Archives for category: Testing

This comment was posted today. I don’t usually disclose the names of writers unless they disclose it themselves. I googled the author and she is real.


Having worked for Eva from 2006 to 2012* I got to know Paul Fucalaro and saw him in action. I saw him belittle and undercut teachers, and browbeat students with merciless drill. Since Harlem Success was not open in 2002, his methods preceded Eva’s adoption of them. If the Queens School you mention was PS 65, its principal was also brought on board for HSA”s start. Mr. Fucalaro is a large man, not subtle or gentle in his methods, probably significantly scary to young children. Avuncular maybe, but a little sinister too. Early on, ( 2008, 9?) he and I were asked to evaluate a young teacher who was up for re hire. She was one of those young people who genuinely love children and interacted with them intuitively and effectively. She was also knowledgeable in science, the subject she was being hired to teach. We both walked out of our observation agreeing how impressed we were. The next thing I knew, she had been fired. The word in those days when people were let go was that they ” didn’t get the school culture.” We now know that means they wanted to treat children as human beings rather than “test taking machines,” or robots who cannot question, talk, play, laugh, or, God forbid, enjoy learning.
If tests were NOT used as a measure of success, or Success, it is doubtful Eva would have gotten this far. Not until schools, charter or otherwise, are judged by their success as places of learning, creativity and joy, and the scourge of test prep and drill is gone, will real teachers, not taskmasters like Mr. Fucalaro, feel welcome in them.

Annette Marcus


* I worked on setting up an inquiry based science curriculum for Success Academies. It was fairly free of test prep until 4th grade. When Eva extended HSA into MIddle school and wanted students to take high school regents exams in 6th and 8th grade, I quit.

A reader sent this link to a speech about Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools, delivered at the Manhattan Institute, which is New York’s premier conservative think tank. The speaker is named Charles Upton Sahm. I googled him and could not find any information about him, other than a piece in the Daily Beast defending the Common Core.


Sahm here defends the Success Academy schools against their critics. He describes them as idyllic. The children are happy and highly motivated. The teachers are well-trained, enthusiastic, and cheerful about their work. The curriculum is rich with literature, history, constructivist math, and projects. The attrition rate is no different from city public schools. Despite published reports, the teacher turnover is very low because they are so happy. The charters not only take a fair share of students with disabilities and ELLs, but many of them leave that status because SA remedies their needs. He admits that the schools don’t take the most disabled children.


He makes it seem as though Eva should be chancellor of the public schools, so every school could be equally rich in learning and joy, and of course, the millions that the hedge fund managers give to her.


One new fact that I had been searching for: He acknowledges that in the first two eighth grade graduating classes not a single student was able to pass the admissions test for entry to one of the city’s highly selective high schools. Now, this is puzzling. If these students are so well educated in math and science and literature, starting in the earliest grades, if they knock the socks off the state tests, why are they not acing the test for schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Townsend Harris, Brooklyn Tech, Bard, and a few others? These schools have small numbers of black and Hispanic students, and the general assumption is they were ill-prepared. But why are Eva’s graduates unable to pass this test? If you are well educated, if you have mastered the tested subjects, you should be prepared for any test, not just the one you prepared for.



It is a puzzlement.

The superintendents association of Nassau County (Long Island), Néw York, have called on the state to stop evaluating teachers by test scores. Nassau County has some of the state’s most successful schools.

“They wrote that they understand the need for a system that ensures highly effective instruction, but said “the exaggerated use of student test data” undermines that goal. The letter cited position papers by the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association that question such use of student test data.

“Equally flawed, they said, has been the attempt to devise a rating system for the vast majority of educators who teach subjects or grade levels not associated with the state exams in English language arts and math given to students in grades three through eight.”

The full text of the document is included in the link.

Bonnie Cunard Margolin is a blogger and parent activist in Florida. Her daughter did not take the state and local tests, and her mom is very proud of her.


