Archives for category: Testing

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He sees right through the Obama education policy and recognizes that it is a continuation of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind.

 

In this astonishingly candid interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rep. Grijalva lacerates Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the other features of the Obama education policy.

 

Rep. Grijalva recognizes that the Obama program is now driven by financial interests:

 

Obama’s education secretary is “a market-based person,” his education policy manifests a “market-based philosophy,” and “we continue to starve public schools,” the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

 

The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.”

 

 

Grijalva was the first Congressman to support the Network for Public Education’s call for public hearings on the overuse of standardized testing, their costs, and misuse. Not only does he see the problem with high-stakes testing, but he understands that test scores are used to set schools up to fail and to be privatized.

 

He told Eidelson:

 

One of the things driving, right now, education is … mandatory testing … the frequency, the quantity of the testing that’s going on …

I understand accountability. I don’t have a problem with testing as a teaching tool, to help to guide the improvement in children. But what’s happened is the standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all in terms of curriculum, in terms of how you prepare students for the future.

And I think that issues related to what these tests are, how we are impacting communities that have, let’s say, learning disabilities … students who use primarily languages other than English, how are we dealing with cultural differences …

A whole hearing on testing, the culture of testing, and what it is producing for public education.

What you see … is a real move toward the privatization of schools, based on what test results are. A school doesn’t do well, a school doesn’t do well again, then suddenly there is a movement to either let that school be run by private management [or] let the students then go somewhere else — usually to a private charter school.

 

Rep. Grijalva sees the pattern on the rug: The game is rigged to starve public schools and force families to seek private alternatives:

 

And so we see enrollment in our public education system dropping as a consequence of people leaving the schools, or the schools being converted into more private institutions as opposed to the public schools … Public schools are still held to the standards that they should be held to … whatever situation they come into school, that [children] always be treated and educated in the same manner. Yet other schools outside the public institution system can pick and choose who they want to educate … and leave to the public schools a less and less diverse grouping of students, a more difficult group of students, with shrinking resources. At the same time all of this is going on, the funding at a national level and at a state level continues to shrink for public education.

 

Eidelson asks him the crucial question–do you think there is any hope for change from the Obama administration, and Rep. Grijalva gives an insightful, powerful response:

 

I think the fight is keeping some of the worst from happening, No. 1. No. 2, as long as we are resource-deprived in public schools, they’ll never be in that competitive mode that Duncan talks about, OK? As long as we shift public resources to accommodate private ventures in education, and as long as you continue to be myopic about “one mandated test tells us all,” “one Common Core will be the solution …”

There’s also, you know, a shrinking of our curriculum in order to satisfy prepping for tests, as opposed to getting people ready in a more holistic way to be better human beings, and educated better …

If you continue to starve the schools, public education, then they’re never going to be [in] a position to be competitive. And if you do independent analysis, the public education system, compared to private charter schools, is no worse and no better. You know, there’s not a significant difference – yet … we continue to starve public schools. That’s why you see enrollment drop …

There’s a demographic shift going on in our schools … So this is a time to invest in those schools, because this generation of kids of color — with many of them having English learners coming into our public schools — those are the new Americans … Those are the generations of the future …

The public schools have always been one of the most powerful integrative social institutions that we have in our country, that build community and build the kind of allegiance to the values of this nation as part of the education process. Now you have a new demographic group coming into our schools, you’re disinvesting from the schools, and you’re leaving the public schools to that demographic with less resources and less attention. This is a really, really wrong time to be pulling [away] from the commitment to public schools. And it’s probably one of the times in our history when we should be doing more investment. Because this is the generation that is going to have the greatest responsibility for our nation come 10, 20 years from now.

Award-winning high school principal Carol Burris reports here on Arne Duncan’s latest foray into New York, where he highly praised the state’s controversial Commissioner of Education John King, disparaged disgruntled educators and parents as a mere distraction, and urged the state to “stay the course.”

Burris, a leader in the effort to expose and reverse some of the worst aspects of Race to the Top, explains why it is important not to stay the course, when the course is leading in the wrong direction.

She writes:

” There is no empirical evidence that rigorous state or national standards will result in higher student achievement or greater college readiness.

“Those who created the Common Core assumed that if we established rigorous standards, student achievement and economic competitiveness would increase. Duncan said, in his remarks at New York University, that it is common sense. Prior to the 15th century, common sense said the world was flat, but that did not make it true.”

She cites research to demonstrate that rigorous standards and high-stakes tests o not produce better education:

“This is not an argument for low standards or no standards—it is an argument that standards reform is not an effective driver of school improvement. Keep in mind that all state standards had high-stakes state tests associated with them. The more rigorous the standards, the more difficult the tests are. As high-stakes tests become more difficult, the curriculum becomes narrower and narrower. The tests soon drive teaching and learning.

