Archives for category: Testing

Anthony Cody disagrees with those who say that “opt out is dead” and that those who celebrate it are helping to preserve the illusion of resistance.

Critics of Competency Based Education have concluded that the fight must shift away from opt out to a fight against online testing. Unfortunately they go on to say that people like the leaders of New York’s historic opt out movement are dupes or are purposely shielding the corporate agenda.

Anthony has long been a critic of CBE.

He writes:

I do not see things unfolding this way. First of all, opting out of a state test is an act of civil disobedience. It is an act of individual and collective defiance of a top-down mandate.

Powerful interests NEVER want people to engage in acts of defiance. Once such acts are successful, people learn that they have a power that system managers and the ruling class do not want them to have. Bill Gates and company are literally spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to kill the opt out movement.

Opting out is a transcendent act of defiance that opens the door to all sorts of defiance of the controls and systems we are expected to engage in. It should not be abandoned. It should evolve. It has been necessary to Opt Out of annual standardized tests – and it still is, as long as they are being used to rank and sort students and teachers. Now it may be l be necessary to opt out of excessive screen time. Opt out of online systems that track and share highly sensitive personal information about your children with for-profit vendors, or others who are using this information not to educate them but to market to them and treat them as consumes. Parents Across America has posted a useful toolkit and opt out form.

The state annual test may or may not be dead in a few years. In any case, the spirit of Opting Out will live on, and the success of the movement is inspiring parents to take control into their own hands and resist abusive practices. The movement of defiance, one of non-compliance, is growing, and that spirit should live on as long as technology and tests are used to manipulate and control teachers and students against their wills and against their best interests.

The New York State Allies for Public Education have already made an enormous difference. Governor Cuomo has gone silent about “reform.” The chancellor of the State Board of Regents stepped down instead of running for another term (she was a big supporter of high-stakes testing, VAM, and charters). The new chancellor is a friend of NYSAPE. The whole tone in the state has changed and will keep changing because the parents are not quitting. They will keep opting out until they get the changes they seek in Common Core and testing.

Stuart Egan, an NBCT high school teacher in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wrote an open letter to the Republican candidate for State Superintendent, Mark Johnson. Johnson is 32 years old. He worked for two years as a Teach for America teacher. He was elected to the Winston-Salem school board and is only halfway through his first term.

Egan writes:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I read with great interest your essay posted on entitled “Our American Dream” on September 7th. Because you are a member of the school board from my own district and the republican nominee for State Superintendent, I was eager to read/see/hear what might distinguish you from Dr. Atkinson.

I agree that there is a lot to be done to help cure what ails our public education system, and I agree that we should not be reliant on so many tests in order that teachers can do what they are trained to do – teach. I also positively reacted to your stance on allowing local school boards to have more say in how assessment portfolios are conducted and focusing more resources on reading instruction in elementary grades.

However, I did not read much else that gives me as a voter the immediate impetus to rely on you to lead our public schools, specifically your words on student preparedness, the role of poverty, and school funding. In fact, many of the things you say about the current state of education in this op-ed make you seem more like a politician trying to win a race rather than becoming a statewide instructional leader.

You opening paragraph seems to set a tone of blame. You stated,

“Politicians, bureaucrats, and activists are quick to proffer that public education is under assault in North Carolina. They angrily allege attacks on the teaching profession; furiously fight against school choice; and petulantly push back against real reform for our education system. But why is there no comparable outrage that last June, thousands of high school seniors received diplomas despite being woefully unprepared for college or the workforce?”

In truth, many politicians and bureaucrats have engaged in attacks on the public school system and its teachers. Just look at the unregulated growth of charter schools, the rise of Opportunity Grants, and the creation of an ASD district. Look at the removal of due-process rights and graduate pay for new teachers.

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a parent of two children in public schools, a voter in local school board elections, and an activist. I have fought against school choice as it has been defined on West Jones Street with Opportunity Grants and charter schools because it has come at the expense of traditional public schools that still teach a vast majority of our kids.

And I would like to hear what you think real reforms are. Your op-ed would have been a great place to outline (not just mention) some of those reforms.

Johnson claimed in his statement:

“The education establishment and its political allies have one answer that they have pushed for the past 40 years – more money for more of the same.”

Egan asks:

First, I need for you to define “same.” In the years I have been in NC, I have been through many curriculum standards, evaluation systems, pay scales, NCLB, Race to the Top, etc. Secondly, who is the educational establishment? The people I see dictate policy in schools on West Jones Street certainly are not the same people who were crafting policy ten years ago. And less than fifteen years ago, North Carolina was considered the best, most progressive public school system in the Southeast. Is that part of the “same” you are referring to?

