Archives for category: Testing

Steve Nelson, head of a progressive private school in Néw York City, writes vividly and cogently about the inevitable failure of so-called reform.

The corporate reforms fail because they are built on extrinsic motivation, that is, a regime of carrots and sticks to drive teachers and students to comply with reformers’ demands.

Extrinsic methods tend to depress motivation. People resent being compelled, and they lose the desire to do what they would have willingly done without the whip hand over them.

Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, brings out the best in people.

Nelson writes:

“Intrinsic motivation is driven by factors that emanate from within: Self-satisfaction, desire for mastery, curiosity, fulfillment, pleasure, self-realization, desire for independence, ethical needs, etc. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful innate characteristic of all humans, across cultures and societies. Anyone with children or working with children observes the natural intrinsic motivation of young children – a nearly insatiable curiosity, drive to explore, and desire for mastery.

“A considerable body of research confirms that intrinsic motivation is more powerful, long lasting and important. But intrinsic motivation steadily declines from 3rd grade until 8th or 9th grade as extrinsic structures dramatically increase. The stakes get higher. Tests increase in frequency and duration. Expectations around college and achievement ratchet up. Grade point averages, honor roles, valedictorians, salutatorians, class ranks, honor societies . . . all of these forms of extrinsic motivation are ubiquitous.”

As Jerome Bruner points out, “learning becomes steadily de-contextualized as children move from grade to grade. As school becomes more controlled, more about instruction than exploration, more about abstraction than experience, children’s natural intrinsic motivation declines. The learning is unrelated to their lives. Why would they care?”

Nelson concludes:

“Students and teachers are being subjected to increasingly punitive extrinsic structures: Scores, grades, evaluations, assessments, punishments, discipline, rigidity, standardization, absence of context, divorced from individual experience.
All the factors that stimulate and perpetuate intrinsic motivation are disappearing.

“To say education reform has it wrong is a monumental understatement. Policy makers and educational reformers seem hell bent on beating students and their teachers until their morale improves.

“That’s just stupid.”

Fairtest is the leading organization fighting the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. If you read these stories, you will get a strong sense that the tide is turning against test mania, a disease that afflicts politicians, some economists, and certain think tanks.

“The U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in responding to growing, grassroots pressure by voting to overhaul “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The bills passed by both the Senate and House reflect widespread rejection of failed top-down, test-and-punish strategies as well as the “NCLB on steroids” waiver regime dictated by Arne Duncan. While neither version is close to perfect from an assessment reform perspective, each makes significant progress by rolling back federally mandated high-stakes, eliminating requirements to evaluate educators based on student test scores, and recognizing opt-out rights. FairTest and its allies will closely monitor the conference committee working on compromise language to make sure the gains remain in the final bill sent to President Obama — the alternative is to keep the yoke of NCLB-and-waivers in place for at least two more years, if not much longer. Meanwhile, organizers in many states are keeping the spotlight on the problems of test overuse and misuse, modeling better practices and winning additional policy victories.”

Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at: http://fairtest.org/news/other

National End High-Stakes Testing to Help Fix Public Education: Key Civil Rights Leader
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/247770-fix-public-education-end-high-stakes-testing-pass-esea

National U.S. Senate Rejects Proposal to Give Federal Government More Say in Identifying “Failing” Schools
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/senate-rejects-effort-to-give-feds-more-say-in-identifying-failing-schools/2015/07/15/f6ad9ba2-2a6b-11e5-a5ea-cf74396e59ec_story.html

National Both House and Senate NCLB Overhaul Bills Allow for Penalty-Free Test Opt Out
https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/both-house-and-senate-esea-bills-allow-for-opt-out-without-penalty/

National “Race to the Top:” Lofty Promises and Top-Down Regulation Brought Few Good Changes to America’s Schools
http://educationnext.org/lofty-promises-little-change-americas-schools/

California Exit Exam on Way Out
http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_ee092084-2cfa-11e5-98d3-fbf7e03679c0.html

