Archives for the month of: December, 2014

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?

Politico reports that Republicans may scale back the federal mandate for annual testing from grades 3-8. This mandate is the cornerstone of No Child Left Behind’s accountability regime.

Parents and educators are up in arms about the misuse and overuse of testing. NCLB has not achieved any of its lofty and unrealistic goals. Its biggest beneficiaries have been testing companies, who are able to devote more money from their profits to lobby for more testing.

The first post this morning was about Daniel McGraw’s astonishing discovery that the pass rates on the GED literally crashed after Pearson aligned the GED with the Common Core. He wrote:


The numbers are shocking: In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year.


Daniel McGraw posted a comment later.


He wrote:


One thing I left out of this story, but wish I had put in. Many of the high academic folks I interviewed about the process in changing the GED all said the changes were made because the old test “wasn’t fair” to HS graduates. They explained saying that if a HS senior had to know a certain amt. to graduate, it wasn’t fair to them if someone passing a slightly lower standard GED got into college as well. I then said for something not “to be fair” to a party, you must prove that that party had been harmed in some way. They couldn’t pinpoint any real harm, and were sort of disgusted by that line of questioning. But their thinking was very real in that every one of them had the same talking point: that somehow a 2013 HS grad college freshman and their parents would experience some harm if they went to college and their kid was sitting next to a GED grad. The problem here is that we do not make education/economic policy based on whether some group “thinks” that policy is fair or not. We look at the bigger picture. And in this case, the college presidents and administrators overseeing this change were thinking more along the lines of fairness to their perceived constituency rather than a policy for the greater good of the country. BTW, thanks for all the comments.

This is the last report of the year from Fairtest:

FairTest doesn’t just report the assessment reform news — we often help make it to support the movement. Check out this week’s stories.

Please support an expansion of our crucial public education campaigns in 2015, FairTest’s 30th Anniversary Year, with a contribution at or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

With best wishes for a Happy New Year filled with testing resistance victories!

Remember that all donations to FairTest made by midnight, December 31 qualify for a 2014 federal tax deduction.

Rage Against The Common Core and Its New Tests

Standardized Testing Resistance Expected to Grow in 2015

Colorado Districts Debate Move to Online Exams

Connecticut Test-Scoring Guarantees “Failure”

Hazards of Florida’s Testing Rush

New State Committee Will Tackle Florida Testing Controversies

Re-Evaluating Illinois’ Assessment System: Who Are Out Masters?”

Massachusetts Superintendents Say, “Too Much Testing

Minnesota Schools Hit Glitches With Online Testing

Nevada Will End Up on Short End of Common Core Testing

New York Governor Vetoes His Own Bill to Protect Teachers From Flawed Test-Score Ratings

New York Testing Protest Song

County School Leaders Want North Carolina to Abolish School Grading System

Pennsylvania Student Condemns Test-Driven Education

Virginia Ed. Secretary Supports Assessment Reform

Testing Under Fire on Capitol Hill . . . And in the States

Arne Duncan’s False Assumption About Standardized Testing

U.S. Approach to Closing “Achievement Gap” Is All Wrong

Standardized Testing Resistance Expected to Grow in 2015

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

Melissa (Mel) Katz is preparing to become an elementary school teacher at The College of New Jersey. She has her own blog, The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher, and this is how she describes herself: I have been involved in education seriously beginning in my senior year of high school and especially my freshman year in college. I am a student activist, always researching, speaking in Trenton and at local board meetings, and traveling the state of New Jersey to meet different people and attend different education related events. Education is my life, my passion, and I couldn’t imagine spending every day anywhere else but in a classroom.


Mel recently attended a school board meeting in her hometown of South Brunswick and listened to the superintendent defend PARCC testing. In this post, she takes apart his claims and refutes them. If PARCC is so great, she asks, why have the number of states participating in it dropped from 24 (plus D.C.) to half that number? The superintendent defends Pearson and insists that PARCC testing will not drive instruction. She responds with logic and clarity.


Is there something in the water in New Jersey that encourages smart young women who are preparing to be career teachers–like Mel Katz and Stephanie Rivera–to speak up fearlessly about their chosen profession?



Peter Dreier is one of our most astute observers and analysts of American politics. He compiled a list of his favorite books for 2014, mostly dealing with politics and justice. Here it is.

For the past 14 years, policymakers have sought the answer to a complex question: How can we make sure that every single child–regardless of race, gender, disability, poverty, or language–will achieve proficiency on standardized tests?

We tried No Child Left Behind, and that didn’t work. We tried Race to the Top, and that did’t work. We tried the Marzano method and the Danielson rubric, and still we struggle. We tried bonus pay and threats of firing staffs and closing school, and that did not suffice.

