Archives for category: Testing

This is one of the most powerful letters I have read. I hope Diane Sekula doesn’t quit. I hope she changes her mind and stays to fight.

Veteran teacher to resign over Common Core and SBAC

A statement from Diane Sekula, experienced educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Moldova, ’99-01):

I have been a teacher for well over a decade and this spring, I will turn in my resignation because of Common Core and its associated data collection through SBAC and other means.

Common Core is substandard and the required data collection highly UNETHICAL. It is causing stress amongst students, teachers, and parents alike and has taken much joy out of teaching and learning.

I have witnessed extreme anxiety and tears from both teachers and students because of the pressure, confusion and uncertainty surrounding Common Core and SBAC Testing.

When I taught in the Soviet Union as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1999-2001, I was told by our federal government to help teachers design lessons that included opportunities for creativity and innovation as this was not done under Soviet Rule. Under Soviet Rule testing was everything and you were labeled because of it. Labels work for bottles of poison BUT NOT FOR CHILDREN OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES. Our ability to nurture individual dreams encourage innovation is one of the things that makes the United States better than socialized countries in many ways.

The Common Core is not what it was sold as.

It encourages uniformity through one-size-fits-all standards at the cost of individuality, individual thinking and individual differences.

The Derryfield School has referred to it as INFERIOR.

It is not used at Thomas Hassan’s school, Philips Exeter.

The way this is going, public school children will be trained as workers while those who can afford it will get a true education.

New Hampshire children, families and teachers deserve better than Common Core.

This just in from teachers in Everett, WA:


WHEREAS, the motto of Mariner High School is to “provide an excellent education to every student;” and

WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and

WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each 11th grader to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and

WHEREAS, there are not enough computers to test the students in a reasonable amount of time and it is unacceptable for computers to be unavailable to non-testing students for such a long period of time; and

WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is going to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and

WHEREAS, student performance on this test will in no way be indicative of their learning and instead this test must be given to meet arbitrary, antiquated and poorly considered state/federal mandates; and

WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant shift, confusing, and poorly communicated; and

WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests is unacceptable; in addition to other assessments during the last seven weeks of school we must administer two weeks of AP testing, many weeks of 11th grade SBA testing, the 10th grade ELA exit exam, the Biology EOC exam, the Geometry EOC exam, and the Algebra 1 EOC exam; many of these exams are required for graduation or could possibly earn students college credit; moreover, during this time we are also required to teach our students and administer year end finals and projects; and

WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on the school schedule and more importantly student learning cannot be justified simply to meet a superfluous bureaucratic requirement; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, the members of the Mukilteo Education Association at Mariner High School object to the administration of the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to providing an excellent education to every student.

Passed Unanimously 3/6/2015

John Thompson, teacher and historian, admires Anya Kamenetz’s “The Test,” with some qualifications.

He writes:

“Anya Kamenetz’s The Test comes from the conversation she’s had again and again with parents. She and they have “seen how high-stakes standardized tests are stunting children’s spirits, adding stress to family life, demoralizing teachers, undermining schools, paralyzing the education debate, and gutting our country’s future competitiveness.” Like so many Gen X and Gen Y parents, Kamenetz sees how “the test obsession is making public schools … into unhappy places.”

“Kamenetz covers ten arguments against testing, starting with “We’re testing the wrong things,” and ending with “The next generation of tests will make things even worse.” I’d say the second most destructive of the reasons is #4 “They are making teachers hate teaching.” The most awful is #3 “They are making students hate school and turning parents into preppers.”

“The second half of Kamenetz’s great work starts with the Opt Out movement, the grassroots parent revolt. She recalls the disgusting practices that drive families to opt out. Under-the-gun schools have resorted to “petty intimidation” of eight-year-olds, even forcing a nine-year opt-outer old to watch test takers rewarded with ice cream and candy, and requiring student opt-outers to sit and stare without books or diversions for hours while classmates take tests.”

