Fighting Manipulation in Education Reform Bills   1 comment

brian greene pg

Rep. Brian Greene of Pleasant Grove –

His fair and transparent state school board elections bill passed the House vote and may pass into law if the Senate votes yes this week

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We are fighting manipulation in education reform. Utah legislators have written multiple bills this year that take important steps to curb it.  Before I give links to these very important bills –which we need to beg the senators and representatives to vote YES on– let’s talk briefly about the question of how  manipulation happens under the guise of education reform.

This six minute video featuring Dr. Peg Luksik, starting at 1:15, explains a lot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY4iMwlarNA

This speech was given a few weeks ago, when education expert Dr. Peg Luksik spoke about the manipulation that happens in computer adaptive, standardized tests.

Luksik explains:

The problem isn’t that it’s self-paced; the problem is that the test is open to manipulation.” (minute 1:15-1:20)  Test creators can adapt the test to make it appear to the average taxpayer, parent or policy maker to have been more difficult or easier.  It’s an internal mechanism, not a valid assessment.  A child has to agree or comply with questions along the way, or he/she cannot move on to take the rest of the test.

Dr. Luksik gives examples of this compliance.  In the 1990’s she saw internal documents of these tests that explained that the test was not to assess objective knowledge at all; it was to test –and score for– the child’s threshhold for behavior change without protest.

A sample question wanted a child to answer whether a child would join a vandalism group. There was no way a child could answer that he/she would not ever join a vandalism group; he or she could only indicate whether he/she would join if a best friend was in the group or if mother would not find out or other similar options.  Another example asked whether a child would cry, be upset, argue, when the family was moving to another country.  There was no option that was not outc0me based.  This prevents individual thought.

(FYI:  In Utah, these tests are called S.A.G.E. and are co-created by the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and a company called American Institutes for Research which has taken at least $39 million Utah tax dollars to deliver Utah’s children a computer adaptive, Common Core aligned test.)

Dr. Luksik also explains that test questions that are supposed to be testing reading, are aiming to test other things, such as this example: a child’s level of honesty was tested in what was supposedly a reading test:  If he/she found a wallet with money in it what would he/she do?  No option was: return it.

Now, these tests were 1990’s Outcome Based Education (OBE) tests.  But the embedding principle is the same in today’s Common Core tests; just much easier for test creators to hide, since they’re not pencil and paper  tests anymore.

A child will simply answer questions on a test,  Dr. Luksik points out: “No child would think to say, ‘Is this a reading question?’ because they’re kids; they just take the test.'”  But how can teachers or parents protect them?

Three Bills:

Now, in Utah, we have the opportunity to take small steps in a better direction–  small but important steps.

mike kennedy

Right now, Rep. Mike Kennedy has a bill that  expands a committee of parents or guardians of Utah public education students to review computer adaptive test questions.  The bill also requires the State Board of Education to prepare and publish on its website a report containing information about test questions identified by the committee as problematic.  http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0081.html

It has passed the House vote.   Hope and pray that it also passes the Senate.  And write to your senators and reps!

brian greene pg

Another great education bill in Utah that passed the house and may, possibly, pass the Senate and become a rare, good new law is Rep. Brian Greene’s bill for fair and transparent, partisan state school board elections. (Our system is horrible and MUST change: it begins with a closed-off, exclusionary, and Common Core-promoting questionnaire, followed by a small, biased committee making recommendations to the governor and then the governor appointing two preselected candidates from which the voters can choose.  And voters are not allowed to know whether these two are each or both Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or of any other party.)  http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0228.html  We need this bill.

anderegg

There’s also Rep. Jake Anderegg’s important house bill 169 which aims to restrain the sharing of student data without parental or adult student consent.   http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0169.html

These  bills are wonderful.  I’m so grateful for them.  But they’re far from silver bullets.

They do not stop Common Core standards.  They don’t stop Common Core testing.  They don’t stop the stalking being done by the un-opt-out-able State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  They don’t take away the 15% rule (meaning that Utah can’t add to its math and English standards because of the Common Core copyright and the federal 15% ceiling over the standards.)  The bills don’t change the fact that Common Core standards are still dumbing down the top level high school students by removing almost all of the calculus and trigonometry requirements that Utah had prior to Common Core; nor do they restore to high school students the missing 70% classic literature that’s been robbed.

But–

They are important steps in the right direction, in the direction of restoring parental (and voter/taxpayer) control over what’s going on in education today.  They work around the manipulation and put individuals in better control of what has felt like an almost overwhelmingly unfair education system.

Thank you, Rep. Kennedy, Rep. Greene, and Rep. Anderegg.

Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you!

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