Archives for category: Testing

Having read and reviewed every line of the Alexander/Murray proposal to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind), Mercedes Schneider here renders her judgment about the bill as a whole and compares it to the one that the House of Representatives has been working on.


There are aspects to this bill to dislike: its love for charters, which make no sense unless you think the nation needs two publicly funded school system, one free to choose its students, the other not; its retention of annual testing, which has not achieved its goals for the past 13 years, making the United States the most over-tested nation in the world. And there are aspects to like a lot: like stripping the Secretary of Education of any power to control state and local decisions about standards and tests.


Though the bill is not perfect, it has one great advantage: it abandons the absurd goals, mandates, and sanctions that were central to NCLB.


Read Mercedes to see what she concludes.

Be sure to watch this segment about testing and Pearson on John Oliver’s show on HBO:


It is fantastic!!


Enjoy! This is a huge help in telling the public what is happening and how our schools are diverting hundreds of millions of dollars–billions–to testing instead of instruction.

Arne Duncan once made an insulting comment about “white suburban moms” who got angry about Common Core tests because they were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they believed.

This white suburban mom has written a response to Arne.

A comment on the blog:


I attended a forum at Scarsdale HS last night (4/30) w panelists Regent Judith Johnson, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Hagerman.


Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Rosa attended but did not participate.


All panelists spoke to the problems with the state tests and there was general consensus that the tests have no value as a measure of students’ abilities or teacher competencies, that they are a burden to students because test prep takes time away from project-based and other learning and are unnecessarily stressful for children, and are a financial burden to districts.


One of the most interesting comments from Judith Johnson was in response to questions from members of the audience who expressed frustration at not being heard by Albany.


Ms Johnson firmly insisted that parents and opponents to current testing and CC ARE being heard.


HOWEVER, she said that what hasn’t been put forward – what hasn’t be heard – are clear, unified demands and requests for specific changes.


Can you lead us forward in that?


What specific requests should individuals and groups demand of the the Regents, state DOE, Cuomo, and federal government?


Ms Johnson also expressed serious concerns that the State Regents do not having sufficient support staff-experiencing this already and only thirty days into the position. One can certainly see how that could limit her activities and scope of influence. Any thoughts?


There’s much more that I’m leaving out. The event will air on Scarsdale public access TV in next few days.


I’m curious to hear your thoughts.




Mira Karabin
Hartsdale, NY


Dear Mira,


Thanks for writing. Your first question is whether the people in Albany are aware of your concerns. The answer is yes and no. They definitely notice when the parents of nearly 200,000 children refused to take the state test.


Governor Cuomo heard you. He pronounced that you shouldn’t be worried because the tests are “meaningless” and won’t count against your children; they will be meaningful only for teachers, who will be punished if the scores don’t go up by whatever metric the state chooses.


Merryl Tisch heard you. She offered to delay the stakes attached to the testing for a year for some districts, on a case-by-case basis, or to exempt high-performing districts like yours.


But they didn’t actually hear you because they didn’t hear what parents were saying when they opted out. They are not offering to disconnect the scores from teacher evaluations. They are not agreeing to reduce the stakes attached to the tests. They are not offering to review the validity or reliability of the tests. They are not offering any substantive change at all, at best just a delay.


They don’t understand that pressuring teachers to get higher scores–or else–changes what happens in the classroom. It shifts the emphasis from inquiry to drill. It makes test-taking skills more important than thinking skills. It narrows the curriculum only to what is tested. It is contrary to good education, which is why private schools don’t follow the state’s lead. I think it is accurate to say that the leaders and decision-makers in Albany, including the Governor, his staff, most of the Regents, and those at the top of the State Education Department are wedded to an agenda that confuses test scores with education. Tests are a measure not the goal of education. There is also, at the highest level, an inexplicable contempt for the work of teachers and principals. And your children suffer for their ill-conceived policies.


Yes, there are specific, clear demands, voiced by New York State Allies for Public Education. Among other things, they demand “a dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th,” and a call to Congress to shift from annual testing to grade span testing. They also demand an independent review of the state’s standards and a “public and transparent process” for selecting the new state commissioner of education. They say, do not release any personally identifiable data about any student to any third party without parental consent. Check out their list of demands.


I would add a few more.


Reduce the time required for state testing (currently 7-10 hours) to not more than 2 hours, one for reading, one for math.


Convene a task force of independent and qualified testing experts to review the validity and reliability of the state tests.


Release the state tests after they are administered so that parents, teachers, and researchers can learn from them.


Provide teachers with information specific to each child so they will know how to help them do better in the future.