Colorado Two Small Districts Set Opt Out Records
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/20/two-small-districts-set-the-record-for-opting-out/#.Va1_rZdLUZw

Connecticut Opposition Coalesces Against Smarter Balanced Tests
http://www.newmilfordspectrum.com/news/article/Opposition-coelesces-regarding-school-testing-6393921.php

Delaware Governor Vetoes Opt-Out Bill; State PTA Pushed for Override Vote
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2015/07/16/markell-vetoes-testing-opt-bill/30243869/

Georgia More than 10,000 Young People Who Did Not Pass Grad. Test Recently Received Diplomas
http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2015-07-17/story/georgia-hands-diplomas-more-10000-people-who-couldnt-pass-high-school

Hawaii Teachers Fight Evaluations Based on Student Test Scores
http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/07/she-fought-hawaiis-new-way-of-evaluating-teachers-and-won/

Illinois Why Common Core Tests Are Harmful to Students
http://dianeravitch.net/2015/07/20/gerri-k-songer-explains-why-common-core-tests-are-actually-harmful-to-students/

Iowa Third-Grade Promotion Test Pushes Reading Down Into Kindergarten
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2015/04/20/early-reading-education-reform/26100783/

Louisiana Fight to Make Charter School Disclose What Test It Uses for Kindergarten Entry
http://hechingerreport.org/when-a-top-nola-charter-wont-reveal-its-admission-test-for-kindergarten/

Minnesota Test Cuts Came After Thorough Debate
http://www.startribune.com/editorial-counterpoint-school-testing-cuts-were-fully-debated/316368021/

Missouri Exam Scores Don’t Tell Full Story of Teacher Preparedness
http://www.examiner.net/article/20150715/OPINION/150719341/-1/sports

Ohio Time Allocated to New State Tests Cut in Half
http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/07/ohios_common_core_math_and_english_tests_will_be_cut_to_3_hours_each.html

Nevada After Testing System Breakdown, State to Hire New Assessment Vendor
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2015/07/after_testing_problems_nevada_set_to_hire_new_assessment_vendor.html

New Hampshire Schools Can Replace Smarter Balanced Tests with ACT or SAT
http://nhpr.org/post/nh-schools-can-replace-smarter-balanced-test-sat-and-act

New Jersey Be Wary of New State Teacher Ratings
http://www.app.com/story/opinion/2015/07/17/teacher-ratings/30307937/

New Mexico Court Rejects Suit Seeking to Strip Pearson’s Common Core Testing Contract
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/marketplacek12/2015/07/court_hands_major_victory_to_parcc_pearson_in_challenge_by_vendor.html

New York High School Models Authentic Assessment
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/07/17/nyc-high-school-strives-for-authentic-assessment.html
New York Opt Out Movement Plans to Ratchet Up Actions Against Standardized Exam Overkill
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/238624/opt-outers-will-continue-to-protest-tests/
New York Pending NCLB Overhaul Offers Hope to Reduce State’s Testing Obsession
http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/2015/07/17/hope-reduce-testing-obsession-nclb/30290533/

North Carolina State’s Largest District Cuts Back Local Test Mandates
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article27865318.html
North Carolina Cautions About Test-Score-Based Teacher Pay
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/chapel-hill-news/chn-opinion/article27512254.html

Oregon Students Can Meet Graduation Requirement with Work Samples in Their Home Language
http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2015/07/oregon_students_can_qualify_fo.html

Pennsylvania Questions Mount About Using Volatile Test Results to Evaluate Teachers and Schools
http://thenotebook.org/blog/158810/educators-pennsylvania-pssa-test-score-plunge
Pennsylvania Teachers to School Board: Standardized Testing is Harming Students
http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/cocalico-teachers-to-school-board-standardized-testing-is-harming-students/article_dc32651c-2e4b-11e5-803e-0be9cdf1e4bc.html

Rhode Island What Tests Like PARCC Do Not Measure
http://www.golocalprov.com/news/guest-mindsetter-joel-hellmann-what-parcc-doesnt-measure

