Archives for category: Testing

Perhaps you read the editorial in the New York Times a few days ago, blasting teacher education programs and approving John King’s new regulations to judge them by the test scores of the students who graduate from them. The editorial cites the Gates-funded National Council on Teacher Quality’s claim that 90% of teacher education institutions stink. NCTQ, you may recall, publishes rankings of teacher education programs without ever actually visiting any of them. It just reads the catalogues and decides which are the best and which are the worst, based in part on their adherence to the Common Core and scripted reading programs.

I agree that the entry standards for teacher education programs must be higher, and I would love to see online teaching degree programs shut down. But King’s new rules don’t address entry standards or crummy online programs. Their main goal is to judge teacher education programs by the test scores of the students who studied under the graduates of the programs. They will discourage teachers from teaching in high-needs districts. They will allow the U.S. Department of Education to extend its test-crazed control into yet another sector of American education. This is federal overreach at its dumbest.

John Merrow, who knows much more than the Times’ editorial writer on education (the same person for the past 20 years or more), has a different and better informed perspective.

He writes that the problem is not teacher education but the underpaid, under-respected profession.

The federal government thinks that tighter regulation of these institutions is the answer. After all, cars that come out of an automobile plant can be monitored for quality and dependability, thus allowing judgments about the plant. Why not monitor the teachers who graduate from particular schools of education and draw conclusions about the quality of their training programs?

That’s the heart of the new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education this week: monitor the standardized test scores of students and analyze the institutions their teachers graduated from. Over time, the logic goes, we’ll discover that teachers from Teacher Tech or Acme State Teachers College generally don’t move the needle on test scores. Eventually, those institutions will lose access to federal money and be forced out of business. Problem solved!

Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., announced the new regulations in Los Angeles. “As a nation, there is so much more we can do to help prepare our teachers and create a diverse educator workforce. Prospective teachers need good information to select the right program; school districts need access to the best trained professionals for every opening in every school; and preparation programs need feedback about their graduates’ experiences in schools to refine their programs (emphasis added). These regulations will help strengthen teacher preparation so that prospective teachers get off to the best start they can, and preparation programs can meet the needs of students and schools for great educators.”

Work on the regulations began five years ago and reflect former Secretary Arne Duncan’s views.

John Merrow says that the Department is trying to solve a problem by issuing regulations that will make the problem worse. Teacher churn and attrition are at extraordinary high levels. The regulations will not encourage anyone to improve teaching.

He writes:

Strengthen training, increase starting pay and improve working conditions, and teaching might attract more of the so-called ‘best and brightest,’ whereas right now it’s having trouble attracting anyone, according to the Learning Policy Institute, which reported that

“Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.”

Merrow writes, in the voice of wisdom, a voice that has been non-existent in Washington, D.C., for the past 15 years:

I am a firm believer in the adage, “Harder to Become, Easier to Be.” We need to raise the bar for entry into the field and at the same time make it easier for teachers to succeed. This approach will do the opposite; it will make teaching more test-centric and less rewarding.

This latest attempt to influence teaching and learning is classic School Reform stuff. It worships at the altar of test scores and grows out of an unwillingness to face the real issues in education (and in society). While it may be well-meaning, it’s misguided and, at the end of the day, harmful.

Listen up, New York Times editorial writer!

Peter Rawitsch teaches first grade. He has been a teacher for 40 years. He was invited to participate in the New York State review of Common Core standards for the early grades.

He deliberated with the group and came away convinced that the standards, however written, will do more harm than good. In this article, he calls for a moratorium on standards for the youngest children.

He thinks that children need a childhood more than they need standards.

Reporters at the Washington Post asked both major party candidates what they would do in the area of K-12 education.

Trump gave a brief reply and ignored the questions.

Clinton (or her staff) answered all the questions.

Donald Trump’s answer was, go to my website, and he (or his staff) added this:

“As your president, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice. I want every single inner city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom – the civil right – to attend the school of their choice. I understand many stale old politicians will resist. But it’s time for our country to start thinking big once again. We spend too much time quibbling over the smallest words, when we should spend our time dreaming about the great adventures that lie ahead.”

