Archives for category: Testing

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization founded in 1973 to promote free-market ideas throughout society. ALEC has about 2,000 members who belong to state legislatures. It is funded by major corporations. Its purpose is to write model legislation that members can bring back to their state, to spread the gospel of ALEC. It supports charters, vouchers, online charters–all forms of privatization. It opposes collective bargaining. It does not believe in due process rights for teachers or any form of job security for public employees. It does not support local control, as it promotes laws that allow state commissions to override decisions by local school boards if they deny charters to private groups.

Among its proposals is the third grade reading guarantee, in which children are flunked if they don’t pass the third grade reading test. What this has to do with free-market capitalism is beyond my understanding. It is punitive towards little children, putting more faith in a test than in teachers’ judgement. There is no research to support this policy, but we know already that zealots are unimpressed by research or evidence.

Here is a comment by faithful reader Chiara Duggan of Zohio:

“This is the ALEC model bill on high stakes testing in third grade.

“It’s nearly identical to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee:

“C) Beginning with the 20XX-20XY school year, if the student’s reading deficiency, as identified in paragraph (a), is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring at Level 2 or higher on the state annual accountability assessment in reading for grade 3, the student must be retained.

“Just shameful that adult lawmakers were purchased by this lobbying group, and third graders will be paying the price.”

Wendy Davis is running for Governor of Texas. She is going after the testing industry, which spends big-time for lobbyists to make sure that no child is left untested, even children in pre-school.

From: Wendy Davis for Governor
Date: April 22, 2014 at 8:34:08 AM
Subject: Davis Campaign Files Open Records Request on Abbott and Testing Industry

April 22, 2014
Contact: Rebecca Acuña: (956) 206-5853
Wendy R. Davis for Governor Campaign

Davis Campaign Files Open Records Request on Abbott and Testing Industry

“Greg Abbott’s so-called education plan is nothing but a big wet kiss to Texas’ standardized testing industry,” said communications director Zac Petkanas.

Fort Worth, TX: Greg Abbott’s education plan calls for imposing high-stakes standardized tests onto four year olds in pre-K and ties those test results to education funding. The Wendy Davis Campaign yesterday filed an open records request seeking any communication between the Office of the Attorney General and companies tied to the standardized testing industry.

The open records request asked for the prompt production of the following information (regardless of physical form and including but not limited to invoices, receipts, billing statements, e-mails, letters, memoranda, agendas, calendars, schedules, faxes, fax cover sheets, phone calls, phone messages, etc..) held by the Office of the Attorney General:

1. Any and all communications between Attorney General Greg Abbott and /or the Office of the Attorney General and agents NCS Pearson, Inc., Pearson, Inc. or Pearson Education

2. Any and all TPIA requests and responsive documents mentioning “NCS Pearson, Inc.”, “Pearson, Inc.”, or “Pearson Education” since January 2013.”

“Greg Abbott’s so-called education plan is nothing but a big wet kiss to Texas’ standardized testing industry,” said communications director Zac Petkanas. “His plan imposes standardized tests onto four year olds in order to pick and choose who gets access to a quality education and who does not. In the interest of transparency, Greg Abbott should make all communication between his office and representatives of the standardized testing industry public. Texans deserve to know how the testing industry is influencing Greg Abbott’s controversial pre-k plan.”

Here’s what the Texas press corps has said about Greg Abbott’s plan to impose standardized testing onto 4 year olds:
“The $118 million Abbott plan calls for lawmakers to require school districts with preK programs to administer assessments at the beginning and end of the school year in an effort to measure the quality of such programs. One of those assessments referenced in Abbott’s plan is standardized testing.” –Corpus Christi Caller-Times

“One of the candidates’ biggest slug-fests over Pre-K has focused on Abbott’s call for assessing what these four-year olds have learned and how that would be done. A paragraph in Abbott’s 22- page plan says standardized testing is one way of doing that.” — KERA