Tennessee Teachers School Governor on Testing and Evaluations
http://tn.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/16/tennessee-teachers-school-haslam-on-testing-evaluations-during-first-teachers-cabinet-meeting/#.VahPb5dLUZw
Tennessee Local School Board to Take Up Opt Out Resolution
http://springhillhomepage.com/wcs-board-delays-talks-on-over-testing-cms-4594

Texas New Test Leading Fewer to Get GEDs
https://www.texastribune.org/2015/07/14/education-advocates-say-new-computer-based-ged-too/

Washington State Testing Revolt Pushes State Into Uncharted Waters
http://wutc.org/post/testing-revolt-washington-state-brings-feds-uncharted-waters
Washington Over-Testing is a Flawed Strategy
http://www.dailyrecordnews.com/familyandeducation/is-there-too-much-testing/article_15326290-2cdf-11e5-b9a9-637e48088a15.html

“How Many Tests Can a Child Withstand?” — with apologies to Bob Dylan
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/14/with-apologies-to-bob-dylan-a-song-how-many-tests-must-a-child-withstandbefore-we-can-kill-this-scam/

The Beatings in Education Will Continue Until Morale Improves
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-nelson/the-beatings-will-continu_b_7795784.html

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Gerri K. Songer, a literacy specialist in Illinois, here explains what is wrong with the Common Core tests:

 

 

 

I was asked by my EA President and the Superintendent of IL HS Township Dist. 214 to review Smarter Balanced, ACT, SAT, and PARCC. The following is a portion of my review:

 

“In terms of text complexity, ACT, SAT, and PARCC all use excessively high level text. PARCC is by far the worst assessment for many reasons, some of them including the use of multiple passages between which comparisons and contrasts are made; finite detail-oriented questions; and multi-step cognitive analysis. Yet, the ACT disseminated last March resembled PARCC in reading and mathematics, with the exception of multiple passage comparison/contrast. If the agenda of both ACT and SAT is to become more like PARCC, then one, in essence, wouldn’t be any better than another.

 

I’m still going through the SAT materials, so I’m not able to make any conclusions about this assessment yet. I don’t see anything strikingly different in Smarter Balanced, other than the listening portion of this assessment. Like PARCC, it contains multi-passage comparison/contrast, but at least the text used in these comparisons is shorter. Text is still excessively high. One significant difference ACT has over other assessments is the use of the following scaffolding: http://www.act.org/standard/planact/english/index.html This format is easier for teachers to work with, and it helps them target individual skills on which to focus in different level courses and grade levels.

 

There is no research I have come across that supports the use of archaic vocabulary used in primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence to “level the playing field” in terms of comprehension. In fact, research supports the opposite. The single most important component of reading comprehension is background knowledge. Even when students cannot understand vocabulary terms used in a reading passage, they can still glean meaning from text using context to compensate for words they don’t understand.

 

Using archaic vocabulary only favors high achieving, high socio-economic students who have the fortitude and patience to weed through confusing, complex, and unfamiliar text. To understand this from the students’ point of view, I have to ask myself, how intelligent would I appear if I were assessed using text written in Spanish? I know some Spanish, but I’m not fluent in it, and such an assessment certainly wouldn’t appropriately or adequately assess my ability to compare, contrast, synthesize, apply, etc., information for purpose of extracting meaning.

 

Not only do these assessments not assess what they claim to assess, but I’m also convinced, based on brain research, they are actually harmful to students. The brain only has so much neural support. If the brain is trained through repetition to narrow this neural support to a specific region of the brain, then neural activity will supply less support, or perhaps no longer support, other very important areas of the brain, specifically those areas allowing for the ability to think conceptually and creatively.

 

Ray Charles was born with sight, but lost his sight early on in his childhood. Once he lost his sight, his senses of hearing and touch became more acute. This happened because neural activity once supporting sight was redirected to support other senses – hearing and touch. Without sight, there was no need for neural activity in this region of the brain, so neurons travelled to other areas that did need support. Fortunately, genius for Ray Charles evolved through his auditory modality in the form of musical, artistic expression.

