Archives for category: Testing

Here is a switch: Parents at a charter high school in New Orleans suspected massive cheating and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. They were right. There was massive cheating.



Landry-Walker High School’s 2013-14 test results were so amazing that some New Orleans education insiders doubted they were valid. More students at Landry-Walker than at Lusher Charter, a selective-admissions school, aced geometry. In biology, the school was fourth-best in the city.


Skeptical of the numbers, the school’s parent organization, the Algiers Charter School Association, launched a 16-month investigation — without telling Landry-Walker’s principal — into what some feared could be widespread, teacher-enabled cheating. The association undertook a detailed analysis of student performance, hired outside lawyers and, for the spring 2015 round of testing, placed independent monitors in every single examination room at its flagship school, according to internal documents.


When the 2014-15 test results came back, Landry-Walker’s scores fell off a cliff. The percentage of students getting top marks in geometry fell by 51 points.

On her blog, VAMboozled, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley invites parents, students, teachers, and everyone else to let the American Educational Research Association know what you think about testing today. Too much or too little? Too long or too short? Used well or used poorly?


As the scholarly debate about the extent and purpose of educational testing rages on, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) wants to hear from you. During a key session at its Centennial Conference this spring in Washington DC, titled How Much Testing and for What Purpose? Public Scholarship in the Debate about Educational Assessment and Accountability, prominent educational researchers will respond to questions and concerns raised by YOU, parents, students, teachers, community members, and public at large.


Hence, any and all of you with an interest in testing, value-added modeling, educational assessment, educational accountability policies, and the like are invited to post your questions, concerns, and comments using the hashtag #HowMuchTesting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or the social media platform of your choice, as these are the posts to which AERA’s panelists will respond.


They are extra interested in video recorded comments. The deadline is March 17 for  your submission. Read the post for the links.



Fred LeBrun, a columnist for the Albany Times-Union, wrote a terrific column about the power of the parents who opted out.


Without the pressure they exerted, Governor Cuomo would never have appointed a commission to review the Common Core standards and testing.


Without the force of their numbers, the state education department would have proceeded to evaluate teachers by student test scores, despite the research proving its invalidity.


Opt Out parents caused Cuomo’s poll numbers to plummet, and that got his attention. Poll numbers can outweigh hedge fund cash.


Here is part of LeBrun’s perceptive column:


According to the latest Siena poll, education has jumped to the top of the list for what matters most to New Yorkers, ahead of jobs, taxes, and that perennial favorite, governmental corruption.

Granted, education is a wide umbrella covering higher and lower ed, funding, curricula, charter schools, and a lot more, plus the poll indicates the greatest concern for education is held by downstate Democrats.

They’ve got the numbers to dictate the poll. But at the least we can reliably say the poll affirms how important public education consistently remains for upstaters and downstaters alike.

When it’s that important to voters, it’s critical to politicians.

In the brash youth of his governorship, Andrew Cuomo confidently swaggered to war against teachers and the “educational bureaucracy,’’ which it turns out is mostly parents, by trying to impose a cockamamie Common Core system that brutally punished school children and a punitive and grossly unfair teacher evaluation system, all in the name of “reform.”

Washington, in the embrace of billionaire advocates of privatizing public education, applauded.

So did New York hedge-funders promoting charters.

The governor used all his cunning and considerable available resources to get his way, and even beat up the Legislature to become complicit.

Yet he got his ass handed to him. By whom? By the most potent force there is in public education, the public.

Cuomo’s poll numbers fell through the floor. In December, the governor sent up the white flag and sued for peace with a landmark Common Core review commission report that made 21 splendid, common sense recommendations to put New York public education back on track.

In his State of the State this year about all he had to say on the subject was urging the Board of Regents to pass all 21 recommendations.

That’s exactly what the Regents should do, and we have every high hope they will once two new progressive members of the 17-member Regents are appointed by the Legislature, and once the Regents leadership becomes more enlightened and attuned, which is also imminent.

There are several factors behind why the governor lost the war, including a change of heart in Washington, but high among them is the Opt Out movement that last spring kept 220,000 New York pupils from taking the state’s ridiculous standardized tests.

Opt Out has been the most powerful in-your-face, can’t-ignore referendum on the governor’s policies since he took office.

So here’s the irony of Opt Out for the governor, post-truce.

If there is another Opt Out uprising this spring, the popularity fallout will still be the governor’s to reap even though he has been forced to see the light and change course. In the public’s eye he remains the architect of that dismally failed model for public education.