These are clear and specific demands. I think they fairly represent the views of those who refused the tests. If the Governor, the Legislature, and the Regents refuses to change their agenda, more parents will opt out next time. Ideally, there will come a day when no one takes these tests, which have not been reviewed for their validity and reliability and which are kept secret from teachers and parents. How many pineapples might be hidden in the questions? Why shouldn’t teachers learn what students got right or wrong?


I hope this is helpful.





I posted about the state of education in California, where Governor Jerry Brown pushed through a tax increase to benefit schools, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson suspended the stakes attached to tests while the Common Core is phased in, and where there have been thus far no negative consequences attached to the new regime of Common Core and its assessments. Several teachers wrote to complain that the post was far too positive, so I changed the title to a question rather than a statement. As backdrop remember that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed the education budget by many billions and appointed charter advocates to a majority of seats on the state board. The California Charter Schools Association is politically active, supporting candidates who support their agenda.


This comment was posted, without a name attached.



I am not even at liberty to write what I know or feel comfortable to share what I have experienced for the fear of what “they: will do to me (yes, I know, nothing can happen to me, truth is a defense to defamation claims etc., but the fear and paranoia persists).


I have taught on the East Coast (not comfortable even sharing which city) and extreme necessity led me to CA.


WHATEVER YOU ARE IMAGINING in CA as “BAD”, it is worse than that. The corporate takeover is beyond insidious. This is happening in rural communities—and most CA is THAT– where people outside the state don’t even know about the worst exploitations that are going on, where principals are just figureheads, and consultants from LA and Silicon Valley are hired at unconscionable rates. The parents are often illiterate or don’t know any better in these communities. The politicians are in the hands of the big companies (I can’t even name industries for the fear…) This is the first time I have ever written a comment here. I have no words to express how bad it is. But God is my witness, when the day comes when the fear has subsided, my words will be the brightest light to shed on what is actually going on there. Whatever “negative” articles exist about Success Academies and such, nothing compares to what is actually going on in CA.


Thank you for changing the title.

A reader, Charlene Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, sent the following comment in response to this post about the vocabulary used on one of the Common Core tests:


This speaks to one of the essential issues in the current high stakes testing debacle. Why the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific and unethical. I am a psychologist, faculty at UCLA, and a mother in California. I hadn’t heard about these concerns with the current high stakes testing, until after I became very concerned with the developmental level of the SB practice items when helping my daughter (dutifully prepare for the tests).
The 6th grade ELA practice performance task for the Smarter Balance was completely inappropriate for 11-12 year olds, requiring them to toggle between several screens (on small Ipad screens), and choose multiple pieces of evidence to evaluate, select, paraphrase, compare and contrast, as well as write a multiparagraph essay. Never mind that while practicing, toggling back to the articles caused the students’ written work on the essay to be erased (lost).

Why the current high stakes testing is unscientific:
1) There is no proven Construct Validity (does your test measure what you think it measures)
2) Cut scores are determined by an unknown (arbitrary) process- labeling children as proficient, or failing appears to not be based on any scientific process. It is not scientific to arbitrarily decide what levels of your test scores actually mean in the real world. Scientific measurement requires cross-validation with external measures that provide evidence for your claims (like grades, or independent in-depth measures of children’s educational achievement in a a smaller sample with highly experienced evaluators).
3) Computer adaptive tests- there have been many concerns raised about how item difficulty has been decided. Children continue to progress on these tests if they continue to get a certain number the most recent answers correct. Educational measurement specialists (true academically trained professionals) and parents and children have observed that very often items following very difficult questions are significantly easier. This raises concerns that children’s scores are artificially deflated by unscientifically determined item difficulty determinations.
4) Inter-rater reliability- No checks exist to independently determine whether the scoring administered by these testing companies has truly reliable and valid measurements of children’s answers (see Todd Farley )
Most importantly, the Pearson, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced testing is unscientific because they violate the basic rule of science. The assessments are not verifiable, because they are not permitted to be subject to independent scientific evaluation. Their validity cannot be proven nor disproven. Under the guise of “test security” companies use copyright laws so extreme they prevent true scientific evaluation of the validity of these tests, by scientists with expertise in the fields of Education, Psychology, and related fields.
So I am deeply concerned that the profit-driven testing business is using unscientific (and expensive) testing which is portrayed to the public as if it’s truth, with high stakes ramifications on children, teachers, and our public education system. As stakeholders and parents, we need to demand accountability, real science, and an ethical separation between profit-driven educational businesses and the true scientifically-based education and measurement. For the sake of our children, our teachers, and our educational system which is truly one of the foundations of our democratic country.

