Archives for category: Testing

I wrote a post yesterday and planned to post it at this hour. It was a brief recapitulation of an opinion piece that Kevin Huffman wrote yesterday in the Washington Post, in which he boldly stated that the current reliance on distance learning would hurt students and set back their learning.

Kevin Huffman is one of the leaders of the corporate reform movement. He worked for Teach for America, was married to Michelle Rhee, served as Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, where he pushed charters and vouchers and standardized testing. But when he tried to lose the state’s lowest performing school, the Tennessee Virtual Academy, he ran into a blank wall. It couldn’t be done. The TVA had friends in the legislature and it was impossible to close it down.

So in this article, he warned that the necessary emphasis on distance learning would not end well. In the post I planned to publish (but didn’t), I noted that he plugged the “no-excuses” Achievement First charter chain and Jeb Bush’s accountability-obsessed Chiefs for Change. I was not planning to mention that the “expert” he quotes is Hoover economist Erik Hanushek, who has a devout belief in testing and VAM and has predicted that increasing test scores would add trillions to the nation’s GNP. He has promoted the theory that teachers who can’t get their students’ scores up should be fired. Clean the ranks every year and—voila!—test scores will rise.

But unlike gullible me, Jan Resseger understood that Huffman’s article was a coded propaganda piece for the corporate reformers’ favorite organizations and remedies. Not only did he plug Achievement First and Chiefs for Change, he also cited the billionaire-funded City Fund, where he works. He did not note that it was created to subvert local school board elections by pumping money into the campaigns of charter-friendly candidates.

Resseger writes:

Kevin Huffman begins his recent Washington Post column with a warning about problems he expects to result from the widespread, coronavirus-driven school closures: “As the coronavirus pandemic closes schools, in some cases until September, American children this month met their new English, math, science and homeroom teachers: their iPads and their parents. Classes are going online, if they exist at all. The United States is embarking on a massive, months-long virtual-pedagogy experiment, and it is not likely to end well.”

This is pretty harsh. While in many places teachers are going to enormous lengths to create interesting projects to challenge children and keep them engaged, virtual schooling is a challenge. Online efforts school districts are undertaking to meet children’s needs during this long break are likely to be uneven. Huffman describes Stanford University research on the problems with virtual schooling, problems that are being exacerbated today by inequitable access to technology.

But what Kevin Huffman neglects to tell readers is that his purpose is not entirely to analyze his subject—the ongoing shutdown of schools. At the same time as he discusses the widespread school closure, he also manages to share the agenda of his current employer, The City Fund, a relatively new national group that finances the election campaigns of of charter school advocates running for seats on local school boards, supports the rapid expansion of charter schools, and promotes portfolio school reform. And when the Washington Post tells readers that Huffman, “a former education commissioner of Tennessee, is a partner at the City Fund, a national education nonprofit,” the Post neglects to explain The City Fund’s agenda.

Worse, Huffman proposes that schools should administer standardized tests to students when they return to school in September! Good grief, the results are not available for months. Of what value are such tests? I suppose we can now expect the testing corporations to begin losing for tests on the first day of school.

Resseger read the subtext: students, teachers, and schools can’t possibly survive without standardized testing. Be grateful for the charter chains who offer to help struggling school districts, which do not have the charters’ freedom to push out the kids they don’t want and do not have billionaire money to keep them afloat.

I read Huffman’s article and appreciated that he was wary of distance learning and unprepared parents struggling to teach their children.

Jan Resseger read it and exposed the hidden agenda: praising the billionaire agenda of charters and high-stakes testing. She correctly notes that this agenda failed when Huffman was Commissioner of Education in Tennessee. Some people learn from failure. Some don’t.

In this recent article, Jeff Bryant examines Florida’s shameful response to the pandemic. As usual, legislators and Governor DeSanris took advantage of the crisis to add another voucher program, which will drain another $200 million from public schools to support for woefully inadequate voucher schools.

He writes:


“The COVID-19 crisis reveals the true intentions of people,” Kathleen Oropeza told me during a phone call. Oropeza is a public school mom in Orlando and founder of Fund Education Now, a non-partisan grassroots effort to advocate for public education in Florida.

Her remark was in the context of concerns about how state officials were governing schools as the coronavirus was spreading across the state and generating fears of how the disease would affect schools and families.

Days after the first victims tested positive in the state and the first deaths were reported, Florida lawmakers in the House seemed oblivious to the impending crisis and instead passed new legislation to expand the state’s voucher program, thus diverting an additional $200 million from the state’s public schools.