“When I hear “I am for the Common Core standards, I am just not for the tests”, I cringe. While thoughtful educators look at the standards through their prism of good practice, test makers look at the standards as the basis for creating “items” that discriminate the learning of one child from another. In the end, the test maker calls the shots. It is no coincidence that the Common Core Standards, PARCC and Smarter Balanced were all born at the same time. In his remarks, Duncan referred to PARCC and Smarter Balanced as the “national tests.”

“The destination of school reform—ensuring that all students have the skills, content and habits needed for college and career success—is the right destination. The challenge is choosing the pathway that gets us there. Good intentions are not enough. If we continue to put our tax dollars and our efforts into “standards reform” because Mr. Duncan and his followers believe it is common sense, we will waste time and treasure.”

Bottom line: Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind. It has no research to support its premises and will come to an ignominious end like its predecessor. Burris hopes that Duncan will change course but his bad ideas seem impervious to evidence.

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?

 

The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.

 

Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-obama-administrations-scorched.html

Read this disturbing article by Maggie Terry, who teaches at Locke High School in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and stop and think.

She describes the day that the tenth grade students were scheduled to take the math portion of the state’s exit exams.

The morning was disrupted by gunfire outside, and the school went into lockdown. The teachers immediately sheltered their students:

“When my colleagues and I began ushering kids into our school’s main hall, away from the outdoor lunch tables where they’d been chatting and eating their breakfasts, we held our arms wide like wings, like we knew exactly what was going on and that there was nothing to be scared or worried about.”

As if their arms were shields that were bullet-proof.

One commenter wrote that teachers like to whine about testing, but he missed the point.

I saw a different point altogether.

I see a snapshot of a society where the powers that be ignore the poverty and violence in children’s lives and think they are helping students if they take away any job protections for their teachers. The Vergara trial is about the claim that any due process rights for children violates the civil rights of their students. Garden-variety millionaires and billionaires agree with this assertion.

Maggie Terry, sheltering her children with her outstretched arms, understands the challenges these children face. Suppose they get a low score on their math test because of what they experienced that morning. Should Maggie Terry be fired? Is she a bad teacher?

Or should those millionaires and billionaires address the poverty, segregation, and violence that mar the lobes of the students?

I think they should. But it is easier to fire teachers. And cheaper.

Colorado has one of the most punitive teacher evaluation systems in the nation, passed in 2010. It was written by State Senator Michael Johnston, ex-TFA. Contrary to the conclusions of the American Statistical Association, the American Educational Research Association, and eminent researchers such as Linda Darling-Hammond and Edward Haertel of Stanford, Colorado’s SB 191 bases 50% of teachers’ evaluation on student test scores. This creates tremendous pressure to narrow the curriculum only to what is tested and to teach to the test. Senator Johnston vainly insisted that his legislation would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.”

Pauline Hawkins, a teacher in Colorado, explains here why she is resigning as a teacher in Colorado. The environment she leaves with regret was created by George W. Bush, Arne Duncan, and Michael Johnston.

Hawkins writes:

Dear Administrators, Superintendent, et al.:

This is my official resignation letter from my English teaching position.

I’m sad to be leaving a place that has meant so much to me. This was my first teaching job. For eleven years I taught in these classrooms, I walked these halls, and I befriended colleagues, students, and parents alike. This school became part of my family, and I will be forever connected to this community for that reason.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my community as a teacher. I met the most incredible people here. I am forever changed by my brilliant and compassionate colleagues and the incredible students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching.

I know I have made a difference in the lives of my students, just as they have irrevocably changed mine. Teaching is the most rewarding job I have ever had. That is why I am sad to leave the profession I love.

Even though I am primarily leaving to be closer to my family, if my family were in Colorado, I would not be able to continue teaching here. As a newly single mom, I cannot live in this community on the salary I make as a teacher. With the effects of the pay freeze still lingering and Colorado having one of the lowest yearly teaching salaries in the nation, it has become financially impossible for me to teach in this state.

Along with the salary issue, ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.

As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.

Since I’ve worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: “Is this good for kids?” My answer to this new legislation is, “No. This is absolutely not good for kids.” I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children–our future. The irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system. Therefore, I will not apply for another teaching job anywhere in this country while our government continues to ruin public education. Instead, I will do my best to be an advocate for change. I will continue to fight for our children’s rights for a free and proper education because their very lives depend upon it.

