Archive for the ‘high stakes testing’ Tag

Artist (Teacher) Protests Common Core at New York Art Gallery   2 comments

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An interesting art exhibit now at the 464 Gallery in Buffalo, New York  features the work of a teacher, Jennifer Scott.  It’s receiving national  attention because the art is an anti-Common Core protest. The central piece in Scott’s exhibit, “For the Love of Learning: Students First” stars a man in a crown of standardized test bubble sheets –a man exactly resembling NY Education Commissioner John King.

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Another Jennifer Scott art piece with a privacy-invasion theme also features Commissioner King.  This time he’s a giant, peering in through the school room window with a gleeful countenance at small, unhappy students.

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Why does Jennifer Scott use King as the puppetmaster of Common Core?  Why not Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Sir Michael Barber, David Coleman or President Obama?

Commissioner King has been an longtime, outspoken defender of the indefensible in New York.

Recently, King has been more than just hotly criticized. The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE, a coalition of 45 parent and educator groups in the state)  actually, publically condemned Commissioner King to termination last month in a press release.

NYSAPE cited  too much emphasis on testing, problems with Common Core standards, “one-size-fits-all” statewide curriculum, and the casual dismissal of the concerns of parents and educators “to the detriment of their children for far too long.”  (Stop Common Core New York, a parent-led group, had been calling for King’s resignation for at least six months previous to NYSAPE’s call.)

The New York anti-fed-ed-reform movement grows and grows. (A full 48% of Worcester Central School District, NY, opted out of standardized math tests!) It was New York (Comsewogue District) Superintendent Joseph Rella who led a huge rally in his school’s football stadium against Common Core last year.  And now, national news about the poignant art of teacher Jennifer Scott is receiving media attention while New York legislators  work to restore local control and legitimate education.

Still, can the art of an indignant teacher, or can a handful of legislators, or can the pressure of 45 educational coalitions in New York, or can the clear reasoning of remarkable, outspoken local professors– Diane Ravitch, Alan Singer, Christopher Tienken, Nick Tampio and others–  really oust John King, his Board of Regents and the fed-ed reforms?

Consider the fact that King is a favorite, a true darling of Secretary Arne Duncan and a staunch member of the brave new politicorporate ed reform establishment.  For years, King and Duncan have been buddying about, making speeches both together and separately, officially explaining the religion of fed-ed.  This includes not only Common Core and “robust” federally accessible data but also the idea that children should be forced to stay in school for more  hours of the day, (a longtime Duncan favorite theme) or “let’s mandate more and more high stakes testing with Common Core adoption”   –notions the two insist are very, very good for children– despite a complete lack of empirical evidence to support their points.

How do they get away with this?

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I don’t know.  It’s so clearly wrong.  More people need to know it.

Let’s hope Jennifer Scott’s art multiplies and influences millions of additional New Yorkers to take a long, hard look at the awful transformations happening in their school systems.  Let’s hope the parents and educators in New York win the fight for their children.

Then, let’s have an early  –very early– retirement party for Commissioner King.

 

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Thank you,  Jennifer Scott.

 

 

How to Pass a Pearson Test   Leave a comment

 

  I thought this post was so funny (and vital) that I had to ask the author for permission to repost it.   It was previously published at Huffington Post.

 

How to Pass a Pearson Test or Peeling the Pearson Pineapple

by Alan Singer

 

On Tuesday, June 3, 2014, high school students in New York State take the first new series of math and English exams that are supposed to be aligned with the national Common Core standards. Anticipating that students will have difficulty with the new tests, the State Education Department plans to score exams so that approximately the same percentage of students pass who passed similar tests in the past. I hope it is not too late to offer students, teachers, and State Education some help.

 

I confess. I have a super-power. It is taking tests. I can pass any test on any subject without knowing anything as long as it is written in English. Other languages are my kryptonite. I figured out geometry on the tenth grade standardized final. I passed the AP bio test without doing any work. As with most super powers, taking tests is both a blessing and a curse. I do not get the highest scores and I do not learn very much, but I do pass.

 

I have been applying my super-power to analyzing the latest wave of Pearson-created Common Core aligned high stakes assessments for students and student teachers and I realize they are designed just for me. They are skills based tests that do not require any knowledge. In fact, knowledge interferes with your ability to pass a Pearson test.

 

The United States is its biggest market and Pearson makes a lot of money selling Common Core aligned tests, curriculum, and test review books and programs. It stands to make even more as it develops, markets, assesses new Common Core PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) content area exams. Sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, are scheduled to participate in PARCC testing.

