Archives for category: Testing

A reader left this comment:


Insofar as the PARCC exam is concerned, as a reader, I’ve found the following to be true:


1. Many of the passages are insanely difficult, and most students are not psychologically mature enough to handle them, nor do they have enough background information to handle the passages and tasks.
2. Many from PARCC and Pearson HATE glossing. Trust me, I argued about several passages with them, and they refused to do so. I think it depends on the team you get, though. Other people at various meetings said they glossed a bit more than my team was allowed.
3. The test is bloody difficult, and there are a few answers choices for many of the passages that could be justified; however, according to Pearson, they were not the “best” answers… Whatever that means.
Insanity, power, and money are in cahoots to destroy public education.

Yinzercation–the Pennsylvania blog written by education activist Dr. Jessie Ramey–posts here a brilliant statement about why she is opting out on religious grounds. Under state law, she is not required to state her beliefs, but she does. I hope you will read it all.


Here is an excerpt from a powerful post explaining Dr. Ramey’s religious beliefs:


The inherent worth and dignity of every person.


Every child is valuable – priceless – and has the human right to a rich, full education. Respecting the inherent worth of every child also means treating each student as an individual, and not a widget being produced in a factory. Standardized testing, tied to an ever more standardized common core curriculum, sorts students into categories (“below basic,” “basic,” etc.) There are serious consequences to this sorting and labeling (see below), but the underlying premise of this standardized high-stakes-testing is to compare and rank students – not to support the individual learning of each student.


This is clearly evident when schools use standardized, normed tests, which force all students into a bell curve, guaranteeing that a large proportion of the children will fail. To get that nice bell shape of test results, with exactly half of the children falling on the “below average” side of the curve, the tests are carefully designed with purposefully misleading questions. For instance, test makers will use tricky sound-alike answers to intentionally trip up English language learners, or culturally specific clues most easily decoded only by students from wealthy families. Pittsburgh is subjecting students to the normed GRADE test not once, but three times a year (a result of accepting state money that came with testing strings attached). Teachers have been reporting the problematic GRADE test questions for years, but the test-maker has not changed them because this “assessment” requires a set failure rate. In what way does this kind of standardized testing respect the inherent worth of our students? When students’ test scores are then displayed for all to see on “data walls” (an increasingly common practice in our schools), how does this respect the dignity of each child?


Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.


While advocates claim that high-stakes-testing will hold teachers and schools accountable for student learning and therefore promote equity, it often does the exact opposite by reinforcing inequality. High-stakes-testing labels our schools as “failures,” but never results in additional resources to actually help kids. Instead, “failing” schools are often targeted for closure. When you look at the pattern of school closures across the country – including here in Pittsburgh – you can see that districts have closed schools in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods, displacing some students multiple times. Our communities of color have been harmed the most, with places like Oakland and Hazelwood turned into education deserts without a single neighborhood public school.


Schools labeled as “failing” on the basis of student test scores are often targeted with other “reforms” that rarely help children. Our own beloved Colfax provides an excellent example of the “disruptive innovation” imposed on supposedly failing schools. Nine years ago when our family first started at Colfax, its large achievement gap had recently earned it a designation as a “turnaround school.” The district fired every single teacher and the principal then handpicked an entirely new teaching staff. The idea, of course, was that we had to get rid of the “bad” teachers and hire only “great” teachers and that would solve the problem of low test scores. Fast forward almost a decade and you can see that this didn’t work: Colfax still has one of the largest achievement gaps in the city (which is really an opportunity gap made highly visible by the presence of families from some of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest and poorest communities together in the same school).


During this same decade, Colfax students also experienced a relentless series of “reforms,” all aimed at increasing test scores. When we started, Colfax was a Spanish language immersion school, then we lost the extra language instruction to become an “Accelerated Learning Academy” focused on reading and math. We got an America’s Choice curriculum that was supposed to solve everything and added extra periods of reading. We got a longer school day and a longer school year. We got a Parent Engagement Specialist. Then we lost the curriculum, lost the extra time and days, and lost the parent specialist. The district changed to a 6 day week, so we could cram in extra reading and math periods, since these are tested subjects, resulting in a net loss of music, art, language, and physical education. With state budget cuts we lost more music and athletic programs, and we even lost our after school tutoring program aimed at those very students whose test scores continue to cause so much alarm. And class sizes ballooned to 30, sometimes 35 and more students.


