Archives for category: Testing

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, writes here about the billionaire and corporate money supporting the rating system for schools called GreatSchools. It clearly exists to promote school choice, not community cohesion or civic responsibility. GreatSchools recently announced that it would use “growth scores” to measure school quality, not just test scores, but the difference is miniscule, and the outcome is the same: to promote segregation and school choice by linking “school quality” and test scores.

Laura Chapman writes:

Great Schools is supported by income from Scholastic, Zillow and other advertisers, who pay for packages that can push up their page views or allow them to license the school ratings. The whole website functions as a tool to perpetuate redlining, charter schools, and advocates forf school choice.

Here are the largest financial pushers of the dubious ratings:

Walton Family Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Trust, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These big funders are offered a display of their logos. Other supporters are: America Achieves, The Charles Hayden Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EdChoice, Heising-Simons Foundation, Innovate Public Schools, The Joyce Foundation, Excellent Schools Detroit, The Kern Family Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and Startup: Education. These are not supporters of public schools.

This website is designed to market an ideology and a rating scheme. The Terms of use policy says: “Some information contained on the website may represent opinion or judgment… GreatSchools does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information on the website. As such, GreatSchools will not be responsible for any errors, inaccuracies, omissions or deficiencies in the information provided on the website. This information is provided “as is,” with no guarantees of completeness, non-infringement, accuracy or timeliness, and without warranties of any kind, express or implied.”

Great Schools also lists “Partners.” Sad to say, the Great Schools website, designed to steer parents away from most public schools has a partnership with the US Department of Education and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Community Action Partners” are: Choice Matters Oklahoma, Colorado Succeeds, Community Foundation of Atlanta, Delaware Department of Education, Families Empowered, Innovate Public Schools, The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, and United Way of Central Indiana.

“Partners for Content” include the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence featuring Yale’s RULER program, a system of direct instruction in: (a) managing emotions by naming them and (b) thinking out loud about degrees of emotional intensity (energy) and pleasantness. Students learn to Recognize, Understand, Label, and Regulate their emotions at about $7,500 per school team.

The second “Content Partner” (believe it or not) is PARCC Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. As of the 2019-2020 school year, these tests were only used in Washington DC, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. New Jersey will stop using these tests in 2020-2021.

“Other Partners” are:
–Be a Learning Hero, offers parents a “roadmap” for school readiness and test prep. Key leaders worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

–Common Sense Media is a marketing website offering parents reviews and lists of kid-suitable videos, books, other media.

–Education Cities is a network promoting school choice in 24 cities in cooperation with 31 city based organizations. The network is funded by the Broad Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Walton Family foundation.

–National PTA which claims not “to endorse any commercial product or service.” But also says “Companies making a financial contribution to PTA may be entitled to promotional consideration and, in some cases, may have limited use of PTA’s marks and assets.” Deals for members are offered by PTA’s 18 Corporate Alliances.” The National PTA also markets Common Core resources with outdated claims about these “being fully implemented.”

–Understood is devoted to serving families and children with disabilities. It is funded by15 non-profits, not counting these recent supporters: The New Teacher Center, Relay Graduate School of Education, the Achievement Network, and New Visions for Public schools,.

Great Schools also lists Bellwether Education Partners, the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Thomas B Fordham Institute, and Public Impact as “Partners. All promote charter schools as if these are “public.”

Great Schools generates and leases data to “leading real estate, technology and media websites.” Great Schools claims to be “the nation’s leading source of school performance information…. with “more than 55 million unique visitors” last year and “over half of American families with school-age children.”

Great Schools is designed to forward three real estate practices associated with parents seeking a school. The first is block busting—a process designed to promote fear among white home owners or prospective buyers that a neighborhood school brings too many low income racial minorities to the community and devalues its real estate. The second is redlining, illegal, but the practice of denying loans or property insurance to applicants based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood, including school demographics. The third and most common is steering, the real estate practice of directing homebuyers to or away from specific neighborhoods and schools based on the prospective homebuyer’s race color, religion, gender (sex), sexual orientation, disability (handicap), familial status, or national origin.