 

It is exceedingly concerning that our assessment practices could likely be obstructing the natural development of human thought processes, and my heartfelt message is that this isn’t a question of what test is better or worse – this is an issue of morality and calls for careful consideration as to what we as educators are doing to our students in our effort to neatly package their performance into statistical boxes that are misleading, at best, and that lie, at worst. We are using quantitative assessment to evaluate qualitative data – it simply cannot be done. We, as mature adults, are far more advanced than what our cognitive abilities indicated as adolescents.

 

Unfortunately, government is dictating educational practice, but perhaps it’s time to evaluate the government’s ability to determine what sound educational practice is. The original intent behind the use of standardized assessment was a noble one, but it has spun out of control, and current research suggests it may actually be detrimental to student learning and damaging to the neurology of the brain.

 

My best advice is to “take the path less traveled by;” Robert Frost claims it “made all the difference.”

 

I’ve always believed students were the educators top priority, even if this means making very difficult decisions with which many may disagree. Funding is not a priority if it comes at the expense of our students’ well-being. They are in our care, and we, as adults and as educators, are supposed to know and do what is “educationally” sound for them.

 

We make mistakes, we learn from them, and then we adjust accordingly. We aren’t perfect, but when there is strong evidence indicating our assessment practices are very likely damaging to the natural development of neural activity in the human brain, we should stop what we are doing until this evidence is analyzed through appropriate research. My bet is this could be as simple as speaking with doctors specializing in the neurology of the brain.”

In this post, EduShyster includes an actual, genuine report card received by a fifth-grade student in Massachusetts, whom she calls “Ginny.”

 

You must see it to believe it.

 

The report card has room for grades in history and social studies, but the spaces are blank. No time for such arcane stuff.

 

EduShyster checks the history framework for fifth-graders. It is ambitious. But the student was not exposed to any of it.

 

Now I can guess what you’re thinking—does Ginny really need to learn any of this old timey stuff anyway, since she can just look it up on her phone when she gets to college? Also, maps are SO over as we have GPS now, and by the time Ginny learns to drive her car will drive itself. Also, also, democracy seems to be on its way out anyway, so far better that Ginny devote her time to practice choosing between some predetermined choices.

 

Is this how we prepare our future citizens?

 

 

 

 

A large coalition of grassroots groups and civil rights organizations wrote a powerful letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate and every member of the Senate expressing their views about what should–and should not–be in the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

 

This is how their letter begins:

 

The Journey for Justice Alliance, an alliance of 38 organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states, joins with the 175 other national and local grassroots community, youth and civil rights organizations signed on below, to call on the U.S. Congress to pass an ESEA reauthorization without requiring the regime of oppressive, high stakes, standardized testing and sanctions that have recently been promoted as civil rights provisions within ESEA.

 

We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools. We live in the communities where these schools exist. What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement. It’s destruction.

 

Black and Latino families want world class public schools for our children, just as white and affluent families do. We want quality and stability. We want a varied and rich curriculum in our schools. We don’t want them closed or privatized. We want to spend our days learning, creating and debating, not preparing for test after test….

 

The letter points out that the children of Chicago will have taken 180 standardized tests by the end of eighth grade. This is not education.

 

We want balanced assessments, such as oral exams, portfolios, daily check-ins and teacher created assessment tools—all of which are used at the University of Chicago Lab School, where President Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have sent their children to be educated. For us, civil rights are about access to schools all our children deserve. Are our children less worthy?

 

High stakes standardized tests have been proven to harm Black and Brown children, adults, schools and communities. Curriculum is narrowed. Their results purport to show that our children are failures. They also claim to show that our schools are failures, leading to closures or wholesale dismissal of staff. Children in low income communities lose important relationships with caring adults when this happens. Other good schools are destabilized as they receive hundreds of children from closed schools. Large proportions of Black teachers lose their jobs in this process, because it is Black teachers who are often drawn to commit their skills and energies to Black children. Standardized testing, whether intentionally or not, has negatively impacted the Black middle class, because they are the teachers, lunchroom workers, teacher aides, counselors, security staff and custodians who are fired when schools close.

