Archives for category: Testing

Mercedes Schneider describes the remarkable shrinkage of states enrolled to give Pearson’s Common Core PARCC test from 2011-2014.

In 2011, Pearson boasted that 31 million students in 25 states plus D.C. Would take PARCC. By 2014, the numbers are down to 10 states and D.C. with 5 million students.

If Jeb Bush should run for President, this article bears re-reading.

Bush spoke at a rightwing policy conference in Michigan, where he “trashed” public schools.

“MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better,” a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We must expand [school] choice,” said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. “Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions.”

“Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellence in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don’t pass standardized exams.”

Bush is also an ardent fan of vouchers.

In his speech, he praised Michigan’s charter sector. Not everyone agrees with his enthusiasm. The Detroit Free Press ran a series of articles in July 2014 concluding that the state of Michigan spends $1 billion every year on charters with no accountability.

Here are the newspaper’s findings:

“What the Free Press found:

A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

Charter schools spend $1billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.

Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.

A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.

Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.

Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.

Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.

State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.”

Sarah Blaine, a lawyer and parent, writes a terrific blog about education. In this one, she describes how her 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth testified at a school board meeting in Montclair, New Jersey, about what’s wrong with the Common Core PARCC test.

Watch the video.

Elizabeth wrote her own remarks and delivered them with poise. She begins by saying, “I love to read, I love to write, I love to do math. But I don’t love the PARCC. It stinks.” When she finished, she received an ovation from the audience.

And a litttle child shall lead them.

The board of the Southold, Néw York, school district on the North Fork of Long Island voted not to participate in field testing for state tests as a protest against over testing.

Superintendent David Gamberg–a man of gentle demeanor–is a leader in the struggle to rescue genuine education from the mandates and data-driven decision-making. He is proud of his schools’ arts and music, as well as the garden where children grow produce for lunch.

Gamberg is so trusted by locals that when the superintendent retired in the neighboring district of Greenport, Gamberg was invited to lead both districts. The Greenport board is likely to pass a resolution not to give the field tests.

For their courage and integrity and their love of children, I add David Gamberg and the Southold school board to the honor roll as champions of American education.

CommonSenseNY blogger is appalled at how little state officials understand about the defects of the state evaluation system.

He or she writes:

“Chancellor Tisch made an astonishing and appalling statement quoted in this Democrat and Chronicle article about 95% of New York teachers being rated ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ under Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process. While it is true the entire process is bogus, she is wrong about the reason. A link to a Carol Burris summary of the problems with APPR can be found here. She is an award-winning principal.

“Here is what is appalling about Ms. Tisch’s understanding of the current evaluation process. She states, “The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system. There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated.”

“Chancellor Tisch continues to either misrepresent, misunderstand or demonstrate little knowledge about the connection between student achievement and socio-economic and other education factors. Let’s take a quick look at the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) since it illustrates the point well and creates a similar context.

“If you believe the critics of American public education, our students perform miserably on PISA assessments. We’ll use math as an example. The claim is “we’ are 35th for so in the world in math. Not too good. However, when controlling for poverty – we happen to have a lot of concentrated poverty in comparison to other developed nations – we move up to sixth.

“The problem with student achievement in New York is high concentrations of poverty, particularly in urban areas. Blaming a bogus and poorly implemented (similar to the implementation of the Common Core) evaluation system for student achievement issues is just wrong.”

It seems that the most “effective” teachers work where the affluent kids live. If they cane to work in one of the state’s big cities, they would probably turn into an “ineffective” teacher.

The lawsuit of a veteran fourth grade teacher in Great Neck was postponed while the state tries to figure out how to explain the rating system. She went from effective to ineffective in one year even though nearly 70% of her students passed the new state tests (more than double the state average) in both years. Something is wrong here.

The following letter was sent to Secretary Arne Duncan by Dean Lisa Vollendorf of the College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University, in response to Duncan’s plan to rate colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. Comments on this proposal will be accepted until January 2, 2015. Please send your to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/03/2014-28218/teacher-preparation-issues

 

 

Dear Secretary Duncan:

 

 

As a committed educator who has devoted her life to public higher
education, I am dismayed by the onerous requirements put forth by this
proposal. At San Jose State University, which is part of the 23-campus
California State University system, we will find it fiscally impossible to
comply with so many requirements. In particular, it will cost us much more
than we can afford to track our graduates. Moreover, we are deeply troubled
by the connection between accreditation for teacher credentialing programs
and the test scores of those teachers’ students. The CSU is the largest
four-year public higher education system in the nation, and we are
committed to affordability and access. That commitment translates into
recruiting and training students who are in turn committed to working
throughout the community, including in low-income and under-served areas of
our K-12 system. By tying the test scores of those children to our
accreditation standing, the federal government is sending the message that
the only students we should be serving are those who are lucky enough to
live in privileged areas with a strong tradition of good schools. I am
proud to educate diverse students from all walks of life, and proud when
they go out into the diverse communities from which they hail to give back
and make society better. These new regulations will disincentive programs
and teachers from serving those communities. Please reconsider this overall
plan and think again about the adverse effects on those who most need
improved schools and those who prepare teachers to work in those
under-served communities. Public institutions will be so hard hit by these
regulations that we are concerned that we will no longer be able to afford
credentialing programs.