Imposing constant churn and disruption on our most vulnerable students in the pursuit of higher test scores is not education justice. Worse, the relentless high-stakes-testing has served to re-inscribe inequality. We recently heard from Jon Parker, a Pittsburgh high school teacher, who explained what high-stakes-testing is doing to students’ sense of self worth in his classroom. Every year, he asks his students to write him a letter introducing themselves. In his class of struggling readers this year, over half of the students included their most recent PSSA rating as part of their introduction. They literally said things like, “I’ll work hard but I’m below basic.”

Juan Gonzalez has a front-page article in the New York Daily News about the historic opt out that swept across New York State.


He writes:


The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.


This “opt-out” revolt has been quietly building for years, but it reached historic levels this time. More than half the pupils at several Long Island and upstate school districts joined in — at some schools in New York City boycott percentages neared 40%.


At the Patchogue-Medford School District in Suffolk County, 65% of 3,400 students in grades three to eight abstained from the test, District Superintendent Michael Hynes told the Daily News.


“There was a very strong parent contingent that spoke loudly today,” Hynes said.


At West Seneca District near Buffalo, nearly 70% of some 2,976 students refused testing. Likewise, at tiny Southold School District on Long Island’s North Fork, 60% of the 400 students opted out; so did 60% of Rockville Centre’s 1,600 pupils. And in the Westchester town of Ossining, nearly 20% of 2,100 students boycotted.


“It’s clear that parents and staff are concerned about the number of standard assessments and how they’re used,” Ossining school chief Ray Sanchez said.


The final numbers are not in, and may not be in for a few days, but it is already clear that the number of opt outs will far surpass last year’s 50,000.


Contrary to the official line that this is “a labor dispute between the Governor and the unions,” the opt out movement is parent led. Parents don’t work for the union, and parents aren’t dumb. Parents protect their children from tests that have no valid purpose. Parents protect their children from tests that were designed to fail them. Parents protect their children from tests that force schools to cut back on the arts, on recess, on anything that is not tested.


Bravo, New York state parents!


Bravo especially to the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 organizations of parents and teachers who have testified in Albany, held community forums, informed PTAs, met with their legislators, and raised funds to pay for billboards and roving trucks with banners, plastered towns with car magnets, opt-out stickers, and lawn signs, and been truly herculean in their dedication to bringing down the state’s mean-spirited and pointless testing regime. Go to their website to learn how they mobilized the Empire State to say no to the Governor and his misbegotten plan to bring down public schools and teachers.


This is grassroots democracy at work. The hedge fund managers have millions to buy allies, but they can’t buy millions of parents, whose first and only concern is for their children. As a parent said earlier today in the Long Island Press, “The most dangerous place on Earth is between a mother and her child. Cuomo has crossed the line.”


Make no mistake. This is parent resistance to high-stakes testing and to Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make the stakes even higher than they were. He was able to push his plan through the legislature, but parents have just thrown a huge monkey wrench into his ability to make it work. It won’t and it can’t. That is how democracy works. Only with the consent of the governed.


Yes, you read that right. The vendor of the Smarter Balanced Assessment was not prepared for the number of tests that the server had to deliver, and the system broke down in three states.


According to the Nevada Department of Education, a spike in students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) this morning in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota exceeded the data capacity of Measured Progress, a third-party vendor contracted by the states to provide the test.


All testing in the three states has been stopped until Measured Progress can increase its data capacity, according to an email sent to state superintendents today by state deputy superintendent Steve Canavero.


Students who were taking the test at the time of the problem were able to finish their test, but teachers could not start new tests. About 13,000 tests were completed this morning before the errors started occurring, according to the department.


Think about it. The vendor didn’t know that so many students would be taking tests at the same time. What were they thinking?


Nothing to add to the headline. Send me links if you find them.

