Archives for category: Testing

Opt Out Orlando posted the following letter by Susan Bowles, a kindergarten teacher. For her courage and dedication to her students, Susan Bowles joins the honor roll.

Her husband wrote this introduction:

“I tried to share this post by my wife, Susan, last night. I just found out her privacy settings don’t let others see it. I am very proud of her stance and completely support her, even if it means she loses her job. That would mean someone whose passion has always been about teaching little kids would be out of the profession. She began teaching in 1977.”

Susan Bowles wrote:

Dear Facebook Friends,

I have just sent emails to my principal and CRT, the superintendent, my colleagues at school, the school board members, ACEA (local teachers’ union) and the Gainesville Sun. I have a letter ready to go to the parents of the children in my class, pending principal approval which is standard protocol.


We have given the FAIR assessment in the past but this year it was revamped. It does provide useful information, but nothing significantly superior to what a typical Kindergarten teacher would observe in her students. This year, it is more time consuming and more difficult. Kindergartners are required to take it on the computer using a mouse. FYI: Kindergartners aren’t born with mouse skills. Many of them are proficient on tablets or smartphones, but the mouse can be tricky. (While testing a child last week, she double-clicked which skipped a screen. This child double-clicked three times and triple clicked once. There is no way to go back. There is no way for the school administrator to go back and make a correction.) While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality, it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child.

This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during this test. Someone has forgotten there are other five year olds in our care. There is no provision from the state for money for additional staff to help with the other children in the classroom while this testing is going on. A certified teacher has to give the test. If you estimate that it takes approximately 45 minutes per child to give this test and we have 18 students, the time it takes to give this test is 13 ½ instructional hours. If you look at the schedule, a rough estimate would be that it requires about one full week of instructional time to test all of the children.

Our Kindergarten teachers have been brainstorming ways to test and still instruct. The best option we have come up with is for teachers to pair up, with one teacher instructing two classes while the other teacher tests one-on-one. So now we are looking at approximately TWO WEEKS of true INSTRUCTIONAL TIME LOST. We will not be putting them in front of a movie or having extended playtime, but the reality is that with 35 students, instruction is not the same. FAIR TESTING IS DONE THREE TIMES A YEAR!


I am heartsick over the possibility of losing my job. I love my job. There is nothing I would rather do than teach. I have cried and cried over this, but in the end, it’s not about me. I feel God wants me to stand up for what is best for children. So, come what may, this is my stance. I WILL NOT ADMINISTER THE FAIR TEST TO MY STUDENTS.

If you are wondering what you can do, first and foremost, pray that the testing situation for children in Florida will change. Secondly, if you are a teacher or administrator, tell your story. This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem.

Whom should you contact? Governor Scott sits at the top in the chain of command. I say, voice your concerns to him. He actually might listen since he’s up for reelection. Just Read Florida is the group that masterminded the new version of FAIR. Let them know what you think about it. This issue isn’t about one teacher. This is a springboard for educators and parents to tell their stories. Please, let your voice be heard.

Thanks to Becky Jones Young, my childhood friend and fellow lifelong teacher, for taking a stand of her own in Ohio. She was an amazing middle school English teacher, who quit teaching (her love, joy and passion) because she could no longer participate in cheating children out of fun, creativity and enriching learning – in the name of education.

Susan Bowles
Kindergarten Teacher
Lawton Chiles Elementary School
Gainesville, Florida

A reader with the name “Sad Teacher” wrote the following comment:

“My problem is that I cannot follow the Marzano rubric and continue to get excellent test scores. I’ve been told for many years what to teach, but now we are being ordered how to teach it. It is almost against the law now for a teacher to go to the dry erase board and explain the strategies to solve a proportion. That is called direct instruction, and it is a bad word in my district, thanks to the Marzano model of the teacher evaluation system.

“I was actually told by my evaluator that I needed to teach the highest kids in my classroom how to properly solve a proportion – and then they would teach the rest of the class in small groups, of course. It is my job to just walk around the classroom and look up at the ceiling (facilitate their learning they call it) and, of course, TEST LIKE CRAZY! I can’t teach this way! It has all gotten so ridiculous that I can’t stand the stress anymore. I love my students dearly, but all they have is a kind teacher with dark circles under her eyes with a sad smile on her face looking at the calendar on her desk to see the next assessment deadline. They deserve so much more.”

