Archives for category: Testing

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.

This link will take you to the opening pages of the revised “Death and Life of the Great American Dchool System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” The book was originally published in 2010. It became a surprise national bestseller.

The publisher at Basic Books, Lara Heimert, invited me to lunch a year ago and made an unusual offer. She said that I could revise the book any way I wanted. This was an extraordinary offer. Publishers usually warn you not to add or subtract unless you keep the line count exactly the same. They want to avoid the expense of resetting the entire book. But I was offered the opportunity to change, add, delete as I wished. It was an offer I could not refuse.

The two big changes I made were these:

I removed my long-standing support for national standards and tests in light of the Common Core debacle.

Second, I revised my estimation of the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” which gave rise to the myth that American education was broken.

I hope you will take the time to read this new edition. It reflects much of what I have learned from YOU on this blog over the past four years.


Mercedes Schneider read the 128-page report on the future of the federally funded testing consortium called PARCC. It was launched, along with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, by Arne Duncan, who gave the two $360 million to write Common Core-aligned tests. PARCC has had a hard time, however. It started with 24 member states, and now it is down to six states and D.C.

It put out a call to other testing companies and interested parties, asking for advice. Mercedes read the advice and she shares it here with you.

Will the last state in PARCC remember to turn out the lights when you leave?

A few months back, Whitney Tilson invited me to participate in an exchange of views. Whitney is a hedge fund manager and the founder of Democrats for Education Reform, a group of hedge fund managers who support charter schools and high-stakes testing. I gladly accepted his invitation. Our exchanges were posted, unfiltered, on his blog and this one. (See here and here and here.) After the three exchanges, I decided it was time for me to ask questions, so I sent him the piece below. I thought it would be the first of another three or four exchanges. Unfortunately, Whitney has been very busy and has not had time to write his response or continue the dialogue. I asked for and received his permission to post my statement/questions. He promised to answer at some point in the future.

Hi, Whitney,

I have enjoyed our exchanges, and I thank you for initiating this dialogue. It shows you are willing to listen, and that is a very important trait in our democracy. There are too many echo chambers, where people hear only what they already agree with. That doesn’t advance knowledge or understanding. I am reminded of something that Robert Hutchins said many years ago. He said you always have to keep listening to people you disagree with, because they might be right. So I will listen to you, and I hope you will listen to me.

I have a series of questions for you. We will likely have to cover these issues in several posts.

The topics are

1) The nomenclature of the reform movement you lead;
2) privatization (charters and vouchers);
3) high-stakes testing;
4) merit pay;
5) teacher evaluation;
6) Teach for America (you were there at the creation);
7) the future of the teaching profession;
8) the political goals of groups like Democrats for Education Reform, which you helped to found;
9) the long-term aspirations of the movement you lead.

First, let’s talk about nomenclature. Your side calls itself the “reform movement,” because you want to shake up and disrupt public education. People who believe in the importance of free and universal public education, like me, don’t think you are reformers. You don’t “reform” an institution by tearing it apart. Reform requires steady, persistent work, and it can be done best by those with knowledge of the institution they are changing. There have been education reformers numerous times in the history of American education. They always wanted to make the public schools better. They wanted better-educated teachers, higher salaries for teachers, more funding for schools, more equitable funding for schools, desegregation of schools, higher standards, better curricula, etc. Now, for the first time in the history of American education, we have a group of people who call themselves reformers but seek to replace public schools with school choice via privately managed charters and vouchers that may be used for religious schools. Unlike past reformers, this movement wants to replace public schools, not improve them. This is in reality a privatization movement, not a reform movement.

Speaking for the many educators and parents I know, we think that you are disrupters who are ill-informed about the challenges facing teachers and public schools. We think you are wrong to say that public schools are failing. In fact, as I showed in my last book, Reign of Error, students in public schools today have the highest test scores, the highest graduation rates, and the lowest dropout rates ever recorded. This is true for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. This steady and incremental progress came to a halt in 2015, as shown in the latest national and state reports from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). After forty years of steady progress, the gains of American students came to a halt. This occurred after more than a dozen years of high-stakes testing.