 

As a public service these are my FREE test taking tips that will save parents and school districts a lot of money and students and teachers a lot of anguish.

 

1. Know the jargon they use in the instructions. For example, “selected-response items” means multiple-choice questions. I do not know why they do not just call them multiple-choice.

2. Do all the steps and read all the passages before looking at the choices. The answer, no matter how inaccurate or ridiculous, is in the reading passage. You are not looking for the best answer. You are looking or their answer.

3. In math, be confident in your answer. If your answer is not among the choices, figure out which of their answers has the same value as yours.

 

Most of us who followed the Pearson Pineapple controversy thought the reading passage on the 2013 8th grade reading test about the pineapple that challenged a rabbit (hare) to a race and questions about which animal was wisest were absurd. The problem, at least in my case, was that at the time I really did not understand what Pearson and the Common Core were trying to do. Now I think I have it figured out. The passage and questions were absurd on purpose.

 

Pearson and Common Core are not testing what you know, what you think, or what you can explain. They are testing what you can find in the passage and whether you follow directions. They select reading passages using a mathematical formula or algorithm based on what they call “text complexity” which measures the length of sentences and the use of obscure vocabulary. There is no meaningful content on a Pearson Common Core test, it is all about peeling the pineapple.

 

Ironically, I found the same approach on Pearson’s Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) for teachers. The sample question has an extended reading passage about Gertrude Stein from a book by Joshua Cooper Ramo, The Age of the Unthinkable.

The first question is: “In Paragraph 1, the repetition of the phrase “well-rounded, prosperous” emphasizes . . . ” I always think of “well-rounded” and “prosperous” as positive attributes and when I looked at the choices I leaned toward choice A, “the sophistication of Stein’s family.”

 

But Pearson says the correct answer is choice B, “the predictability of life Stein rejected.” Although well-rounded does not mean predictable, if you look at paragraph 1, “well-rounded” is equated with “stability,” boring sameness, qualities that Stein rejected.

In other words, if you know what well-rounded means, you get the answer wrong. Just as with the Pearson pineapple, the test is not about knowing the right answer, it is about finding their answer in the text. I can hardly wait for the new Pearson PARCC tests based on reading skills that I expect will be missing all content.

 

Actually I should not have been so surprised to discover that Pearson, PARCC, and Common Core ignore knowledge. In a promotional video for the national Common Core standards, David Coleman, who the New York Times described as an “architect of the common core curriculum standards,” discussed how James Madison explained the regulation of political factions in Federalist Paper #51. The only problem was that Federalist Paper #10 is about the regulation of political factions. Federalist Paper #51 is about checks and balances and the structure of the national government. But he was only off by forty-one essays.

I am a little concerned that it took me so long to figure out the problem with these Pearson tests. I just worry my super-power may be slipping.​

 

 

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549
(P) 516-463-5853 (F) 516-463-6196

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Thanks to Alan Singer for this post.  For those wanting to read more from Alan Singer, look for his book, Education Flashpoints.  The book draws on his widely read Huffington Post columns —rated one of the top educational blogs in the United States.    http://www.amazon.com/Education-Flashpoints-Fighting-Americas-Schools/dp/0415743850

Ghanan-American Immigrant Speaks Out Against Common Core   12 comments

ALMA O  Guest Post by Alma Ohene-Opare

Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world. ”

Alma Ohene-Opare, now a Utahn, is originally from Accra, Ghana.  Alma came to the U.S. at age 19, primarily because of what he called “America’s innovative educational system.”   He said, “I was educated from K-12th grade in a Common-Core-like educational system.  My family (who owns and runs a private K-12 institution) battles daily because of the system.The end result is seemingly educated (on paper) graduates, with no ability to think for themselves, solve problems or innovate in any way. Parents and teachers alike have become conditioned to place the standardized tests at the forefront of education, leading to what we call in Ghana, “Chew and pour, pass and forget.” Here is his story.

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Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions

 

My name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.

 

Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.

 

Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.

 

In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.

 

Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.

 

The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.

 

Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.

 

By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.

 

In my case, school started at 6:00 am and ended as late as 6:00 pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.

 

You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.

 

Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.

 

Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.

 

Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.

 

In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.

 

I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown.

When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.

 

In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.

 

I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.

 

America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.

 

America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”

 

–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT

 

 

 

National News Update on Common Core Initiative   9 comments

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How quickly Common Core has gone from being almost a secret, a truly under-the-news-radar movement, to being a sharp bone of contention and a scorchingly hot topic across the nation as right and left, legislators, parents, teachers and yes,  students– join to fight the erosion of local control of education, and the erosion of high quality education.