This report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says that many states are reconsidering the costs of Common Core testing, and a small number have withdrawn from participation in the two federally-funded tests, PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

“But as controversy over the Common Core has challenged some states’ commitment to the standards, a number of states have decided to withdraw from PARCC or Smarter Balanced or to use alternative tests, raising questions about the cost of the tests and the long-term viability of the multistate testing groups, which received $360 million in federal grants to develop the tests. The federal grants will end this fall, and it is unclear whether the testing groups will continue past that point.

“What gets tested is what gets taught,” said Joan Herman, co-director emeritus of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. “To the extent that the assessments well represent the spirit and meaning of the standards, the spirit and meaning of the standards will get taught. Where the assessments fall short, curriculum, instruction and teaching will likely fall short as well.”

Federal law prohibits any officer or agency of the federal government from attempting to influence or control curriculum or instruction in the nation’s public schools. It is axiomatic that “what gets tested is what gets taught,” so it is surprising that the U.S. Department of Education funded these two testing consortia; private foundations should have done it.

In the article, several “experts” are quoted about the minimal costs of switching to the new tests, but at least one of them points out that the low-ball estimates rarely include the costs of new technology and additional bandwidth.

At a time when many states are cutting education budgets and increasing class sizes, some states will find it challenging to increase their spending on assessment.

Unmentioned in the article is the issue of computer-scored testing. Students in theory will answer questions by explaining why they answered as they did. Computers will evaluate their “deeper thinking” as well as their essays. Les Perelman of MIT has demonstrated that robo-graders are unable to tell the difference between sense and nonsense so long as the sentences are structurally sound. Yet millions of students will be judged by computers that are unable to discern irony, wit, creativity, humor, or even fact.

Whose idea was it to put all testing online? Dumb idea. In my view, which doesn’t count as much as Arne Duncan’s or Bill Gates’, most tests should be written by teachers (they know what they taught) and graded by teachers (so they can discover immediately what students learned and did not learn).

Dawn Neely-Randall is a teacher in Ohio. She is in her 25th year in the classroom. For a long while, she watched in silence as the testing mania absorbed more and more instructional time. And then she decided she had to speak out. She had to defend her students. She had to defend her professional ethics. She could not remain silent. And speak she did. Here is an article that she wrote that appeared on Valerie Strauss’s blog.

If every state had 1,000 teachers as brave, bold, and outspoken as Dawn Neely-Randall, we could stop the insanity that is destroying children’s lives and debasing education. For her courage in speaking out, for her refusal to remain docile and silent, I add Dawn Neely-Randall to the honor roll.

Here are a few choice excerpts from her impassioned article.

“Last spring, you wouldn’t find the fifth-graders in my Language Arts class reading as many rich, engaging pieces of literature as they had in the past or huddled over the same number of authentic projects as before. Why? Because I had to stop teaching to give them a Common Core Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) online sample test that would prepare them for the upcoming PARCC pilot pre-test which would then prepare them for the PARCC pilot post test – all while taking the official Ohio Achievement Tests. This amounted to three tests, each 2 ½ hours, in a single week, the scores of which would determine the academic track students would be placed on in middle school the following year.”

“In addition to all of that, I had to stop their test prep lessons (also a load of fun) to take each class three floors down to our computer lab so they could take the Standardized Testing and Reporting (“STAR”) tests so graphs and charts could be made of their Student Growth Percentile (SGP) which would then provide quantitative evidence to suggest how these 10-year-olds would do on the “real” tests and also surmise the teacher’s (my) affect on their learning.

“Tests, tests, and more freakin’ tests.

“And this is how I truly feel in my teacher’s heart: the state is destroying the cherished seven hours I have been given to teach my students reading and writing each week, and these children will never be able to get those foundational moments back. Add to that the hours of testing they have already endured in years past, as well as all the hours of testing they still have facing them in the years to come. I consider this an unconscionable a theft of precious childhood time……”

“And most disconcerting of all, in my entire 24-year career, not one graded standardized test has EVER been returned to the students, their parents, or to me, the teacher. Also, for the past three years here in Ohio, released test questions have no longer been posted online. In addition, teachers have had to sign a “gag order” before administering tests putting their careers on the line ensuring they will not divulge any content or questions they might happen to oversee as they walk around monitoring the test.”

