Archives for category: Testing

Every state that has adopted Common Core tests has seen a sharp decline in test scores.

Maryland is the latest to discover that its scores fell thanks to Common Core tests.

“Reading and math scores on state tests for Maryland elementary and middle school students have dropped to their lowest levels in seven years, according to a Washington Post analysis of 2014 test data released Friday. Some Maryland officials expected the drop because schools are transitioning to new national academic standards that do not align with the tests.

“State and county educators said the across-the-board decline on the final Maryland School Assessment (MSA) was largely a result of the state’s move to a curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The new curriculum shifts some academic topics to different grade levels, especially in math, making the MSA obsolete.

“Students’ scores had been steadily inching up until 2013, when there were sharp declines in reading and math scores, a slide that continued this year. In 2014, overall proficiency scores in reading and math among elementary students fell 5.2 percentage points to 80 percent proficiency. Middle-schoolers fared worse — 71.4 percent proficiency, a drop of 6.5 percentage points. Drops in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties roughly mirrored the state averages.

“During the past two years, the state has shifted its instruction to prepare for the tests by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which are aligned with the Common Core and were recently field-tested in Maryland.”

The two federally-funded tests used NAEP “proficient” as their passing mark, a standard that is equivalent to high performance, not grade-level performance.

One reason–perhaps the main reason–that so many conservatives and entrepreneurs like the Common Core testing is that they hope it will convince suburban parents that their schools are no good and create new markets for charters, vouchers, and expensive new software. In other words, the Common Core tests are designed for failure.

Stephen Sawchuck did a good job reporting the heated debate about the Common Core standards at the AFT convention. The Chicago Teachers Union wanted to dump them. The head of the New York City United Federation of Teachers mocked the critics of the standards. One union official said that the critics represented the Tea Party. That’s pretty insulting to the Chicago Teachers Union and one-third of the AFT delegates, as well as people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, and me.

As far as I can tell, no one explained how states and districts will find the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for hardware and software required for “the promise of Common Core.” Early estimates indicate that Pearson will have a contract of $1 billion to develop the PARCC tests. Who will pay Pearson? Who will be laid off? How large will class sizes go?

There were no Martians on the committee that wrote the Common Core standards, but there were also no classroom teachers, no early childhood teachers, no special education teachers. There were a number of testing experts.

Frankly the best and only hope for the future of these standards is that they are totally decoupled from testing. It is not likely to happen because doing so would deny the privatizers the data to prove that schools are failing and must be closed at once. That’s where the next big fight will occur.

Will they prepare all children for college and careers? Nobody knows. Will they help prepare our children for “global competition?” Not likely if the global competition works for $2 an hour for 18 hours a day under unsafe conditions.

The Common Core standards will never be national standards. They were developed in haste, paid for by one man (the guy is Seattle who thinks he knows everything), sold to the public via a slick PR campaign. They were never tried out. The tests connected to them are designed to fail most kids. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could pull a fast one and bypass democracy. Sorry, boys, you are wrong. Public education belongs to the public. Children belong to their parents. Neither public education nor children are for sale.

Pearson, the British megacorporation, appears to have won the PARCC Common Core contract, which is worth about $1 billion. Its tests will be administered to 6-10 million children in 14 states. The third grade tests will take eight hours. The high school tests will take 10 hours. PARCC is also developing tests for kindergarten, first and second grades.

FAIRTEST has compiled a catalogue of known Pearson errors:


compiled by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Updated May 5, 2014

1998 California – test score delivery delayed

1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key

2000 Florida – test score delivery delayed resulting in $4 million fine

2000 Minnesota – misgraded 45,739 graduation tests leads to lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.” (FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)

2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored

2002 Florida — dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the DOE. One Montessori school never received scores because NCS Pearson claimed not to have received the tests.

2005 Michigan — scores delayed and fines levied per contract

2005 Virginia — computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships

2005-2006 SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)

2007-2011 Mississippi – subcontractor programs correct answer as incorrect resulting in erroneous results for almost four years during which time 126 students flunked the exam due to that wrongly scored item. Auditors criticized Pearson’s quality control checks, and the firm offered $600,000 in scholarships as compensation

2008 South Carolina –“Scoring Error Delays School Report Cards” The State, November 14, 2008

2008-2009 Arkansas — first graders forced to retake exam because real test used for practice

2009-2010 Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor

2010 Florida – test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid.

2010 Minnesota — results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error

2011 Florida – some writing exams delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about

2011 Florida – new computerized algebra end-of-course exam delivery system crashes on first day of administration

2011 Oklahoma – “data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery —
Pearson ultimately replaced by CTB/McGraw Hill

2011 Guam – score release delayed because results based on flawed comparison data; government seeks reimbursement —

2011 Illinois – 144 student in five Chicago schools wrongly received zeroes due to scoring error. The state sought nearly $1.7 million from Pearson, which could not explain how the errors occurred.

