Archives for category: Common Core

Eric Shininger is a principal in New Jersey. He comes from a family of educators. He is appalled by Governor Chris Christie’s continual attacks on educators who have dedicated their lives to children. He explains he essentials of Christie’s agenda to destroy public education in the Garden State.

He writes:

“Let’s look at some of the ridiculous decisions Governor Christie has made to derail a great education system:

“Reduced state funding for schools over the years to pay for tax cuts for his rich friends. His latest wisdom is articulated in this article: Chris Christie’s Education Plan Is Shocking: He Wants to Give to the Rich and Take From the Poor.

“Eliminated cost of living adjustments (COLA) for all retired educators who gave their all for kids

“Vetoed a mandatory school recess bill, even though research had shown how important it is to student learning.

“Pushed forward a few unfunded mandates (Common Core, PARCC) that have taken away precious funds from improving what really matters. Schools had to front the money for quality professional development, curriculum revision, and technology to support these mandates. Years later many states have backed away from PARCC. The once strong 26-member consortium has now dwindled to 7. For all the hoopla, PARCC has told us nothing we didn’t already know from previous assessments. To make matters worse, NJ has been the only state to make this a graduation requirement in the near future.

“Imposed superintendent caps to drive out some of our best leaders. Many states have welcomed them with open arms and pocket books as good leaders are often worth every penny

“Followed through with a value-added system for evaluating educators, which by the way has no supporting research. He doubled down on this recently by increasing Student Growth Percentile (SGP) scores to 30% of an educator’s overall evaluation. This latest change was pushed out on Wednesday, August 31, just days before schools welcomed back students. On Monday, a few days later, Education Commissioner David Hespe resigned. A bit shady, huh? In all, the new regulations completely give up on quality teaching and simply shoot for compliance. This was most likely done because people were overburdened with paperwork, but no consideration was given as to the effect of the regulations. The entire SGP issue is a nightmare as in some cases they rely on arbitrary numbers

“Refused to fully fund the public pension system that he committed to in 2012 while pushing all the blame for the state’s economic woes on teachers, policemen, firemen, and other public sectors committed to the well being of all.”

Christie leaves the education system of his state worse than he found it. His bullying of educators is inexplicable.

For those in the WNYC listening area, I will be on the Brian Lehrer show at 10:30 am on Thursday discussing Common Core. 

Watch the teachers of Bayshore on Long Island in New York at their conference day as they create a flash mob that satirizes Common Core, stats, and Governor Cuomo!

New Jersey Commissioner of Education David Hespe will step down and be replaced, at least temporarily, by his deputy.

New Jersey is only of only five states and D.C. that still administers Pearson’s PARCC exams.

Jonathan Pelto warns residents of Connecticut that their children will be forced to take the “new” SAT despite serious charges that the test is ill-designed and invalid.

The spark that set off this latest controversy about the SAT is a devastating critique by Manuel Alfaro, who until recently was Executive Director for Assessment at the College Board, which is responsible for the SAT. The SAT was redesigned at the direction of David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards. Alfaro became angered by what he saw and he became a whistle blower. Just last week, the FBI raided his home in search of evidence that he might have been the person who leaked 400 SAT questions.

Alfaro has been writing on Linked In, and he posted these statements on August 28.

The first is an Open Letter to David Coleman, letting him know that Alfaro is defiant and will see him in court. He accuses Coleman of perpetrating a “global fraud.”

Alfaro wrote to Coleman and said (in part):

You have done an excellent job discrediting me so far. You have stopped news organizations from investigating my statements and allegations of the global fraud you have committed against millions of students and their families, College Board members, state governments, and the federal government. You have convinced the heads of the Department of Education using the SAT for accountability that—to use the words of your Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel—I’m “a disgruntled former employee who has expressed anger at the college Board in a very public way. Though his employment ended over a year ago, he has not “moved on.”” However, even with all your resources, I feel that you are still at a disadvantage. So, I’m going to show you one of my cards: in order to properly defend myself against any charges you level against me, criminal or otherwise, a court will have to grant my legal team access to College Board records.

I’ve tried to get help from parents, Senators, House Representatives, the White House, and the heads of the Department of Education of the states using the SAT for accountability without success. Thanks to you and the FBI, I will soon have a path to the College Board records I so desperately need to prove the global fraud you have committed.

The second denounces heads of state education departments for using the new SAT without telling the public that it is invalid.

It begins like this:

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

It is very hard to be a whistle blower. It is difficult to walk away from a lucrative job. Manuel Alfaro did it. I name him to the blog’s honor roll for his courage and integrity.

Thanks to reader Sheila Resseger, who sent this article about the low PARCC scores in Rhode Island.

