Archives for category: Testing

Yesterday, I posted about the plan by Massachusetts to strip teachers of their licenses if their evaluations were poor.

As it happened, the Massachusetts Teachers Association had already issued a forceful response to this misguided proposal. President Barbara Madeloni posted this as a comment on the blog. It was released on October 27:

MTA to BESE: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure?

In response to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s proposed changes to initial licensure and relicensure, MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester. More information and recommended actions are forthcoming.
October 27, 2014

To: Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education

From: Barbara Madeloni, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association
Janet Anderson, Vice President, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Re: Changes Proposed by DESE to initial licensure and relicensure

On Monday, October 20, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released proposed changes to requirements for both initial licensure and relicensure. A day later, the DESE held its first “town hall” hearing about these proposals. These hearings were facilitated by the Keystone Center, but DESE staff were present.

While there are many questions to ask about these proposals that would allow us to gain some clarity of meaning (e.g., what does “grit” mean as a requirement for initial licensure?), the primary question is: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight? We know of no other profession in which licensure is contingent on employment evaluation. More insidiously, the employment evaluations include student learning outcomes, thus connecting relicensure to student test scores.

“ How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight?”

We are asking the commissioner to rescind these recommendations in whole for the following reasons:

1. The DESE is advancing policy options that almost exclusively base license advancement and license renewal on the summative performance ratings in the educator evaluation framework and the student impact rating derived from MCAS growth scores and District-Determined Measures. This is a misuse of measures of student learning and is counter to the DESE’s own assertions about how student learning measures would be used.

2. As a professional organization representing approximately 80,000 licensed preK-12 practitioner-members, the MTA does not support either the design principles or the policy options outlined in this document. To connect licensure to evaluation is a serious breach of lines of authority and responsibility. The state’s determination of having met requirements to teach should not and cannot extend into performance on the job, which falls under the authority of school administrators. Further, linking performance evaluations to licensure puts all educators on notice: Be careful what you say and do or you risk not only your job, but also your ability to teach or administer in Massachusetts schools.

3. The MTA does not support short-track preparation programs that allow unqualified and underqualified individuals to enter classrooms as teachers of record without the requisite knowledge and skills to be “classroom ready” on day one. Too often, these underqualified individuals enter high-poverty, low-performing schools, thus contributing to existing achievement gaps and the inequitable distribution of highly effective practitioners.

4. The MTA decries the use of $550,000 in public funds to pay private vendors for this project. The process employed by these vendors shows little or no interest in engaging in meaningful dialogue about what is and is not effective in the current licensure and relicensure processes. Educators report that they have attended tightly controlled “town halls” in which the outcome seems predetermined and voices of dissent are not welcome. We need meaningful opportunities for input into the development of licensure regulations.

We urge the commissioner and the board in the strongest possible terms to heed the overwhelming opposition to these proposals from the people most directly affected and to act immediately to withdraw the policy options currently being considered.

Carol Burris, high school principal in Long Island, New York, writes here about the sudden shift in tone of the high-stakes testing cheerleaders.


Arne Duncan throws his support to the Beltway groups that say that there is too much testing and there should be less. Don’t believe it, writes Burris.


Of course, they hope to pacify and quiet the growing movement against high-stakes testing.


She writes:


Education Secretary Arne Duncan must believe that those “suburban moms” he talked about back in 2013 are an awfully gullible bunch. In response to continued pushback on testing, Duncan and the Council of Chief State School Officers are now saying that they, by golly, are against excessive standardized testing, too.

Duncan recently wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post in which he expressed support for a statement issued by the Council of Chief State School Officers along with the Council of Great City Schools saying that it was time to rethink standardized testing.

Readers may recall how Duncan characterized pushback on the Common Core as coming from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were” when he addressed the State Chiefs last year. His disdainful dismissal of the genuine concern of parents fueled the already growing anti-testing movement.



And more:


So now Mr. Duncan and the Chief State School Officers need to convince parents that they are listening, too. Their strategy is to say that “we are only for good tests, not the bad tests, and we will make all the bad tests go away.” It is disturbing that they believe that parents would not see through the ruse.

Parents are not protesting weekly spelling quizzes. The tests they do not like are the very tests that Duncan and the Chiefs want to save. In his recent op-ed, Duncan refers to “high-quality tests” as ones for which, “the Education Department has provided $360 million dollars.” The money went to two multi-state consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, designing new tests to align to the Common Core State Standards. All the while, both Duncan and the Chiefs were careful not to mention the Common Core in their statements. The Common Core is now their Voldermort–“he who cannot be named.” Instead they declare themselves the warriors of the bubble test, as though answering multiple-choice questions with a mouse is a game changer.

