Archives for category: Testing

Marc Tucker recently published a position paper arguing that our current system of test-based accountability, testing every student every year in grades 3-8, has failed and that we need a new approach. His approach, as Anthony Cody argued, would test at transition points but would still have high stakes and would test more subjects. Tucker wrote a post criticizing Cody and me and arguing that high-stakes testing is necessary to raise test scores and improve education.

Yong Zhao here weighs in with a brilliant response to Tucker, sharply disagreeing with him on the value of high-stakes testing.

Zhao points to Tucker’s inconsistency thus:

“Why does one who condemns test-based accountability system so much want more test-based accountability? The inconsistency exemplified by Marc Tucker does not make sense to me at all. Yet it is widespread so it must make sense in some way. I try to put myself in the shoes of Tucker and other similarly minded people and learned the chain of reasoning underlying their inconsistency:

“Premise #1: Education quality matters to individual and national prosperity.

“Premise #2: Education is a top-down process through which students are instilled the prescribed content and skills (curriculum) deemed universally valuable by some sort of authority.

“Premise #3: Teachers and schools are responsible for the quality of education, i.e., instilling in students the prescribed knowledge and skills.

“Premise #4: How well students master the prescribed knowledge and content is measured by tests.

“Conclusion #1: Thus test scores measure the quality of education, and thus the capacity for individuals and nations to be economically prosperous.

“Conclusion #2: American students have lower test scores on some international tests, thus American schools offer a lower quality education than countries with higher test scores.

“Conclusion #3: Therefore, American teachers must be less effective than their counterparts in other countries.

“Conclusion #4: Therefore, to prepare Americans to succeed in the global economy, American teachers and schools must be held accountable for improving the quality of education, which is to raise test scores (Tucker’s goal: “the only acceptable target for the United States is to be among the top ten performers in the world” [I assume top 10 on the PISA league table]).

“Conclusion #5: Hence we must improve the test-based accountability system, which then leads to higher quality education, which then leads to economic prosperity.

“Bait and Switch

“Marc Tucker’s objection to Anthony Cody’s questioning his assertion that “the economic future of our students will only be guaranteed if we educate them better” is a standard bait-and-switch tactic, playing with the afore-mentioned logic. It starts with the premises. Education is a term that has a positive connotation, but in practice it has many different, sometimes, contradictory, incarnations, in the same way the word “democracy” is used in reality. For example, some of the worst dictatorial countries claim to be democratic. Thus whether education matters to the prosperity of individuals and nations depends entirely on what it means.

He concludes:

“When economies change, as Tucker notes, so fast and on a global scale, it has become even more difficult to predict the skills and knowledge that matters in the future. But one thing seems to be clear. Even if Americans are equipped with the same skills and knowledge as Chinese and Indians, America’s favorite competitors, Americans won’t have an economic advantage simply because it costs much less for these countries to develop the same skills. So more of the same skills and knowledge won’t work, neither will the same education. America does not need a quantitatively better education, it needs a different kind of education.

“There are of course other problems with Tucker’s chain of reasoning; for example, are American teachers truly worse educators than their counterparts in other countries? Again it depends on the definition of education. Is education about test scores? Or is it about cultivating diverse, creative, passionate, and curious innovators and entrepreneurs?

“Tucker has much faith in this plan. “We know this form of accountability will work because it is already working at a national scale in the countries that are outperforming us.” Even if Tucker were right, America will at best outperform the top performing country—China. But is that what we want? My answer is NO and my reasons are in my book ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.'”

Another Douglas County group–the Douglas County Parents– objects to the local school board’s proposals.



September 15, 2014

Today, Douglas County Parents (DCP) announced their concerns regarding the resolution passed by the Board of Education (BOE) on September 2, 2014, authorizing the submission of Innovation Waiver requests to the State Board of Education (SBE).

Grounded in the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, which gives local schools the ability to apply for a waiver from the SBE to opt out of state mandated standardized tests, this resolution could also transform the Douglas County School District into a “District of Innovation.”

Harmful consequences of becoming a “District of Innovation” include:

The Douglas County BOE would have the power to terminate non-core teachers and staff at will, and to waive teacher licensing requirements.

The Douglas County BOE would have the ability to dictate curriculum.