We do not contend that all is well in public schools. We are well aware of the re-segregation of American education. We are aware of the low educational achievement of many students in poverty and students of color. Your side attributes poor test performance to bad schools and bad teachers. My side says that standardized test scores accurately measure family income and education, not students’ potential to make a contribution to society. The bell curve never closes; that is its design. Currently, half the children in our schools live in low-income homes, and nearly a quarter live in poverty. That affects their test scores. It is hard to concentrate on one’s studies when you have a toothache, when you are hungry, when your vision is poor, when you are homeless.

Your side has chosen to create escape hatches (charter schools) for the lucky few. Our side says it is dangerous to undermine a nation’s public education system by skimming away the best students in the poorest communities and draining resources from public schools to finance charters. What we urge is a comprehensive approach, one that does not privilege the few at the expense of the many and that does not destroy public education, which is a basic democratic institution. We can’t understand why your side is so antagonistic to public schools and so unwilling to help them. After all, that’s where most of the children of America are.

We think your ideas are doing enormous damage to public schools, to children, and to teachers. So we tend not to call you reformers, but to find a qualifying adjective or to play on the word.

This is what critics call your side: Some call you “deformers.” Some call you Rheeformers, recalling the tenure of Michelle Rhee as the leading spokesperson for your policies. Some call you “reformsters,” to differentiate you from real reformers who want to improve the conditions of teaching and learning in public schools for all students.

I prefer to use the term “corporate reformers” because it conveys your side’s belief in practices borrowed from the business world: incentive pay; reliance on Big Data for decisions; accountability measures attached to test scores: punishment for low test scores and rewards for higher test scores. Educators tend to value experience, whereas your side puts little stock in it. Educators typically are okay with unions, whereas your side thinks that unions are passe, dysfunctional, self-seeking, greedy, and resistant to change.

This is a long explanation of why we resist calling you “reformers.” I don’t expect you will agree with our nomenclature, but do you think the reasoning of your critics is off base? Do you have a plan to improve public schools or do you want to keep closing them and replacing them with privately managed schools?

Second, I agree that the struggle to improve education for all children is “the civil rights issue of our time.” But I don’t agree that the way to improve education for all is to promote school choice. I am old enough to remember when the cry for school choice was voiced by hardline segregationists. Men like George Wallace of Alabama and other racists across the South saw school choice as the answer to the Brown decision of 1954. School choice was the best way to entrench segregation. They enacted school choice policies, but the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly struck them down. The racist leaders knew that school choice would enable white students to stay in all-white schools, and they expected that Southern blacks would be too intimidated to leave all-black schools.

As to test scores, it is well documented that charters on average do not perform differently from public schools. Some have very high scores, some have very low scores, and most are about average. The exception is virtual charter schools, which have a terrible record and provide a poor quality of education.

It is well documented, including a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, that charters enroll significantly smaller proportions of students with special needs. When I looked at enrollments in Boston charters, I noticed that English language learners were underrepresented. Some Boston charters had no English language learners at all, even though their numbers in the public schools were high. When I looked at the data for charters in the South Bronx, I saw that they had half as many of the kids with special needs and half as many ELLs as the local public schools.

How will charters improve education for all children, not just for a select few? Should charters be allowed to enroll the children they choose and to avoid the children who might pull down their test scores?

The charter industry introduced the concept of for-profit schools funded by taxpayers. Some charter operators have become multimillionaires by the real estate deals they engineer while opening charters. Do you approve of for-profit charters? Eighty percent of the charters in Michigan operate for profit. Taxpayers assume that they are paying for teachers’ salaries, facilities, supplies, and other things that directly affect children; they don’t know they are paying off investors and shareholders.

Are you aware of the Gulen charter chain? This is a chain that is either the largest or second largest in the nation, tied or just behind KIPP. The Gulen chain is operated by Turkish nationals associated with the imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in the Poconos. Its schools have different names in different states, but all of them have boards dominated by Turkish men and a staff comprised largely of Turkish teachers. No other nation allows Turkish schools to receive public funding. Do you think it is appropriate for schools operated by foreign nationals to receive public funds and to replace community public schools? Since one of the fundamental responsibilities of public schools is to teach citizenship, can we expect that of schools whose board and staff are not Americans?