Clinton’s answers were ambiguous; she is for testing, but not too much testing. She is for charter schools, but only good charter schools.

She opposes for-profit charter schools, but doesn’t seem to realize that many allegedly nonprofit charters outsource their management to for-profit companies.

Doug Garnett is a communications specialist and a regular reader of the blog. He writes here about reading “Policy Patrons,” by Megan Tomkins-Stange.

Been reading Policy Patrons. And it’s given me a different insight.

We all feel like Gates, Broad and others are “dictating” what happens. It’s hard – because they aren’t. What they’re doing is far more subtle but with similar results.

What they’ve done is create a “walled garden” of groups that are all paid to support their position. The list in this article is an example of creating that walled garden – a range of community organizations, researchers, university credibility, etc…

THEN, with the walled garden created, the foundations themselves never have to “tell the government what to do”. They are able to say “well, I know somebody who deals with that – you should talk with them”. Except the foundations have ensured that this “somebody” is somebody who will give the answer they want.

It’s incredibly deceptive – but politicians and press seem incapable of detecting when they’ve been had in this way. Because the “walled garden” of true “ed reform believers” are the only people they end up talking to. In a sense, Gates, Broad, et. al. deliver answers on a silver platter so that state education departments, school districts, politicians, and press don’t have to work hard.

This informal (but massive) walled garden they’ve build believes in testing as management, believes in CCSS, believes in charter schools, and believes that privatizing government services is always good.

As a result, state education bureaucrats NEVER have to wander outside the garden – so they never have to confront uncomfortable truths. (It’s dangerous outside those walls and that threatens one’s career.)

But this also explains why politicians are so shocked when citizens confront them with dissatisfaction with their policies – they’ve been blissfully living inside the Eden of Reform – unaware that they aren’t in touch with reality. I’ve seen this in Oregon. Our legislators cannot believe it when someone rational challenges what they’ve been doing.

It’s a HUGE problem for those of us who believe in public schools and believe in the value of researched answers. Because it’s not illegal what they’ve done. They believe it’s entirely moral. And they think they’re being “good people” by doing it. And it spreads blame by breaking it into tiny bits so no single organization can be blamed for much. Kind of a guaranteed “plausible deniability” clause.

Yet the result is entirely immoral – because it’s the future of our children.

Standardized tests produce results normed on a bell curve. The students who cluster in the bottom half of the bell curves are predominantly poor, children with disabilities, and children of color. The bell curve, by design, never closes. That is why it is fundamentally wrong to rank students, teachers, and schools by a measure that favors the most affluent.

Secretary of Education John King is releasing regulations that will punish education programs if their graduates teach students whose scores are low. “Reformers” are supposed to be aware of the power of incentives, but not Secretary King. He thinks he can scare education programs to focus more on raising test scores. More likely is that teachers will get the message to avoid teaching in schools that enroll students who are impoverished, and that their preparation programs will encourage them to steer clear of the neediest children.

This is the report that appeared this morning in politico education (

TEACHER PREP RULES OUT TODAY: The Obama administration unveiled its long-delayed final regulations governing teacher preparation programs today. The rule preserves much of the administration’s original proposal from 2014, and requires states to develop a rating system for teacher-preparation programs.

– The rule will also eventually punish low-performing programs by cutting off their access to federal TEACH grants that help students pay for teacher training.

– The final rule retains a particularly-controversial component, which holds teacher-preparation programs accountable, in part, for how their graduates perform as teachers, based upon their students’ academic success. However, states will have flexibility in determining how to measure student learning.

– Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, sharply criticized the regulations, saying in a statement that although the department “has made minor tweaks, the flawed framework remains the same.”

– Weingarten said it was “ludicrous to propose evaluating teacher preparation programs based on the performance of the students taught by a program’s graduates.” And she said the rules ultimately punish teacher prep programs that send graduates into the highest-need schools.

– Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said in a statement that the group was “pleased the department listened to feedback and made these regulations stronger.”

– Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said she’s impressed with how much the department kept with its original intent, “which was to insert far greater accountability for program quality.” She added that the effectiveness of the rule “very much depends on states doing their bit to hold programs accountable for quality.”

– “I told people they would never see the light of day,” Walsh said of the rules. “I’m happy to be wrong.”

– Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will be speaking about teacher preparation at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education today. Watch the USC event live, starting at 1 p.m. ET, here.

– Read the regulations here

Laura Chapman, retired arts educator and researcher, offers reasons why you should opt out of PARCC:

“Here is one more reason to be a very serious and unrelenting critic of PARCC.

It has “teamed up” with, a website that rates schools and leases data for commercial exploitation (about which I have commented before).

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2015 ( from

“PARCC states have partnered with GreatSchools to launch the GreatKids Test Guide for Parents, a new resource to assist parents in helping their children prepare academically for college and careers, and for the next grade level. “…”The Guide gives … information about what a child needs to know at each grade level and how parents can help their children succeed academically, based on how their child performed on the PARCC assessment.”

“About GreatSchools. Founded in 1998, GreatSchools is a national nonpartisan nonprofit helping millions of parents find quality schools, support great learning and guide their kids to great futures. GreatSchools offers thousands of articles, videos and worksheets to help parents support their children’s learning. Last year, more than 59 million unique visitors accessed the GreatSchools website including more than half of all US families with school-age children. Headquartered in Oakland, California, GreatSchools partners with cities and states across the country.“
Do not be deceived by sweet talk about “partnerships.” This non-profit is a sophisticated and well-funded system for gathering test scores and other information reported by schools, converting this information into ratings, and selling the data and ratings. The website literally sells ads and licenses for access to test scores and other data on schools—public, private, and charter—with expansions planned for pre-school and daycare-centers.

This national data hog is funded by billionaire foundations unfriendly to public schools. The logos of the Gates, Walton, Robertson, and Arnold Foundations are prominently displayed. A list of 19 other supporters includes the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Bradley Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, New Schools Venture Fund among others. All of these supporters want to make public schools an artifact from the past.

“Here is what GreatSchools does with the test scores, now including PARCC scores.

“The overall GreatSchools Rating is an average of how well students at a given school do on each grade and subject test. For each test, ratings are assigned based on how well students perform relative to all other students in the state, and these ratings are averaged into an overall rating of 1 to 10.”

“The distribution of the GreatSchools Rating in a given state looks like a bell curve, with higher numbers of schools getting ratings in the “average” category, and fewer schools getting ratings in the “above average” or “below average” categories.”

The ratings are based on the manipulation of data classified in one of three ways: As a proficiency measure, a growth measure (including discredited VAM), and a rating for “how well schools are preparing students for success in college and beyond” (high school graduation rate, SAT, ACT scores). The system is rigged so most schools are rated average or below.

The fraudulent rating system gives the notoriously test-driven Success Academy in NY the highest possible rating here

This non-profit is the front for a mega for-profit operation serving big box stores, and multiple industries— financial, real estate, charter expansions, testing and text publishers. It is designed to capture the interest of media outlets and merchandizers as “partners,” co-opt entire school districts and federal agencies into “partnerships.” The gigantic “partner” basket includes Walmart, Target, Yale Center for Social Emotional Intelligence, Survey Monkey, Forbes, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dunn & Bradstreet, US Department of Education, Goldman Sachs, and more


CONTENT 321 Fast Draw; Algonquin Books; Ashoka Foundation; Bay Citizen; California Watch; College Board; Common Sense Media; DK Publishing; Film Sight Productions; IDEO; Learning Ally; Learning and Leadership Center; Mind/Shift; National Center for Learning Disabilities;; Reading Rockets; Scholastic; Treasure Bay, Inc.; UCLA Department of Psychology; US Department of Education; Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

COMMUNITY AND FAMILY ENGAGEMENT Families Empowered; Hillsborough County Public Schools, Iridescent Learning; KIPP; Magnet Schools of America; Miami Dade County Public Schools; Rocketship Education; Stand Up for Students; Step Up for Students; US Department of Housing and Urban Development

RESEARCH Gallup Education; SurveyMonkey (see also Licensees); SRI; Rockman Et Al.

