Archives for the month of: January, 2013

Yesterday it was students in Portland, Oregon, today it’s students in Providence, Rhode Island.

The students in Providence have called on Governor Lincoln Chafee to stop the new high-states tests.

The students warn that huge numbers of students with disabilities, English language learners, and minority youth will not get a diploma. They blame these results on years of underfunded schools that did not provide the support that students need.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

“We are here today to explain why we believe this graduation requirement will do nothing to improve the quality of our schools or our education,” said Priscilla Rivera, a member of the youth organization the Providence Student Union (PSU) and a junior at Hope High School. “Instead, it will cause real harm to the lives of many students like me.”

Starting with the class of 2014, Rhode Island’s new policy requires students to score at least “partially proficient” on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) in order to graduate from high school. Students stressed the widespread implications this policy could have, pointing out that last year, 44 percent of all students across the state did not score high enough on the NECAP to have graduated under the current requirement. Seventy-one percent of black students and 70 percent of Latino students in Rhode Island did not score high enough last year to have graduated, and in Providence, 86 percent of students with disabilities in Individualized Education Programs and 94 percent of students with limited English proficiencies would not have graduated.

“We believe in high expectations,” said Kelvis Hernandez, another PSU member. “We believe that we should graduate with a high-quality education. But this policy is not the right way. Punishing students—particularly those who haven’t had the opportunity to receive the great education we deserve—is neither effective nor just. It is ineffective because we have spent 10, 11, or 12 years in schools that are underfunded, under-resourced, and unable to give us the support we need to do well on the NECAP. And it is unjust because the students who have received this inadequate support are the ones being put on trial.”

“Speakers at the press conference also pointed to other harmful effects of high-stakes testing. “Test prep is not what we mean when we say education,” said Dawn Gioello, a family member attending the press conference in support of her niece. “I want my niece to be going to school to learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to become a young woman with the confidence and abilities to succeed in college and her career. I don’t want her to go to school to get really good at taking this one test so that she will be able to graduate. I don’t want her whole school experience—her curriculum, her class work, her time after school—to become dedicated to drilling for one exam when she will need so much more than that to achieve her dreams in life.”

“What’s even worse,” added Tamargejae Paris, a junior in high school and a member of PSU, “the NECAP was not designed to be used as a high-stakes test. The makers of the NECAP themselves have said that the test should not be used as a graduation requirement.”

Why do students make more sense than policymakers in Washington and the state capitals?

Students in Providence: Take a tip from students in Portland: Boycott the tests.

In response to another post, asking what would you do if you were Secretary of Education:

If I were the Secretary of Education, I would take all the
money being spent on testing and use a good portion of it to hire
aids, reading specialists, nurses, librarians, and all the other
support staff needed to truly serve the needs of a school.

School boards would consist of teachers and parents.

Our education system would promote supporting a student’s strengths, instead of making
school a place of failure.

I would have industry work with ourschools to help train high school students for job readiness when
they leave school. I would fund higher education so people
graduating from college would not bestrapped with a great debt.

I would invite working education models like Finland to come and share
what works with us.

The NCLB and RTT would be disbanded.

I would sever all ties with Pearson.

There would be no Federal funding for
Charter or online schools.

I wish this could happen. I’m sick of
the reformers.

I can’t believe Obama is letting it go on and on.

Sincerely, Fed Up Fourth Grade Teacher

Yet another national report from another reformer group, grading the states that meet their definition of what ought to be done.

Here, Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana teacher with a Ph.D. in statistics and research methods, dissects the NCTQ state report on teacher preparation.

Dr. Schneider, a member of our honor roll, previously deconstructed the claim that charters in New Orleans had a higher graduation rate than the state or the nation.

A reader explains what happened when she was hired to score the FCAT:


My first job out of college in 2001 was scoring 8th grade FCAT essays. We made $10/hour in a small office building in Arizona, and we churned out scored tests like Big Macs.

Sometimes the bossmen would test our overall consistency by having us score the same writing sample. One of these samples blew me away with its creativity and control of language. It had definite boy’s handwriting and was written in one solid block of text with almost a full blank page left over. Handwriting, paragraphs, and length weren’t supposed to matter according to the rubric, but half of the scorers gave the paper the lowest score. The sample paper was supposed to have received the highest score (6), but it ended up receiving every possible score.

I still don’t understand why we hate children so much in this country.

Julian Vasquez Heilg has started a series that follows the money.

Previous entries looked at Sandy Kress, the advocate for high-stakes testing and lobbyist for Pearson, and Teach for America.

In this entry, he takes KIPP to task for understating what it spends per pupil. He relies on public data. He calls on KIPP to be a “little more honest.”

There have been two official investigations of allegations of cheating in the public schools of the District of Columbia during the tenure of Michelle Rhee. Neither of them found any evidence of widespread cheating, yet many questions remain, including questions about the depth and scope and basic competency of the two official investigations.

USA Today first reported the extraordinary erasure rates in at least half the D.C. Public schools. In addition to the striking number of answers that were changed from wrong to right, there were a large number of schools where test scores rose dramatically, too dramatically to be credible. Rhee said at the time that the charges “absolutely lacked credibility.”