The bill passed despite evidence that many of the private schools that would receive the voucher money openly discriminate against LGBTQ children and families, are not required to hire certified teachers, and generally provide a subpar education.

But there is a bright side to the current crisis:

The rash of canceled tests across the country caused some knowledgeable observers to speculate on Twitter that the testing industry would not be able to withstand the financial difficulties of a nationwide cancelation. But what is also in danger is the whole policy imperative of the market-based education agenda.

Much in the same way that widespread teacher walkouts and the Red for Ed movement over the past two years revealed the overwhelming need for government officials to increase funding and support for frontline teachers, the mounting fallout of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing politicians and policymakers to acknowledge the importance of schools as vital community institutions that need resources and support rather than fiscal austerity, privatization, and punitive accountability—the pillars of the market-based education movement.

Even amidst the avalanche of reported school closings, advocates of the market-based approach were lamenting the failure of their decades-long efforts.

“Neither standards and accountability nor charter schools have lived up to their promoters’ lofty aspirations. And there is much public unhappiness with school reform,” wrote Kevin Carey in an analysis for the Washington Post. Carey, a policy analyst for a Washington, D.C., think tank that favored the education reform agenda, worked for years in policy shops that pushed market-based agendas.

Carey noted a rising political opposition to market-based education advocates from the right and the left, including Tea Party Republicans who object to Common Core Standards and federal overreach in local decision-making and among progressive Democrats who are angered by the unfairness and inequities caused by market-based solutions.

But while he asserted that “School reform began with the civil rights movement,” he completely ignored the econometric principles that ended up driving privatization policies rather than the moral values of human rights and justice that powered the civil rights movement. Market-based education advocates have long obsessed over rigid standards, outcome measures, and competition from charter schools rather than providing schools and students with what they really needed, especially in communities that rely heavily on schools as anchor institutions.

Will elected officials and think tank analysts recognize the failure of standards, testing,
accountability, competition, and market-based policies to close achievement gaps, to reduce poverty, to lift up the neediest students, and to achieve any of their alleged goals?

Please: would the “reformers” acknowledge the failure of their prescriptions and stop claiming, without a shred of evidence, that annual standardized testing is a “civil right,” when it is actually stigmatizing children who are repeatedly labeled as “failures” by the testing indistry?

This is one of the best articles I have ever read in Education Week. It is not an opinion piece. It is a news article by veteran journalist Stephen Sawchuk.

He begins:

This was the week that American schools across the country closed their doors.

It was the week that our public schools—often dismissed as mediocre, inequitable, or bureaucratic—showed just how much they mean to American society by their very absence.

The unprecedented shutdown public and private schools in dozens of states last week has illuminated one easily forgotten truism about schools: They are an absolute necessity for the functioning of civic culture, and even more fundamentally than that, daily life.

Schools are the centers of communities. They provide indispensible student-welfare services, like free meals, health care, and even dentistry. They care for children while parents work. And all those services do much to check the effects of America’s economically stratified systems of employment and health care on young students.

These insights came into focus last week as the nation’s governors, in the absence of a coherent message from federal officials, took charge and shuttered tens of thousands of American schools, affecting tens of millions of students, in an effort to curb the menacing spread of the new coronavirus,or COVID-19.

Education historians and researchers struggled to come up with a historical precedent to this brave new school-less world. The only certainty, they said, is that the long-term impacts for students will be severe, and most likely long lasting.

Student learning will suffer in general—and longstanding gaps in performance between advantaged and vulnerable students will widen, they predicted, a combination both of weakened instruction and the other social consequences of the pandemic.

With tax revenues in free fall, schools and other public services will suffer when they eventually re-open.

With annual testing wiped away, at least for this year, accountability hawks are weeping, but teachers and students can dream of schools that prioritize teaching, not testing.

Parents are finding out how difficult it is to teach, even when they are in charge of only one, two, or three children. They marvel that teachers can do what they do with classes of 25 or 30 children. And they long for a resumption of school. Students miss their friends, their teachers, their teams, the rhythm of daily life in school.

For a few brief weeks, maybe longer, Americans have been reminded of the importance of their community’s public schools and their professional teachers.

Just confirmed:

“Gary Stern (@GarySternNY)
3/20/20, 12:46 PM
It’s official from ⁦‪@NYSEDNews‬⁩: 3-8 ELA, math, science tests suspended for the school year. Plus, ESL achievement test & alternative assessment for students with cognitive disabilities.”