But now we know there is a sure-fire method. It comes from Tennessee, and it’s called “the ear-bud method.” Tennessee is a fertile place for reform: not only was it the state where Value-added Modeling was birthed nearly 30 years ago, but it was one of the first states to win a Race to the Top award.

It works for 100% of children. No one fails. It is, in fact, a silver bullet–or a magic earbud.

Merry Christmas!

Daniel McGraw tells the sad story of what happened to the GED after Pearson took it over and aligned it with the Common Core: Passing rates plummeted.

The GED was designed to give adult learners who never finished high school a second chance. McGraw begins with the experience of a young man in Cleveland who is trying to put his life back together and needs a high school diploma to enter the construction trades:

“As he sits in a study room at Project Learn — a non-profit on Euclid Avenue that offers adult education programs — with sample questions for the GED (General Education Diploma) waiting on a computer screen, 29-year-old Derwin Williams explains why getting his diploma is so important. He wants to get into the construction trade, maybe as a roofer or drywall hanger, and he knows he needs a diploma to get into vocational technical classes to get that done.

“Williams dropped out of East High School more than a decade ago, in part because of a gunshot wound that left him hospitalized for six months and required the removal of his kidney. He’s had some legal problems since then too, mostly from a DUI conviction a few years ago, but he’ll be sober three years this coming March. He started thinking about a GED when his probation program encouraged him to do so.

“Williams is unemployed and has been studying for the four-part GED since January. In previous years, 11 months of prep would likely have given him a decent chance of success. But the test was radically changed in January, and like many, Williams hasn’t yet made enough progress to take any of the four sections. According to some sample tests he’s taken, he’s getting close in the math and science portions, but is still pretty far out in the social science and language parts.”

His story is typical. Large numbers of men and women who would have passed the GED in the past are now failing. The changes in the GED are literally closing the door to opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people.

McGraw writes:

“The numbers are shocking: In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year.

“And there are serious repercussions. As national economic policy is emphasizing more adult education programs, and most jobs (even Walmart shelf stockers) require a high school diploma, the new GED test has pretty much moved the goal posts way back. And that includes the incarcerated, where so many prison re-entry education programs include getting the high school drop-out population to pass the GED test.

“Has the GED test always been hard? Some would say so. Especially if you are 20 years or more removed from high school and haven’t thought of quadratic equations or Thomas Jefferson’s verbiage since then. But for those trying to take the GED test in 2014, passage of the high school equivalency is probably less likely than at any other point in the 70-year history of the test…..

“The changes were made to bring the test up to date, in some people’s eyes. That meant adapting the test to reflect the new Common Core standards being taught in most high schools across the country, doing it online only and not on paper, and requiring more essays. The results have been dramatic:

“Based upon preliminary findings by Scene, about 350,000 fewer people will earn a GED nationally than in 2012, and close to 500,000 fewer than last year. The GED accounts for 12 percent of all the high school diplomas awarded each year.

“In Ohio, 16,092 passed the test in 2012, and 19,976 did so in 2013, but only 1,458 have passed so far this year.

“Other states have similar rates. The drop off in Texas was about 86 percent; Florida, about 77 percent; Michigan, about 88 percent.

“About 2,100 prisoners in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections earned a GED in both 2012 and 2013. Only 97 have earned the GED in 2014.

“Project Learn, the local program contracted to tutor inmates in the Cuyahoga County Jail, saw a total of 80 inmates pass the GED test in the past three years, but only one county jail inmate has passed so far this year.”

The rhetoric about the Common Core is misleading. Infusing Common Core into the GED is a huge error. It has made the GED so rigorous that vast numbers of young people will never pass it. Do they’re really need to master algebra to work as a laborer in the construction trade or a shelf stocker at Walmart? Do they really need to demonstrate close reading skills to get an entry-level job to support themselves and their families? Why erect a barrier so high that large numbers of people will be trapped in poverty, unemployment, and unskilled low-wage jobs?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan invited readers on Twitter to think about “what if” and he is getting a whole lot of “what ifs” from teachers and parents.


Go to hashtag #whatif and see what others are saying, then post your own “what if.”

Arthur Camins writes frequently on education topics. He is Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He taught in elementary schools in Brooklyn and worked in administrative roles in New York City, Massachusetts and Kentucky.


In response to an earlier post today, he writes:


It seems that advocates for dismantling democratically governed public education have successfully claimed and distorted the meaning of the terms previously associated with progressive change. Maybe there is no single word that represents what we stand for. So, I think we need to lead with our values and then talk about what improvement solutions will help realize those values. Resonant values might include equity, empathy, community and democracy. I wrote more about reclaiming the initiative for education improvement in two recent posts for the Answer Sheet on the Washington Post.


My wish for the new year is that we continue to make progress in our reclaiming.
Happy New Year!