The Pearson server crashed in Colorado as tens of thousands of students were taking online assessments in science and social studies.

It was not what you would call an opt out, but it had the same effect. The Brave Néw World of online assessment is not quite ready for prime time.

A letter from a teacher:

“Two of the students that I tutor called me up to give me feedback about the tests. One student is an honors student in the 6th grade in a middle school. He is a high achiever from a professional family. He was so upset that his voice was breaking up on the phone. He described a poem that he did not comprehend at all. He stated that the vocabulary was so difficult and that he never encountered most of the words that were used in this poem.

I asked if at the bottom of the poem some of the meanings were footnoted. He said no.

He then said that at the end of the assessment, his English teacher looked at the poem and said to the class that she did not really understand the poem herself . In addition, there was another nonfiction passage that he had to read twice to get any meaning from. As a result, he was unable to complete all the questions for this passage by the end of the assessment.

My second student is a 8th grade student who goes to a middle school in Queens. He has second language issues that have caused many gaps in his vocabulary. He said that he had to read many of the passages twice and could not finish the test. He said that the passages on the assessment were harder than the passages I gave to him. The readability of the practice passages I gave to him were mostly on the 10th grade level. Most of the material I used came from two well known publishers. Both these publishers claimed that their material supposedly mimic the difficulty level of the assessment. I guess not.

More important is the fact that this is a boy whose parents have very high expectations which have caused him to have issues in self-concept. After this assessment, his self-concept is in the garbage. His parents were always opposed to opting out because of their cultural background. His mother came on the phone and is now considering opting her son out from the rest of the assessment.

What I am hearing is nothing less than criminal. Forget about the fact that it appears that these passages and questions are so hard that teachers cannot comprehend them. Also forget about how these tests are being used against us teachers.

It is more important that these assessments represent, in my mind, child abuse. What is the purpose of destroying children that try so hard. Both of these students are boys who want to please their parents. their teachers and me. They now feel like failures. No child should ever be made to feel this way. I even feel like a failure because I worked so hard with these two boys. At least I understand that it is not me. It is the tests. There is no doubt that the purpose of these tests is to create failure. They were never intended to measure learning.

A letter was circulated to all principals in the Rochester, New York, school system, advising them to identify teachers who had encouraged parents or students to opt out and to report teachers who were absent on testing day.


Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, sent the following letter to his members:




The attached email was sent to school principals by Beverly Burrell-Moore. Understandably, teachers find the tone and content of that email to be a blatant attempt at intimidation and an infringement on teachers’ rights and academic freedom. I have immediately brought this to the attention of Superintendent Vargas who said that he was unaware of the email but would communicate his position to teachers directly later today.


As well they should, teachers feel a moral obligation to speak up when they witness harm being done to their students. The tests being now imposed on students are educational malpractice and should be objectionable to teachers, parents and all others who care about students. I applaud all parents who choose to refuse to subject their children to these meaningless and bad tests and commend teachers who insist on their right to respond to inquiries from parents and students.


Today we have filed a Class Action Grievance against the District for already taking disciplinary action against individual teachers. Please let us know if you or your colleagues suffer any reprisals as a result of speaking out against these tests. We will continue to defend the rights of teachers to speak out against harmful educational practices and to advocate for the best interest of their students.



Adam Urbanski, RTA President

It gets harder and harder to keep up with the news about testing, because the popular sentiment is changing against standardized testing in general and Common Core testing in particular with great rapidity. Even this list is slightly dated. As I reported earlier today, some of the Atlanta educators convicted of racketeering were given stiff prison sentences.


It is an extraordinary coincidence that the Senate revision of NCLB is occurring at the same time as the biggest test refusal in American history. The parents who are opting out are sending a message to Congress at the same time that Congress plans to renew annual testing for another seven years. Will Congress hear the message? Or will the opt out movement grow even stronger next year? And will there be more Teachers of Conscience who refuse to give the tests?