Great Schools rating schemes for “school quality” are a case study in what Cathy O’Neal has called mathematical intimidation. If you are mathematically inclined, see if you can make sense of the rating schemes available here. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/ratings-methodology/

Chalkbeat reports that the rating agency GreatSchools has revised the way it measures school quality. Critics have long complained that its reliance on test scores as the measure of school quality disadvantages schools that enroll children of color and encourages housing segregation by steering white parents to white neighborhoods.

In the future, GreatSchools will rely on test score growth, not just scores alone.

This, of course, puts pressure on teachers and schools to raise test scores. Test scores thus continue to be the single most important criterion of school quality, instead of school climate, experienced teachers, class size, a rich arts program, and other consequential elements.

Matt Barnum writes:

America’s most widely used school rating system is overhauling its approach with a series of changes that will weaken the link between race, poverty, and school scores.

The website GreatSchools is rolling out the changes nationwide Thursday after introducing them for schools in California and Michigan in August. They are part of an effort by the site to make its ratings better reflect how much schools help students learn, rather than things like students’ prior academic achievement and poverty levels that schools don’t control.

“The new system is better because there is more of a focus on learning and growth and what’s actually happening in schools,” GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane said. “We know that’s more important.”

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of GreatSchools’ system of judging schools, including a Chalkbeat investigation that found that its ratings effectively steered families away from schools serving more Black, Hispanic, and low-income students.

GreatSchools says the average school will see only a modest score change. Still, the shifts mean that the tens of millions of people who find the ratings on real estate sites like Zillow will now see a different measure of school quality, potentially affecting enrollment patterns that contribute to school segregation.

Notice how the rating agency conflates test scores with learning. The changes for schools’ rating will indeed be modest because they are still measuring schools by test scores, which are highly correlated with wealth and poverty, special education status, and LEP status.

*sorry about the error in the original headline. I write most posts on my cellphone so I did not see the last words in the heading. My error and my apologies.

We have been warned! Students are”losing ground,” “falling behind,” and in desperate need of remediation.

Laura Chapman captures the debate:


The big promotion for this Covid-19 era is how to mitigate a “slide in learning.”

The so-called COVID-slide is made up by bean counters who think that the be-all and end-all of education is captured in test scores for reading and math.

Among these high profile bean counters is the Rand Corporation. I have linked you to the following article for their solutions to the slide problem. They think it is fine to just “recruit top teachers, with grade-level experience, and equip them with rigorous academic curriculums. They will operate for five or six weeks of the summer, with three or four hours of academics every day, as well as time for enrichment activities.” In addition they “they will establish a clear attendance policy.” https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2020/07/the-covid-slide-how-to-help-students-recover-learning.html

Then there is the Brookings Institution, and like all test-centered promoters of a “Covid Slide” their experts rely on test scores in reading and math to make graphs and dire predictions about ” the slide,” as if the whole of education depends on test scores in two subjects. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/05/27/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-student-achievement-and-what-it-may-mean-for-educators/

One more example is a widely cited “white paper” from Illuminate Education. The white paper is nothing more than a sales pitch for FastBridge, which claims to be “the only assessment system to combine Computer-Adaptive Tests (CAT) and Curriculum-Based Measures (CBM) for screening and progress monitoring across reading, math and social-emotional behavior (SEB) so you get data surrounding the whole child.”

You can sign up to receive Illuminate Education’s playbook prepared by experts who “offer actionable advice for supporting students’ social-emotional and behavioral (SEB) functioning. Implement these tips to prepare students, mentally and emotionally, to learn after a spring and summer spent social distancing.” The white paper

Click to access covid-19-slide-whitepaper.pdf

In other words, if there were no test scores, especially in reading and math, the slide metaphor would not exist and the experts in test-centric instruction would have to be more thorough in thinking about the unfolding complexities of teaching and learning. They would have to think about the support students, teachers, and parents/caregivers really need. Those supports have nothing to do with testing.

Mike Klonsky notes that education was barely mentioned in the convention speeches of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But he points out that the platform contains some strong language in the right direction on charters, vouchers, for-profit businesses, and testing.

