Archives for category: Common Core

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
Kipling”)

 

 

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!

Teachers in Middlesex County were surveyed about their views of PARCC testing. New Jersey is one of the few states that continues to participate in PARCC. Originally, there was a consortium with 24 states. Now there are five.

Here is the discouraging, but not surprising, findings:

Middlesex County Education Association Releases Findings of First-Time Survey of Teachers After PARCC Testing: Finds Significant Problems

June 2016

Some 1285 Middlesex County teachers and school professionals voluntarily and anonymously participated in a survey regarding the impact of the PARCC standardized test on students, schools, and instruction. In the most comprehensive survey conducted in New Jersey to date, the results showed serious issues for the new testing regimen. The major findings of the survey include:

• Feedback from the test was significantly delayed or not distributed to teachers.
• Conditions under which the PARCC test was taken draw into question the validity of the results.
• PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and raised concerns for many parents.
• The new test is a significant drain of instruction time and a disruption to classes.
• As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library media centers and computers as well as special services and programs.
• The testing/evaluation environment has had a negative impact on teachers and staff.

Delay in Receiving Feedback

In spite of the NJ Department of Education’s promises of rich feedback from PARCC testing to teachers to improve instruction, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and Mathematics) did not receive their students’ spring 2015 test scores until January 2016 or later. Another 24% never received them. After the state spent $22.1 million dollars and local districts spent millions more to implement the PARCC, less than 2% of these teachers found the data collected from PARCC to be an improvement from past state standardized tests.

Validity of PARCC Test Questionable and Students Impacted Negatively

Nearly half of educators reported directly observing administration problems, technical or otherwise, which could have negatively impacted student test scores. In addition, 59% reported observing students refusing to take the test seriously, resulting in invalid scores. In spite of these issues, the state of New Jersey continues to use PARCC test scores as part of evaluations for teachers of tested areas grades 4 to 8 and these scores are projected to play a larger role for more teachers in the future.

PARCC testing has had a pronounced effect on many students. 57% of school teachers and support staff reported increased anxiety and depression among students related to testing and 42% reported increased negativity and loss of interest in school by students overburdened by testing. Only 14% reported no observed problems for their students. One teacher wrote, “My first graders are worried about future testing.” Another teacher noted “I recently looked at old yearbooks – ten years ago our kids did fantastic learning projects. Now, all we do is data driven instruction and testing.”

A notably high percentage, 60% of educators, reported parents expressing complaints, apprehension, or concerns about the PARCC test directly to them. This reflects the previously publicly reported concerns of parents shown by the tens of thousands of New Jersey children who opted out of the PARCC test last year at their parents’ request.

Impact of PARCC Testing on Instruction

In terms of lost instructional time to PARCC, 34% of teachers of tested areas (English and mathematics) reported spending 11-20 hours on PARCC testing this year and 35% spent more than 20 hours in PARCC testing. In addition, 38% of these teachers estimated spending another 6 or more instructional days on test prep, and nearly half of these teachers lost additional time to pre-testing to identify weak students before the PARCC test. Over 36% reported that their schools purchased commercially prepared pre-tests for use prior to the PARCC.

Educators widely reported that PARCC testing resulted in the closing of library media centers and loss of access to computers for extended periods of time, disruption of class schedules and routines, and loss of time for special services such as speech therapy and counseling. Advanced Placement teachers complained of the loss of valuable instructional time just prior to the AP tests for college credits. Other teachers commented that the guidance department, child study teams for special education students, and much of the school administration were barely available for up to a month for testing. A special education teacher reported that many special education students had substitute teachers for several weeks while their special education teachers administered the PARCC to other students in other grades.

Impact on Teachers and Professional Staff

As a result of the new evaluations for students and teachers, 91% of those surveyed reported an increased workload, primarily in the form of increased paperwork and documentation of work done rather than increased time working with students. Nearly 62% reported that PARCC testing has had a definite negative or strongly negative effect on themselves and their colleagues.

While 83% reported that 5 years ago they were either satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs, only 34% said they were satisfied or strongly satisfied with their jobs today. Representative of many of the comments in the survey, one teacher stated, “I have always loved my job, but the last few years with the implementation of the state testing and new teacher evaluation system, I am seriously considering retiring early and dissuading my own children from seeking this profession.”

Another teacher commented, “I wish I could just TEACH and do the things in my classroom that I know will lead to real learning based on the needs of my students and not on some politician’s ever-changing agenda. I am truly saddened by what is happening; the students are not being served. This is the first group of students I have had that have been working with Common Core standards their entire school careers, and I must say that they are the least prepared and have the biggest skill gaps of any
group I have had in decades. Rushing through developmentally inappropriate material in order to score well on a test that supposedly measures “deep” knowledge and application (on a timed test, yet!) does not do justice to our students or our profession.”