A message from Fairtest:


FairTest National Center for Fair & Open Testing

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468


New, computer-delivered, school testing programs have been plagued by malfunctions across the nation. So far in April, exam delivery collapsed in at least eight states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Several different companies are responsible for these faulty systems. The list includes American Institutes of Research (AIR), CTB/McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service (ETS), Measured Progress, and Pearson Education.
According to Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, (FairTest), which monitors standardized exams across the U.S., policy-makers should learn two lessons from these widespread technical problems.

“First,” Schaeffer explained, “State education officials must suspend the high-stakes testing mandate, as Montana’s education commissioner already did. Results from exams that have repeatedly been interrupted are not reliable, valid or even ‘standardized.’ The fact is students ended up taking them under widely different conditions.”
Schaeffer continued, “Second, state and national politicians must step on the brakes to stop testing overkill. Many schools lack sufficient up-to-date computers and other modern equipment for mass test administration. Large numbers of districts do not have the internet bandwidth to handle the volume. Testing company servers do not have the capacity to meet the surge from thousands of students logging on simultaneously.”

Proponents of computerized testing have tried to blame “hacker attacks” in some instances. But Schaeffer said state investigations have concluded that most problems have stemmed from issues within the testing industry’s control.

Schaeffer concluded, “This fiasco is largely caused by politically-driven assessment policies. Policy-makers ignored multiple warnings from educators, technical experts and parents.”

A regularly updated chronology of computer testing problems over the past three years is online at

Leonie Haimson is a national treasure. She founded a group called Class Size Matters, which advocates for reduced class size. She is an unpaid worker for kids in Néw York and across the nation. She is also an expert on data-mining and student privacy. Through her research and testimony, she informed parents in seven states about the $100 million committed by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to create inBloom, a vast data mining plan. Once exposed, arents protested, state after state withdrew and inBloom collapsed.

Here is a public letter from a parent to Leonie Haimson:

The California parent wrote:

Leonie Haimson’s Opt Out Message Rang Out Loud and Clear on the West Coast

—What a small but mighty group can do—

—RestorePVEducation —

We had the privilege of hearing Leonie Haimson speak on April 12th in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Leonie spoke to the privacy issues, data mining and high stakes testing.

Parents heard loud and clear.

Today it was confirmed that 200 students out of a class of 464 Opted Out at Palos Verdes High School’s 11th grade class. Only approximately 40% are taking the SBAC.

Palos Verdes High School has a 98% rate of students going on to college.
We are already ‘College Ready’.

If Smarter Balanced thinks that CA parents have already been dumbed-down, think again.

Parents and community are waking up to the Smarter Balanced profiteering scenario and they don’t like what they are finding out.

Parents here questioned “Where is the Smarter Balanced Privacy Policy?” only to find out from Leonie that there is none. Absolutely no Privacy Policy to be found. How reassuring

Parents are questioning why Smarter Balanced has ‘locked out’ the public, school boards, administrators, parents and community from any information regarding the Smarter Balanced Executive Committee, its’ elections, decisions, agendas, minutes, etc.

There is no way to access the SB website for any of this type of information since September 1, 2014.

Yet Smarter Balanced is dictating policy decisions, lessons and testing to 17 states who have paid them with public funds.

Any decisions made by Smarter Balanced are done in secret, while Smarter Balanced functions on public funds.

Housed along with the CRESST center on the UCLA campus, parents fear, and rightly so, that the Hewlitt Foundation CRESST center is accessing our children’s data.

Why? And who else gets to see and use it?

Third party vendors are having a field day with our CA children’s data. We get the Big Data, Big Money Scheme. We don’t want that here.

While our local Palos Verdes Peninsula School District has been pouring funds to meet the unfunded mandates for technology, parents have stormed the Board room questioning why their children are in huge classes or combo classes.

Teachers have only seen a 2% raise over an 8 year period. There is no money for anything but technology to take the SBAC tests.

When asked parents will tell you that 1 teacher is worth a million computers to their child. We don’t need more tech to teach children–we need more teachers.

By 2012, 77 Palos Verdes teachers had lost their jobs, and have not been replaced.

What has come in instead is more computers and software.

Parents get it and will not stand for it any longer.

Thanks Leonie Haimson for bringing your message to CA. We are starting our chapter of Parents Across America.

Watch out Smarter Balanced–here we come!

Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.


The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.


The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.


When I visited Texas a few years ago, I wondered why Texas paid nearly $500 million to Pearson for five years of testing, but New York paid only $32 million to Pearson for the same five years. I assumed it must be a testament to the high quality lobbyists that Pearson hired in Texas, starting with Sandy Kress, who was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind and very well connected to the state’s power structure.

What happens if a tornado or a severe storm disrupts the calm atmosphere needed to administer tests? What if a tsunami strikes without warning? The possibilities are numerous and frightening.

Fortunately someone has thought about this problem and established protocols. Please share these rules with teachers, administrators, and students.


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