You Are Invited:
Monday at Wasatch School District – April 8th at 4:00 p.m.
101 E 200 N Heber City, UT 84032 (435) 654-0280
Presentation on Common Core Assessments:
American Institutes for Research (AIR) Tests
Utah children will be subjected to Common Core tests for the first time this coming school year, to be provided by the behavioral scientists at American Institutes for Research (AIR).
Children in every public and charter school in 46 states will be subjected to AIR’s (or SBAC’s, or PARCC’s) Common Core tests for the first time in the 2013-14 school year.
So on Monday I will drag myself to hear the Utah State Office of Education leadership speak about the Common Core tests and test company here in the Wasatch School District.
I dread Monday. I dread more evidence of how cemented we are becoming into the Common Core via its testing, which is the vehicle for federal and corporate data mining. (Data mining of our children will go into fifth gear as testing begins.)
I dread hearing more lies and misrepresentations by education leaders about the cure-all snake oil of Common Core. Many don’t realize that they are lying; they are trusting people who haven’t done their own homework and don’t even know that the Common Core is an experiment on our kids unsupported by empirical study. In repeating the false phrases that our too-trusting local leadership has been handed by D.C. groups, our locals are guilty, too, of naiively promoting false claims.
I dread experiencing more evidence of my lack of voice as a Utah teacher and as a citizen. I know I will not be allowed to speak Monday. Our local school board does not give local citizens the courtesy of even two minutes’ time for a citizen or teacher to stand up and raise concerns.
The state school board does allow two minutes per visitor at state meetings. But not the local.
Should I speak anyway, and let them call the police to drag me to jail for exercising my freedom of speech about this important issue? I’m so tempted.
But I’m here to talk about AIR tests.
I have not done that much research on AIR because it’s so hidden; it’s hard to find out much. I will share what my research friends and I have found as we simply read the AIR website, the AIR facebook page, and email our state superintendent and board.
Of itself, AIR says: “AIR is one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world… AIR’s purpose is to conduct and apply behavioral and social science research… with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged… “
So, Utah’s using behavioral and social science research –to give math and English tests. We are going to conduct and apply behavioral research on Utah children, with special emphasis on a disadvantaged group, without causing neglect to those lucky enough not to be labeled disadvantaged, somehow.
Moving on. Let’s look at the leadership hierarchy of AIR. Right after the CEO and the Director of Longitudinal Analysis comes a committee of people creating tests. After that committee comes another whole committee to develop education. I am sure this cannot mean developing model curriculum because we were promised that Common Core would be limited to guidelines and standards, and the USOE never lies. Right?
On its website, right under the CEO, the AIR leadership lists Jane Hannaway, Director of the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
Translation: Ms. Hannaway’s job is to analyze children’s lifelong data, as collected by the state and by the ongoing common core tests.
FYI, this information will be held in the state’s longitudinal database system and shared among the many agencies in our Utah Data Alliance –not just education agencies, but workforce and other agencies. And it may be shared federally, too. All without parental consent.
Don’t believe me? Study it yourself. Read the SLDS grant conditions. Read the Utah Data Alliance press release. Read the Dept. of Ed Cooperative Agreement with other testing consortia. It’s all online. (Wow. It was online. I just checked and they’ve taken away the online Cooperative Agreement from the Dept. of Ed website. But if you click on the link, you’ll be able to read most of it because I pasted much of it on the blog.)
Superintendent Martell Menlove told me in an 2-14-13 email that:
“We will not see each individual test but we will see and review every test item. Every test item, as required in Utah Code will be reviewed by a 15 member parent committee… We will develop an adaptive test that has the main purpose of providing academic achievement data…” -Martell Menlove
State School Board member Joel Coleman wrote to me in an email that “Our children will be tested on academics.” So we can expect that the tests will not test psychometrics or behavior– despite AIR’s main focus as behavioral and social science testing research? I hope, I really hope, that’s true. But we’re already pushing the creepy SHARPE surveys in our local schools. So why wouldn’t we add AIR behavioral/psychometric testing? And then there’s the legislative language about behavioral assessments in the tests. (See below)
I asked Mr. Menlove and Mr. Coleman to clarify something else. I wrote:
“I am grateful that the test questions can be read by at least 15 Utah parents. I wish it were more. [Isn't it illegal to have tests that all parents cannot view?] What still remains unclear is how Utah will avoid the influence of the AIR when the AIR makes the test. I am referring to AIR’s mainstreaming of globalism (as opposed to constitutional Americanism); promoting two-spiritedness, transgender, gay and lesbian, and such issues published as priorities on AIR’s website.”