It should come as no surprise that Opt Out is a very real possibility again this year.

That’s because there’s a Grand Canyon between the considerable rhetoric of change we’ve heard and the reality of where we actually stand with altering or eliminating high stakes testing and the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and inappropriate pressures on our youngest citizens.

Tennessee is still Racing to the Top although they are still far away. So, of course, the state switched to online assessment for its Common Core testing, at a cost of $108 million.


Yesterday was the first day, and the system crashed.


There was a “major outage.” The state commissioner, a huge fan of Common Core, blamed the vendor. She told schools to go back to the “worst case scenario,” that is, pencil and paper testing.


Since we learned not long ago that students who took the PARCC tests on paper instead of on a computer tend to get higher scores, this may have a bright side.



Gene Glass has written one of the most brilliant, most perceptive commentaries on the billionaires’ reform movement that I have ever read.

He gives a witty, well-sourced analysis of the familiar corporate reform narrative and punches giant holes in it.

Here is the opening sentence:

“A democratically run public education system in America is under siege. It is being attacked by greedy, union-hating corporations and billionaire boys whose success in business has proven to them that their circle of competence knows no bounds.”

Glass is one of our nation’s most celebrated and honored researchers. He called VAM “stupid” back in 1998. Unlike many ivory-tower academics, he is taking sides: he is on the side of public education, democracy, and truth.

If you don’t read this, shame on you.

Please tweet it, post it on Facebook, share it with your friends and your elected officials.

SInce Pearson bought control of the GED test, there has been a staggering collapse in the number of students who passed it and won a high school diploma. Pearson raised the cost of taking it and made it harder by aligning it with the Common Core.


Before Pearson took over, about half a million students took the GED, and most passed. After Pearson took control, passing rates dropped by a stunning 90%.


These days, employers often require a high school diploma even for menial jobs. No diploma, a life of limited opportunity.


New York City once had a superb adult education program, one of the best in the nation. But that program is now producing few graduates.


“The city Department of Education touts its $47 million-a-year adult-education program as the biggest in the state and second-biggest nationwide, but last school year it awarded just 299 high-school equivalency diplomas, The Post has learned.


“About 27,000 people over age 21 were enrolled in classes offered by the DOE’s Office of Adult and Continuing Education, including 15,700 learning English as a second language and nearly 11,000 in basic education classes that can lead to a diploma.”


The New York Post blames the program’s leadership, but in light of the national data, the test itself might be flawed. Still, $47 million to produce 299 graduates. Wow.


Mercedes Schneider recently reported that the GED was dropping its cut score, though not by a lot. This was a recognition that the failure rate was too high. But will this solve the problem?





Benjamin Herold of Education Week reports that students who took the PARCC test online got lower scores than those who took the test with paper and pencil.



“Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil-a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders.


“Officials from the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers acknowledged the discrepancies in scores across different formats of its exams in response to questions from Education Week….


“It is true that this [pattern exists] on average, but that doesn’t mean it occurred in every state, school, and district on every one of the tests,” Jeffrey Nellhaus, PARCC’s chief of assessment, said in an interview….


“In general, the pattern of lower scores for students who took PARCC exams by computer is the most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math.


“Hard numbers from across the consortium are not yet available. But the advantage for paper-and-pencil test-takers appears in some cases to be substantial, based on independent analyses conducted by one prominent PARCC state and a high-profile school district that administered the exams.


“In December, the Illinois state board of education found that 43 percent of students there who took the PARCC English/language arts exam on paper scored proficient or above, compared with 36 percent of students who took the exam online. The state board has not sought to determine the cause of those score differences.”


Rep. Mike Stewart and his wife Ruth decided to opt their child out of state testing. The MommaBears of Tennessee were overjoyed. Tennessee has no law permitting opt out. The MammaBears hope that the Stewart’s decision will make the voices of other parents heard by state officials.



This is the letter that Ruth Stewart sent to the school and made public:



Please accept this letter as a record of my decision to refuse for (name redacted for privacy) to participate in TN Ready/TnReady TCAP test and pretests at (school name redacted for privacy) for the remaining school year. My refusal to allow (child’s name) to participate is because I believe standardized high stakes testing take away time from the instructional experiences my child might otherwise receive. I want more teaching and learning, and less testing! I am aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of Tennessee. But the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that my child may not exercise his or her right to refuse the tests.