Levi Cavener, a teacher of special education in Idaho, learned that Idaho will give the Common Core test SBAC) to tenth graders even though it includes eleventh grade content.

“However, I was shocked during this exchange when the Director told me that the decision was due to the fact the state was worried students wouldn’t take the test seriously, and they didn’t want their data set tainted…because, you know, then the results wouldn’t be valid.

“Here is the Director’s response to my question of the logic in giving 10th graders the SBAC instead of 11th graders:

[The director said “Grade 11 is optional this year as your juniors have already met graduation requirements with the old ISATs and might not take the new tests seriously if they were used for accountability.”
Well, that’s convenient. I’m glad the State Department can cherry-pick the students who take the SBAC “seriously” and which students will not; I’m sure they will give that same privilege to teachers…oh..err…I guess not.]

See, here’s why my jaw was left open: The Director of Assessment admitted, rightfully and logically, that if students won’t take the test seriously, then there is no point in assessing them because the data will be invalid. And, if that’s true, let’s not assess those kidos because it would be a total waste of time and resources, not to mention the fact that the data would be completely invalid.

Thus, it would be logical to conclude that if the data is not accurate, then the SDE surely wouldn’t want to tie those scores to something as significant as a teacher’s livelihood.

Oh wait…they want to do exactly that? Shucks!

According to the the Idaho State Department of Education’s recent Tiered Licensure recommendations, SBAC data will be tied directly to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation.

Yet, If the Dept. of Ed admits SBAC data isn’t accurate, then what in the world are they doing on insisting that the data be tied to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation?

The insistence of tying data that is admittedly invalid is synonymous to tying a fortune cookie to real-world events. I don’t know about you, but my lucky numbers haven’t hit the lottery; what a scam!”

The test is more than eight hours long.

Writes Levi, “Isn’t it logical to conclude that at some point that kidos decide they would rather go outside to recess rather than reading closely on a difficult text passage or spending more time editing a written response? When the kido makes that decision, do we hold the teacher responsible for the invalid data?”

And what about special education kids? “Let’s compound that scenario for special education teachers who work with a population of students qualifying for a special education eligibility under categories of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Emotional Disturbances, and Autism Spectrum diagnosis.

“Yup, I’m sure these students will always take the multi-day SBAC with the utmost earnestness; it’s not like the very behaviors they demonstrated to qualify for special education services to begin with would impede their ability to complete the SBAC with total validity of the results?”

“Tony Little, headmaster of Eton, says that the U.K.’s testing system is unimaginative and misleading.

“England’s “unimaginative” exam system is little changed from Victorian times and fails to prepare young people for modern working life, Eton’s headmaster has said.

“Tony Little said there was a risk that “misleading” test scores may become more important than education itself, and warned against a narrow focus on topping rankings.

“There is a great deal more to an effective and good education than jostling for position in a league table,” Little wrote in a Viewpoint article for the Radio Times.

“He said England’s attempts to copy the highly academic schooling offered in areas of the far east such as Shanghai was ironic, since schools there were now looking at the value of giving children a more rounded education.

“Here is the irony; we seem intent on creating the same straitjacket the Chinese are trying to wriggle out of,” he wrote. “We should be wary of emulating Shanghai just as they themselves see some value in the liberal values of an all-round education – something we have traditionally been good at.”

“Shanghai is rated the top education system in the OECD’s Pisa tests (Programme for International Student Assessment), which compare the performance of children in 65 countries.

“English children’s comparatively poor performance in the rankings was cited by Michael Gove, the former education secretary, as justification for introducing more traditional exams, academies and free schools. Liz Truss, a former education minister, visited to Shanghai to learn the secrets of its success…..

“But Little said England’s exam system was outdated. “[The exam system] obliges students to sit alone at their desks in preparation for a world in which, for much of the time, they will need to work collaboratively.”

“Little, who is due to retire next year, gave his support to a Lancashire primary school that found itself in the spotlight after a letter telling pupils them not to worry about their test results went viral.”

Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn education into a political issue should hang his or her head in shame.

In the midst of a heated gubernatorial race, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, heretofore an admirer of testing and the Common Core and more testing, has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education saying that students are tested too much, especially in the 11th grade.

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appealed to the U.S. Department of Education on Friday to consider whether juniors in Connecticut really need to take a statewide standardized test in the same year that they have SATs, ACTs, AP exams and finals.