“Abbott also proposes that school districts meet a “gold standard” as an incentive for funding. That involves measurement, which is another way of saying testing” – Corpus Christi Caller-Times

“That would include testing and other measurements to ensure that instruction in those classes is effective.” –Dallas Morning News
“Sabo also cautioned against placing too much emphasis on testing for such young children.’ The last thing Texas needs is Baby STAAR.’”– Austin American Statesman

“Districts being funded by the state would also be required to test each pre-K student for benchmarks.” – Texas Public Radio

“Abbott’s plan would grant an additional $1500 per pre-k student in districts that agree to meet new “gold” standards, a determination that would be made through testing and other assessments.” – KUT


There has been much debate about who wrote the Common Core standards.

Here is a press release that lists the names of the writing teams for each subject as well as “feedback” groups.

You will notice a large representation of people from the testing industry (College Board and ACT), as well as people from Achieve, a D.C. think tank.

Notice that the statement says:

“The Work Group’s deliberations will be confidential throughout the process.”

Notice that the statement says:

“Final decisions regarding the common core standards document will be made by the Standards Development Work Group. The Feedback Group will play an advisory role, not a decision-making role in the process.”

Count how many people on either the writing teams or the feedback groups are identified as classroom teachers. Count how many have any experience in teaching children with disabilities. Count how many are experienced in teaching early childhood classes or English language learners.

Compare that number–whatever it may be–to the number who are experienced in testing and assessment.

Florida had widespread problems with its FCAT, delivered–or not–by Pearson. Pam Stewart promised to seek damages from Pearson. Remember the bad old days when teachers tested students, graded the tests, and students got immediate feedback. Now state officials trust Pearson more than teachers. Who peddled the idea that all testing should be done online?

Here is a report from FairTest:

National Center for Fair & Open Testing
for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468
for immediate release, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today’s technical problems, which disrupted computerized testing in many Florida districts, are far from unusual. Many other states have experienced similar failures, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which monitors standardized exams across the country.
Earlier this month, the statewide testing systems in Kansas and Oklahoma both crashed. Last year, technical problems disrupted computerized exams in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma. In the recent past, new, automated testing programs collapsed in Oregon and Wyoming, requiring administration of replacement, pencil-and-paper versions.
After root cause investigations, both Wyoming and Oklahoma levied multi-million dollar fines against Pearson, the same testing vendor Florida uses. Wyoming labeled the company in “complete default of the contract” and replaced it. Oklahoma let its contract with Pearson expire.
American Institutes of Research, the company that takes over testing in Florida next year was responsible for computer exam problems in Minnesota in 2013. The firm’s contract was not renewed.
“The reason for so many screw-ups is simple,” explained FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “The technology supporting statewide computerized testing is not ready for prime time.”
Schaeffer continued, “Like many other testing policies, politicians imposed new requirements before systems had been thoroughly developed and beta-tested. There are at least three separate problems. Many schools lack the up-to-date computer equipment and other infrastructure needed to mass administer tests. Large numbers of districts do not have the internet bandwidth to handle the volume. Some testing company servers do not have the capacity the meet the surge of demand from multiple locations logging on simultaneously.”
FairTest supports Florida school superintendents and communities seeking a multi-year moratorium on attaching consequences to the state’s new tests. Schaeffer has lived full-time in southwest Florida for almost 15 years.
- – 3 0 – -

- links to clips documenting computer-testing problems in other states and a detailed chronology of Pearson’s history of testing errors are available on request.

I am getting reports of computer servers crashing in various states. Whose nutty idea was it that all testing must be online? Was it to make data mining easier? Ir to enrich the testing companies and vendors of software and hardware?

News from Colleen Wood in Florida:

Colleen Doherty Wood
904/591.3207 / @50thNoMore

Diane – below is the email sent by our Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart.

Pearson’s server apparently could not handle the number of children testing today. I guess it was a big surprise to them.

