsey, and 20-something graduates of business schools; that data-driven decision-making can drive the heart and spirit out of education; and that testing is not a tool for equity but a guarantor of inequity when used to rate schools and students and teachers.

 

I had very little contact with Klein while he was chancellor for eight years. I think we met twice. Our meetings were cordial. I never wrote anything personal or petty about him. He did not reciprocate. I don’t recall the precise year, but about 2005, an emissary from the DOE came to my home to warn me that if I did not stop writing critical articles, I would be “outed.” In 2007, I noticed on several occasions a young man from the DOE press office sitting in the audience and taping my lectures. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was gathering material for a dossier called “Diane Ravitch, Then and Now,” which showed that my views had changed on issues like merit pay. According to a story by Elizabeth Green in the Néw York Sun, the DOE was unable to find a newspaper interested in writing about this revelation. Eventually, a piece appeared in the Néw York Post under the byline of the head of the Néw York City Business Partnership (our version of the Chamber of Commerce), accusing me of being an untrustworthy hypocrite. I promptly responded that I had indeed changed my views after seeing how poorly they worked in reality. By the fall of 2007, I no longer believed that NCLB would achieve its goals; that fall, I wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times called “Get Congress Out of the Classroom.”A month later, I attended a scholarly conference about NCLB in D.C. at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It was my assignment to summarize a dozen reports from across the nation, all of which said that neither choice nor testing was making a difference. It was already evident to me that NCLB was a failure, and their reports confirmed my awakening. From conversations within those conservative think tanks, I knew that charters were no panacea, and many were failing schools. My change of mind was gradual, not sudden; it was evidence-based, not a fit of pique. Klein’s dictatorial and insensitive style had something to do with it, but not for the reasons he cites.

Nancy Bailey reports that special education is in jeopardy in Seattle.

 

She writes:

 

You can’t put your guard down. Rest assured the wheels of ugly education reform continue to churn. Here is a recent Seattle Times headline, “Special Education is Ineffective and too Expensive, Report Says.”

 

Why? Well, students with special needs, 54 percent to be exact, aren’t managing to get their diplomas on time. They also aren’t going on to college as much as their non-disabled peers. They fail to always reach their NCLB goals on their IEPs. Students with emotional disabilities, I’m guessing with no real SPED services, are getting suspended 2 to 3 times more often than the students without disabilities. Second language students aren’t being served well, and parents have become concerned that their students won’t be employable.

 

I would argue that the reforms that have taken place since the reauthorizations that formed IDEA, along with NCLB and RTTT, have not been in the best interest of students with special needs across the country. The harsh budget cuts haven’t helped either.

 

But instead of fixing the problems in Seattle, and without reassessing the terrible reforms that have been foisted on schools and students with disabilities for the last 20 years or more, this is what the rubber stamped Blue Ribbon Commission Report from the Governor’s office, came up with:

 

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

 

“System,” of course, implies teachers. Hey, you teachers quit sitting around painting your nails and raise those expectations! And while you are at it—embrace Common Core! Why doesn’t the news say what they all really mean?

 

And this is how the Seattle Times puts it:

 

But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

 

And where does this all come from? What revolutionary research study have we missed? Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education!

 

You see, with higher expectations and plenty of rigor, most if not all of the students with disabilities can achieve excellent results. And that is where the Common Core comes in: Rigor for all. No exceptions, no excuses.

The first-grade teachers at Skelly Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent a letter home to parents to describe the over testing of their children.

 

They explained their professional qualifications, then listed the many tests the children are expected to take, stealing time from instruction.

 

Unfortunately, in the recent years, the mandates have gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms. The problem is that we are having to spend WAY too much time on formal assessments. All of the testing is required and some of it is classified as High Stakes Testing (HST). A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability—i.e., the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. In general, “high stakes” means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers). (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014)

 

This year, in first grade, your child is being asked to participate in the following assessments:

 

Literacy First Assessment: This takes anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour per student to administer. This is a one-on-one assessment that is to be conducted quarterly or more for progress monitoring.

 

“Where to Start Word List”: This assessment correlating to the F&P screening. The purpose of this screening is to level each child and ensure they are given reading instruction on their level. After going through the word lists, then the child is screened using a book on the assigned level. This assessment is done quarterly or as needed to progress monitor. It takes 20-30 minutes per child is also a one-on-one assessment.

 

Eureka Math: Children are to be given a whole group, 60 minute math lesson that has an “exit ticket” assessment at the end of each lesson. Yes, they want first graders testing daily over the lessons. This exit ticket is not long, but it still takes time. It equilibrates to daily testing for 6 and 7 year old children. This math curriculum also had a mid-module assessment and end of unit assessment.

 

iRead: iRead is a software program that the district requires children to be on for 20 minutes a day. It comes with an abundance of software issues and frustrations. The district has been working diligently on trying to get this programming to run successfully, but so far, to no avail. Part of this computer based program is a literacy screener. This screening takes place at the beginning of the year, and last 30-45 minutes per child.

 

MAP: Map is a computer based test that was designed as a tool for progress monitoring students in both math and literacy. This is the High Stakes Test that the district also utilizes for our teacher evaluations. It is completely developmentally inappropriate and does not provide valid data in the early childhood domain.

 

All of these tests, plus assessments that we utilize to document their understanding of certain content, are going on in your child’s first grade classroom. I believe you are getting the point… assessments, assessments, assessments! In our classrooms the children spend, on average, 1,510 minutes (25 hours) completing assessments. 720 minutes of those assessments are one-on-one. That means that we are tied up assessing students for at least 17, 280 minutes a school year. Your children are losing 288 hours of time with their teacher because of mandated testing. When you break down our days and count for specials, lunch, and recess, we end up with about 4 hours of instruction time. So, 288 instructional hours, or 72 days… yes, 72 days of our school year we, as teachers, are tied up assessing students with the mandated assessments. Why are our schools failing? Why are children not learning how to read? We think the numbers above answer those questions.

 

This is what it looks like when teachers stand up for their students.

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