 

Standardized tests are used as the reason why voting rights are removed from Black and Brown voters—a civil right every bit as important as education. Our schools and school districts are regularly judged to be failures—and then stripped of local control through the appointment of state takeover authorities that eliminate democratic process and our local voice—and have yet so far largely failed to actually improve the quality of education our children receive….

 

They don’t just complain. They have clear solutions that Congress could enact if it had the will.

 

First, there are 5000 community schools in America today, providing an array of wrap around services and after school programs to children and their families. These community schools serve over 5 million children, and we want to double that number and intensify the effort. We are calling for a significant investment in creating thousands more sustainable community schools. They provide a curriculum that is engaging, relevant and challenging, supports for quality teaching and not standardized testing, wrap-around supports for every child, a student centered culture and finally, transformative parent and community engagement. We call on the federal government to provide $1 billion toward that goal, and we are asking our local governments to decrease the high stakes standardized testing with its expensive test prep programs and divert those funds into resourcing more sustainable community schools.
Second, we want to include restorative justice and positive approaches to discipline in all of our sustainable community schools, so we are calling on the federal government to provide $500 million for restorative justice coordinators and training in all of our sustainable community schools.
Third, to finally move toward fully resourcing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we call on the federal government to provide $20 billion this year for the schools that serve the most low income students, and more in future years until we finally reach the 40% increase in funding for poor schools that the Act originally envisioned.
Finally, we ask for a moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program, which has pumped over $3 billion into new charter schools, many of which have already closed, or have failed the students drawn to them by the illusive promise of quality. We want the resources that all our schools deserve – we don’t need more schools. We need better ones.
So now we are prepared to say, clearly, that we will take nothing less than the schools our children deserve. It will cost some money to support them, but that’s okay, because we have billionaires and hedge funders in this country who have never paid the tax rates that the rest of us pay. We are a rich country, and we can afford some world class community schools.

 

 

 

This was posted recently as a comment on the blog by Mamie Krupsczak Allegretti:

 

 

Both my husband and I are teachers in New York. He teaches high school English, and I teach French. We are both concerned about the state of education now, and I am actively taking steps to change my career after 23 years in teaching.

 

Let’s make no mistake about the situation. The move toward privatization of public education, the destruction of unions, and the loss of our democracy is well underway. I personally feel that the only way teachers, administrators, and parents can counter this is by refusing to participate in Common core tests and any tests that are used to evaluate a teacher’s performance. Teachers are now giving pretests in the beginning of the year knowing that students will fail because they have not yet learned the material! This is absurd, not to mention immoral and unethical. We are losing our common sense. Teachers are being evaluated by student performance on tests and those tests are in NO WAY reflective of what students have done in class.

 

For example, some teachers’ evaluations are based on how students do on a 15 minute computerized test–a test that does not count for the students! It’s not a test grade; it’s not a graduation requirement; it’s not a Regents exam. It’s an exercise that serves as a referendum on an individual teacher’s ability. Furthermore, the subject matter of the test is peripheral to the subject matter of the classroom. Many kids know this; therefore, instead of taking it seriously, they tap the keys and answer carelessly. Is this logical? Does this make sense? Would any businessman accept this evaluation system? In addition, I think parents and the public would be shocked to know how much time has been wasted on policies and plans that pop up and then are changed months later. I have worked countless hours on preparing items and then watched as the school discarded my work. Wouldn’t my time have been used better to create great lessons for students or helping them? There is no plan, no vision.

 

The two pillars of this “reform” movement are corporate greed and misogyny. I say misogyny because in NY over 70% of teachers are women, and the teaching profession is dominated by women. Our NYS union NYSUT is headed by a woman, and recent NYSUT pictures show a child saying, “Gov. Cuomo you’re breaking our hearts.” This kind of appeal will not work to influence men. Men are influenced by ACTION, not by appeals from children. Example: In basketball, Coach Dean Smith installed the four corners offense. Instead of shooting the ball, he would have his players dribble for minutes on end. He did this because he knew the game needed a shot clock, and this was the action he took within the rules of the game to bring it about. This is why I say that we need to refuse the tests. It is ACTION we need in the actual academic arena to bring about change! And teachers, if you’re concerned about losing your job for speaking out, it may happen anyway if the Governor gets his new teacher evaluation plan through the legislature! If you happen to be a teacher who has been around for a while and earn “too much” money, you’d better worry.