My final plea as a district employee is that the principals and superintendent ask themselves the same questions I have asked myself: “Is this good for kids? Is the state money being spent wisely to keep and attract good teachers? Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers?” With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “All mankind is divided into three classes: Those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” I want to be someone who moves and makes things happen. Which one do you want to be?

Sincerely,

Pauline Hawkins

Our friend Edward Berger returned from a long period of rest, reading, and reflection, and he is back in fine form.

He wrote a letter to President Obama and the First Lady to warn of the damage their education policies are inflicting on the nation’s children, teachers, and schools.

He writes:

“Prior to your administration, with few exceptions, public schools were not created as sources of investment income or profit. Schools were run by democratically elected boards under state supervision. Schools were accountable for financial management and academic achievement. A proven (if not100%s effective) means of teacher accountability and school effectiveness was in place and functioning well in areas where great poverty and futility were not generated by our failed economic system.

“Prior to your administration, the tax dollars Americans pay for public education could not be accessed by profiteers or religious groups and cults. No taxpayer was forced to support a religion, ideology, or partial school with their education tax dollars.

“Sadly, strengthened by your administration, an unproven and false use of testing replaced the tests used by educators to understand student needs and to teach effectively. Data generated by wrong and unproven means is causing great harm to students and teachers throughout America. The only known beneficiaries of this drive for data are the corporations creating the tests, and the egos of billionaires who use their wealth to force their “hunches” on our schools.

“Your administration supports those who can buy access to schools and thus children’s minds. Your administration accepts the whims of billionaires who have no certification, little or no contact with professional educators, no concept of the history of American education and how education is delivered, and most devastating, they have very little concern for our children. Almost all send their children to separate schools that do not follow the rules your administration is instigating.”

And much more.

Jason Stanford attended a conference in Austin to mark the 50th anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And don’t you know, the people who were responsible for No Child Left Behind think they acted in the tradition of civil rights leaders.

He writes:

“At the Civil Rights Summit celebrating the Civil Rights Act’s 50th birthday, everyone agreed that equal opportunity to education was a civil right. If that’s true, then who are today’s Freedom Riders and who is standing in the schoolhouse door? Education reformers see themselves as modern-day civil rights heroes, but the real continuation of non-violent protest can be found in the parents and students in the grassroots opt out movement that is refusing to take standardized tests.

“In this fight, the power is almost all on the side of those who assume you can make a pig heavier by weighing it a lot, to put it in terms LBJ would have liked. And without any sense of shame or embarrassment, those who created this testing culture see themselves as his descendents.

“On the issue of education, we’re dealing with the meaning of America, and the extent of its promise, and in this cause the passion and energy of Lyndon Baines Johnson still guides us forward,” said George W. Bush in his speech at the LBJ Presidential Library.

“Bush started it with No Child Left Behind, but Barack Obama’s Race to the Top is no better. Education Sec. Arne Duncan called Common Core “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

“One of the problems with this policy discussion is that the pro-testing crowd can’t understand how anyone could be against using tests to measure learning.”

Stanford writes that Bush, Margaret Spellings, and Sandy Kress can’t see any problems with the current round of high-stakes testing that can’t be fixed by more and better tests. One longs to see he three of them take the eighth grade math tests and publish their scores. I am willing to bet they might be less enthusiastic if they did.

Jason Stanford thinks that the true heirs of the cilvil rights protests are not the testers but the parents and students who opt out. They do not face the physical peril of the original civil rights movement, but they have demonstrated they are willing to stand on principle for what is right, without money or power to support them, just the conviction that the standardized testing industry does not hold the key to civil rights or equity or justice or better education.

Frankly, the people who brought us NCLB should stay quiet until it disappears into the mists of history, unlamented.

The American public would be alarmed if they knew how often standardized tests are inaccurate. As a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, I saw questions whose wording was confusing. I saw questions that had more than one right answer. I even saw questions with no right answer. Sometimes the tests are scored incorrectly, but we seldom hear about it.

This reader shares her experience:

“This past week I got a letter from Pearson informing me that the MAT that I took three years ago to get into grad school had been scored incorrectly. They apologized, and lucky for me I had a higher score. But, what about the people who took the same test and were also scored lower and were not admitted into a program, or had to pay to take the test over again? Pearson’s tests and scores are riddled with errors that are having potentially life altering effects on more people than just our kids. They are a mega-monopoly that must be stopped from ruining people’s lives.”

Peter Schrag has written sensibly about education issues for many years.

In this article, he analyzes the complexities of the Vergara trial, in which a rich and powerful coalition of corporate reformers are trying to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

In the end, he argues, the outcome of the trial won’t change much for poor kids.

If the plaintiffs win, some very good veteran teachers may be fired to save money.