It is a brilliant dissection of the usual rightwing claims about our public schools. It is sad that many TFA alums have aligned themselves with Tea Party Republicans, as Johnson has.

Stuart Egan demonstrates once again why tenure matters. It protects his freedom to speak.

Megan Tompkins-Stange recently wrote a book (Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform and the Politics of Influence) about her study of certain big foundations. I posted EduShyster’s interview with her. She writes here about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its intention to remake American education, without asking parents or educators if they agree with the foundation’s plans.

She describes the Gates Foundation’s pivot from small schools to Common Core to “personalized learning.” Each pivot involved maximum imposition on districts and states eager for new money, and the money also had strings attached. The strings designed by the Gates Foundation.

As Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family foist their experiments on other people’s children, they have no accountability for their mistakes. Sometimes they don’t even seem to acknowledge them.

She writes:

But education is a public good: a fundamental human right to which citizens in a democratic society are entitled. It isn’t a private good that can be negotiated with, or directed by, private interests. This distinction is particularly important in low-income communities that are populated predominantly by people of color, where foundations have long concentrated efforts to pursue unproven innovations. These communities are often those most in need of support, where philanthropists feel they can make the biggest impact. That’s why cities in crisis like Detroit and New Orleans have become central sites for charter schools, many of which are low in quality.

However, while foundations may want to catalyze innovation on behalf of poor children, they must be careful to avoid treating schools and communities as laboratories, particularly when poor families are so susceptible to the threat of uninformed consent. In fact citizens are beginning to push back against foundation funding of ‘proof points’ in their districts, arguing that schools are not testing grounds for wealthy philanthropists to conduct their social experiments. In 2016, for example, the California NAACP called for a national moratorium on all new charter schools.

Until recently, public opinion on the democratic responsibilities that accompany private philanthropy by the wealthy was fairly indifferent. A 2006 study, for example, found that 98 per cent of press coverage on philanthropy was neutral or positive in nature. But since then the debate has opened up, and school reform has become the centerpiece of efforts to highlight the dilemmas involved in ‘private funding for the public good’ as philanthropy is often described.

The key issue here is accountability, not stopping the flow of funding into schools that desperately need resources. Foundations are almost unique among large institutions in being free of accountability mechanisms with teeth, so long as they file some basic paperwork with the IRS and steer clear of openly partisan politics. A private corporation or a government department would not have weathered the cycle of interventions in schooling that the Gates Foundation has pursued over the last 15 years—they would have been held accountable for their failures and subject to greater scrutiny by the public.

That’s very difficult to do with foundations because they are self-funded, self-appointed and largely self-regulating institutions with no democratic mechanisms for debate and accountability, but it would certainly be possible for governments at the state and federal levels to mandate the inclusion of members of the public such as teachers, school superintendents, and independent education experts in deliberative processes around any major innovation, and to enforce regular Congressional reviews of foundations’ work whenever it aims to change national policy around public goods like education.

Foundations are notoriously insular institutions, which rarely welcome or seek out criticism, especially from the voices of affected communities. They also tend to resist attempts to regulate their activities—arguing that this would inevitably lead to political interference—but the balance of accountability has swung too far away from public oversight. Even small-scale measures like improving the diversity of boards of trustees have been opposed or watered down by foundation interests.

However, if foundations refuse to put their own house in order then democratically elected authorities have every right to step in. After all, if philanthropy is indeed ‘private funding for the public good’ (and receives tax benefits in return), then the ‘public’ must be involved in monitoring their performance.

The good news here is that the public is becoming increasingly aware of the foundations’ influence and their lack of accountability. They can mess up a district, a state, or the nation and walk away saying that their grand ideas were not implemented correctly. We have never actually heard an apology from Bill Gates about his teacher evaluation by test scores fiasco or the Common Core controversy or inBloom, nor will we get one when parents rebel against the farce of “personalized learning” by computer. Don’t expect an apology from Eli Broad for all the top-down corporatists that he sent out to school districts across the land. And the Walton family is digging in and investing hundreds of millions every year in the privatization of public education. No excuses! No apologies! No remorse!

This item appeared in for New York, but it is not posted online, so no link.

Betty Rosa, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, was elected with the help of the New York state opt out leaders.

By Keshia Clukey
09/12/2016 02:39 PM EDT

State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa Monday called for New York State to be a national leader in taking a stand against the testing of English language learners and students with disabilities who are not ready to take the exams.

“I want us to take a super leadership role in our waiver,” Rosa said at the Regents meeting. The state has continued to apply for a federal testing waiver, but the request has yet to be granted.

“Not just children with disabilities, but with the English language learners, we know before they even take a test that they cannot,” Rosa said. “They don’t have [the] language proficiency to demonstrate their success story.”