Innovation schools would have the same autonomies as charter schools, without the full responsibilities for operations and human resources that charter schools have. This would drive the demand for charter school enrollment down, potentially hurting the charter school communities in Douglas County.

DCSD would join “turnaround” districts such as Denver, Pueblo and Kit Carson, whose innovation schools have failed to achieve the intended goals of the program. DCSD would no longer be compared with districts such as Cherry Creek, Boulder, Littleton and JeffCo.

High schools would no longer be eligible to compete for “top lists” which are measured by state standardized tests.

Millions of public tax dollars would be spent to create yet another new system to comply with state and federal accountability measures.

As mandated by the Innovation Schools Act, “it is required that the prospective innovation school receives majority support from teachers, administrators and School Accountability Committee (SAC) members; as well as a statement of the level of support from classified school staff, parents, students and the surrounding community.” Because this resolution was passed without public community input, DCP believes that this majority of support was not sought, received, or proven.

“We firmly believe that the parents, teachers, staff and community of Douglas County have the right to choose whether or not they want this designation for our district,” said Cristin Patterson, spokesperson for DCP. “There are grave, irreversible consequences for choosing this path, and we implore the district to hold a public discussion on what this would mean for our schools and community. Upcoming state legislation may provide changes in state testing procedures, so we do not understand why district leaders would risk so much when the state is already pursuing a viable solution.”

About Douglas County Parents:

DCP is a growing local advocacy group made up of over 1,350 parent, teacher, student, and community member volunteers of all political affiliations, ages and professions who are concerned about the policies that the Douglas County Board of Education and district administration have forced upon our community. DCP’s community outreach efforts include sharing facts backed by documentation garnered through the school district and Colorado Department of Education websites and publications, Colorado Open Record Requests, and attending a variety of meetings. Please contact spokesperson, Cristin Patterson, at for updates and statements relating to DCSD issues. You may also find more information at

Thank you for your time,

~ Cristin Patterson ~
Douglas County Parents
Spokesperson/Media Contact

The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards unanimously passed a resolution calling for a suspension of high-stakes testing.

“The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards is comprised of 11 of Florida’s coastal school districts — Collier, Lee, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Monroe, Charlotte, Sarasota, Pinellas, Indian River and St. Lucie. Together, the districts represent more than 42 percent of the state’s public school students, 55 percent of the state’s property tax base and 51 percent of Florida’s legislative members, according to the School District of Palm Beach County website.”

Will the Florida legislature listen to parents, educators, and elected school boards, or will they continue to pile on more tests and unfunded mandates? All of the state’s districts are required–under present law–to create hundreds of new tests for every student in every subject in every grade, for before and after, to evaluate students, teachers, principals, and schools and to award merit pay to some and fire others. No money comes with the mandate.

It is payday for the testing and tech industries but mayday for education in Florida.

Ken Previti alerted me to the appearance of this story in Harper’s, called “PBS Self-Destructs.” Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, so you will either have to subscribe or run out and buy a copy.

Aside from Bill Moyers, PBS has paid little attention to the astonishing, destructive, breath-taking assaults on the very principle of public education. Nor, with the exception of an occasional piece by John Merrow, has PBS devoted air time to the outrageous attacks on the teaching profession and the very idea of collective bargaining. Now is the time for hard-hitting journalism to exposé the outrageous profiteering by tech companies and the testing industry, and the capture of education by economists who think that whatever can’t be measured doesn’t count. Where is the Public Broadcasting System when public education is under siege?

New York’s State Education Department never runs out of bad ideas. It announced the creation of an arts advisory panel to begin planning for assessments of the arts. Of course, these assessments would determine whether students are “college-and career-ready.” In the future, arts teachers will learn how to teach to the state test instead of teaching the discipline that unleashes creativity and imagination.

Calling Pearson..

“NYSED is convening a panel to examine creating assessments to measure student growth, performance and college and career readiness in the Arts programs.

“The Department recommends that the Board of Regents commission an operational study that would establish criteria to identify and evaluate arts assessments in each discipline that signify college and career readiness as well as those that are truly worthy of Regents recognition. Similar to the approach used in career and technical education pathways, the proposed process would begin with the establishment of an Arts Advisory Panel.”