Here were the results for the kids with the greatest need for support:

Less than 22 percent of black and Latino students scored proficient in English compared to a statewide average of almost 38 percent on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a challenging test rolled out last year amid dismal results.

Less than 9 percent of English language learners reached the state standard, and that number fell to less than 6 percent for special-needs students.

The achievement gaps widened.

The State Commissioner of Education, Ken Wagner (formerly deputy commissioner in New York state), is quoted.

Less than 22 percent of black and Latino students scored proficient in English compared to a statewide average of almost 38 percent on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a challenging test rolled out last year amid dismal results.

Less than 9 percent of English language learners reached the state standard, and that number fell to less than 6 percent for special-needs students.

Related content R.I. educators urge stay the course on standardized testsIn an interview yesterday, State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said poverty was not to blame for the chronically low scores among urban school districts.

“If you go back 40 years, we’ve always been at a 30- or 40-percent plateau,” he said, referring to the percentage of students reaching proficiency in English and math. “Part of the story is we need to stop changing our minds. We need take a common-sense approach and stick with it for the long haul.”

Rhode Island, unlike Massachusetts, has switched state tests. It has reversed course on whether passing a test should be a high-school graduation requirement. Legislative leadership has undermined the work of education commissioners.

Math scores increased by 5 points this year, with nearly 30 percent of all students meeting the standards. Students improved in every grade level. In English, scores improved by two percentage points, with almost 38-percent reaching proficiency. Students improved in five out of eight grade levels.

Tim Duffy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, said Rhode Island is moving forward but “not fast enough.”

“The anxiety about the PARCC seems to have dissipated,” he said. “But the scores are stagnant at the upper grade levels, which reinforces that the test has to be part of the graduation requirements.”

Wagner moved this year to drop the PARCC as a graduation requirement after widespread criticism that urban students were not adequately prepared to take it, among other concerns.

The PARCC, which was originally adopted by 24 states, is down to seven. Rhode Island is the only state in New England to stick with the test, which has been confounded by technical problems and a huge opt-out movement in states like New York. Massachusetts switched to a hybrid of the PARCC and its own test, the MCAS, this past year.

Wagner denied that the test is too hard, a common criticism. Instead, he said Rhode Island has much work to do to put a rigorous curriculum in every school, ramp up teacher training and redesign the way schools, especially high schools, are structured.

High-school students across Rhode Island performed poorly on the tests. In Providence, every high school but Classical scored in the single digits on the math and English PARCC tests.

But it wasn’t just the urban schools that underperformed. At Burrillville High School, only 17 percent of the students scored proficient on the English test. In North Kingstown and South Kingstown, approximately a third scored proficient and in Westerly, 21 percent did.

Wagner says the tests are not too hard. Surely that can’t be an excuse for the vast majority that “failed.” Can’t blame poverty.

The real problem, he says, is that we need to stick with the PARCC no matter how many kids fail.

Tim Duffy of the state’s school committees wants PARCC to be a graduation requirement (Wagner disagrees). What will Rhode Island do with all those kids who never pass? At this point, it would be a very large majority. Will they drop out? Will they get jobs without a high school diploma? Will they stay in third grade or fourth grade until they pass? Will third grade become a huge parking lot where few students make it to fourth grade?

Please, someone, explain how this would work. And Commissioner Wagner, how many years will it take until most students in Rhode Island “pass” the PARCC test, a feat not accomplished by any other state except Massachusetts? Will students with disabilities stay in school for the rest of their lives?

No surprise: Most students in Rhode Island “failed” the Common Core PARCC tests. As I have explained many times, the tests were designed to fail most students. They are aligned with NAEP Proficient, which most students have never reached, with the sole exception of those in Massachusetts, where slightly more than half have reached that standard.

What is the point of giving a test that is too hard for most students?

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote to say that the tests were designed to show college readiness, and only 40% (or less) are college ready. But 70% enroll in college. Thus, he writes, a remediation crisis in college.

But really, why should schools test third graders for college readiness?

Colleges set their own admission standards, they can accept or reject whoever they want.

I wonder if Michael Phelps or Simone Boles would have tested “proficient” on PARCC?

I posed these questions to him:

Making the passing mark so high that most kids fail is insane. Does that make them smarter? Will they be denied a high school diploma? Will they be retained in grade? Will the schools become giant holding pens where most kids never get past third grade?

Mike is never at a loss for words so I expect he will answer.

No big surprise here: Most students in Maryland did not pass the PARCC tests.

A majority of Maryland’s students failed to meet academic benchmarks on state standardized tests linked to the Common Core this year, a disappointing result for educators and state officials who had hoped to see major upticks as teachers and students become familiar with the exams.