I understand that it is state and local policy to require all students to are to be evaluated for proficiency in various subject areas at each grade level. However, I believe that testing is not synonymous with standardized testing and request that the school and my child’s teacher(s) evaluate her progress using alternative measures including project-based assignments, teacher-made tests, portfolios, and performance-based assessments.


(Child’s name) is prepared to come to school every day during the testing window with alternative meaningful, self-directed learning activities that support the essential curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or her teachers during testing times. Please let me know beforehand what I can expect as far as instructional experiences (child’s name) will experience during testing windows. I am happy to develop material for her if the teachers believe this is appropriate. I have a tremendous respect for (child’s name)’s teachers and her school. My issue is with frequent high-stakes standardized testing and the harm it does to children, teachers, and our public schools.



Respectfully yours,
Ruth Stewart

Paul Thomas of Furman University spent 18 years as a teacher in South Carolina. He now prepares teachers and writes articles, posts, and books.


He writes here about South Carolina’s reaction to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Politicians and editorialists say there must be no back-sliding on accountability, that the state must recommit to holding teachers, students, and schools accountable.


But he notes that South Carolina’s dedication to testing and accountability started thirty years ago, and the state still lags far behind other states. So-called reformers say that the answer is to double down on failed strategies. Wouldn’t you think that thirty years of failure is enough?


Thomas writes:


The greatest education challenge, then, facing our state is addressing poverty and racism in our society so that education reform has a chance to succeed. Without adopting policy that deals directly with stable jobs with adequate pay and benefits, healthcare, childcare, and an equitable criminal justice system, our schools are destined to continue to struggle.


Next, we need to reconsider entirely education reform—not based on accountability but on equity of opportunity.


Labeling and ranking our schools—whether we use more than test scores or not—has been harmful, and it is past time to consider another process. As Bruce Baker, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, and researcher Gerald Bracey have argued often, educational rankings tend to reveal more about conditions outside of the school’s control than about the quality of education. Overwhelmingly in all types of educational rankings the greatest predictor of high or low rankings is wealth or poverty.


However, The State actually hits on a better alternative: “But the focus must remain on the core function of the schools: providing all children in this state the opportunity to receive a decent education, of the sort that will allow them to become self-supporting, productive, taxpaying citizens.”


Equity of opportunity must replace accountability in SC—although this doesn’t mean lowering expectations or absolving schools or teachers from their responsibilities to students and the state.


What I propose is transparency about the opportunities to learn that all students are receiving in the context of social programs that help every student enter the doors of those schools on much more equal footing than they have historically or currently.


Those equitable opportunities must include for all students access to experienced and certified teachers, open door policies for challenging courses and programs (such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate), and equitably funded schools and facilities across the state. As well, we must end inequitable disciplinary policies and outcomes, tracking, and harmful current policies such as third-grade retention based on reading scores.


But grading and ranking schools must end as well.


Will we waste another generation of children by holding onto failed strategies?

Michael Hynes, superintendent in Patchogue, New York, has been outspoken against the current wave of test-driven reform in New York State.


He posted the following comment:


What is Best for our Children



Many parents, educators and legislators are talking about the possibility of federal and state funds being withheld from schools. The fact is, hundreds of New York State public schools fell below the 95% participation rate for the 3-8 assessments last year. Here are some facts you should know before testing season begins this spring:


1. The Commissioner believes parents have the right to opt their children out of 3-8 state assessments.
2. The Governor stated that parents have the right to opt their children out of 3-8 state assessments.
3. The Governor stated the 3-8 assessments will not count for students and teachers for the next several years.
4. The 3-8 assessments this year are still a Pearson test.
5. The “new” 3-8 assessments are now “untimed” which means our children can actually take tests that will last for several hours over several days.
6. The assessments are still fundamentally age inappropriate and aligned with the Common Core standards. The Common Core Standards will no longer be in New York State. I repeat, they will no longer be in New York State.



There is absolutely no reason for any student to take the assessments until we have some true fundamental changes. I don’t believe making the tests a few questions shorter or allowing students to have an unlimited amount of time is the answer. This is not in the best interest of our students, especially our special education and ELL students.





Fear and misinformation is being spread by Newsday and other agencies that believe public schools are failing. This is not only unfair but unethical. School districts with high opt out rates should not be sanctioned by the State Education Department or the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, the school districts with the highest opt out rates should be rewarded. They should be rewarded because it exemplifies that we value our children. It yells from the rooftops that we are free from the burden of the Pearson crafted Common Core poisoned assessments which have zero value to anyone. Well, except for Pearson.



We need true leadership in our schoolhouses.


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