 

In the beginning of this post, I said I was actively seeking a new career after 23 years in teaching. Why? First, the stress of day-to-day teaching. People think teaching is easy. Try being with children all day -some of whom are disruptive, disrespectful, and not motivated. Try helping students who haven’t eaten, slept or been loved by their families. Try listening to their stories of abuse, poverty, and helplessness. It takes a toll on you. Second, I’m tired of the loss of respect and professionalism that teachers have suffered. We are losing control of our classrooms, our creativity, and our independence. We are now at the mercy of administrators, politicians and billionaires who are creating curricula, assessments, and evaluation plans for financial gain. Mostly, I am saddened at the diminishment of intellectual curiosity and joy in learning that is pervasive in our culture today. None of the “reforms” currently suggested will positively influence this. Thank you for this forum, and thank you Diane Ravitch for your cogent arguments and your advocacy.

An email arrived from a woman of Hispanic origin. It speaks for itself:

 

I am a big fan of your blog. It is so insightful and relevant to what is happening with our educational system. I am a teacher candidate and I am so discouraged by the edTPA. I recently received my master’s degree in special education with a 3.475 grade point average and passed the EAS, ALST, Multi-Content Specialty Exams (which are 3 tests ELA, Math, Science) and CST Disabilities. But I can’t get my license because I can’t pass the edTPA. I have completely exhausted all my funds and can’t afford to take the safety-net ATS-W exam. I put my life on the line to enter a profession in which I am strongly pushed out of. I really enjoyed my student teaching and found it very challenging to work in an under served public school. I taught students who were homeless, in foster care or whose parents were incarcerated. The assistant principal commented how well the students responded to me and were actually upset when I left. After much thought and informal interviews conducted with my students, I discovered why they responded so well to me. I looked like them.

 

In public schools we push so hard for these students to rise from their neighborhoods and succeed in life. But this is why they don’t believe this goal can be achieved; they don’t see anyone who looks like them actually make it out of the neighborhood. All they know is that if they become an athlete or rapper they can get out of their neighborhood because those are the only role models they are provided with. When they go to school, they do not see any African-American or Hispanic teachers and because of that they cannot fathom the idea of continuing their education to college. With tests like edTPA and the rising costs of the NYSTCE exams, minorities are further pushed out of this profession. After student teaching for 4 months without pay and using what little funds I had on expensive exams, I was brought to financial ruin and nearly lost my house to foreclosure. No career path should bring you to economic ruin.

 

Not only did Pearson break my wallet they also broke my spirit. As much as I loved teaching, I don’t feel welcomed by the teaching profession. I tried applying for vouchers, but I did not qualify. The questions on the teaching exams are not biased. But when you make testing unaffordable and only certain kinds of people can afford them, that is when it becomes bias! NYS, I read your message loud and clear. You clearly don’t want me in this profession. No job should raise the requirements to a level that is almost unattainable and not have a salary to compensate for it. The state wants me to complete edTPA, which is like the bar exam for lawyers. However when lawyers pass the bar, they are offered jobs that pay from $80,000-$167,000 a year while teachers’ starting salaries range from $47,000-$72,000. If NYS wants teachers to become more professional, they should pay like one. Sorry for my rant but I felt you would understand my frustrations. No one else seems to agree with me. All I find on the internet is how great they think the edTPA is and how easy it was for them to pass and that all scorers are qualified certified teachers. Just because you are a certified teacher hired by Pearson does not mean you are a highly effective teacher. How do I know that the teachers scoring edTPA are highly effective teachers? This seems to be the question of the day and my dilemma.