Regents board member Roger Tilles agreed and said that former state Education Commissioner John King Jr. had signed on and sent the request for the federal testing waiver during his time in New York, but now as U.S. secretary of education has the power to act and has yet to act on it.

With the low proficiency rate of English language learners on the state exams, Regents board member Luis Reyes said, it could be taken up as a civil rights violation.

“Testing children who are recently arrived is child abuse, not to say bad education law or bad education policy,” he said.

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

He writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher and civil rights activist in Seattle, writes here about the growing Black resistance to corporate reform. The resolutions adopted by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives to stop the expansion of charter schools is only the beginning, he says, of opposition to the corporate agenda.

A moratorium would halt the granting of any more licenses to open new charter schools — that is, schools funded by the public but privately run and not accountable to democratically elected school boards. The NAACP announcement has corporate education reformers reeling. Rick Hess, director of education policy at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said that if local governments adopt the NAACP’s proposed moratorium, “It would give a permanent black eye to the sector.”

If the NAACP’s stance on charters would bruise the corporate agenda, then the declaration from the Movement for Black Lives — the newest civil rights coalition, comprised of dozens of grassroots organizations around the country — would flatline it altogether. The coalition released a policy platform at the beginning of August that called for, among other things, a moratorium on all out-of-school suspensions and the removal of police from schools, replacing them with positive alternatives to discipline and safety. It also called for a moratorium on charter schools and school closures, and full funding formulas that adequately weigh the needs of all districts in the state.

Hagopian knows that the high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools is not in the interest of Black students, although reformers claim they are.

Billionaire philanthrocapitalists have upended education over the past 15 years by backing a series of major policy changes — codified in the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top initiative and the Common Core State Standards. These policies have badly damaged education for all kids and have had particularly harmful effects on Black and Brown communities. Today, increasing numbers of people have discovered that these reforms are in reality efforts to turn the schoolhouse into an ATM for corporate America.

While their program for corporate reform is being eroded by research and rising grassroots movements, the corporate reformers are clinging to one last glossy brochure in the public relations portfolio — the one with photos of Black youth on the cover and promises that all of these reforms are really about civil rights and defending kids of color.

What they don’t want you to know is that their favorite schools have high suspension rates for Black students and are highly segregated. They are, he says, part of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

What the testocracy doesn’t want you to know is that standardized testing is a multibillion dollar industry, with the average student in the American public school system taking an outlandish 112 standardized tests during their k-12 career. They don’t want you to know that many schools that serve Black and Brown students have become test-prep factories rather than incubators of creativity and critical thinking, with testing saturating education at even higher concentrations in schools serving low-income students and students of color. They don’t want you to understand the way high-stakes tests are being used around the country in service of the school-to-prison-pipeline. A review by the National Research Council concluded that high school graduation tests have done nothing to lift student achievement, but they have raised the dropout rate. When one test score can deny students graduation — even when they have met every other graduation requirement — it can have devastating consequences. Boston University economics professor Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed,” links increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams to increased incarceration rates.

Stephen Dyer said that the for-profit charter school in Cleveland where Donald Trump spoke is a failing school, based on its letter grades. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is an official authorizer of charters in Ohio (though not this one), said that Dyer was wrong. As you may know, the A-F report card idea was invented by Jeb Bush in Florida and has spread to accountability-obsessed states like Ohio. It tends to be an accurate measure of family income. Dyer points out that Fordham was gung-ho to adopt the A-F grades, but doesn’t like them so much now. Ron Packard, the owner of the charter in Cleveland, was previously CEO at the online charter corporation K12, where he was paid $5 million annually. His background is McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. K12 Inc. gets bad reviews for its terrible education record, even from charter advocates.

Dyer responds here:

As you know, Donald Trump came to Cleveland to visit a charter school and announce a massive federal infusion of dollars for school choice programs. Regardless of the wisdom of that plan, I found it curious that he would visit a school with an F grade from the state on student growth — considered the most important metric by many charter school advocates. So I called the grade “failing” in several news accounts.

The Fordham Insitute took me to task for that today. So I felt I needed to respond bceause I actually agree that school performance needs more nuanced measures than the simple test regime we have today. But I found it amazing that Fordham, which pushed for Ohio to go to an A-F report card system because it would give parenhts more transparency about how their schools performed so they could then choose whether a charter would be a better option, is now saying that the F grade at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy doesn’t actually mean it’s failing. Especially given that Fordham said the drop in grades this year (due to PARCC and Common Core) gave Ohioans a more accurate assessment of how kids are “actually doing.”

Here’s my response:

Best Regards,

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, is a frequent contributor to the blog.