New data released this week showed that many grade levels saw overall passing rates of about 40 percent in the second year of testing using PARCC exams, which are intended to measure readiness for college and careers. Maryland students in grades three through eight showed gains in math, but English scores remained flat.

“We’re sure not seeing a heck of a rise on these results,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a member of the Maryland State Board of Education and president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Forty percent is nowhere near good enough, and the gains, where there are some, are small.”

State data showed that most grade levels saw improvement in math, with proficiency inching up nearly three points in seventh grade and almost eight points in third grade. Third-graders did best, with 44 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, and eighth-graders lagged, with just 22 percent meeting or exceeding expectations. There was little change in English scores in third through eighth grades, with 37 to 40 percent of students reaching performance targets.

As I have pointed out many times, both of the federally-funded Common Core tests (PARCC and SBAC) set their passing marks so high that most students were expected to fall short of “proficient.” Long ago, the test developers decided that NAEP proficient was the right benchmark, even though most students consistently fail to reach NAEP proficient. Only in Massachusetts have half the students in the state reached that goal.

Put another way, the Common Core tests were designed to fail most students. That allegedly would inspire them to try harder and every year they would do better and better until everyone reached NAEP proficient.

That was the theory. But it remains to be seen whether the majority who allegedly “fail” will be incentivized to try harder or will give up.

Meanwhile, only seven states and D.C. still administer the PARCC exam, which is developed by Pearson. Originally there were 24. Most have abandoned PARCC.

Checker Finn wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan (as did Marc Tucker and I, in large part to counter what Checker wrote).

Many readers wondered why anyone would write an open letter to the founder of Facebook and advise him what to do about reforming American education.

Nancy Bailey puts those concerns, that skepticism, and that sense of outrage into a post directed to Checker Finn.

Finn just wrote a letter to Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg for all of us to see, like we are the bystanders in their goofball, grand design of schools. Schools will no longer be public–other than they will still receive our tax dollars.

It is hard not to be struck by the arrogance of it all.

If one understands what a democracy is, and how it relates to public schools, they will be puzzled as to why Finn isn’t writing a letter to the American people–you know–the ones who are supposed to be the real owners of their schools.

But instead, he writes to Chan and Zuckerberg. He wants them to think about school reform. He sees them as the owners of America’s schools. They, like Gates and the other wealthy oligarchs, assume they know best how children learn because they made a lot of money and got rich.

She is especially repulsed by his reference to “personalized learning,” which is now a euphemism for sitting in front of a computer and letting the computer teach you. Some call it CBE, competency-based education, since the computer uses algorithms to judge your readiness for the next question or activity. The idea that computers might teach children with special needs is particularly troubling.

But real education is an exchange between people, not a machine and a person.

I have known Checker Finn for many years, almost forty. Our friendship was impaired when I left the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and publicly rejected school choice and high-stakes testing. I have always had a fondness for Checker and his family. But Checker went to Exeter, and his wonderful children also went to elite private schools. I don’t begrudge them that, but I think Checker really is out of touch with public education and with the work of teachers in public schools. I am not making excuses for him, just explaining why I think he really doesn’t understand the disastrous consequences of the ideas he has promoted and believes in–for other people’s children.

Our poet is missing. Poet, come back! We need your voice, your wit, your passion.

“The Billionaire’s Burden” (based on
“The White Man’s Burden”, by Rudyard



Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Send forth the tests ye breed
Go bind your schools to test style,
To serve his market’s need;
The weight of heavy VAMness,
On captive folk and mild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half teacher and half child.


Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
In patience to abide,
To veil the scheme for teach-bots,
The prime intent to hide;
With coded speech of Orwell,
You really must take pains
To make a hefty profit,
And see the major gains.


Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
The public schools to fleece—
Fill full the days with testing
And Common Core disease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end that you have sought,
Destroy the Opt-out movement
Lest work be all for naught.


Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
A tawdry rule of Kings,
The toil of IT keeper,
The sale of software things.
The data ye shall enter,
On privacy to tread,
To make a “decent” living,
Until they all are dead.


Take up the Billionaire’s burden
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
“Why brought he us from bondage,
From stupid blissful night?”


Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Ye dare not stoop to less—
So fulminate ‘gainst Apple
To cloak your Siri-ness;
And strategize in whispers,
For all ye leave or do,
Or silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh Diane on you!


Take up the Billionaire’s burden,
Have done with childish ways—
The Kindergarten playing,
The test-less former days
Come now, to join Reform-hood,
The pride of Duncan years
Cold, edged with Gates-bought wisdom,
The plan of Billionaires!