2011 Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation —

2011 New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders —

2011 Oklahoma – State identifies 18 significant problems with Pearson’s tests leading to $8 million penalty settlement.

2011 Wyoming – Board of Education replaces Pearson as state’s test vendor after widespread technical problems with online exam (

2012 New York – “Pineapple and the Hare” nonsense test question removed from exams after bloggers demonstrate that it was previously administered in at least half a dozen other states –

2012 New York – More than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson —

2012 Florida – After percentage of fourth grades found “proficient” plunges from 81% to 27% in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency.

2012 Virginia – Error on computerized 3rd and 6th grade SOL tests causes state to offer free retakes.

2012 New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process

2012 Oklahoma – After major test delivery delays, state replaces Pearson as its testing contractor

2012 New York – More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests

2012 New York – State officials warn Pearson about potential fines if tests have more errors

2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others

2012 Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at log on

2013 New York – Passages from Pearson textbooks appear in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials

2013 New York – three Pearson test scoring mistakes block nearly 5,000 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility

2013 Worldwide – Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe experience major technical problems, leaving thousands unable to take scheduled exams or register for new ones

2013 New York – Second error found in New York City gifted-and-talented test scoring makes 300 more students eligible for special programs

2013 England, Wales and Northern Ireland – General Certificate of Secondary Education exam in math leaves out questions and duplicates some others

2013 Texas – State Auditor finds inadequate monitoring of Pearson’s contract: vendor determined costs of assessment changes without sufficient oversight and failed to disclose hiring nearly a dozen former state testing agency staff

2013 Virginia – 4,000 parents receive inaccurate test scorecards due to Pearson error in converting scores to proficiency levels

2013 New York – New Pearson Common Core textbooks are “full of errors,” including in sample test items

2013 New York – Pearson fined $7.7 million by New York State for using its non-profit foundation arm to steer business to the firm

2014 National – Pearson notifies students who took the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in 2011 that their exams had been miscored

2014 Florida – State education commissioner seeks penalties after schools in 26 counties suspend Pearson’s new computerized tests because server problems prevent students from logging on and freeze screens

2014 New York – Printing errors result in missing questions and blank pages in Pearson-designed statewide math assessment

2014 Texas – Pearson emails out two test questions to teachers days before the exam is administered

If you have questions or additional examples, contact Bob Schaeffer.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468

In a day of debates, the American Federation of Teachers voted to continue its support for the controversial Common Core standards while complaining about its faulty implementation. The delegates also voted for a resolution to put Secretary Duncan on a remediation plan that would be monitored by President Obama (ha-ha, when he is not busy with foreign crises). wrote: “The “improvement plan” would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” accountability system to a “support-and-improve” model; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff.”

After the NEA passed a resolution calling on Duncan to resign, the AFT rebuke seemed like mockery of Duncan, a bureaucrat who demands accountability of everyone but is never held accountable for his own missteps. Of course, his missteps are not mistakes but reflect his contempt for teachers and public schools. In his world-view, everyone lies about how terrible schools are except him.

This is the press release in which AFT explained its continued support for the Common Core, which will drain states and districts of billions of dollars for the testing industry while teacher layoffs increase:

“LOS ANGELES— AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. The AFT’s resolution lays out key actions needed to restore confidence in the standards and provide educators, parents and students with the tools and supports they need to make the standards work in the classroom.

The resolution, “Role of Standards in Public Education,” resolution passed following an intense, extended debate on the convention floor. Educators expressed their frustrations and anger with how the standards were developed and rolled out, without sufficient input from those closest to the classroom and without the tools and resources educators need to make the transition to the new rigorous standards, even as states and districts rushed to test and hold teachers and students accountable. AFT members also voiced their distrust of efforts by those seeking to make a profit off the new standards. No matter where members stood on the issue, there was clear anger over the deprofessionalization of teachers throughout the implementation process. At the same time, however, many educators shared how they’ve witnessed, when done right, how these standards more from rote memorization to provide children with the deeper learning the standards were designed to produce and that the standards remain the best way to level the playing field for all children. Proponents of the resolution made clear that it resolution offers solutions to fix the poor implementation and includes a call for greater teacher voice.