We have been warning for years, that Pearson and our state were not technologically ready for this move to online testing.

Today proved it. Across the state, students were kicked off the system and unable to test. Districts were told to wait for instructions while students just had to wait.

When will we talk about the emotional and psychological affect all of these “glitches” have on our children, who carry the weight of Jeb Bush’s entire accountability system on their shoulders?

Test scores from today will not be reliable, yet will be used to evaluate teachers and determine class placement.

In Florida, we are demanding a 3 year pause on the implementation of the new accountability system, which by all accounts, will be harder. If they can’t get it right this time, why should any of us trust them to get it right next year?

We have 67 counties in Florida. So far we know it has impacted 7 counties, but the day is young. We suspect there will be more.

From: Commissioner Stewart []
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:59 AM
Subject: Pearson Server Issue Affecting Testing

Good morning,

As some of you already know, Pearson is experiencing difficulty with a hosting provider this morning, which is causing issues with testing (both TestNav and TestHear) and accessing the PearsonAccess website for test management. The issue does not seem to be statewide, but several districts have reported issues.

If your district is experiencing difficulty with live testing, please suspend testing and wait to hear from our office. We do not currently have an estimated timeline from Pearson for when this issue will be resolved, but we will be in touch with updates/resolutions throughout the day. If your district is not experiencing issues, you may continue testing as scheduled as your district is likely not routing through the affected server.

Some of you have inquired about schedule extensions due to this issue. Once the problem is resolved, if you have schools that will need more time to complete testing beyond your district’s schedule, please let us know (in writing) and we will work with you to ensure that all students in your district have sufficient opportunity to test.

Pam Stewart

A reader sent this comment:

Dear Diane,

I was wondering if you could create a post to get the anti-testing movement that seems to be thriving downstate to garner some more support upstate.

I teach in a suburb of Rochester, NY. My school is on the “west side,” where household incomes are substantially lower than they are on the “east side.”

Today a colleague emailed me a link to a letter that the Superintendent of Pittsford Central Schools (one of the most affluent districts in upstate NY) had posted on the school’s website.

I found the post upsetting and confusing. It could be paraphrased to read: Hey parents, these tests aren’t so bad, and our kids do GREAT on them! Please send them to school and tell them to do their very, very best!

The second paragraph upsets me the most because Superintendent Pero credits Pittsford’s “exceptional performance” on last year’s Common Core tests to the teachers in his district for their “engaging lessons” and their approach of teaching the “whole child.”

I, too, teach in a phenomenal school. We do not teach the modules, and we have a collaborative department that is always seeking to improve. However, our passing rate on last year’s exams was less than 40%. I have friends who teach in the city of Rochester—their passing rate on last year’s exams was the lowest in the state. I would like to know if Superintendent Pero believes that teachers at these neighboring districts only teach the “partial child” through “disengaging lessons.”

As I fumed about this letter to some friends and colleagues, I learned some interesting background information. It seems Pittsford had a significant amount of opt-outs last for last week’s disastrous ELA exams, and many students who did take the tests used their essay booklets to write letters to Commissioner King. I just finished scoring exams, and we had a few too—those tests will earn a 0.

So maybe Superintendent Pero doesn’t really think the testing is fine, but he needs to scramble to make sure as many of his smart kids as possible show up for the math tests in a few weeks.


An anonymous teacher in upstate NY

A teacher wrote this comment in response to a post asking why English language learners, who barely know any English, are required to take the state English test.



I agree, it is painful to watch our English Language Learners struggle with these ridiculous tests, tests which label students 1,2,3,or 4. I have worked with refugees, many of whom arrive with little or no formal education, for over 20 years in what I consider to be one of the best schools in Buffalo. They, like all students, are much more than 1,2,3 or 4. The kids are remarkable in how they adjust to the cultural, academic, and linguistic demands of school. Their families are supportive and very appreciative of the what the school does to help them and their children. The staff is incredibly dedicated and rallies our school community to help provide many of the basics for our students’ and their families – clothes, food, boots, household items, books, school supplies, etc.