After security was tightened, some of those same schools saw their test scores plummet as fast as they had risen. Yet the official investigators could find nothing amiss.

As it happens, the National Research Council created a commission to study the performance of the D.C. public schools under mayoral control. The commission includes respected scholars and practitioners. They are moving slowly and methodically. Surely, they will have the resources and the will to examine why scores flew up and fell down. Surely, they know that these erratic fluctuations are not commonplace nor are they reasonable.

The NRC has an opportunity to reassure the American public about the integrity of the measures used to judge our schools, our students, and our teachers.

What is required is the most careful and thoughtful probe of the events in D.C.

The public expects nothing less from the nation’s most prestigious research organization.

High school students in Portland, Oregon, are organizing to fight high-stakes testing.

From their statement:

“The PPS and Portland Student Unions will be teaming up in organizing an Opt-Out Campaign in which students are encouraged to opt-out of taking their standardized OAKS tests. The Student Unions want to send a strong message against to the standardized testing system as we believe that standardized tests scores are an inaccurate depiction of a student’s knowledge, have an extremely high correlation to a student’s family’s income, have a high correlation with race, are expensive, and in all are taking up class time that we could use learning things that are more applicable to our lives, as well as be developing better relationships with our teachers and peers.”

How come they know more than Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and their own state legislature?

When you add the teachers’ protest at Garfield High and the school boards’ protest in Texas and the demands by civil rights groups to stop closing their schools and the rising number of students who are sick of being force-fed standardized tests, you have the makings of a movement.

Stand tall, Portland students! Students, parents, teachers, and yes, administrators are counting on you. Tell the truth. Don’t be afraid. Demand a real education, not training in test-taking.

The Walton Family Foundation has many billions of dollars. Though not as big as the Gates Foundation, it is one of the biggest three donors to education today. (The third billionaire foundation is the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.) All three of these foundations support charter schools, testing, and choice.

Of the three, the Walton Foundation is the most conservative. It has a strong preference for free-market and libertarian policies. Last year, it handed out $159 million in education grants. This year, $158 million.

Here is their list of winners for 2012.

The Walton Foundation is built on the fortune produced by the Walmart stores. Walmart is not a friend to Main Street, and the Walton Foundation is not a friend to community public schools. The foundation, like its stores, likes disruption. It disrupts communities and destroys the small-timers that get in the way of the free market. Privatization is the theme of their giving.

If you have time to review the list, you will see many familiar names, some in your own state, advocating for charters and vouchers, which have become a top priority for the far-right.

Teach for America: $11,445,000 million. The DC Public Education Fund was a big winner with $5.9 million, but it seems unlikely that any real public school will see a dollar of this grant. KIPP picked up $8.3 million. The Center on Reinventing Public Education–which writes research studies of charter schools–got $700,000. Students for Education Reform: $250,000. StudentsFirst collected $2 million. Eva Moskowitz’s chain (Success Academy) collected $1 million. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education came away with $1 million. The ex-liberal, now conservative group Stand for Children won more than $600,000, perhaps to continue their assault on teachers’ unions. GreatSchools, Inc., which grades schools, picked up $4.3 million. Howard Fuller’s pro-voucher group, Black Alliance for Educational Options, won $1.1 million. The once-liberal, now conservative Brookings Institution received  $666,000.

Look over the list of the lucky winners. The one consistent theme is support for school choice, for charters and vouchers. Even the organizations with the word “public” in their name are supporters of school choice.

Perhaps what is most surprising and disturbing in the list is the inclusion of media outlets that should be strictly nonpartisan and neutral. It is frankly difficult to believe that the Walton Foundation makes grants to any organization that is truly nonpartisan on the issues about which it is passionate. So here is the shocking lineup:

$1.4 million for National Public Radio.

$100,000 for the Education Writers Association.

$250,000 for Education Week (Editorial Projects in Education).

$185,000 for Bellweather Education Partners (TIME magazine columnist Andrew Rotherham).

Protestors from across the nation journeyed to Washington, where they received 45 minutes of Arne Duncan’s time.

They told Duncan and President Obama’s education advisor, Roberto Rodriguez, that the closings in minority communities were harming the students and the communities, but Duncan said he had no control over the school closings.

Those are local matters.

Philadelphia is poised to close dozens of schools. Chicago is poised to close as many as 200 schools.

Duncan forgot for the moment that Race to the Top encourages “turnarounds” in which school closings is one of the options for schools with low test scores.

If he agrees with the protestors, he could change his strategy and he could speak out against plans to close more schools.

He might come up with creative ways to help schools that are struggling.



Just when you thought politics could not get weirder, we learn that a public relations guy is running a campaign against President Obama’s pick for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel.

Turns out the campaign is run by Bradley Tusk, who has the following connections: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy. He also ran the NY campaign to lift the cap on charters, paid for by the Wall Street crowd and Mayor Bloomberg.

This is one of the strangest set of links in politics today.

Remember when decisions about schools were made by the superintendent and the principals? And when teachers closed their door and their classroom was their domain? That was long, long ago.