“We heard a lot of passion today—all in support of student needs and teacher professionalism,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And where our members ended up is that we will continue to support the promise and potential of these standards as an essential to tool to provide each and every child an equitable and excellent education while calling on the powers that be in districts and, states and at the national level to work with educators and parents to fix this botched implementation and restore confidence in the standards. And no matter which side of the debate our members were on, there’s one thing everyone agreed on—that we need to delink these standards from the tests.”

The resolution lays out key action steps the AFT is taking to make the standards work for kids and educators, including:

• Rejecting low-level standardized testing in favor of assessments aligned with rich curricula that encourage the kind of higher-order thinking and performance skills students need;

• Supporting efforts by affiliates to hold policymakers and administrators accountable for proper implementation;

• Advocating that each state create an independent board composed made up of a majority representation of teachers and education professionals to monitor the implementation of the standards;

• Fighting to ensure that educators are involved in a cohesive plan for engaging stakeholders, and, that they have a significant role in the implementation and evaluation of the standards in their schools, and that there are adequate funds provided by all levels of government to ensure successful implementation of the standards; and

• Reaffirming the call the AFT made more than a year ago for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments for students, teachers and schools until all of the essential elements of a standards-based system are in place.
“What educators and parents are saying is,: ‘Yes, we want our children to have the knowledge and skills they need for life, college, career and citizenship.’ But to make that a reality, our voices need to be involved in a meaningful way, and we actually have to focus on the learning, and not the obsession with testing,” said Weingarten.


Here are my thoughts;

If the standards are decoupled from the tests, as the AFT hopes, the standards will be a very costly and very toothless tiger. With or without the tests, they will drain every district of desperately needed resources.

One very promising idea to emerge from the conference was Randi Weingarten’s proposal to give grants to groups of teachers to revise the standards. This makes sense, especially in light of the fact that the writing committee for the Common Core standards did not include a single active classroom teacher nor anyone who had experience teaching early childhood edition nor anyone who had taught children with disabilities.

To those who say that the standards can’t be revised because they are copyrighted, I say nonsense. Let’s see if the National Governors Association or Achieve or the Council of Chief State School Officers has the gall to sue the AFT or its surrogates for trying to fix the CCSS. Bring it on.

No matter how many resolutions are passed at this or any other convention, the Common Core standards are going nowhere. State after state is dropping them or the federal tests or both. The standards ignore the root causes of low academic achievement: poverty and segregation. There is no proof that they will fulfill their lofty goals. They will end up one day as a case study in college courses of the abuse of power: how one man tried to buy American education and bypass democratic procedures. Even in states with high standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are large achievement gaps. Even in the same classrooms with the same teacher, there are variations in test scores.

We live in an age of magical thinking, of unrealistic expectations and of lies dressed up as goals and promises. For more than a dozen years, politicians have insisted that testing and accountability would leave no child behind. Then in 2009, the politicians said that testing and accountability would create a “race to the top.” Now we are told that common standards and common tests will bring about equity and excellence. What fools these mortals be. The politicians never run out of excuses or slogans. At some point, the public will tire of their know-nothing meddling. Let us hope that day will come soon.

Reader and arts consultant Laura Chapman cites an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that reminds us that test scores are not objective.

Panels of experts and non-experts make a judgment about what is “proficient,” what is the “cut score for other labels. It is a judgment. The person in charge can adjust the cut score to make the tests harder or easier. If he wants to show that kids are really dumb, he will choose a very high cut score. If he wants to show that kids are improving under his amazing leadership, he will drop the cut score, and more kids will pass. The public is easily hoodwinked. The scores are Bunkum.

Chapman comments:

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports on the results of NY state tests (page 2, weekend).

The headline is amazing: “Test Scores Are No Sure Guide to What Students Know: Results Say More About the Way Test Makers Decide to Measure Children’s Knowledge”

The graphics show performance trends in math and English, grades 3-8, before and after the new CCSS tests in math and English. Big drop in ”proficiency.”

Then the author of the article, Jo Craven McGinty, tries to explain how the new cut scores for “proficiency” are determined.