Perhaps the most bizarre declaration in favor of annual testing came from Louisiana’s Chief John White who said that it is “an absolutely essential element of assuring the civil rights of children in America.” Meanwhile, 40 of the 70 districts in White’s state are still under desegregation orders, having not achieved unitary status after more than 40 years. When the U.S. Justice Department sued Louisiana to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in schools under federal desegregation orders, John White characterized the order as “a little ridiculous.”. The heck with Brown v Board of Education—as long as kids have the civil right to be tested each year, social justice is served.


Imagine that! Kids don’t need desegregation, but testing is a “civil right”? Yes, he really said that.


Burris concludes that Duncan and the cheerleading Chiefs don’t believe in democratic control of schools. That’s why they love standardized testing. Teachers and principals can’t be trusted to do what is right for children.


And that really sums up the thinking of Duncan and his cheerleading Chiefs. Their distrust of public schools and the democratic control of schooling run deep. It colors every solution that they propose. They have no idea how to effect school improvement other than by making tests harder and making sticks bigger. When punishing the school did not work, it morphed into punish the teacher through evaluations based on test scores. The reality that no country has ever improved student learning using test and punish strategies is lost on those who refuse to address the greater social issues that we who do the work confront every day.
When one argues that testing 8-year-olds for nine hours is the way to give a child his civil rights, then moral authority is surely gone. The public knows it. Moms, of all colors and neighborhoods, are a heck of a lot smarter than Mr. Duncan and his reform supporters believe.








Bob Schaeffer of FAIRTEST summarizes the fast-moving events of the past week in the burgeoning movement to stop high-stakes testing:

An explosive week for the testing resistance and reform movement. Nationally, pressure is mounting on President Obama, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress to cut back on federal mandates which help drive standardized exam insanity. At the same time, grassroots campaigns are forcing local officials to overhaul the testing policies they control — today’s summary includes stories from 19 states as well as several excellent commentaries.

Revolt Against Common Core Testing Goes National

Eleven National Civil Rights Groups Urge Obama Administration to Drop Test-Based “Accountability”

Arne Duncan Blows Standardized Smoke

Does Arne Duncan Think “Suburban Moms” Are Really That Gullible?

California Moving Rapidly Toward Post-NCLB Accountability

What Are Delaware Schools Teaching? Test Prep

Florida State House Candidates Agree: Too Much Testing

Florida Should End School Testing Factory Driven By Extremist Ideologues

Chicago Schools Seek to Delay Start of New Illinois Common Core Tests

No One Wants to Give Illinois PARCC Test But Every Student Will Be Required to Take It

Indiana’s Failed School Grading Experiment

Feds Nix Kansas Plan to Reduce Testing

Massachusetts Teachers’ Head Testifies Against “Excessive and Corrosive Focus on Standardized Testing”

Parents, Educators Criticize Massachusetts School Testing Culture at Public Forum

Only One of Nebraska’s 248 School Districts Meets NCLB Standard

New Hampshire’s New Way to Assess Learning Could Reduce Standardized Testing

As Common Core Testing Draws Near, New Jersey Concerns Grow

New Mexico Parents Opt Children Out of Standardized Testing

New York Gov. Cuomo Pledges “Not to Use Common Core Test Scores For At Least Five Years . . .”

Local Education Leaders Give State School Board Failing Grades

Ohio Teachers Say High-Stakes Testing Leads to More Tests, Less Teaching

Parents Opt Kids Out of Ohio Testing Due to Pressure Anxiety

Oklahoma Wants Its “No Child Left Behind” Waiver Back

New Oklahoma Testing Company Leads to New Testing Problems

Why My Children Won’t Take Oregon’s Smarter Balanced Tests

Oregon Opt Outs Illustrate “Ludicrous” Testing System

Pearson May Lose Huge Texas Testing Contract

Owners of Texas-Based NCLB Tutoring Firm Plead Guilt to Fraud

Utah Super: Too Much Testing, Not Enough Assessment for Learning

West Virginia Tests Don’t Build Students’ Skills: Teachers Do

As Student Testing Mounts, Growing Chorus in Wisconsin Says It’s Too Much

Wisconsin Professor: Repeal NCLB to Improve Education

Students Are “More Than a Score” on Standardized Tests: Book Review

Are Common Core Standards and Tests Developmentally Appropriate? Experts Weigh In

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

Eleven national civil rights groups issued a joint statement to President Obama and Secretary Duncan calling for an end to the regime of test-based accountability.