“Kamenetz then presents alternative approaches to high-stakes testing. She explores four different types of assessments that could replace standardized testing. In doing so, she reminds us that “…education’s purpose in the twenty-first century is to prepare students to excel at the very tasks that computers can’t master …”

“As much as I enjoyed the tour Kamenetz takes us on, describing digital tools to quantify and improve teaching and learning, we should not be surprised that 21st century technology has created such promising, and potentially dangerous, technologies. Even if a magic wand existed and it enabled a ban on all these measures from public schools, would anyone doubt that those tools would be used and abused by affluent families? Rightly or wrongly, in or outside of classrooms, there will be elites who use data-driven techniques to build better Ivy League scholars, to produce faster and leaner child athletes, and more determined ballet dancers. Moreover, those who can afford it will continue to make low tech investments, ranging from field trips, family vacations, and portfolio assessments, that expand their children’s worldviews.

“Is there any doubt that the new metrics will result in modern versions of John Stuart Mill, who are raised to be geniuses and to bring the next generation of utilitarianism to an unprecedented level? Isn’t it also inevitable that some parents will follow in the footsteps of Mill’s father, and lead their children to nervous breakdowns?….

“Corporate reformers have no right to impose these assessments or, for that matter, primitive high-stakes multiple choice regimes on public schools. Neither is there a place in public education for grading students’ character or their states of mind.

“Kamenetz clearly understands the potential downsides of emerging assessments, as well as their dangers in the hands of reformers who believe that they should be empowered to micromanage testing and the learning that it guides. For instance, she writes, “Most troubling to me is the ways in which measuring and holding schools accountable for the social and emotional health of their students, if done in wrong ways, might, once again, worsen the effects of inequality.”

“She also compares the data accumulated through new testing methods to putting computer chips in the ears of migrating antelope. Moreover, “student data, like health data, is extremely sensitive.” The idea that it could be used for marketing, hiring, tracking, stigmatizing children is “creepy.”

“So, while I respect Kamenetz’s effort to frame solutions in a constructive manner, I believe that the focus must be on the way that “standardized testing leads to standardized teaching.” We must concentrate on the way that output-driven accountability means that “whatever subject the kids hate most … takes over all of school.” We should not give defenders of bubble-in accountability (or those who are tempted to collaborate with it) an easy out. We must focus on Kamenetz’s wise metaphor, “Pervasive assessment is a nightmare version of school for most students. It’s like burning thirsty plants in a garden under a magnifying glass, in the hope they will grow faster under scrutiny.”

This just in:

Local Teachers Condemn New Standardized Tests

REDMOND, Washington-March 26, 2015-Teachers at Redmond Middle School in the Lake Washington School District have publicly announced their objection to the “Smarter Balanced Assessments” to be administered to students this spring. Their announcement comes as educators across the nation have begun to react against standardized testing and its negative effects on teaching and learning.

“For me, it’s a matter of social justice,” said David Sudmeier, a twenty-eight year veteran teacher at Redmond Middle School. “We might as well pass out scores on the basis of family income. These tests pretend to offer an objective measure of student learning, but really discriminate against students who have parents working multiple jobs, who have limited home resources for activities that support learning, and who may go home to a bare cupboard instead of a warm, nourishing meal.”

“We care deeply about student learning,” remarked Shell Lockwood, who is about to end a long career as a teacher of gifted students, “but we don’t get any useful information from these tests. By the time scores are reported, those students have moved on. Every group of students is unique, and we can’t assume that the next group will have the same needs or abilities. These tests are more a distraction from productive teaching and learning than anything else.”

Some people might find it odd that teachers who object to the test are going to administer the test anyway.

“Our kids are the bottom line,” said Lockwood. “We want the public to know that we stand by our students to support them in a no-win situation. To abandon them just as testing begins would be unthinkable.”

So what can parents do in this situation? “Many of us are parents, too,” said Adam Wujick, math teacher at RMS. “I am disappointed in the lost instructional time for both my own kids and my students. I know that some parents are opting their children out of standardized testing entirely.”

It’s quite apparent that these teachers are determined to make their voice heard. “We have confidence in the wisdom of parents and the public,” said Sudmeier. “Now we just need our state legislators to heed our state constitution and lift public education to its rightful position as the paramount concern.”