 

Sincerely from a teacher candidate who will never become certified and have a MsED but can’t teach,

Laura H. Chapman, a frequent contributor to the blog, raises some important points about Common Core test and its reach into kindergarten and into the future:

 

 

You should be aware that PARCC tests are in the works for Kindergarten. They are called “formative tasks.” They are more accurately labeled “Tests for Tykes. You can find a draft of the exam for reading informational text as called for in the Common Core category at http://parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20DRAFT%20K-1%20Prototype%20ELA%20K_Reading_Spring_Informational%20Texts.pdf

 

The test is completely embedded in fully scripted lessons for the teacher. Judging from the reproducible worksheets designed for students, the test makers seem to assume that by the Spring of the school year, Kindergarten students will have learned, or been taught, to write complete sentences (with the proper heights of letters). They will also know how to color in a drawing of a fish. All of the questions are based on one “informational text” about fish. Additional plans are in the works for at least three more kindergarten tests, all of them called “formative tasks.”

 

There is a real mazy-hazy problem with retrieving trustworthy information about testing materials on line. For example “parcc.pearson.com” seems to be as authoritative as “parcconline.org/parcc-assessment‎. Then there is parcconline.org where you will find 194 pages of information prepared in 2012 by Achieve, Inc. and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, the latter an organization lead by Sir Michael Barber, of Great Britain, and also the chief education advisor to Pearson. The lines bewteen the federally financed tests developed by PARCC and Pearson’s pursuit of profits is not at all clear.

 

Readers should know that parcc.com has test-prep materials for kindergarten math. They are called “games” and they are the product of a cartoon company in Great Britain, complete with audios in a British accent http://parccgames.com/?page_id=25 . The bottom of the page on the games website says: “This site is intended to match students and teachers with the most effective games for reinforcing Common Core curriculum.” Of course, there is no single curriculum for the Common Core.

 

At http://www.corecommonstandards.com/common-core/kindergarten-common-core-workbooks, you can find three “Common Core Assessment Workbooks” —test prep materials for Kindergarten, I kid you not. Another version of test prep for Kindergartener is discussed by a master educator who has a personal stake in the test-em-til-they drop ethos created by federal and state policies. Go to http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/11/26/my-daughters-kindergarten-common-core-math-workbook/

 

Not to be outdone by the PARCC tests, and CCSS, The Maryland State Department of Education, has PreKindergarten Common Core standards!!! These “specify the mathematics that all students should study as they begin preparing to be college and career ready by graduation.“ The language in these extrapolated standards is so exotic that the writers of the publication had to color-code the language in the standards. See http://mdk12.org/share/frameworks/CCSC_Math_grpk.pdf

 

So there are more Common Core tests in the works, Kindergarten and perhaps preschool, multiple tests, every year. They are coupled with a cockamamie idea that the Common Core Standards and associated tests are perfect predictors and guarantors of college and career readiness of children in grades K-12, who may survive the testing regime and graduate in 2025-2028…Meanwhile a new Cngress is uncertain whether to say “college OR career,” or “colege AND career.”

 

The promoters of this belief system and agenda for public schools seem to think that this generation should be locked in a time capsule of ideas and tests. This frozen–in-time agenda for American education has been embedded in federal and state legislation as if to say: There are no paths to useful and rewarding work and the good life, except as set forth in the first decade of this century when these standards were written. The writers said, in effect, there is no need for educators, or parents, or students to think about what life offers and may require beyond passing these tests, getting a job, and going to college. Pathetic.

 

This is the awful mind-trap that has been set for this generation. Parents and teachers who will not comply with these tests know that the test scores are not 100% faithful and true predictors of life outcomes. For having this warranted knowledge and wisdom, they are being threatened by the purveyors of the non-sense.

 

Parents who are lawyers or who have access to legal help may want to look at whether districts are in full compliance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, and especially with COPPA—the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, not the US Department of Education.
The primary goal of COPPA is to allow parents to have control over what information is collected online “from their children” under age 13.