Their statement was reminiscent of a similar one objecting to Race to the Top in 2010. At that time, Secretary Duncan did his best to bury the groups’ objections.

The statement was signed by:

Advancement Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign, National Urban League (NUL), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC), National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Their statement includes recommendations to improve the needed supports and services for children.

Number one is “1. Appropriate and equitable resources that ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement.”

Among the needed resources are:

“Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; and

Social, emotional, nutritional, and health services”

They write:

“The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.”

Anthony Cody recognizes that “reformers” are back-pedaling from test-test-test because 1) the results have been disappointing; and 2) the anti-testing backlash is turning into a mighty roar.

So, of course, they need a new paradigm that redefines accountability. In this post, Cody reviews the latest effort to make accountability palatable and concludes that any paradigm that preserves high-stakes testing will preserve the flaws and misguided incentives of the current system.

He writes that every effort to shift to a new paradigm is trapped in the stale thinking of the old paradigm:

“We are stuck in a model that says learning must be measured to be managed, and management is the overriding systemic imperative. This necessitates top-down systems, even as those systems are incapable of delivering the sort of change advocates insist upon….

“A truly new paradigm would invest confidence in students and teachers, rather than constantly require them to demonstrate their adherence to standards and predetermined curricula and assessments. A new paradigm would refocus our schools on the needs of local communities, and require educators to work closely with parents and community leaders to set goals and share evidence of student progress. Accountability invested in centralized authority is inherently top-down. New paradigm? Not there yet.”

Colorado released scores on its new tests in science and social studies, and the proportion of students labeled “college-reeady ” was disastrous. That is, if you expect  most students to graduate from high school and perhaps go to college.


Either the curriculum has been narrowed so much that students aren’t learning much science or math, or the tests were so hard that few students could pass it.


Officials said, as they always did, that they expected low scores. Any teacher whose class got such low scores would be rated “ineffective.”


Colorado has been in the firm grip of the corporate reform movement for a decade. Look at the results. Sad for the kids.


Colorado students scored dismally in new science and social studies test results released Monday, a sobering development as the state enters a new era of standards and tests meant to be more demanding.


Just 17 percent of Colorado fourth- and seventh-graders scored “strong” or “distinguished” in the state’s first social studies tests. That means those students are on track to be ready for college and career.


In science, 34 percent of fifth-graders and 32 percent of eighth-graders hit those marks in assessments given last spring.


The results are a test run for advocates of tougher standards and tests. Those supporters will face a similar situation — and possible backlash — after a larger round of tests this spring based on the politically divisive Common Core standards in math and language arts.


In portraying the social studies and science results, state officials were careful to emphasize two points — that the standards and tests are unique to Colorado, and low scores were anticipated.


And more:


To measure students’ mastery, the education department, educators and publishing giant Pearson Inc. developed new online tests, the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS.


The racial achievement gaps were stark in the results released Monday. In fifth-grade science, 13 percent of black and 15 percent of Latino students were strong or distinguished, compared to 46 percent of white students.


High-performing charter schools and district-run schools in affluent areas scored highly.


Districts in poor rural areas and close-in Denver suburbs posted the lowest scores. On average, just 6 percent of students in Commerce City-based Adams County School District 14 scored strong or distinguished on the tests.


In Denver Public Schools, 11 percent of fourth-graders and 12 percent of seventh-graders scored strong or distinguished in social studies. Twenty percent of fifth-graders and 22 percent of eight-graders did so in science.


“The results are not where we want them to be long-term,” said Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, DPS’ chief academic and innovation officer, adding they were not a surprise. “We obviously feel we have the opportunity to really grow and ensure deeper levels of command for students.”


Look at the bright side: There is lots of opportunity to grow when you are down so far. Rigor, rigor, rigor!





Thanks to Common Core and the federally-funded PARCC exams, children in Ohio schools will be tested 10 hours to demonstrate their proficiency or lack thereof. District superintendents say (as do parents and teachers and students), this is ridiculous!


While Arne Duncan is posting his benign views about testing–and how important it is to compare your child to children everywhere–in newspapers across the nation (so far, the same Duncan op-ed has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsday, and the Denver Post), those suffering under his test-centric, student-hostile regime are not happy about it.


Superintendent Jim Lloyd in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, said the amount of time required by PARCC testing was “an abomination.”


Avon Lake Superintendent Robert Scott agreed, saying that “the big bucks of testing companies, curriculum companies, and software companies” are clouding education debates with their own agendas.


He said: “High stakes testing is driven by a misunderstanding of how to motivate students and schools to achieve and/or maintain high academic results.”