On testing, for example, it says:

The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners. Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop reliable, continuous, evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement. Those measures will be supported by data collection and analysis disaggregated by race, gender, disability status, and other important variables, to identify disparities in educational equity, access, and outcomes.

We have to keep the party to its promises to avoid a reversion to the failed Bush-Obama era.

Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction in Washington State, published this excellent letter to the Democratic candidates.

It overflows with wisdom and common sense.

An Open Letter to the Biden-Harris Ticket:

Mr. Vice President and Senator Harris, there is so much at stake with this year’s presidential election, including the very foundation of our country’s democracy – the future of our public education system. Led by Betsy DeVos and fueled by years of education privateers, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has been an utter failure in advancing student learning, racial equity, and gender equity over the last four years. Under DeVos, the USDOE has jeopardized the financial future of too many young adults and actively worked against civil rights protections for our most vulnerable students.

As Washington State’s elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have worked with leaders across the state to build bipartisan coalitions to improve student achievement, but this same bipartisanship and student-centric approach have been elusive under the DeVos regime. It will take federal leadership working alongside state education policy leaders to move us past an inefficient and deficit-based system.

What follows are ten critical steps necessary for a Biden/Harris administration to build the foundation for a truly equitable and outstanding American education system.

1)
Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law. This will save billions of dollars and allow us to refocus resources on assessments that illuminate student growth and learning, are delivered locally, and are aligned to requirements that are properly situated at the state or local level, not the federal government. The USDOE should review and approve each state’s education assessment framework, but it is time to put the evaluation of learning back in the classroom with meaningful standards, trained professionals, and culturally responsive instructional practices.

2)
Deliver legislation to Congress to scale up the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – a far more cost-effective method of actually determining the overall education progress of states with a real opportunity to finally understand performance differences between the states. This assessment is already funded and supported by the USDOE. It is inefficient and costly to have a federally funded assessment of student progress and have 50 states and territories maintaining their own costly assessments. This proposal would save billions from the current system, and with robust sample sizes, can identify critical supports needed to close opportunity gaps for students furthest from educational justice.

3)
Invest in the teaching profession by diversifying the workforce, including establishing high-quality residencies for teacher candidates and early career teachers, and providing funds for ongoing meaningful educator training. Additionally, building educator capacity should focus on integration of social-emotional learning into instruction, anti-racist and student-centered teaching practices, and authentic family engagement. It is past time to shift away from destructive federal policies that force schools and educators to dwell on student deficits, as defined by federally mandated tests, instead of lifting up the unique contribution of every learner and every educator.

4)
Immediately deliver a budget request to Congress that triples the federal budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) from $13 billion to $40 billion. Congress and the USDOE have never fulfilled their obligation to this essential civil rights policy. One in seven students has a qualifying disability and these students deserve every accommodation necessary to fully engage in inclusive and least restrictive learning environments.

5)
By Executive Order, immediately suspend any federal dollars used to support school voucher programs. Require the USDOE to undertake a national examination of voucher systems, and require each state that uses vouchers to conduct third-party evaluation, with a USDOE review, that examines the effects of school voucher systems on school segregation, specifically the segregation of students of color and students with disabilities.

6)
Affirm that all federal funds are eligible to support DACA students and all migrant students. Make clear through executive order and USDOE rule that basic education rights for ALL students is a function of their residency, not their citizenship status. U.S. schools should focus on teaching and learning for ALL students, and the administration should ensure authorities overseeing immigration policy and citizenship status are upholding support of DACA and migrant students’ rights.

7)
Immediately reverse the USDOE’s recent rule change related to Title IX. This rule, promoted by Betsy DeVos, weakens protections for victims of sexual assault and retraumatizes them with forced cross-examinations by their perpetrators.

8)
Create a 10-year on-ramp with federal financial support to allow every school district in the United States to develop, implement, and evaluate dual-language programs for each of their students. The U.S. is linguistically diverse – this is an asset that should be celebrated, rather than viewed as a deficit! Every dollar spent on assessments for English language proficiency should be invested in high-quality dual language programs. We are losing a global battle for talent, and our students do not compete effectively in a global labor market because they lack bilingualism. Every student in the U.S. should learn two or more languages – as most of the world does – and this begins most effectively in early learning programs and early elementary school.