About the Survey and for More Information

The Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee collected data from 1287 Middlesex County educators who voluntarily responded anonymously to an online survey between May 9 and June 12, 2016. Respondents work in all major districts in the county including East Brunswick, Edison Township, Highland Park, Middlesex, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Brunswick, Spotswood, and Woodbridge Township. Elementary school teachers and professional staff represented over 38% of the respondents; middle school composed 32% of respondents; and high school participants were 29% of the total. Just under 9% have been in the profession for less than 5 years, 20% had 5 to 10 years in the profession, 43% have worked 11 to 20 years in the profession, and 28% have more than 20 years in the profession. This breakdown is generally representative of the profession as a whole.

Questions regarding this survey can be directed to Ellen Whitt, Middlesex County Education Association Research and Advocacy Committee, whitt.ellen@gmail.com or 732-771-7882.

Leonie Haimson can always be counted on to look beneath the surface of the news. In this post, she describes a forum that will be held tomorrow in New York City, where the Center for American Progress will unveil its latest attempt to persuade New Yorkers that standardized tests and the Common Core are swell. CAP is Gates-funded, of course, and so are most of the other participants in the forum. No opt out representatives were invited to participate. So the forum will not learn why 250,000 children did not take the state tests this past spring. And we learn too that New York City will soon have its very own outpost of Education Trust, the Gates-funded advocacy group for standards and testing. If you open the blog, you will get to see a short pro-Common Core video that was ridiculed by many for its condescension towards parents and quickly withdrawn.

The afternoon session of the day’s event features a discussion of technology, and one of the participants comes from a company that contracts with the Department of Education and has been at the center of various scandals.

Leonie writes:

Emerging Trends in Education: City and State moderates a panel of officials, experts and academics on improving tech access in and out of classrooms, STEM learning in NY schools, and how to make NY more competitive across the globe! The session will connect educators, administrators, and other staff to new ideas, best practices, and each other.

The panel includes Josh Wallack of DOE, CM Danny Dromm, chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, a dean from Berkeley College, and two corporate reps, one of them named Vlada Lotkina, Co-founder and CEO of a company called Class Tag, which has a particularly awful privacy policy. The other member of the panel is Cynthia Getz, descried as the NYC Account Team Senior Manager at Custom Computer Specialists.

Custom Computer Specialists is infamous for having participated in a multi-million dollar kick-back scheme with a DOE consultant named Ross Lanham, who was indicted by Preet Bharara in 2011 and sent to jail in 2012. CCS had not only gotten inflated payments through the scheme, but the President, Greg Galdi (who is still the CEO) had started a Long Island real estate company with Lanham called “G & R Scuttlehole.”

In February 2015, I noted in the PEP contract listing that CCS was due to get a huge $1.1 billion contract from DOE for internet wiring Reporters for the Daily News , NYPost and Chalkbeat wrote about this egregious deal, and overnight the DOE cut back the contract to $635 million, without changing any of the terms, showing how egregiously inflated it was in the first place. The Panel for Education Policy rubber-stamped it anyway. Later, City Hall decided to reject the contract, probably because of all the bad publicity, and it was rebid at a savings of between $125M and $627M – the latter compared to the original contract price of $1.1 billion.

I think the cancellation of the CCS contract actually saved the city up to $727 million, because if the DOE had signed up with CCS, they would have lost any chance to get $100 million in E-rate reimbursement funds from the feds, since the FCC had cut NYC off from all E-rate funds because of the Lanham scandal since 2011.

Subsequently, we discovered that DOE signed a consent decree with the FCC on December 31, 2015 in which the city was ordered to pay $3 million in fines, and relinquish claims to all E-rate funding requests between 2011-2013, which were frozen after the Lanham indictment in June 2011. The DOE also had to withdraw claims to any E-rate funding from 2002-2010. Juan Gonzalez speculated that this meant the potential loss of $123 million, based on a letter sent to the DOE by the Comptroller office in 2014.

Melinda Gates, like her husband Bill, believes that the Gates Foundation has the answers for the problems of American education.

She has never taught. She never attended a public school. Neither did Bill. Their children do not attend public schools.

What is the source of their certainty? They are very rich, probably the richest people in the world (Carlos Slim of Mexico might be richer). They are so rich that they think they know what is best for everyone’s children.

Here are some questions that the Gates Foundation should answer:

Does the Lakeside Academy in Seattle use the Gates-funded Common Core standards?

Does it test all students every year with standardized tests?

Does it use either PARCC or SBAC?

Does it evaluate its teachers by the test scores of their students?

Just wondering.

Melinda Gates told the National Conference of State Legislatures that the Gates Foundation has no intention of backing away from their agenda of Common Core, teacher evaluations that include test scores, charter schools, and digital learning.

No matter how controversial, no matter how much public pushback, they are determined to stay the course. For some reason, she thinks that the foundation is a “neutral broker,” when in fact it is an advocate for policies that many teachers and parents reject. She also assumes that the Gates Foundation has “the real facts,” when in fact it has a strong point of view reflecting the will of Bill & Melinda. There was no reference to evidence or research in this account of her position. Her point was that, no matter what the public or teachers may say, no matter how they damage the profession and public education, the multi-billion dollar foundation will not back down from its priorities. The only things that can stop them are informed voters and courts, such as the vote against charter schools in Nashville and the court decision in Washington State declaring that charter schools are not public schools.