Faced with unfunded mandates by the Legislature that require the creation and use of hundreds of new tests, deployed primarily to evaluate teachers, the Palm Beach County school board passed a resolution that basically says “Whoa!”

The PBC school board will be sharing its resolution with other members of the Greater Florida School Board Consortium, which includes the state’s largest districts and represents nearly half the students in Florida.

This is the original resolution:



WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that
prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship, and lifelong learning; and strengthens the
nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money, and
instructional time on high-stakes standardized testing for the purpose of using student performance
on standardized tests to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, and schools;

WHEREAS, the over-reliance and lack of consistent data on high-stakes standardized testing in state
and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public
schools by limiting educators’ ability to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that
promote creativity, problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, and deep subject-matter
knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and
economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate, limited, and
often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the increasing over-emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in numerous
consequences in many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing
creative thinking, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession,
and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all
backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of
color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s high-stakes testing instruments are not correlated to any national or
international assessment instruments to allow for a comparison of both student
achievement and progress in Florida, with student achievement and progress with other
states and countries; and

WHEREAS, in the absence of state funding, school districts do not have the fiscal or human
resources to meet the state requirement to develop end-of-course exams for the 800+
courses above and beyond the five courses—algebra, algebra II, geometry, biology and U.S.
History—that the state has developed; and

WHEREAS, districts currently have to stop classroom instruction that requires use of
technology during state testing days in order to accommodate on-line assessment without
the funding for an adequate information technology infrastructure to conduct both
assessment and classroom instruction at the same time; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on Florida’s high-stakes standardized testing is undermining
Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution of Florida which declares that it is “a paramount
duty of the state to make adequate provision . . . for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and
high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality
education” particularly with regard to adequate provision, uniformity, efficiency, and high
quality; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, that the School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, calls on Governor Scott, the
Florida Department of Education, and the state legislature to provide a three-year transition to July 1,
2017 for full implementation of Florida standards and accountability, with no impact on students,
teachers, school administrators, and school district assessment and evaluation changes. Further, the
Legislature should delay the use of Florida State Assessment results in determining student
promotion, graduation or for teacher evaluation until July 1, 2017. Districts should be given flexibility
in the interim to set their own criteria by which to determine student promotion and teacher
evaluation. Further, use of state student assessment data in the interim should be used solely for
diagnostic purposes in order to assure that the state’s system is valid, reliable, and fair and to create a
baseline for FY18; that the State Board of Education should empower a truly representative panel of
stakeholders—especially educators and parents—who represent all of Florida to validate that all
segments of the accountability system are fair, reliable, accurate, and funded; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, calls on the
United States Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,
currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple
forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed
role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

Done the 17th day of September, two thousand fourteen, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Let the madness begin in Florida where the politicians’ zeal for evaluating teachers by student test scores has created a Frankenstein monster of testing: brainless and lacking in sense or self-control.

Broward County is said to be developing 1,500 new tests in every subject and grade.

“The abundance of new tests – up to 1,500 could be introduced in the Broward school district, according to Superintendent Robert Runcie – has rankled many parents and Broward school officials.

“We’re spending a whole bunch of time figuring out how to test kids versus trying to educate them properly,” Runcie said.

“Added School Board member Robin Bartleman: “I don’t need to know how well my kindergartner is doing in art.”

“It’s unclear whether the tests will even count toward a student’s grade. State law doesn’t address that.

“Why are you wasting my kid’s time when these are being used solely to evaluate teachers?” asked Rosemarie Jensen, a Parkland parent involved in the national Opt Out movement that opposes high-stakes testing.

“Administrators say they plan to make the new tests age-appropriate. But elementary students could end up taking multiple tests, such as ones for reading, math, music, art and physical education.

“Under state law, school districts are supposed to administer these tests this year. But the district doesn’t have tests available for most of the subjects.”

Where are the villagers with their torches and pitchforks? Who will save the children?

The testing madness in Florida has finally gone over the edge into full-blown lunacy. End-of-course exams will be given to every student in every grade and in every subject, including kindergartens.

“The new end-of-course tests are needed to meet the demands of Florida’s controversial 2011 teacher merit pay law, which requires student test data to be used in public school teachers’ evaluations.