Margolin writes:


This year, I have opted my 6th grade daughter out of all district and state testing. So, yesterday and today, while her classmates were taking the district test/ practice FSA writing assessment, she wrote an essay, on her own, instead. Here it is.
Julianne M. Cunard

18 September 2015
Testing: I Can Do the Math.
Learning is not just about taking a test. It is about understanding a lesson, not about sitting at a desk for hours, failing as you go. If you wanted to educate children, why is there an FSA, FCAT, FAIR, PARCC, LSAT, MCAT? What do all of these words mean to you? Is standardized testing effective in education? I can tell you what tests mean to me.
Testing is something I refuse to be a part of, even teachers don’t like these tests. From the article, “Putting it to the Test”, the author writes, “In September, Susan Bowles, a kindergarten teacher at Chiles Elementary School, received widespread buzz when she openly refused to administer the computer-based Florida Assessments for Instruction in reading, or FAIR.” Teachers are forced to read the script, exactly as written, scared of losing their jobs if not. There should not have to be a time in school where anyone feels extremely worried. At school, students should feel relieved and secure. Yet then, these tests come along.
If I walked into a room and saw everyone taking a district\state test, I would not be happy because the students are not learning anything. The author writes, “Teaching is an art. It is about connection. It is not about getting ready for a test that is designed 70 percent to fail. Our best teachers are leaving because they are being forced to do things in the classroom that they know is not for OUR KIDS! They are leaving for OUR KIDS!” That statement right there tells me that teachers have had enough. This is a good reason why testing is not good for education.
Teachers shouldn’t have to quit because they are forced to do something, it is their life, their class. Oh, but no… that teacher can’t talk about it. It’s all so “secret” because nobody knows how to opt out, except for the kids that know. They know how to opt out. They know they won’t fail their grade because of a test. They know they will sit there for an hour, sitting and doing nothing, everyone looking at them. They know they will get an NR2. Other kids don’t. They don’t know what an NR2 means. They DON’T know, they don’t… but they should. The one thing everyone knows in that classroom is that these district\state tests are unnecessary and ineffective.
Let’s see how the leaders would like it if we gave THEM a standardized test. Are you shocked that I said that? Well, nobody realizes how bad these tests are. One person says they are fine, but someone else will say not to take it. What do they do? This is way too much pressure for children… WAY too much. THEY ARE KIDS, TESTING FROM THIRD GRADE THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL. Innocent children testing every day. What did they ever do to you?
Some think that testing is not a big deal. It isn’t but when it’s every day, like standardized testing is, I believe that it is an outrage. From the article,”Mom- Why My Kids Won’t Be Taking the New Florida Standards Assessment Test”, the author writes, “They have to be quiet, have alternate scheduling, sit in a single classroom and learn NOTHING during “testing season” because others are testing. This is time they’ll never get back in their education.” The author is correct. What about the kids?
What if everyone wants to opt out, they know, but can’t because the leaders are telling them not to. The kids shouldn’t be punished for other’s repetitive mistakes.
There were seven hours of FSA testing that I did NOT do last year. Others did. Don’t you feel bad for the children, wasting all of that time? Yes, it’s a waste of time. I should know, I did the math, and I don’t need a test to prove it.

Across the nation, states are dropping out of the Common Core testing. Most have decided that the tests are too long, too expensive, and provide no more information than the tests they had before.


But Iowa, among the high-scoring states in the nation, has decided to adopt the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time that others are backing out. The new tests will begin in the 2016-17 year.


The irony is that Iowa has long been one of the nation’s high-performing states even though it had no state standards or assessments.


But the state board of education has decided to follow everyone else, even as others are dropping out.

Opting out is about to become the norm on Long Island, the epicenter of New York’s opt out movement.

The East Meadow, Long Island, New York school board adopted a policy of providing alternative activities for children who do not take the state tests.

Last July, the board unanimously adopted a resolution in opposition to Governor Cuomo’s teacher evaluation law, which makes test scores count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. This makes test scores super-important and guarantees that an inordinate amount of time will be devoted to test prep.

Rick Ayers, a professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco, reviews the controversy over EdTPA, the Pearson-owned assessment tool for future teachers. In the past, educational professionals decided whether teachers were prepared for their job. Now, in 35 states, teachers must take the Pearson EdTPA to win certification.