“Federal law requires states to test students from grades 3-8 and again in 10th grade. But the new high school test for the Common Core standards is given to 11th graders, with the thinking it yields better data on student learning. This was the first year the test was given to juniors, causing an uproar from some parents.

“I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most overtested: our 11th graders,” Malloy said in the letter to the U.S. Education Department.”

You can’t blame New York parents for feeling baffled and angry at state education officials.

From 2006-2010, the state told them that their children were making incredible gains on the state tests.

Many people thought that the gains were so high that it couldn’t be true.

So state education officials brought in Professor Daniel Koretz of Harvard and Professor Jennifer Jennings of New York University to review the tests and the scores. They reported that the tests had become too predictable, that too few standards were tested, and that the results were inflated. So in 2010, scores dropped across the state as the scores were adjusted.

Then came the switch to Common Core, and the scores across the state collapsed in 2013. Two-thirds of all students “failed” to reach what the state called proficiency. Parents were furious, especially in districts where the graduation rate was well over 90%, and most students were accepted at good colleges. How did their children go from success to failure in such a short time? How could their children be both college-bound yet not, in the state’s telling, “college ready.”

Well, the main reason scores collapsed was that the state education department insisted on aligning New York’s “proficiency” mark with that of the federal NAEP. This was a huge error. NAEP proficiency is a mark of “solid academic achievement.” It is not a grade-level mark; it is not a passing mark. Typically, only 35-40% of students in every state reach NAEP proficient. In my seven years on the governing board of NAEP, I considered it to be akin to an A or a B+. The only state where as many as 50% of students achieve NAEP proficient is Massachusetts.

So if the Common Core tests are not only harder but have a grading scale that is sure to “fail” more than 50% of all students—including 80% of black and Hispanic students, 97% of English learners, and 95% of students with disabilities–what will the state do with all those kids who are not college and career ready?

Want to know more about how the New York State Education Department has fiddled with the test scores? As activist Leonie Haimson says, “do not trust data from the New York State Education Department.”

Blogger Perdido Street calls for an investigation.

Blogger Lace to the Top expresses frustration at the fluctuation in scores.

Many parents are angry at the state and angry at Pearson for concealing 50% of the questions and for the poor quality of many of the questions that were released.

What a mess!

When local school board members in Lee County and Palm Beach County began talking about opting the entire district out of state testing, the state warned them they would face punishment if they dared.

“But the district better be prepared to pay the price of skipping the new exam — quite literally. Skip the exam and the state is likely to withhold money.

“The ramifications could be pretty dramatic for a district that wanted to do this,” says Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick. “This is uncharted waters. No districts have done this.”

“Follick added the state could withhold state funds, grants and lottery money. Lawmakers could decide on additional sanctions, he said. Most K-12 public school operations are funded through the state.

“School board members say opting out an entire school district is unlikely.

“I believe in assessment,” Palm Beach school board member Karen Brill said last week. “I believe in testing that’s used for measurement, not punishment. I believe that we as a district need to research opting out from the new Florida Standard Assessments.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward.”

A district court judge in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White to release information about setting cut scores.

Veteran educator Mike Deshotels posted this on his blog:

“Breaking News: On Thursday, August 28, Judge Bob Downing of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White and the LDOE to produce detailed information about the setting of cut scores for the Mastery level student ratings for the 2014 Spring LEAP test that was designed to be more aligned with the Common Core standards. The LDOE had already released the minimum percentages of correct answers used for the setting of Basic level ratings just before the lawsuit demanding this information was filed. John White was found to be in violation of the public records law for refusing to release the score setting percentages on the 2014 LEAP test and for failing to produce the written communications with the testing company relating to the setting of cut scores. The LDOE was also required to pay all court costs and attorney’s fees necessary to the prosecution of my public records lawsuit filed to extract this vital information from White, the LDOE, and the testing company. This post on The Louisiana Educator Blog had already analyzed the drastic lowering of the minimum percentage of correct answers on some areas of LEAP apparently designed to imply that Louisiana students were doing just fine on the new CCSS aligned tests. Apparently manipulation of test scores to produce predetermined results has now become standard operating procedure in the implementation of Common Core. The video referred to above shows how scores were set in New York to create the perception of failure of the entire New York state system.”

It is striking and sad that judges are now deciding basic education issues or that people have to appeal to judges to get basic information that ought to be available to the public.


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