To this email I did not get a response.
Why? Why don’t our state educational leaders see any red flags or causes for concern?
I think there are several reasons. One problem is that the state school board and superintendent are extremely trusting of all education reformers; they don’t do extensive homework as my research friends and I do, and they don’t know what is now obvious to us.
Example: both the state superintendent and school board member felt that only academics will be tested. But in a bill that was held in committee, SB69 http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillint/SB0069.htm in the paragraph about the computer adaptive testing that will be administered by AIR, it reads:
“line 66 – (d) the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance”
So, even if Mr. Coleman and Mr. Menlove aren’t aware of the psychological profiling aspects of the testing, someone who helped write this bill felt it important to include this in the written statute that would govern assessments.
The same bill set up a 15-parent (appointed, not elected) panel to review the test questions for all grade levels on behalf of ALL the parents in the state.
Do we realize how many questions are in a database pool for each grade level for each test in a computer adaptive testing system?
“…computer-adaptive testing (in which items are geared to the student) requires a larger and better-designed pool of test items than does traditional testing… High-stakes tests will require a larger pool of items—likely 1,600 or more—than low-stakes tests, which might require closer to 200,” explains Mark D. Reckase, a professor of measurement and quantitative methods at Michigan State University. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2011/05/computer-adaptive_testing_pose.html
So 15 unpaid parents, without any expertise in how “behavioral indicators” are applied to tests, will review upwards of 12,000 questions? Reckase reviews the process of creating and adding questions to a computer adaptive testing pool, which in scope sounds prohibitive to the resources Utah has assigned to this and may likely result in our using the same test questions created for AIR under the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium that are reviewed and controlled by the federal government.
We don’t want any more one-line assurances; we would like the people who are responsible for submitting our children to these tests to show some deeper understanding of the technology, the processes for creating the tests and the sheer enormity of the undertaking before they assure us that Utah remains “in control.”
AIR really does come with indoctrination strings attached and our leaders don’t want to think deeply about their intended and unintended consequences of AIR’s stated positions, such as:
Twenty Percent of Children are Mentally Ill ?
Our leaders must surely have seen that the AIR company website takes the stance that a huge percentage of children are mentally ill and need to be treated that way: “…One in five children and adolescents (20 percent) may have a diagnosable mental health disorder,” says AIR.
Every Nation’s Ed. Standards Should be the Same?
Utah leaders must surely have noticed that the AIR company also believes that every nation should adopt the same education standards. “We are currently working to benchmark individual state tests to international standards,” AIR’s site states.
The Disadvantaged or Nontraditional Student is More Important?
Utah leaders must have noticed that AIR takes the position that it is not local or parental prerogative, but a “public health issue” to test and assist “disadvantaged” children, defined as most children– the mentally ill (which they call 1/5 of all kids); and the gay, lesbian, transgender, two-spirited, or bisexual.
What about math and English? Why are we talking about the disadvantaged in an academic testing setting anyway? Is this more of Obama’s redistribution plan, using schools, as outlined in his For Each and Every Child report and in his counselor, Linda Darling-Hammond’s writings on social justice and forced financial equity?
Another issue: test start-up costs are $39 million dollars, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Why waste money on the socialist AIR company and common core tests, when we need that money for legitimate learning goals, like buying desks and pencils and actual (not Pearson electronic) books and increasing teachers’ salaries?
And why is the public being told, rather than asked? After the fact.
Utah did not have to choose AIR. Why did we? Does AIR represent Utah’s values or goals? I do not think so.
A wise Utah leader has written: “Schools should be reminded that their primary field of competence is academic, not social adjustment, or world citizenship, or sex education. Parents should stand firm on this and not be intimidated by ‘professional educators.’ After all, it’s their children and their money.” -Ezra Taft Benson, “An Enemy Hath Done This” p. 232
Do parents want a company of psychologists to store test results in a database for which there are no laws governing how long data can be stored, how it can be used or with whom it can be shared?
One last issue for those who want to study this further: AIR is partnered with SBAC, with Linda Darling-Hammond, with George Soros, and with many, many, many other groups that are frighteningly socialist or anti-American.
Please write to our governor, legislators, and school boards. Tell them we want out of Common Core, out of the AIR/Common Core testing, the SLDS data mining, common core aligned textbook adoption, and the unvetted and unreasonable financial waste.
Here’s the state school board’s email address: Board@schools.utah.gov
The AIR presentations will be happening statewide. Find your area’s scheduled presentation event on the USOE website. Or call them at (801) 538-7500.
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Alyson Williams and Morgan Olsen contributed to this report.