MARKETING & OUTBOUND MEDIA; Common Sense Media; Forbes; NBC News Education; The Bully Project; Univision.

LICENSEES, Brain Pop; Digital Map Products; Dunn & Bradstreet; Fannie Mae; Maponics; Michael & Susan Dell Foundation; Military Child Education Coalition; Move Sales, Inc.; National Association of Charter School Authorizers; National Housing Trust; Onboard Informatics; Policy Map; Realtors Property Resource; SurveyMonkey; Target, US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Walmart; WolfNet; Zillow.

What do these “partners get” for signing on? At minimum, it is the opportunity to become an advertiser or license holder who can gain access to your student’s test scores—for a fee. You can find some of the ad rates here.

At the bottom of the rate page you can see that these “packages” are offered via the Rubicon Project. Click on Rubicon Project to see what this “project “is. The Rubicon Project is the name for a company that scoops all of greatschool’s data and ratings and comments from users and puts them in Rubicon’s “Advertising Automation Cloud.”

This data warehousing operation “brings buyers and sellers closer together on a robust advertising technology platform. One of the largest cloud and Big Data computing systems in the world, the Automation Cloud leverages over 50,000 algorithms and analyzes billions of data points in real-time to deliver the best results for sellers and buyers,” with 300 real-time data-driven decisions per transaction.”

Follow the money. The billionaire foundations gather the test scores and other information about schools. They are notoriously in favor of market-based education. The scores are translated into a their dubious but “custom” rating scheme with direct links to the great red-lining guru, Zillow (who has paid for a high end license). The data and ratings migrate out from the greatschools website to Rubicon. For a fee, Rubicon facilitates rapid and custom access to the data and ratings from their “cloud,” (a data warehouse), promising their clients they can “Efficiently find your target audience;” “build brand awareness,” “acquire new customers, and re-engage existing customers.”

I hope that this information gives parents another reason to opt out of the tests and especially PARCC. Greatschools has test data from every state, has a map of district boundaries searchable by zipcodes, and it is seeking data well beyond that required by state or federal regulation such as such as schools safety, cleanliness, and parent involvement. Next up: Scores for school climate and social-emotional learning, and “customer satisfaction surveys.”

Remember, taxpayers made PARCC possible. Time to say bye, bye and good riddance.

On Sunday, I posted the FairTest model for state assessments. FairTest has spent decades fighting the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. One of its long-time board members, for example, is Deborah Meier, a well-recognized and distinguished critic of standardized testing.

Several readers read the report as a covert effort to legitimate Competency-Based Education, that is, embedded computerized testing controlled by corporations.

Monty Neill of FairTest responds here:

The comments in response to the posting about FairTest’s report, Assessment Matters, raise interesting points. I will respond here to just a few.

First, there is no doubt that corporations backed by some foundations and politicians are promoting a version of schooling that is built around computerized packaged programs that combine curriculum, curricular materials, instruction and testing. The tests are in most cases multiple-choice and short-answer with occasional write-to-a-prompt items, to be machine graded. They seriously narrow and diminish education and should be exposed and stopped.

But not one of the examples in FairTest’s report rely on these kinds of computerized packages. Each one is teacher controlled and very much teacher controlled. We clearly support and praise those that allow significant student voice and control over the learning and assessment processes. New Hampshire fought for a deal that has opened doors that have been nailed shut since the start of NCLB and thus deserve serious credit. As we point out, we can learn from and improve on what they have thus far done, and that ESSA makes it easier for that to happen. (As a sidebar, we have regularly opposed much of what is in ESSA concerning testing while noting the victories and gains the testing reform movement made and providing ideas on how to take advantage of the opportunities it does provide.)