The legislature will enact some new laws, perhaps basing layoffs on “effectiveness” (i.e. test scores) rather than due process, but as we know from the recent report of the American Statistical Association, test-based accountability (VAM) is fraught with problems and will end up stigmatizing those who teach in high-poverty schools.

He quotes Russlyn Ali, who was Secretary Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for civil rights and is now supporting the Vergara plaintiffs:

 

Laws that make it hard to dismiss or replace teachers were originally designed to protect them against the nepotism and the racial, social and cultural biases that were all too common in education until well after World War II. If those protections are curtailed, and if a new system relying heavily on “effectiveness” — itself an uncertain standard — is put in place, what’s to say it won’t make teachers competitors and undermine morale and collaboration?
It’s possible that if the courts find that the tenure laws in this case offend constitutional equal protection guarantees, many of the system’s other inequities might be open to legal challenge as well. Ali, among others, has that hope, and she sees Vergara as a first step in that larger battle.
But if the Vergara plaintiffs win a resounding victory in this case, don’t look for any quick change in the schools or some great improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged kids. There are just too many other uncertainties, too many inequities, too many other unmet needs.

 

My view: the trial continues the blame game favored by the Obama administration and the billionaire boys’ club, in which they blame “bad” teachers as the main culprit in low academic performance. Their refusal to recognize that standardized tests accurately measure family income and family education is their blind spot. It is easier to blame teachers than to take strong action to reduce poverty and racial segregation. It is sad and ironic that the most segregated schools in the United States today are charter schools, yet the Obama administration wants more of them. If the Vergara plaintiffs win, there will be fewer teachers eager to risk their reputation teaching the kids who have the greatest needs. If the plaintiffs win, this case will then be a setback for the rights of the kids, no victory at all.

 

If the corporate reformers refuse to attack the root causes of low test scores, then Peter Schrag is quite right to say that nothing much will change.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schrag-vergara-teacher-union-20140403,0,3459594.story#ixzz2ygmthcp2

 

Principals, teachers, and parents in New York state complained that the Common Core tests for grades 3-8 were too long. The tests for math and reading together take about 7 hours. Commissioner John King responded in a recent speech at New York University that students were spending “less than 1%” of the school year, which is sort of an odd way to explain (defend) 7 hours of testing for little children.

 

One of our readers decided to compare the amount of time required foe Common Core testing to the amount of time required for other examinations typically administered to college applicants or adults:

 

So I was curious about other standardized tests and how they compare to the tests they expect 8-13 years olds to do. Why would an 8-year old need to sit for longer than 7 hours to see if they can read and do math which is longer than every test until you get to the NYS bar exam.

 

GRE:
The overall testing time for the computer-based GRE® revised General Test is about three hours and 45 minutes. There are six sections with a 10-minute break following the third section. https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/cbt/

 

SAT:
The SAT is made up of 10 sections:

A 25-minute essay
Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)
A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section

Total test time: 3 hours and 45 minutes

You’ll also get three short breaks during the testing, so don’t forget to bring a snack!

http://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat/faq

 

LSAT:

The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. These sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section in the LSAT will vary. The score scale for the LSAT is 120 to 180. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. The writing sample is not scored by LSAC, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

http://www.lsac.org/jd/help/faqs-lsat

 

MCAT (Medical school)

Total seated time 5 hours and 10 minutes and total content time 4 hours and 5 minutes.

https://www.aamc.org/students/download/63060/data/mcatessentials.pdf

 

NY Bar Exam:

Schedule for First Day of the Examination (Tuesday):
In the morning session, which begins at 9:00 A.M. and ends at 12:15 P.M., applicants must complete three essays and the 50 multiple choice questions in three hours and 15 minutes. Although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the Board estimates an allocation of 40 minutes per essay and 1.5 minutes per multiple choice question.

In the afternoon session, which begins at 2:00 P.M. and ends at 5:00 P.M., applicants must complete the remaining two essay questions and the MPT in three hours. Again, although applicants are free to use their time as they choose, the National Conference of Bar Examiners developed the MPT with the intention that it be used as a 90-minute test. Therefore, the Board recommends that applicants allocate 90 minutes to the MPT and 45 minutes to each essay.

 

Schedule for Second Day of the Examination – MBE (Wednesday):
The second day of the examination is the Multistate Bar Examination. The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is a six-hour, two-hundred question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property. The examination is divided into two periods of three hours each, one in the morning [9:30am to 12:30pm] and one in the afternoon [2:00pm to 5:00pm], with 100 questions in each period.

http://www.nybarexam.org/TheBar/TheBar.htm#descrip

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95,333 other followers