 

 

Lisa Vollendorf, PhD
Dean, College of Humanities and the Arts
San José State University

From Politico.com:

REINVENTING THE STANDARDIZED TEST: Pearson has been adjusting its internal focus from print to digital; now the global education giant is out with a study of how that shift can improve testing around the world. “Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment” argues that our current standardized tests – many of them, of course, developed by Pearson – aren’t making the grade. They’re not sensitive enough to accurately assess student performance at either the low or the high ends of the scale. They don’t give teachers timely, useful feedback. And they’re too focused on assessing low-level skills, rather than the competencies valued in today’s workplace, such as critical analysis, personal communication and hands-on problem solving. What’s the solution? Pearson touts the power of adaptive technology to customize exams. It’s also high on using computer algorithms to robo-grade student essays. (The report states as a fact that the PARCC consortium will use automated essay scoring, though member states have not yet made that determination.) The company also wants to see assessments that collect far more information than current tests, covering “multiple dimensions” of student ability.

- In short, Pearson envisions a future in which students produce ever more data . The report notes that “without such a systematic, data-driven approach to instruction, teaching remains an imprecise and somewhat idiosyncratic process that is too dependent on the personal intuition and competence of individual teachers.” Speaking of teaching, authors Peter Hill and Sir Michael Barber also argue that the field must evolve into a more tightly controlled profession with higher barriers to entry and a common framework for evaluating quality. That will require repudiating a tradition of “teaching as a largely under-qualified and trained, heavily unionized, bureaucratically controlled ‘semi-profession’ lacking a framework and a common language,” Hill and Barber write. Read the report: http://bit.ly/1w0jYvK

A watchdog website has blown the whistle on a study of the cost of new testing in Colorado. Critics say the study far understates the cost of testing.

 

Joshua Scharf of Watchdogwire writes:

 

A $74,000 commissioned report by Augenblick Palaich and Associates (APA), detailing the costs and time of statewide school assessments is coming under scrutiny for data analysis, key omissions, and potential conflicts of interest….

 

The APA Assessment Study Report analyzing the cost and time of Colorado assessments, was formally presented to Colorado’s HB14-1202 Standards and Assessments Task Force on Nov. 17, but critics charge it omitted outlying data, failed to account for necessary capital expenses, and is unclear in its calculation of student- and district-level averages.

 

Of 179 districts in Colorado, APA surveyed only 5 and excluded capital costs associated with new assessments. Here was one big omission: APA’s HB1202 report does not include costs incurred by schools for computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth necessary to take the state-mandated online PARCC and CMAS tests. Ah! So the contractor calculated the cost of testing but did not include the cost of computers, infrastructure, and bandwidth! Parents–and even some members of the state’s Task Force are calling for an investigation.

 

Scharf writes:

 

Technology costs associated with online testing are steep. This Pioneer Institute report shows average testing costs $1.24 billion pale in comparison to technology costs $6.27 billion, nationally. Many Colorado districts have already spent millions just to meet the technological demands, and although the HB1202 APA survey did collect “some information” on technology costs to schools, again, they refused to show it. Task force members have repeatedly asked to see the quantitative data collected by the APA survey both on reported testing time and cost.

 

APA’s private Draft report records significantly different numbers from its public report. The “Private Draft” reports testing costs for state, federal, and local tests to range from $55 million to $130 million while the study that the public sees reports the weighted average cost of testing as $61 million, and doesn’t explain that the range was double that….

 

Despite the competition placed by the CDE for study, APA’s was the sole proposal received. While 109 other bidders expressed interest, some demurred, commenting that the $74,000 budget was too small for a study of proper scope.

 

In addition, according to this CDE document, the task force itself expressed many concerns on APA’s proposal, including conflict of interests stemming from APA’s previous work with the Bill Gates-funded Colorado Education Initiative (CEI). CEI paid APA to do a similar assessment study just two years ago. The task force worried this prior work with CEI “could slant the focus and, consequently, the results of the HB1202 study”. They also cited APA’s tendency to not use quantitative data, resulting in reports based mostly on “perceptions and opinions, rather than actual school and district budgets and expenditures.”

 

Even more fascinating than the report were the public comments, most of which expressed strong opposition to the time and costs of new testing. Read them here.

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The Network for Public Education shares the widespread sentiment that testing has gotten out of control, consuming too much time in the classroom and narrowing the curriculum.

 

In this post, NPE endorses a new initiative to protect children from invasions of their privacy by online testing, which these days is collecting confidential information that may be shared with vendors and other third parties without parental consent.

 

Last weekend brought exciting news from our friends at United Opt Out and Student Privacy Matters. Recently Student Privacy Matters, an organization comprised of a national coalition of parents, co-chaired by NPE Board Member and Class Size Matters Executive Director Leonie Haimson, and Colorado parent Rachael Stickland, released information related to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

 

COPPA states that parents of children under the age of 13 not only have a right to know what online information is being collected from their children, they have a right to opt them out of any online program that their child participates in at school, including online testing.

 

UOO believes that COPPA may be the key to a national opt out strategy. Last weekend UOO’s Peg Robertson, also know as blogger Peg with Pen, wrote the following:

 

This has serious implications for the Opt Out movement. As PARCC and SBAC and other online tests roll out we have a national strategy that can be used, for all children under age 13, as we opt out/refuse the tests. Currently, any other online programs and online testing in use for under age 13 can be halted. We know that there will be many questions to answer as we move forward with this strategy – understand that the only way to get our questions answered is to try it. Let’s do this.

 

 

Student Privacy Matters has provided sample letters to send to your child’s school to get information regarding what on-line programs are in use, as well as to opt them out off those programs. UOO recommends using the sample opt out letter to opt children under 13 out of the upcoming PARCC tests, which will be mostly administered online.

 

NPE will follow developments on this exciting potential opt out/refusal strategy, and provide updates as they become available.

 

For more information, open the link and read more about the organizations and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

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