Fairtest reports in its weekly update on testing resistance and reform:


Today is huge for assessment reform with the U.S. Senate education committee starting markup of legislation to overhaul “No Child Left Behind,” tens of thousands of students planning to opt-out of the first day of standardized exams in New York State, and sentencing scheduled in the Atlanta cheating case that has focused attention on damage from the fixation on test scores.



Here’s a sampling of just one week’s news from across the nation. Please continue sending us your clips and let us know if FairTest can help your local campaigns in any way


U.S. Senate Rewrite of “No Child Left Behind” Does Not Go Far Enough


Congress Many Years Behind in Move to Overhaul NCLB


Is It a “Civil Right” to Take Federally Mandated Tests?


California Parents Can Choose to Opt Out of Common Core Tests


Colorado Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Opt-Out Bill


Colorado Moms Take Frustration About Standardized Testing to State Capital


Connecticut Opt Out Policies Vary Among Districts


Florida Legislature Sends Governor Bill to Scale Back Testing


Florida Congresswoman Calls on State to Ignore Results of This Year’s Tests


Georgia Debates “Fair’ Punishment for Atlanta Educators in Testing Scandal


Atlanta Cheating Scandal Exposes Everything Wrong with Test-Driven Education


Louisiana Teachers Should Be Inspiring Students, Not Just Preparing Them for Tests


Maine Students Opt Out of New Standardized Test


Michigan PTA Calls for Suspension of New State Assessment


Michigan Parents Pulling Kids Out of State Tests


Nebraska Presses Own Model in “No Child” Overhaul Debate


New Hampshire SmarterBalanced Testing Is Unethical, Invalid


New Jersey PARCC Is Part of State’s Education Problems, Not a Solution


New Mexico School Counselors Speak Out Against School Testing Overkill


New Mexico Opt-Out Numbers Grow


New York Opt Out Movement Grows Rapidly


Western New York District Opt-Out Rate Tops 56%


New York Teacher Licensing Test on Trial for Racial Bias, Lack of Relationship to Job


North Carolina Test-Based School Grades Get an “F”


North Dakota Legislatures Can’t Reach Agreement on Opt-Out Bill as Grassroots Movement Grows


Ohio Governor Signs Bill Protecting Students From Negative Consequences of New PARCC Test Scores


Ohio Educators Give Law Marks to Rollout of New State Tests


Oregon Students Lead Movement Against New Tests


Oregon Opt-Out Gains Steam, Especially in Portland


Pennsylvania Suburbs See Twenty-Fold Increase in Opt-Out Requests


Pennsylvania Should Not Waste Time With Keystone Exams


Tennessee Dueling Test Standards Put Squeeze on Teachers and Students


Texas Concedes New Math Test Scores Will Not Count in School, District Ratings


Texas Lawmaker Takes Aim at STAAR Testing


Washington State NAACP Joins Critics of New Tests


Washington High School Students Boycotting Smarter Balanced Test


Congratulations, Pearson Offered Me a Test-Scoring Position


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

A recent poll reported in the Los Angeles Times produced interesting results and a divide between Latino and white voters.


Latino voters support standardized tests, while most white oppose them.


Both groups support public schools (as compared to privately managed schools), but Latino voters support them by larger margins.


A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.


None of the voters know that the new Common Core exams provide no information about how a student is progressing other than a score; they offer no diagnostic information whatever so there is nothing that a teacher or parent learns other than how many answers they got right compared to others in the same grade.


Voters were critical of tenure, assuming it means a lifetime job, with whites more critical than Latino and black voters.


Latino and black voters believe that more money should be put into schools in poor neighborhoods to improve them:


Nearly half of voters surveyed said publicly funded, independently run charter schools offer a higher-quality education than traditional public schools. Still, a majority of white voters, 56%, believe the state should invest in improving existing schools instead of spending additional money to create more charters. Minority voters held on to that belief more strongly, with support between 67% and 69%.


Eight out of 10 black and Latino voters said putting more money into schools in economically or socially disadvantaged areas would improve the quality of public education somewhat or a lot, compared with 68% of white voters.


The article includes an interview with Dan Schnur of the University of Southern California, brother of Jon Schnur, the architect of Race to the Top. USC conducted the poll.




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