No word yet about Regents exams, required for high school graduation.

Stay tuned.

This is not a year for testing when schools are closed indefinitely.

Health matters more than test scores.

Chalkbeat reports that the number of African American and Hispanic students offered admission to New York City’s elite high schools continued to be very low.

Admissions offers are based on the results of one test given on one day. No other factors are taken into account.

The statistics for next year’s freshman class show sharp disparities:

Only 4.5% of offers went to black students and 6.6% went to Hispanic students, virtually unchanged from last year. Citywide, black and Hispanic students make up almost 70% of enrollment.

Once again, a majority of offers went to white students (25.1%) and Asian students (54%).

The figures were a stark reminder that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to integrate the schools — which he’s dialed back this year — have failed to win support. In pushing for admission changes, the mayor unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers, who must approve any admissions changes to the city’s three largest specialized high schools, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Bronx Science.

At Stuyvesant, the most competitive of the specialized high schools, only 10 offers went to black students and 20 went to Latino students — out of 766 total offers. At Staten Island Technical, only one black student was offered admission, the same number as last year. The number of Hispanic students offered a seat at Stuy dropped to 20 from 33, and at Staten Island Tech, only eight Hispanic students received offers, from 11 the year before.

Mayor

The Network for Public Education urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive all state testing for 2020.

Chalkbeat reports that many states have requested waivers, and two—Colorado and Texas—have canceled testing without waiting for waivers. Recently the Council of Chief School Officers urged a cancellation of mandated state testing.

To see the status of state testing, see this update.

From the update, it appears that New York is the only state still planning to give the tests even though its schools are closed.

It seems likely—although no one knows for sure—that all states will cancel state testing.

No one knows when it will be safe to resume schooling.

NEWS RELEASE

California Teachers Association
1705 Murchison Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010
http://www.cta.org

Contact: Claudia Briggs at 916-296-4087

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 18, 2020

California Educators Appreciate Gov. Newsom for Ongoing Leadership in Executive Order to Suspend State Testing

SACRAMENTO — The California Teachers Association applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ongoing leadership and commitment, and hearing educators’ call to suspend statewide standardized testing this year for California’s students. CTA President E. Toby Boyd issued this statement on behalf of 310,000 teachers and the students they teach:

“We appreciate Gov. Newsom’s leadership and quick action in suspending all statewide mandated testing for this school year. On any given day, and under the best circumstances, test scores alone fail to tell us how a child is doing and where they need improvement. That would be even more certain for students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic aftermath. Test scores would mean nothing but a source of stress for our kids. Anxiety and emotions are rampant among us and we need to take this time to focus on the needs of our students, their health and safety, and ensuring they have nutritious meals.”

CTA is providing multiple resources for educators, students and families at http://www.cta.org/covid-19. CTA urges educators, students and their families to follow the guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health and believes state and local officials should coordinate with school districts and county offices of education to ensure uniform messages are provided to students, families, and staff.

###

The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association.

Claudia Briggs, Communications Assistant Manager, California Teachers Association (EST).

The California Teachers Association exists to protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning; to advance the cause of free, universal, and quality public education; to ensure that the human dignity and civil rights of all children and youth are protected; and to secure a more just, equitable, and democratic society.

I reported yesterday that ELA tests are suspended. In this time of rumors, fake news, and disinformation,let me clarify.

The distribution of the ELA tests has been suspended. The tests have not been suspended.

The schools will be closed. The students and teachers will be home. But the tests will be given.

By whom, it’s not clear.

To whom, no one knows.

The sovereign state of New York is waiting for permission from Betsy DeVos to cancel the Sacred Tests.

Please, New York, gets spine.

You can’t give tests when the schools are closed!

A principal shared with me a letter he received, with the following information:

New York State Education Department is canceling the English language arts tests, grades 3-8.

No word yet on math tests, but they seem sure to be suspended too.

The virus is spreading, not contained.

Chalkbeat reports that Colorado has canceled state academic tests for 2020.

Colorado will cancel state tests in light of coronavirus school closures, officials say

Any state that insists on giving the federally-mandated tests should be prepared to answer how they expect to test children who have been out of school for several weeks without instruction.

Under the best of circumstances, the scores reveal little more than family income and education. In the current circumstances, what will they mean? Nothing, although the differences between haves and have-nots might be accentuated.

Best course of action for every state: Cancel the tests now and focus instead on making sure that students have food, social supports, and access to medical care.

Cancel the tests. Care for students.