There are now towns and cities where public education is nearing bankruptcy in large part because charter schools drain their resources and trap them in a downward spiral. As they lose students and funding to charters, the public schools must fire teachers and cut programs. Some districts are teetering close to bankruptcy. Philadelphia has stripped its public schools of almost every amenity, even basic necessities. Erie, Pennsylvania, is imposing draconian cuts and may close all of its high schools, due to the loss of funding to charter schools; it is also cutting the arts and sports and other programs. Do you think this is a good or bad development?

Let’s turn to vouchers. I don’t know where you stand on vouchers. I used to think that charters were a firewall against vouchers, but I now see that charters pave the way for all kinds of school choice. Once parents begin to think as consumers, not citizens, then there is no limit to what they choose. Back when I was a conservative, I assumed that parents would always make the best choices for their children. I didn’t realize then that parents could be easily duped by propaganda, advertising, and slick marketing.

Despite the propaganda from the Friedman Foundation and ALEC, vouchers have not improved education or offered consistently better choices anywhere. The best private schools do not take vouchers, because they are not large enough to cover tuition. The schools that want vouchers tend to be poorly staffed religious schools that need more students. In many states, these religious schools teach creationism and teach other subjects from a Biblical perspective. I believe that parents have the right to make that choice, so long as they pay for it themselves. I don’t think that students who attend Fundamentalist or Evangelical schools receive an education that prepares them for the 21st century. Do you?

Before closing out the subject of privatization, let’s turn to Milwaukee. That city has had charters and vouchers since 1990. The voucher program expanded in 1998 after the courts approved it. By now, Milwaukee should have the best schools in the nation. But it doesn’t. While studies disagree, the best they can say is that the charters and voucher schools are no worse than the public schools. But on the National Assessment of Education Progress, Milwaukee is one of the lowest-performing urban districts in the nation, barely outperforming Detroit. And Governor Scott Walker wants to “help” by increasing the number of charters and vouchers, on the way to eliminating public education in Milwaukee.

Do you think that the corporate reform movement will help public education, which enrolls about 85-90% of all school-age children? If you think it will, please explain how and give examples. I think it is worth mentioning that more than 90% of charters and all voucher schools are non-union. Is it the intent of your movement to eliminate teachers’ unions altogether?

Thank you for listening and responding.

Diane Ravitch

Jack Hassard is a Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University. A former high school teacher, he usually blogs about science education. But he has seen through the hoax of the Governor Deal’s constitutional amendment this November. The ballot asks voters whether the state should have the authority to intervene to help failing schools, yes or no. Readers of this blog know that this is a hoax, intended to deceive voters. The real purpose is to creat a special non-contiguous district consisting of the state’s lowest performing schools. They will be removed from their district and handed over to state control. The state will then transfer them to charter chains.

Every so-called opportunity school district has failed. This is a hoax and a fraud. The governor must know this. Since when were conservative politicians concerned about “saving” poor kids? Note that this reform is a substitute for reducing the poverty that blights children’s lives.

This is an ALEC-inspired program to erode local control and expand privatization.

Hassard explains that Governor Deal is taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s horrendous Citizens United decision that removed limits on political contributions. In this post, he describes the twisted trail of big-money that’s behind Governor Deal’s push to privatize public schools, which will create a money pot for entrepreneurs. Deal is pulling the wool over the eyes of the public.

Jeb Bush has been advocating everything related to corporate reform for many years. As Governor of Florida, he imposed high-stakes testing, charters, simplistic accountability measures, letter grades for schools, and did whatever he could dream up to promote competition and choice. He tried to get vouchers, but was only able to get vouchers for special education (a program once described in a prize-winning article as a “cottage industry for graft”). He sought a constitutional amendment to make vouchers possible, and Michelle Rhee joined him to promote vouchers. But in 2012, voters said no by 58-42.

This fall, this hater of public schools will teach at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, which is supervised by voucher advocate Paul Peyerson. Students will no doubt learn that public schools must be replaced by a free market. They will learn that choice will create Mira Les. They will learn that families should schools just as they choose milk in the grocery store: whole milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk. No one will tell Jeb about Sweden and Chile.

Saddest of all is that he is giving the annual Godkin Lecture, an honor once reserved for distinguished scholars.

As the evidence piles up that choice is no panacea, do you think he will apologize for the schools and communities he has disrupted?