“A panel of 95 teachers divided into math and English groups (45.7 in each group?) were given “the test the students took in order of difficulty from easiest to most difficult.” Each teacher was given the task of dropping a bookmark on the test to indicate a level of performance with enough correct answers to qualify for a Level 1 “proficiency” or Level 2 (and so on). This process was repeated four times to arrive at final cut scores, meaning something like a consensus on “the threshold for each performance level.” Of course, with four iterations of the process, teachers may develop a bit of fatique, and like a hung jury may produce a 2/2 vote on the cut…No details here, but “cut” is a good name for te score.

The article is intended to convey the gist of the process, not the technicalities. For example, the teachers are not asked to determine the “order of difficulty” of the tests. That has been pre-determined, likely through statistical methods for item analysis. Teachers are setting cut scores for judgments about “good enough” or “ not good enough” for given label. The labels and cut scores function much like the old fashioned A-F rating system. As one expert said, the idea is to “send a message to kids about what is good enough.”

I think this not the primary purpose of the new testing regime. The real purpose is to reinvent the tests and scoring scale (cut scores) so fewer students appear to doing well in school and to condemn prior tests as too easy.

According to more than one expert in psychometrics, the term “proficient” is not much more than a human judgment about labeling a performance on a test.

That process is not objective, and it becomes even more complex when test items go beyond requests for fill-in-the-bubble answers. One expert is quoted in the article: “People believe they know what these labels mean. It has nothing to do with how well kids are doing. It is a way of making a judgment about how performance is going to be labeled.”

And this is the protocol that makes test scores “objective measures.” Give me a break.

A comment from a reader, Joyce Murdock Feilke, in Texas:

“As a mental health professional in Texas schools, I can relate to this teacher’s comment: “The students are beginning to “check out”.

“Dissociation is how children often cope with stress which they are developmentally unprepared to process. When it becomes chronic in their daily environment, it can lead to mental illness, since it impacts their social and emotional development.

“The age inappropriate focus on performance and data with age inappropriate material and methods related to high stakes testing, has created an authoritarian environment of fear, intimidation, and boredom for children in elementary schools. This performance based reward/punishment environment is the same punitive classical conditioning (behaviorism) that is used to “train” dogs and zoo animals.

“I have observed the increasing symptoms of emotional desensitization in children in Texas elementary schools and spoken up and written articles about it for the past two years . After a time in this environment, many children will begin to look more like prisoners of war than normal healthy children. They lose vitality, spontaneity, and the ability for imaginative play. They have difficulty with scientific thinking and using higher level thinking skills. They become obedient and submissive to authority, and function more robotic. The symptoms of traumatic stress: Regression, Dissociation, and Constriction, are similar in PTSD, BOS, and “Battered Child Syndrome”: In these children’s daily school environment, it is not “post” as after acute trauma, but it is “chronic”, and has high potential to cause permanent psychological damage in the form of personality disorders (mental illness).

“What many of us in Texas schools originally thought to be soaring rates of High Functioning Autism (HFA), which also has symptoms of regression, dissociation, and constriction, is now thought to be stress related rather than HFA. For young children who still have a developing brain, being forced to function in a chronic state of hyper vigilance and/or hypoarousal or hyperarousal, will become “hard wired” into the personality. It changes their brain chemistry. CCSS is creating Anxiety Disorders and Depression that many children will suffer for a lifetime.

“Few politicians or “reformers” have listened to the voices of mental health professionals or educators who are warning about the potential for psychological harm in this CCSS (and Texas STAAR) environment. After writing numerous professional articles and reports for state legislators, only to have them ignored, I wrote the same message in the rhyme of Dr Suess: Here is my warning about CCSS and Texas STAAR, which I will keep repeating until someone listens:

Common Core Protest Poster: We Should Have Listened to the Lorax

Common Core Protest Poster: We Should Have Listened to the Lorax

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A comment from a Mad Mom in Utah. When the parents wise up and act in concert to protect their children, the toxic reform hoax will collapse.

She writes:

“I live in Utah and I have a third and fourth grader that completed the AIR SAGE test this last school year. Yes, those test are just as long as reported for my children. These tests were given over a number of days and my children suffered from high anxiety on these days and they were exhausted. After the testing was finished I asked them how they felt about it and they said they didn’t really like it because it was long and hard (there is no ceiling). I also heard from my children that some kids in their classes cried or just put their heads down and quit, which is interesting because some of the questions were supposed to get easier if they get a wrong answer on a harder question.