People can choose to believe the fight is over because corporations are trying to seize control of terms such as personalized and competency-based. We believe that is a mistake. It is not over, and one part of the battle is the fight to own the terms. The more important fight is the one to determine the shape of education, whether it is built on human relations among teachers and students, with parents and other community people also engaged; or it is based on computer algorithms and subordinating human relations to the computer packages.

FairTest fights for the former. We think that is clear in what we call for and the programs we highlight. If people have questions about that, they should read what we actually write and then follow it up, looking at the programs themselves.

Monty Neill

FairTest has been fighting the overuse and misuse of standardized testing for more than 40 years. Recognizing that you can’t defeat a failed system by complaining, FairTest has designed a state system for assessment that does not rely on standardized testing.

The new system relies on student work and teacher judgment. It takes advantage of a provision in ESSA that allows seven states to create innovative approaches to sssessment.

This is a plan that is research-based, reasonable, and feasible.

Please read it.

The superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, is Tom Scarice. He is already on the honor roll of this blog because he speaks out for good education, not corporate reform.

In this interview, he is clear about what schools should do.

This is the opening of a wonderful interview:

CTViewpoints: Assuming for a moment that these scores are meaningful, (not everyone thinks so) shouldn’t we be outraged and alarmed that only about half our children are making the grade?

Scarice: Perhaps the biggest problem is that we’re having the wrong conversation, from our current presidential candidates right down through education advocates, bureaucrats, etc.

I believe that chasing test scores is not only fool’s gold, but it will clearly not prepare our kids for the world they will enter when they leave our K-12 schools. In fact, chasing test scores, especially invalid ones like the SBAC, prepares kids for a completely different era, one that vanished decades ago. Automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data will continue to transform the job market, leaving millions without utility, unless they are prepared to take on the jobs that machines cannot perform.

This reality, and the future problems our children will face, necessitates combining rich academic content with the development of deep analytical and critical thinking, and perhaps more importantly, boundless divergent and creative thinking. Students also need authentic experience in developing collective intelligence, learning from and working with others.

No one works alone. Perhaps most importantly, students need to apply their learning to novel situations. There is not one stitch of usefulness in the SBAC with regards to giving us this information — the most important information — on student performance in these essential capacities. In fact, the part of the SBAC intended to measure application of learning was removed. Yet the scores erroneously take center stage in assessing school quality.

There isn’t one piece of reputable research indicating that SBAC measures anything other than maybe family wealth. In fact, CT State Department of Education literature, referred to as the SBAC “Interpretive Guide,” states that, “characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories is an oversimplification.” Essentially, the “box score” of test scores that gets published every August lacks meaning and usefulness, but, most importantly, it lacks validity.

Yet, million dollar decisions are made based on those scores, and educators around the state sadly get wrapped around the “test score axle,” compelled to chase higher scores, trapped in a flawed system.

However, there is one thing that the SBAC “box scores” do provide, something that the public has an insatiable appetite for, and that is misleading rankings, sorting, charts, winners/losers, top ten lists, etc.

What we should be outraged and alarmed about is the fact that states are participating in this testing consortium, voluntarily and willingly, spending millions of dollars for meaningless tests, the results of which are purported to gauge student learning and – stunningly – misused to assess teacher competence and school quality, which this test, or any test, simply cannot do.

The misuse of test scores has stained a generation of public education by conflating our goals with our measures and distorting the teaching and learning of millions of children.

Save the date!

The world-renowned Finnish scholar Pasi Sahlberg will speak at Wellesley College on Thursday October 13 at 7 pm at Alumnae Hall.

The new President Barbara Johnston will be there, so will I.

Pasi will be introduced by Howard Gardner. Pasi’s topic: “The Inconvenient Truth About American Education.”

All are invited to hear this distinguished scholar.

This will be the second in the Lecture series that I endowed at my alma mater, to explore education and the common good.