 

The FTC “consumer protection office” appears to be getting a batch of questions about the PARCC/Pearson relationship and specifically the on-line testing environment where Pearson—a commercial contractor—is empowered to get personal information from tests and social media websites.

 

You will find a lively discussion there, along with a clear indication that this matter is just now beginning to show up on the radar screen of a lot of people, especially those who say that parents have no legal right to opt-out. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2015/01/testing-testing-review-session-coppa-schools

In displaying readiness for college, grade point average matters more than a score on a college admissions test like SAT or ACT. Even the testing companies acknowledge that this is the case. But they are businesses, and they compete with one another for numbers and dollars. So they are always on the lookout for new avenues by which to serve their customers (the colleges, not the students).

 

The ACT, Mercedes Schneider reports, will offer a new service to colleges (not to students). It will not only test the student, but it will give the college confidential advice about his or her readiness, based on subtest scores. This information will go to the college, but not to the student.

 

Schneider writes:

 

Thus, ACT is intentionally shifting its role from reporting test scores to advising postsecondary institutions regarding admissions decisions.

There’s more:

Students will not be privy to the advice ACT is offering regarding ACT’s predictions of student success. None of this info will be part of the student score report. Such info will be between ACT and postsecondary institutions.

And not only does ACT believe it has a right to both form and communicate its opinions of student success to colleges and universities; ACT is fine with forming some of its judgments based upon unverified, volunteered student self-report information.

 

So, get this. The students pay to be tested; ACT reports the results to the students and to colleges. But then ACT gives the colleges information about the students and recommends whether or not they should be accepted. This advice is not shared with the students who paid to be tested.

 

Does this strike you as outrageous? ACT is not your guidance counselor. What nerve!

Jeannie Kaplan discovers that Denver ranks #1 on a scorecard compiled by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, an outpost of corporate reform.

 

Denver has faithfully complied with most elements of the reformster agenda, but what has its compliance done for Denver students, she asks.

 

And she answers: nothing.

She writes:

“Way back in 1972 there was a committee whose acronym was CRP. CRP stood for Committee to Re-elect the President, who at the time was Richard M. Nixon. Because CRP became integrally involved in some creepy activities including Watergate, its acronym morphed into CREEP. A creepy committee funding some CREEPy goings on. (On a personal note, I worked at CBS News in Washington, D.C. during this time. While I thought some of the activities were CREEPy, I loved the political intrigue).

“Fast forward to 2015 and my continuing involvement with Denver Public Schools. Another creepy organization has touched my life: Center on Reinventing Public Education or (another) CRPE, a University of Washington research center funded in part by Bill and Melinda Gates. It turns out this creepy organization has provided the blueprint for all that is happening and has happened in DPS over the last ten years.

“This creepy CRPE has tried to lead us to believe that a business portfolio strategy can somehow be successful in the public education world. Strategies and phrases such as “risk management,” “assets,” “portfolio rebalancing and managing,” “ridding yourself of portfolio low performers,” “monoploy” dominate the conversations with these folks. And because DPS has been so successful and diligent in adopting these elements it has finally, finally, reached the top of a reformy chart. The problem with this achievement is that it only represents success as it relates to implementation of some convoluted business strategy.

“Remember, a portfolio strategy requires constant churn, for the investor is always ridding his portfolio of low-performing stocks while looking for higher performing ones. This may be a good strategy for business, but schools, children, families and teachers are not stocks and bonds. They should not be treated as such.

“And so far implementation of this strategy has had virtually no impact on improving educational opportunities or outcomes for Denver’s children. So after being national exemplars for choice (or as I like to call it chaos), funding, talent (see here and here for Chalkbeat’s take) and accountability, Denver Public Schools still shows no growth in 2014 standardized tests. Proficiencies across the district slog along at 57% for reading, 47% for math, and 44% for writing with achievement gaps increasing in each subject. Even with a slight increase ACT scores are still only 18.4 (a 26 is needed to enter the University of Colorado) and the overall graduation rate is still at only 62.8%. Sadly, even after ten years, DPS has failed to transfer implementation into outcomes.”

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