He writes:

The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is the new set of evaluations of teacher candidates that is spreading across the country. Packaged as government-mandated test that assures the quality of teaching, it in fact colonizes the curriculum of teacher education programs and narrows the focus on teaching as pre-determined and top down delivery of lessons.

If you ask advocates about edTPA, they’ll tell you it’s a teacher performance assessment developed through a partnership between Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). They describe it as being designed “by the profession, for the profession” and “transformative for prospective teachers because [it] requires candidates to actually demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to help all students learn in real classrooms.” And policy makers are listening: as of November 2015, 647 educator preparation programs in 35 states are using edTPA, and it’s required for teacher licensure in 4 states.

Critics, however, tell a radically different story. In articles published in an increasing number of academic journals, blogs, and trade magazines, they question the validity of the assessment, its ideological stance, and its function as yet another tool of privatized, neoliberal reform. Barbara Madeloni, now president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, was an early resistor. After the New York Times published a 2012 article about her students’ refusal to participate in an edTPA pilot, Madeloni lost her job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Later, she, with Julie Gorlewski of SUNY New Paltz, published a series of critiques under headlines like “Wrong Answer to the Wrong Question” that describe edTPA as reductive and poorly aligned with the goals of social justice education….

Many scholars and activists are especially concerned about the role of Pearson Education, who is the exclusive administrator of edTPA and charges $300 per candidate per submission. $75 of this goes back to a “calibrated scorer”–a teacher or teacher educator who, with just 19-23 hours of computer-based training by Pearson was magically transformed from unqualified to evaluate their own teacher candidates to a national expert in evidence-based assessment. The other $225, presumably, goes to Pearson, SCALE and AACTE, who are surely celebrating their resounding success: 18,463 candidates were required to take edTPA in 2014. At $300 each, that’s $5,538,900. It is true that Pearson offers some vouchers to offset the cost for candidates. But in 2014, there were a whopping 600 vouchers available for the entire state of New York.

I have learned from a high-level official in New York that EdTPA has caused numerous problems. The future teachers are supposed to submit videos that show them teaching but parents are reluctant to give permission to film their children. The pass rates of African-American and Hispanic candidates is disproportionately low.

To many observers, both inside and outside the teacher education profession, EdTPA seems to be just one more piece of the “reform” effort to break the teaching profession and make it easier to turn teaching into a scripted performance.

If anyone wants to defend EdTPA, go for it. I’m all ears.

FairTest writes that the past year was amazing for opponents of high-stakes testing for students and teachers.


Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill
for further information:

Lisa Guisbond (617) 959-2371

Dr. Monty Neill (617) 477-9792

or Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773







Pressure from parents, students, teachers, school officials and community leaders began turning the tide against standardized exam overuse and misuse during the 2014-2015 school year, according to a new report released today. “Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill” shows that many states reduced testing mandates, eliminated score-based consequences, and implemented better assessments. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a leader of the U.S. assessment reform movement, released the study.


Lisa Guisbond, the report’s author, explained, “Public pressure has forced policy makers to respond to the many harms resulting from the fixation on high-stakes exams. Even President Obama now concedes that testing has gone too far. Opinion polls show a sharp shift against overreliance on test-and-punish policies in favor of assessments based on multiple measures.”


Among the concrete assessment reform victories documented in the new FairTest report:


– Policy-makers repealed California’s graduation test. Six other states recently overturned similar requirements, reversing a trend toward exit exams. California, Georgia, South Carolina and Arizona also granted diplomas retroactively to students denied them by test scores.


– Florida, Oklahoma, New York and North Carolina suspended or revised their test-based grade promotion policies. New Mexico legislators blocked their governor’s attempt to impose one.


– Several other states, including Texas, Minnesota, Virginia, Colorado and Maryland rolled back testing mandates. So did many districts, led by Lee County, Florida.


– Opting out surged to record levels in New York, New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, Illinois and elsewhere. The national total approached 500,000.


– Polls show that large numbers of Americans agree that there is too much standardized testing and that it should not be used for high-stakes purposes.


– Three dozen colleges and universities eliminated or reduced admissions test requirements. The record test-optional growth means that more than 850 schools now offer such policies.