From members of the Lake Washington Education Association of Redmond Middle School, east of Seattle, and part of the Lake Washington School District:


WHEREAS, the stated mission of the Lake Washington School District is that ”Each student will graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society;” and

WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and

WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each student to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and

WHEREAS, student computers and district infrastructure are unreliable and it is unacceptable for students to have learning time diverted to an activity so likely to be plagued with technical issues; and

WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is likely to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and

WHEREAS, student performance on this test is unlikely to be indicative of learning, but very likely to correlate directly with family socioeconomic status; and

WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant flux, confusing, and poorly communicated; and

WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests and End of Course exams deprives teachers of adequate time to provide instruction and for students to learn; and

WHEREAS, some of these exams may impact high school graduation; and

WHEREAS, during the testing window teachers are also administering unit tests, year-end finals and facilitating summative projects; and

WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on school schedules, student learning, teacher and administrative work time is out of proportion to the limited value of the test results; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, we, members of the Lake Washington Education Association at Redmond Middle School object to the administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to assisting students to “… graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society.”

David Sudmeier

Denise Gross

Shell Lockwood

Sacha DeBeaumarchais

Kristin Rhode

Heidi Knable

Adam Wujick

Kaylee Hansen

Mary Chandler

Melissa Brown

Dena Kernish

Carol McCaig

Eric Fredlund

Ben Pinneo

Sara Hall

Scott Nelson

Quinn Thompson

Paul Neet

Kelly Konicki

Meg Town

Kris Kornegay

Chris Fleharty

Julian Vasquez Heilig analyzes a new poll about choice. Choice is alluring but what are people concerned about most?

Lack of parental involvement in the schools, class size, too much testing, budget cuts.

What do they think about charters? They don’t object to them so long as
they don’t take funding from their public school. They think charter board meetings should be open to the public. Most want to limit their expansion.

Testing expert Fred Smith first called attention to the mysterious disappearance of three questions from New York state’s Common Core tests last year. Then the New York Post published an article confirming the unexplained elimination of questions, but determined that four questions were dropped, not just three. When the scores were announced last fall, then-State Commissioner John King boasted that the scores were rising, confirming his belief that raising the bar would lead to higher achievement every year until one day all children would be proficient. Now we know that there was no score increase in ELA, that the reported “gains” resulted from the deletion of four questions that most students found confusing and either skipped or answered incorrectly. I spoke this morning to a high-level official in Albany, who told me that the scores last year did not increase, contrary to the Commissioner’s assertion. Now we know why. Had those missing questions been counted, my informant said, the scores would have declined or remained flat.



King now works directly for Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education. One of Duncan’s favorite refrains is that “we have been lying to our children,” by telling them they are meeting grade-level expectations, when in reality, their performance is rotten. Why does he want parents to believe that their children are doing terribly and their public schools are no good? Why does he defend standards and tests that fail 70% of students? Well, he has made clear by his words and deeds that he prefers charter schools to public schools, and that he admires the policy of closing public schools and firing the entire staff to “turn around” schools, so the “failure” narrative serves his policy goals. Given the revelations about Common Core testing in New York, who is lying to our children?


At some point, the public will get wise and realize that the passing marks on standardized tests are arbitrary, the scoring on written responses is graded by temps hired from Craigs List, and government officials can spin the data to achieve rising scores or falling scores, whatever serves their political interest best.

Peter Greene watched “Defies Measurement,” and he urges you to see it too. It was made by a teacher, Shannon Puckett. You can see it free here.


Greene writes:


Let me cut to the chase– I cannot recommend enough that you watch Defies Measurement, a new film by Shannon Puckett.


The film is a clear-eyed, well-sourced look at the business of test-driven corporate-managed profiteer-promoted education reform, and it has several strengths that make it excellent viewing both for those of us who have been staring at these issues for a while and for teachers and civilians who are just now starting to understand that something is going wrong.