We have over thirty languages represented among our students, most are considered “low incidence languages” such as Burmese, Karen, Nepali, Somali, MaiMai, Karenni, Chin, Turkish, Kinyarwanda, and the list goes on… Some of our classrooms are over 70% ELL – English Language Learners. Of those non-ELLs in our school, many were English Language Learners who have tested proficient in years past or they come from homes of English Language Learners. The teachers are tuned in to the academic and language needs of these kids and provide safe, supportive, engaging, yet demanding environments for these students to learn and grow. There is not a teacher there who would trade a student in front of them for more “4′s.”

These immigrants have added to a culturally rich community, and have introduced their neighbors to amazing and interesting food, art, music, and traditions. Many of the students go on to great success in high school and beyond. Each June, when the local paper publishes pictures of all the local high school valedictorians and salutatorians, our former students are among them, English Language Learners who with enough time and support achieve great success. The operative word there is time.

Most research suggests that it takes 5-7 years (minimum) for English Language Learners to reach academic language proficiency – and that is for students with formal education in their first language. For all the “data” rage, it amazes me that this fact continues to be ignored by policy makers.

What does the state say? New York State labeled us a “PLA – Persistently Lowest Achieving” school in the first round of PLA schools. Why? Because we didn’t make AYP in ELA for our English Language Learners. Based on what? The N.Y. State tests.

Isn’t that obvious? The tests are used to label our kids as failing, our schools as low achieving, and our teachers as ineffective.

Julie Vassilatos, a Chicago parent, blogs about school issues.


In one of her latest posts, she realized she could  no longer use the term “education reform” because it was a complete phony and misrepresentation of reality.


She writes:


Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase “education reform.”


That’s how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.


But this, truly, is not “reform.” Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.


This is the status quo.


So I’m not going to call it reform anymore.


I’m going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.



I want you to read her whole post so I hate to print too much of it. But it is so on-target, so clear-headed, so obvious that I am going to have to give you even more to think about, then go open the link and read how this Chicago mom went straight to the heart of the beast:


In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash–flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.


Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.


Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.


Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.


Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students’ big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.


The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don’t even blink when they say that their education plan is “the civil rights issue of our time.” They say this a lot.


So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.


They say they want “excellent teachers,” and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.


They say they want “school choice,” which usually means less choice: families can’t choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.



I don’t know Julie, but I know this: She has seen through the sham rhetoric and the phony claims. She has seen through the facade to the internal workings of a machine that hurts children, closes community schools, and will ultimately do grievous harm to our democracy.


She writes:


Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn’t actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn’t actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn’t education and it isn’t reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.


It’s stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.


Thanks, Julie, for seeing through the PR baloney.


I am so tired of the media accepting the corporate bosses’ claim that they are “reformers.” Listen up, reporters. They are NOT reformers. Their program is the corporate control of education.

Read this teacher’s account of her experience in the D.C. public schools
before they descended into test-prep obsessive policies.


She raised the money to take her class to her native state of Montana. And
what a trip they had!


After you read it, ask yourself this question: Would they have learned more by prepping for the
standardized tests or by their extended and amazing field trip?

If you have an eye for quackery, as Peter Greene does, you will never run out of material in the world of reform tomfoolery.

In this post, Greene has fun with TNTP’s brilliant new way to identify better teachers: multiple-choice test. I kid you not.

TNTP used to be called The Néw Teacher Project. According to legend, it was founded by Michelle Rhee, although partisans of Wendy Kopp say it was her idea and she asked Michelle to do it. I really don’t know. Maybe someone who was there can let us in on the true story.

So Greene discovers that TNTP has this idea that a multiple-choice test can do what nano human can do. Identify a future talented teacher. He runs with it.


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