“The abundance of new tests – about 400 must be introduced in the Palm Beach County school district – has rankled many educators and parents.

“It appears the primary purpose is more about teacher evaluation than what’s in the best interest of students,” Superintendent Wayne Gent said.

“Rita Solnet, of Boca Raton, who founded Parents Across America Florida, said it’s “absurd and heartbreaking” that testing is being expanded to kindergartners who “are babies still, just learning how to maneuver in the world.”

“Administrators say they plan to make the new tests age-appropriate. But elementary students could end up taking multiple tests, such as ones for reading, math, music, art and physical education….

“Under state law, school districts are supposed to administer these tests this year. Palm Beach County school officials say only 41 of the more than 400 required are currently in development. They include elementary arts and physical education, middle and high school foreign languages and social studies.”

The merit-pay law was the first legislation signed by Governor Rick Scott.

Amy Prime Moore taught second grade in Iowa. Now she teaches fifth grade. She believes too much testing hurts her students. Then a friend asked, How do you know? And she wrote this article for the Des Moines Register.

She writes:

“But then I began to get resentful of the idea that I should even need to offer this proof. Why should I have to do this? Why is it that we can’t take the word of our educators as expert? Why can’t we listen to parents who advocate for their children? Since when do we allow our federal government to dictate what should be local district decisions? We know that the policymakers have their own children in private schools that would never dream of using the harsh testing policies that they force on the children of the public schools.

“Imagine a teacher standing in front of her room full of students shouting at them. “You are stupid! You’re too slow! I don’t care if you haven’t learned this yet, you should just KNOW it by now! I don’t even care what you’re interested in learning. You’ll learn what I say you will learn! Why can’t you figure it out? All of the other kids in your grade are figuring it out! You’ll never be ready for college. You’ll never even move on to the next grade! Who cares if you told me the right answer when you didn’t get to it the way I wanted you to? I don’t care if you’re tired, just sit still and be quiet! I don’t care if you won’t need to know this later in life, just do it! The questions aren’t confusing, you are just dumb! You’re letting your whole school down! No one will help you here so just do it yourself! You are a failure!”

“Would we ask for proof that those emotionally abusive comments would be harmful to a child? It’s doubtful we would, and, hopefully, that teacher would be out of a job. But if we could hear inside the heads of our children, those are exactly the damaging words that those tests are whispering to them every time they are forced to take one.

“So the proof is in the tears of frustration falling from the eyes of kids with heads down on desks. The proof is in the Facebook posts from parents saying that their children hate school when it’s a testing day. The proof is with the kids who ask to get up and go to the restroom just to get away from the relentless questions for even a minute. The proof is with the students who no longer think creatively but simply look for the one “right” answer. The proof is in the need for local and national organizations that support parents who want to find a way to get their children out of assessments.”

She asked her friend: where is the evidence that all this testing doesn’t harm children? She’s waiting.

Bedeviled by technical glitches and the growing parent revolution against high-stakes testing, the Florida Department of Education announced it would suspend certain standardized tests for grades K-2, at least for this year.


The announcement came after school systems, including Miami-Dade, ran into technical troubles administering the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading to students in kindergarten through second grade.


This is only a temporary victory, and it is probably meant to quell parent anger as the state is in the midst of a hotly contested race for governor. Please note in the linked story that the refusal of a kindergarten teacher to administer the FAIR test to her students, announced in a widely publicized public statement, may have influenced the state’s decision to roll back the testing this year. Resistance to unjust mandates matters.


But it shows which way the winds are blowing, and how the pushback against testing is felt even in Florida, which has never met a test it was unwilling to administer to children of any age.


Any setback for standardized testing is test-crazy Florida is cause for celebration.


Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho pointed out that Florida school districts are under pressure to develop scores of new assessments, some of which will be tied teacher pay.

The state, he said, was only “scratching the surface of a much bigger issue.”

Colleen Wood, founder of the public education advocacy group 50th No More, said she and other parents would continue to make noise.

“It’s a good day when the Department of Education recognizes that any test is not working correctly,” Wood said. “But they would be mistaken to think stopping FAIR is going to quiet the discontent of parents across the state.”

Read more here:




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