9)
Deliver an initial budget request to Congress of $100 billion to close the digital divide and invest in tribal lands by building out broadband connectivity in rural and remote communities. Make K-12 schools, indigenous communities, and reservation lands the highest priorities for “last mile” infrastructure. Our tribal communities are sovereign nations trapped by our failed national infrastructure. Tribal youth experience one of the largest opportunity gaps in the nation, and broadband can play a massive role in this powerful opportunity for equity.

10)
Provide every United States high school graduate two years of equivalent tuition to a public community or technical college through an education savings account. Students can use these funds for full associate degrees or industry recognized credentials, or use the funds as a universal baseline of financial assistance as they attend four-year colleges and universities.

Strengthening America’s education system should be the top priority for a Biden/Harris Administration. It does not mean expanding the control or scope of the USDOE, but rather putting the proper budget and policy levers in place that empower states and local school districts to close opportunity gaps, develop diverse pathways to graduation, and once again recognize the needs of individual students, employers, and the larger economy.

America’s future rests on its commitment to each and every learner in a high-quality accessible public education system that sees race, language, and individual student interests as strengths and assets upon which we develop the greatest and most innovative nation the world has ever known.

Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Thomas Ultican continues his investigation of the tentacles of billionaire reformers, this time focusing on the tumultuous career of John Deasy, who resigned as superintendent of the Stockton, California, school district.

Ultican shows how Deasy rose to become superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, how Justin tenure there was marked by controversy as he walked in lockstep with the Eli Broad-Bill Gates agenda of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing, and huge investments in technology. His controversial decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads and tech curriculum led to the end of his tenure in L.A.

On to Stockton, where the Mayor and three school board members were closely allied with the billionaire agenda.

A sad and cautionary tale about the destructive billionaire-funded movement to gut public schools.

Pawan Dhingra, a Professor of American Studies at Amherst College, writes about what he calls “hyper education,” the stress that parents apply to get their children to become high achievers. In this article, he writes about the phenomenon of Indian American students dominating spelling bees.

He begins:

Succeeding in the Spelling Bee for Indian Americans is more than a family affair

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, my parents insisted on me receiving good grades in school. They were eligible to immigrate from India in large part due to their advanced educational attainment, which helped earn them work visas. As long as I attained good grades, they did not worry about what activities I chose after-school. If I was a child today, that would probably be very different. I would likely be enrolled in some after-school scholastic activity to supplement my schoolwork. And as a family of Indian origin, there is a good chance that would have been a spelling bee or some other academic competition.

Over the past 20 years, Indian Americans have come to dominate the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The last Scripps Bee without an Indian American champion was 2007. In 2019, the last time a Scripps Bee was held, there were eight co-champions, seven of whom were Indian American. There is even a documentary on this trend, Spelling the Dream. What’s more, they have over-achieved in National Geography Bees, MATHCOUNTS, and other academic competitions.

I spent years with families engaged in spelling bees, math competitions, and other forms of after-school academics for my book, Hyper Education: Why Good Schools, Good Grades, and Good Behavior Are Not Enough. In part, I explain why Indian Americans have come to dominate them, which has to do with their own ethnic circuits of academic competitions, their command of the English knowledge, the family commitment of support and time, and the financial resources necessary to prepare.

Why care about academics in the first place?

But there is a more fundamental question I focus on, which is what motivates Indian Americans’ and others’ interest in after-school academics (e.g. learning centers, competitions) in the first place? Most other parents have their young children in sports, the arts, religious, or civic extracurricular activities. Indian immigrant parents do all of these as well. But they also put their children in extracurricular academics and, in particular, competitive ones.

As immigrant minorities, parents believed college entry would depend on having an undeniably strong academic record to compensate for a lack of networks, college legacy status, or athletic recruitment. They worried about being held to a higher standard in college admissions as Asian Americans. As one father told me, “The college admission system is that we need to be one step up. From what I’ve read, we have to have 130 points above others. That is how admissions are determined. Spelling bee will help with the SAT.”