– Promising efforts to develop alternative systems of assessment and accountability are under way in California, New Hampshire and New York. All deemphasize standardized tests while incorporating multiple measures of school performance.


Ms. Guisbond concluded, “The movement’s growth and accomplishments are tremendously encouraging. But it’s far too early to declare victory and go home. Activists will use lessons learned from last year’s successes to expand and strengthen the testing resistance movement and ensure that policy makers go beyond lip service to implement meaningful assessment reforms.”

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report writes a scathing commentary on Arne Duncan and John King. 


Unlike his underqualified predecessor, John King is highly qualified to nail down the gains of educational privatizers. For the last ten months, King has been Arne Duncan’s deputy, and before that he headed the New York State Department of Education. Like Duncan, he’s never taught in or administered a public school in his life. King started out as a charter school teacher and administrator, and eventually headed a chain of charter schools with exceptionally onerous disciplinary policies.

As commissioner of NY State Department of Education King was instrumental in forcing Common Core, a standard curriculum developed by non-educators and corporate consultants from the Gates Foundation, the testing industry and others, upon parents and schools while his own children attended a local Montessori school, which of course did not administer standardized testing. In New York King distinguished himself as a thin-skinned, tone-deaf bully, insisting in the face of widespread public opposition that cutting recreation, music, literature and real teaching in favor of Common Core’s “teach to the test” and other “run-the-school-like-a-business” practices were good for children and good for education.

There are two pieces of good news here. The first is that the $4 billion in stimulus funds the administration had under Duncan to coerce states and school districts into compliance is gone, and provisions of the successor to No Child Left Behind, which of course will institutionalize as much of the privatization regime as possible, are not yet finalized. The second is that like Arne Duncan, John King is no charmer, no persuader, and no salesman. He’s an arrogant autocrat in a highly public, highly visible position, committed to enforcing a set of massively unpopular policies. There’s a serious political opportunity here to galvanize and make visible a movement of national resistance to the juggernaut of school privatization. The Obama administration is well aware of this, and is transparently seeking to buy time with empty declarations of intent to reduce emphasis on standardized testing.


Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker warns the state of Connecticut that it is wrong to require students in 11th grade to take the SAT  and to use it to evaluate teachers (in Hartford) and schools. Even the College Board says this is not a valid use of the SAT. The SAT is supposed to test college readiness, not whether students have learned what they were taught.

Lecker writes about a new study from the University of California that demonstrates the limitations of the SAT:

The study examined 1.1 million students from 1994-2011. It found that one-third of the variance of SAT scores could be explained by parental education, socio-economic status or status as a member of an underrepresented minority. By contrast, socio-economic factors accounted for only 7 percent of the variance in high school GPAs.
Even more stunning is that while in 1994, parental education was the strongest predictor of SAT scores, in the last four years of the study, status as a member of an underrepresented minority overtook both parental education and socio-economic status as the strongest predictor of SAT scores.

And while there is a racial gap in high school GPAs, that gap is not nearly as huge as the racial SAT gap. The study found, in ranking University of California applicants, Latinos and African-Americans comprised 60 percent of the lowest decile in SATs, but they comprised only 39 percent of the lowest decile in GPA. And while they comprised 12 percent of the top decile in GPA, they comprised only 5 percent of the top in SAT. Ranking by SAT score produces more severe racial/ethnic stratification than GPA.

The study also confirmed what three other large scale studies found: that the SAT is a poor predictor of college success.

The evidence showed that high school GPA is an accurate predictor of college completion, while the SAT is very weak.
This finding was especially true for students of color. When controlling for parental education and socio-economic status, the predictive power of the GPA increased — while the SAT’s predictive power got even weaker.

The SAT cannot determine whether a student is ready for college success. The SAT never professed to determine whether someone is “career-ready,” whatever that means.

But, as the study shows, the SAT has an adverse effect on racial minorities.So, while the SAT may be able to identify the demographic makeup of a school — and there are easier and cheaper ways to find that out — it cannot tell us a thing about the quality of the education that school provides.

If all the SAT will do is rank schools by race, why is Connecticut using it?


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