The film is anchored by the story of Chipman Middle School in Alemeda, a school that up until ten years ago was an educational pioneer, using the solid research about brains and learning (and where Shannon Puckett once taught). They were a vibrant, exciting, hands-on school that defied expectations about what could be done with middle schools students in a poor urban setting. And then came No Child Left Behind, and we see a focus on test scores and canned programs replace programs centered on creating strong independent thinkers, even as Laura Bush comes to visit to draw attention to the school’s embrace of testing culture. It is heartbreaking to watch some of the teachers from the school reflect on their experience a decade later; one sadly admits that she sold out, while another says she still feels remorse, but that she didn’t sell out– she was duped, making the mistaken assumption that the important people making edicts from on high knew something that she did not. She no longer thinks so.


The story of Chipman is a backdrop for considering the various elements that have played out in the reformosphere over the last decade. The film looks at the flow of reform-pushing money, the smoke-and-mirrors rise of charters and how that has failed in the Charter Dreamland of New Orleans, the misunderstanding of how kids learn (if you’re not a Howard Gardner fan you’ll have to grit your teeth for a minute), the history of standardized testing, the false narrative of US testing failure, the rise of resegregation, the corrosive effects of reform on the teaching profession, the destructiveness of Race to the Top, and how teaching the whole child in a safe and nurturing environment is great for humans, even if it doesn’t help with testing.



Jason Stanford, an investigative journalist in Texas, writes that he took the fourth grade ELA test, composed of sample questions from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He decided to do this after learning that a sixth grader challenged legislators to take the test.


A 6th grader in East Texas recently challenged state lawmakers to do what she and every other public-school kid have to do during testing season: “Sit in a room for up to four hours, without talking, writing, drawing, reading, or using your cell phone.” Because millions of children are taking Common Core standardized tests this time of year, I did her one better. I took a 4th-grade English Language Arts practice test. The good news is I passed.


The bad news is that the test is basically worthless, highlighting the folly of using standardized tests to measure a child’s ability to read and write. And to the Texas 6th grader’s point, in no way whatsoever was I able to quietly sit still for that long. Of course, it didn’t take me four hours to complete the sample test. I don’t want to brag, but I’m very advanced for a 4th grader.


There were questions that he found confusing. There were questions that made him want to strangle whoever wrote them. There was no real literature. There were questions with no right answers or possibly two right answers. The big problem, he concludes, is the assumption that standardized tests can assess what children understand or know or can do.


The writing portion of the test was ludicrous. Students were given a business card-shaped rectangle in which to record their analysis. You could replace this entire test with a book report and come out ahead. Actually, you could probably buy every child in America first editions and come out ahead. The price tag on SBAC tests in California alone is $1 billion.


We’re so focused on measuring children that we’ve stopped developing them. These tests don’t measure what we want our children to learn and are a waste of money. That Texas 6th grader has a point. I can’t sit quietly. This test is failing our children.



A group of activist parents have turned the tide against high-stakes testing in Texas. They organized, informed themselves, informed others, and button-holed their state legislators about the overuse and misuse of testing in Texas’s public schools. Because of their activities and their persistence, they persuaded the legislators to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate. They are continuing their campaign by exposing the cost and continued overuse of standardized testing.


The group is called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, but admirers often call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”


They created a powerpoint to explain their concerns.


The powerpoint can be seen here. Watch it and consider doing the same thing in your state. If we organize and mobilize like TAMSA, we can turn around legislatures across the nation.

Can you imagine the legislators of  your state inventing a new way to evaluate their profession, without inviting any members of the profession to have a say?


Can you imagine the legislators telling the medical profession how to evaluate doctors, but not asking the advice of any doctors?


Let’s not talk about lawyers, because most of them are lawyers, and they wouldn’t dream of evaluating themselves.


Here it is: a new plan to evaluate teachers, but no one knows what it means. Of course, the writer of the article assumes that the teachers’ union is the main opposition to legislated evaluation. They forget that parents don’t want test scores to be the most important way to judge the quality of their child, their school and their teachers. They don’t want the school to give up the arts so there is more time for test prep. They don’t want Albany telling their principal how to decide which teachers are best. Legislators don’t credit them with caring about their children.


Newsflash to Albany: Parents love their children more than you do.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127,774 other followers