“I spoke with a retiring third grade teacher in another district to see if her experience with SAGE was similar and she said it was awful for the children. She said the tests lasted up to 10 hours for some children because of the essay section. Although, she said she had two students finish the essay in 10 minutes and then they hid under their desks.

“The crazy thing is that in Utah State Code R277-515-4 Educator Responsibility for Maintaining a Safe Learning Environment in Section B4 it states educators “shall take action to protect a student from any known condition detrimental to that student’s physical health, mental health, safety, or learning”. But right after this section, in B5, it states their duty on administering all of this testing. So, which is it Utah? Because I can attest that this testing is doing more harm than good for our children. Should educators administer the tests and remain silent (which I think they are being told to do) or should educators share their experiences so we can learn from them and hopefully do better?

“Shame on those in the position of power in my state for making this happen. And shame on me for allowing my children to be the guinea pigs. I know better; but I was curious. They won’t be taking SAGE tests next year.

“Thank you to all of those that have stood up and have been brave! You have educated me and reminded me that I too can be brave. I have a voice and it is time to use it.”

Paul Bucheit writes about five aspects of corporate education reform.

1. Privatization takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

2. Testing doesn’t work.

3. The arts make better scientists.

4. Privatization means unequal opportunity for all.

5. Reformers are primarily business people, not educators.

To read his explanation, open the link.

The Gates Foundation called for a two-year suspension of the high stakes evaluation of teachers–ratings and rankings tied to student scores—but not a moratorium on the testing. A reader writes:

“If there is a moratorium on the evaluations connected to the tests, then there is no point in continuing the tests either since the sole purpose of the tests was to attempt to measure growth for the purposes of the evaluations. The real reason the evaluations are being suspended is that there simply cannot be any remotely accurate growth measures to base them on while the CC$$ is being implemented. This moratorium is like saying we will suspend the use of nails but are still required to swing the hammers and hit the wood. And, once the CC$$ is being ramped up and many more teachers see it’s problems manifesting themselves, such as it being developmentally inappropriate for K-3, will the moratorium be extended while that and any other problems are being solved? How will they be solved, with the input of teachers as should have been the case from the beginning? Or not? Hard to say since it is a copy righted product.”

Media Advisory: BBA to Hold Press Call on Real vs. Claimed Achievement Trends among DCPS Students

Washington, DC | Jul 8, 2014

On Thursday, July 10 at 11:00 am ET, the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) will hold a press call to discuss a new BBA memorandum that assesses achievement trends of District of Columbia Public (DCPS) students. Elaine Weiss, national coordinator of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, will provide an in-depth analysis of DCPS/OSSE claims that the percentage of students who are “proficient” and “advanced” by the standards of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), the district’s standardized achievement test, has steadily grown. Using both publicly available and non-available DC-CAS data, as well as data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Weiss will show that the true pattern over recent years has been one of little actual progress and substantially widening achievement gaps. Weiss will also highlight important data to look for when DCPS releases the new student scores, and provide key questions to ask. This memo builds on last year’s Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality, and will be followed by a full report after 2014 DC-CAS scores are released later this month.

For the past several years, the Office of the State Superintendent for the District of Columbia (OSSE), has released new numbers on the percentage of students who are “proficient” and “advanced” by the standards of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), the district’s standardized achievement test. Only selected numbers are released, and DCPS uses them to claim gains in proficiency and progress in closing large achievement gaps. However, the DC-CAS scores are manipulated in ways that make it impossible to understand how raw scores—the number of correct answers on the tests—are translated into scale and “cut” scores—levels of Basic, Proficient, and Advanced – and thus what and how much students are actually learning. Moreover, many key data points and other information are concealed to avoid any bad news.

This memo will illustrate, via an example in a high-profile district, the types of conflicts and problems that inevitably arise when undue pressure is put on student standardized tests. Our hope is that shedding light on the consequences of poorly conceived federal policies, misguided philanthropic contributions, and other pressure will spur a balanced and thoughtful discussion of more effective strategies that would boost all students and their communities, rather than sustaining and exacerbating existing disparities.

To RSVP, email Donte Donald at

What: Press call on real vs. claimed achievement trends among DCPS students
Who: Elaine Weiss, national coordinator of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education
When: Thursday, July 10th at 11:00 a.m. ET
Call-in number: 1-800-311-9403
Passcode: 960316



The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States.

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