Parents were not narrowly focused on spelling as how to boost their children’s competitiveness. I shared with a mother at a bee that my son enjoyed U.S. history but was not much into spelling. She excitedly shared that there is a national history bee I should enroll him in. The important point was to enroll the child into something academic.

It is indeed interesting to wonder why some immigrants are super strivers, others are not. Some see education as a route to success, others do not. In my own family, with an immigrant mother and eight children, we ran the gamut. I was focused on education, along with at least one other, but most were not.

Andy Hargreaves, a scholar of international renown, participated in a virtual seminar in South Korea about post-pandemic education.

His 20-minute presentation is brilliant, pithy, and compelling.

Look for it on this YouTube video. He starts at about 22:00 minutes and concludes at about the 43:00 minute mark.

He urges South Korea and the rest of the world not to “return” to austerity, competition, high-stakes testing, and education that is subservient to GDP, but to pursue a very different path.

To learn about that different and very alluring vision of the future, take 20 minutes of your time, watch and listen.

A parent of two children at the Success Academy charter chain in New York City reaches out to Mercedes Schneider in Louisiana to spill the beans about the chain’s efforts to kick her children out.

The teachers and administrators made it clear that her children should find another school, but she stubbornly hung on. They weren’t problem children, but the older child was “average,” and the younger one needed extra attention.

That was enough to cause the chain to try to shed them, but their mother ignored all the efforts to push them out.

When the pandemic struck and school went virtual, SA was no more nimble than the public schools. The mother realized that SA is all about grading students, not teaching them.

The National Superintendents Roundtable reports that Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina want to suspend testing next year. Other states may follow their lead. The most important priority must be the health and safety of students and staff.

On June 18, Georgia became one of the first states to seek an assessment waiver. Gov. Brian P. Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods jointly announced their decision to apply for suspension of standardized testing to the U.S. Department of Education.

Continuing with high-stakes testing for the next school year, they said in a joint press release, would be “counterproductive.”

“In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students,” the statement said. “Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.”

In South Carolina, the state Senate approved a bill that would seek a waiver from all federal accountability reporting, as well as test suspension, “to help recoup extensive instruction time lost when our public schools closed” in spring.

Texas also moved in a similar direction earlier this month, when state Rep. Dan Flynn announced a resolution seeking a waiver from Gov. Greg Abbott for state accountability ratings, adding that extended closures have historically negatively impacted students’ math and reading achievement.

A growing number of educators realize the uselessness of annual standardized testing.

A group of superintendents from metro Detroit and surrounding counties is urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Superintendent Michael Rice to seek the OK to suspend state-mandated academic testing during the upcoming school year.

“Every educator’s first and foremost priority will be to work with students individually, assess their needs, and help them readjust to in-person learning,” the district leaders wrote.

The letter was signed by the superintendents of intermediate school districts in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, Genesee, Monroe, Washtenaw, and St. Clair counties. Intermediate school districts provide a range of services to local districts and charter schools within their boundaries.

The letter asks the state to seek the OK from the U.S. Department of Education to suspend testing. Federal guidelines require annual assessments.

The request comes as districts across the state are working to develop plans to reopen school buildings in the fall, and make accommodations for students who opt to continue learning online. Whitmer next week is expected to release guidelines for the safe reopening of schools.

A group of superintendents from metro Detroit and surrounding counties is urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Superintendent Michael Rice to seek the OK to suspend state-mandated academic testing during the upcoming school year.

“Every educator’s first and foremost priority will be to work with students individually, assess their needs, and help them readjust to in-person learning,” the district leaders wrote.

The letter was signed by the superintendents of intermediate school districts in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, Genesee, Monroe, Washtenaw, and St. Clair counties. Intermediate school districts provide a range of services to local districts and charter schools within their boundaries.

The letter asks the state to seek the OK from the U.S. Department of Education to suspend testing. Federal guidelines require annual assessments.

To think that it required a global pandemic to stop the nation’s obsession with standardized testing.