The question that will be resolved over the next decade is whether the public will fight for democratic control of public schools or whether the world’s richest man can buy public education.

Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years. Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.

“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”

That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped shape the nation’s education policies during the past decade with philanthropic donations that have supported digital learning and charter schools and helped accelerate shifts not only to the new, common academic standards, but to new teacher evaluations that incorporate student test scores.

The Obama administration shared and promoted many of the foundation’s priorities, arguing that they were necessary to push the nation’s schools forward and close yawning achievement gaps. Now that a new federal education law has returned authority over public education to the states, the foundation is following suit, seeking to become involved in the debates about the direction of public schools that are heating up in state capitals across the country.

Speaking here at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Melinda Gates told lawmakers on Wednesday that the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, gives them a chance to grapple with whether “we are doing everything in our power to ensure that students are truly graduating ready to go on to meaningful work or to college.”

“I want the foundation to be the neutral broker that’s able to bring up the real data of what is working and what’s not working,” Gates said in an interview afterward.

She went on to say that the foundation would continue to pursue its priorities.

“I think we know what the big elements are in education reform. It’s how do you support the things that you know work and how do you get the whole system aligned behind it,” Gates said. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. There are now 50 states that have to do it, and there isn’t this federal carrot or the stick, the push or pull, to help them along.”

The agenda she described is not one that everyone considers neutral. It includes supporting the Common Core standards and developing lesson-planning materials to help teachers teach to those standards; promoting personalized learning, or digital programs meant to target students’ individual needs; and, above all, improving the quality of teachers in the nation’s classrooms, from boosting teacher preparation to rethinking on-the-job professional development.

Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters, is a major figure in New York City education circles.

She wrote this post about the reporting of the state test scores. First, the public learned that the test scores were up. Next, those who bothered to read Commissioner Elia’s statement that accompanied the release learned that this year’s scores were not comparable to previous years’ scores. But then they saw Commissioner Elia and the media celebrating the test score gains that were not comparable to previous years.

What you will learn from her post is that there is almost always a political slant in reporting scores, especially these days, when so many politicians want to claim credit for rising scores. If officials want the scores to look good, they will magnify gains. Or they can change the passing mark to create artificial gains. Or they can convert raw scores to higher scores. When they first get started, they want the scores as low as possible so they can claim gains afterwards.

Leonie provides the historical context that was absent from reporting on this year’s scores. We have seen this play before. We saw the scores go up and up and up from 2002-2009. Then an independent team of researchers studied the tests and the state acknowledged score inflation. And the scores came crashing down. But not until after Mayor Bloomberg was safely re-elected to a third term, based in large part on the historic improvement in test scores (that disappeared in 2010).

It is time to admit that the scores are malleable. What do they represent? One thing for sure is that the kids with the advantages are always at the top, and the kids without the advantages are always at the bottom. No matter how often we test, no matter what the test, the results are unchanged year after year.

Maybe it is time to step back from the incessant testing and to focus instead on interventions that might change the life chances for children and the educational outcomes as well.

Governor Chris Christie made a big deal of pretending to get rid of Common Core, but he tenaciously stayed with PARCC, the federal test of the Common Core standards. Now the state board of education has voted to make PARCC a high school graduation test, starting in 2021.

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/south-brunswick-cranbury/sections/education/articles/south-brunswick-opting-out-of-parcc-testing-no

This is insane.

To begin with, no standardized test should be a high school graduation test. They are normed on a bell curve, which guarantees a high failure rate. The children who do not receive a diploma will disproportionately consist of children of poverty (most of whom are African-American and Hispanic), children with disabilities, and English language learners.

Next, it is clear that the PARCC test produces high failure rates. Most students in New Jersey failed it last year. Only about 25% passed the algebra and geometry tests; only 40% of high school students passed the 11th grade ELA tests.

http://www.nj.com/education/2016/08/new_jersey_parcc_results_2016_released.html

What plans has the state made for the tens of thousands of students who will not get a high school diploma?

Please, ACLU and Education Law Center: Sue New Jersey to stop this travesty, this injustice towards children.

Blogger Exceptional Delaware smells a rat in the State Auditor’s office. An employee named Kathleen Davies was a tad too eager to audit the charter schools’ finances, especially their petty cash. Davies mysteriously was placed on administrative leave. This is the audit you will never see.

It seems Davies was too diligent. She discovered too much. She had to stop. And she was given an extended vacation to stop her investigations of charter school spending. The deal seems to have backfired since her removal is not exactly a secret.

Bear in mind that Delaware is a very reformy state. It won Race to the Top money and is Gung-ho about all Arne Duncan’s bad ideas. Governor Jack Merkell is one of those governors like Cuomo (NY) and Malloy (CT) who embrace corporate reform. He loves the Common Core and charters.