Scott called the testing system a “(dis?)incentive program” that doesn’t help struggling schools and wastes the time of high-performing ones.”


Unlike Arne Duncan, who is not an educator and never taught, the district superintendents in Ohio recognize the disaster that Arne is now inflicting on the children of Ohio and the United States. Duncan will be remembered in the history books as a man who wrought harm on public education and the lives of children.


Count on Arne Duncan to speak out against testing while he mandates more and more of it. If you are a teacher and your students’ scores don’t go up, you will be fired. That’s federal policy. That makes standardized testing the measure of a teachers’ worth, not a reflection of the demographics in the classroom. If the teacher teaches students with special needs, the scores may not go up as much as they do for teachers in affluent suburbs. Teachers of English language learners are at a disadvantage. All of this has been proven again and again by researchers. But the news has never reached Arne Duncan.


In this post, Peter Greene says that when Arne Duncan joins the chorus of voices who are criticizing standardized testing, he is just blowing smoke. As usual. Watch what he does, not what he says. Just remember: he was for it before he was against it, and he was against it before he was for it. And the only reason children with disabilities get low scores is because their teachers have low expectations and they don’t take hard enough tests. And the goal of all education is for every student to take and pass Advanced Placement examinations.


Greene writes:



As soon as CCSSO and CGCS announced their non-plan to provide PR coverage for the high stakes test-and-punish status quo, Arne Duncan was there to throw his tooter on the bandwagon. On top of an official word salad on the subject, Arne popped up yesterday in the Washington Post.


There was a time when Duncan could be counted on to at least say the right thing before he went ahead and did the wrong thing. And I cannot fault his opening for the WaPo piece.


“As a parent, I want to know how my children are progressing in school each year. The more I know, the more I can help them build upon their strengths and interests and work on their weaknesses. The more I know, the better I can reinforce at home each night the hard work of their teachers during the school day.”


He’s absolutely correct here. It’s just that his words have nothing to do with the policies pursued by his Department of Education.

Duncan welcomes the stated intention “to examine their assessment systems, ensure that assessments are high-quality and cut back testing that doesn’t meet that bar or is redundant.”Duncan does not welcome an examination of the way in which standardized testing is driving actual education out of classrooms across America.


He makes his case for standardized testing here:


“Parents have a right to know how much their children are learning; teachers, schools and districts need to know how students are progressing; and policymakers must know where students are excelling, improving and struggling.”


As a case for standardized testing, this is wrong on all three points.


1) Parents do have a right to know how much their children are learning. And standardized tests are by far the least effective instruments for informing them. They are minute snapshots, providing little or no description of how students are growing and changing. Standardized tests measure one thing– how well students do on standardized tests.


2) Teachers, schools and districts need to know how students are doing. And if a teacher needs a standardized test to tell her how her students are doing, that teacher is a dope, and needs to get out of teaching immediately. I measure my students dozens of times every single week, collecting wide and varied “data” that informs my view of how each student is doing. A standardized test will tell me one thing– how that student does with a standardized test. If the school or district does not know whether they can trust my word or not about how the student is doing, the school and district are a dope. Standardized tests offer no useful information for this picture.


3) Explain, please, exactly why policymakers need to know how my third period class is doing on paragraph construction? Why do the bureaucrats in state and federal capitols need to know where students are “excelling, improving and struggling”? Is Congress planning to pass the “Clearer Lesson Plans About the Rise of American Critical Realism Act”? Are you suggesting that there are aides in the DOE standing by to help me write curriculum? Because I cannot for the life of me figure out why the policymakers (nice term, that, since it includes both the legislators who pass policy and the unelected suits who write it for them) need to have standardized results on every single kid in htis country.


Duncan follows this up with a reference to another of his pet theories– that students with learning disabilities just needed to be tested harder in order to fix their difficulties.


Duncan goes on to admit that “in some places” testing is eating up calendars and stressing students.


Policymakers at every level bear responsibility here — and that includes me and my department. We will support state and district leaders in taking on this issue and provide technical assistance to those who seek it.


In one sense, Duncan is correct. Policymakers at the state and local level bear responsibility for not telling the federal government to take its testing mandates and shove them where the NCLB-based money threats don’t shine. Duncan’s Department of Education bears responsibility for everything else.


This is the worst kind of weasel wording. This is the kid who sets fire to the neighbors house and then says to the kids who just tried to talk him out of it, “So, we’re all in this together, right?”