Diane Ravitch publicized an educator’s concise and astute critique of Florida’s standards of instruction where “The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively.” An educational software company “looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level.” The obvious problem is that covering the tested standards would take 2/3rds of a school year more than the time students are in class – even if there were no disruptions of learning ranging from assemblies and class disruptions to the time wasted on benchmark and other form of testing.

Reader: It Takes 300 Days to Teach the Florida Standards Effectively

Moreover, even a Florida true believer in test-driven, competition-driven reform should understand “that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards.” Consequently, “In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.” That, of course, helps explain why the contemporary reform movement, which was designed to help poor children of color, has inflicted the most damage on the kids that it was supposed to help.

We need far more press coverage of the absurdities fostered by high stakes testing. To know about the real-world effects of corporate school reform is to recognize why it should be ridiculed to death. We must also explain, however, that teaching and testing to a standards regime that is disconnected to reality is more than a farce. It is a tragedy. For our poorest children of color, the test, sort, reward, and punish path to school improvement has been especially cruel. And, don’t even get me started about the damage done to our society’s education values by bubble-in accountability.

In Oklahoma City, before NCLB, administrators would grin when they passed out aligned and paced curriculum guides. All types of educators were mostly amused that anyone would seriously contemplate such a guide for our Standards of Instruction as anything more than some silly paperwork to be filed away and forgotten. The time it took for students to master material obviously was the time it took to master material. There was no possible way that the rate of learning could be predetermined and, back then, administrators knew that there was no alternative to trusting the teachers’ judgments on the pacing of instruction. Besides, teachers and students need to be free to build on the kids’ interests and strengths, and get off the beaten path to engage in class discussions, take field trips, and pursue project-based learning.

The pacing guide listed the standards, or major concepts and skills, that students were supposed to master on its schedule. I was supposed to cover a major standard, something as complex and sweeping as the New Deal or the Cold War, every eight minutes, every hour of every day. A unit on World War II, for example, prescribed a one-day lesson to examine the rise of nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s, describe the causes of the war, elaborate on its outcomes and effects, from the Holocaust against the Jews and other groups, to economic and military shifts since 1945 to the founding of the United Nations and the political positioning of Europe, Africa, and Asia. This lesson was known in the curriculum guide as “Standard 16.4.” Another typical one-day lesson, known as Standard 7.2, was to describe China under the Qin, Han, T’ang, and Sung Dynasties; discuss the traditions, customs, beliefs, and significance of Buddhism; document the impact of Confucianism and Taoism, and detail the construction of the Great Wall.

Since history test scores were not included in the NCLB accountability matrix, nobody bothered to ask whether I followed the pacing guide. By 2005, however, freshman math and sophomore English teachers had to organize their instruction around those standards and, on Fridays, give benchmark tests, provided by the central office. Teachers resisted the micromanaging, so grades were mandated for benchmarks.

Soon failure rates soared from below 20% to 80% to 90% in tested subjects. Within three months, our school lost 40% of its students, mostly to the streets. This occurred as the percentage of our students on special education IEPs peaked at 30% and the number of high schoolers who could not read their name jumped from zero to twelve.

After that horrible fiasco, the doubling down on teach to the test according to a mandated schedule grew worse as individuals were supposed to be held accountable for test-score growth. My students complained that they had been robbed of an education. Their entire career had been dominated by fill-in-the-blanks, worksheet-driven pedagogy. Now, a full generation of kids have been subject to bubble-in malpractice.

And that raises the question of what else has been lost to corporate reform. Since 9/11, the global village has faced incredible challenges, but how many classes have been required to keep their aligned and paced schedule, and thus denied an opportunity to grapple with world historical issues. Digital miracles abound, but have schools introduced the younger generation to cultural literacy and media ethics? The economic and racial divide has exploded into view, but how many classes are denied the time to address the issues raised by Black Lives Matter? Global warming has accelerated and time is running out for wrestling with ecological dilemmas. But, how many minutes are allotted to environmentalism? Someday, our generation may be condemned for ignoring, and allowing our children to ignore, these crucial issues. Our reply – that we had to get through Standard 18.2, or whatever, before the standardized test – is likely to ring hollow.

Is it possible to measure creativity? Is it possible to measure artistic talent? Is it possible to assign a grade to students in the arts based on a measure or on multiple measures?

Those are the questions posed in this article, which describes the efforts by states to develop metrics for the arts.

I am assuming that the title of the article is a mistake. It is not about a “standardized test” for the arts but rather a replacement for standardized tests.

I instinctively recoil at the idea of measuring creativity or artistic talent. There is something inherently subjective about any such judgments. These days, who can say what is art and what is not.

Please, teachers of the arts, help me here. I can see grading students for participation, persistence, and engagement. But how can you grade them for talent and creativity?

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

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