It was the Duncan/Obama Education Department that twisted every state’s arm up behind its ear and said, “If you want your Get Out Of NCLB Free Card, you will make testing the cornerstone of your education system.” Duncan does not get to pretend that this testing mania, this out of control testing monster, somehow just fell from the sky. “Gosh,” Duncan says and shrugs. “I guess there was just something in the water that year that made everybody just suddenly go crazypants on the testing thing. Guess we’ll all have to try harder, boys.”


No. No no no no. Testing mania is the direct mandated result of NCLB and its ugly stepsister RttT. It didn’t just happen. The federal government required it. And if Duncan really though this was an actual problem and not just a PR problem, he is the one guy who could wave his magic waiver wand and say, “My bad. Your waiver no longer requires you to test everything that moves and use the test results as the basis for all educational system judgments.”



Joseph A. Ricciotti, a former professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, wrote the following post:


One of the most alarming reports concerning the corporate education reform movement and the growth of Common Core in the country was published by Lee Fang in the Nation magazine. Fang’s report highlights how public education is now considered as the last “honeypot” for venture capitalists and Wall Street investors. Investors’ interest in public education as a money making venture was made crystal clear by attendance at the recent annual investment conference in Scottsdale, Arizona which skyrocketed from 370 people the previous year to over 2000 this year. Likewise, the number of companies presenting at the conference increased from 70 to 390, mostly technology companies. It is also no surprise that Jeb Bush, one of the leading advocates of Common Core in the country, was the keynote speaker at the conference. According to Fang, venture capitalists and for-profit education firms “are salivating over the potential 788 billion dollar K-12 education market.”

More and more politicians are learning that, based on the type of corporate reform education policies that they are espousing, these policies will more than likely also impact and lessen their chances of reelection. Take, for example, Governor Dannel Malloy in Connecticut and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago, two Democrats who will be seeking reelection in the near future. Both of these political leaders have chosen to advocate typical corporate education reform policies that are basically anti-teacher in nature and have implemented education policies such as advocating charter schools over traditional public schools. Not surprisingly, we may be in for some stunning upsets in the upcoming elections.

In Connecticut, Governor Malloy chose Stefan Pryor as his Commissioner of Education who is not an educator and who has had a history as a charter school advocate. Hence, as a result, we have seen in Connecticut an unprecedented growth of Charter Schools over the past four years with dismal results as well as scandals involving some of their leaders. The appointment of Paul Vallas in Bridgeport as superintendent was another fiasco.


Pryor’s abrupt resignation with no appointment of a replacement in the cards until after the election does not bode well for any indication of change in Malloy’s corporate education policies. Moreover, Malloy may have dug himself into a hole based on the most recent poles and could face extinction come the November election.

Rahm Emmanuel’s actions in closing fifty of Chicago’s public schools has been the catalyst in generating numerous protests from parents and teachers. His battles with the head of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Karen Lewis, may have resulted in a challenge emanating from the CTU against Rahm Emmanuel for the mayoral seat in the next election. The many protests in Chicago are conveying a message to Rahm Emmanuel that, although he is the mayor, he is not really the leader of the people in Chicago as the protestors themselves are the real leaders. As Naomi Klein has said as an outgrowth of the recent climate change march in New York City, when the leaders refuse to take the appropriate action, the people will become the leaders and take whatever action is needed to bring about necessary change.

This is what is happening today with accountability- based reform or a better term is corporate education reform. These policies throughout the country and especially with the less affluent children in urban schools where the Common Core State Standards are being implemented we find that parents are seething with discontent as they observe and witness the massive failure rate of their children on Common Core tests. As more and more Common Core tests are administered with massive numbers of children failing these tests, there will be a revolution that may serve as the catalyst for change.

Unfortunately, teachers cannot be a part of the Common Core revolt as any dissatisfaction or criticism on their part could be construed as insubordination with possible loss of employment. Hence, the parents of students in public schools will have to be the ones leading the revolt. We have in public education today many non-educators with leadership positions who place the interests of Wall Street and the Corporate sector above the interests of students. And, unfortunately, the corporate reform industry has a stronghold in Connecticut as an outgrowth of Governor Malloy and Stefan Pryor’s corporate reform policies. However, according to Diane Ravitch, author of best selling “Reign of Error,” the corporate education reformists may have all the money but we have the teachers and parents and “we will win” the battle for public education.

Jaime Franchi of the Long Island Press provides here a succinct and accurate summary of the first ever Public Education Nation. The event was held on October 11 at the Brooklyn New School, a public school where 80% of the students opted out of state testing.


The discussions were lively and included people who were watching on live stream. This is the first of what we hope to make an annual event. We is the Network for Public Education.


Go to the website and  you can join (oops, I see it has not been updated to include links to the panels yet). Keep watching and you will be able to see our great presenters.


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