Here’s just a smattering of the pushback happening across this nation.  Please feel free to leave additional related Common Core pushback news links in the comments section!

* Alabama – “Bill In Works That Would Allow Common Core Opt-Out For Schools

* Arizona – “Senate backtracks on Common Core

* Connecticut – “Stamford Rep. Molgano Calls For Public Hearing On Common Core

* Florida –  FLA Ed Commissioner’s Arrogant Letter Angers Mother of Recently Deceased Disabled Child http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/ethan-rediske-act_n_4899010.html

Florida –  Testing Fixation Drives Florida School Board Member to Quit, Fight on Larger Battleground http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/06/the-drive-to-test-test-and-re-test-leads-famous-school-board-member-to-quit/

* Georgia – “Common Core bill debated in Georgia House

* Maryland – Dressed in Clown Suits, Maryland Teachers Protest Excessive Testing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn_xJ9P1I2k

* Maryland – Super Tells Parents State Test is Useless http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2014/03/joshua_starr_to_parents_upcomi.html

* Mississippi – “Common Core comes back up at State Capitol

* Missouri – “Mo. lawmakers debate retreating from Common Core

* Illinois –  Educators Boycotting Chicago Exam – Spend Day Teaching Not Testing http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815

Illinois –   National Leaders Support Chicago Test Boycott http://dianeravitch.net/2014/03/09/leading-educators-support-chicago-test-boycott/

Illinois- Resources for Supporting Chicago Parents and Teachers Protesting  the ISAT http://morethanascorechicago.org/2014/03/03/isat-opt-out-support-kit/

*Indiana –  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2014/03/11/indianas-attempt-replace-common-core-under-fire

* New York – bill S6604 pending: http://stopccssinnys.com/uploads/SCCINYS_PR_S6604.pdf  – Bill to place a three-year suspension on items such as the Common Core

State Standards and the associated age-inappropriate curriculum; it also addresses excessive testing.

New York – “Assembly Passes Bill Halting Common Core

New York Protests Intensify as Common Core Tests Loom http://www.longislandpress.com/2014/03/10/common-core-tests-loom-intensifying-debate-in-ny/       Rochester, NY, Teachers Association Brings Suit Against “Value      Added” Evaluations http://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/teachers-union-sues-over-evaluations/Content?oid=2346958

*  Massachusetts –  Protesters at Secretary Arne Duncan’s town hall meeting:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/groups_organized_to_picket_us.html

http://worcestermag.com/2014/03/09/picket-planned-us-education-secretary-duncans-visit-worcester-tech/21602

Worcester Mass. School Committee Will Allow Students to Opt Out of  Common Core Pilot Exam http://www.telegram.com/article/20140307/NEWS/303079875/1116

More Massachusetts Education Leaders Criticize Double-Testing http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140310/NEWS/140319857

* Connecticut – Connecticut Educators Want to Reexamine Test-Based Teacher  Evaluation Model http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/teacher_union_wants_to_revisit_teacher_evaluation_method     Connecticut Parents Seek to Opt Children Out of Common Core Tests http://www.ctnow.com/news/hc-parents-opting-out-20140228,0,1363518.story       The Brave New World of “College and Career Readiness” Testing http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready

*North Carolina –    North Carolina Families Opt Out of Standardized Tests http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/09/3682922/opting-out-of-standardized-testing.html
Penn. Parents Join Forces to Opt Kids Out of Standardized Tests http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/parents-join-forces-to-opt-kids-out-of-standardized-tests/article_88aff918-a643-11e3-aa64-0017a43b2370.html

*Arkansas –   Arkansas Professor Urges 11th Graders to Opt Out of Literacy Test http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2014/03/10/ua-prof-calls-for-students-to-opt-out-of-11th-grade-literacy-test

*Tennessee –  Tennessee Teacher Sue Claiming “Value-Added” Assessment is      Arbitrary and Unconstitutional http://tnedreport.com/?p=753
Virginia Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Number of Standardized Tests http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Va-Lawmakers-Aim-to-Reduce-Number-of-Standardized-Tests-249339961.html

*New Hampshire – Nashua, New Hampshire Board Backs Delay of New Test http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/1030167-469/majority-of-nashua-school-board-members-back.html

*Nebraska – Testimony regarding Common Core Academic Error: http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/testimony-regarding-proposed-nebraska-english-standards/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TruthInAmericanEducation+%28Truth+in+American+Education%29

* Washington, D.C. – http://unitedoptout.com/helpful-readings-and-resources/the-official-schedule-for-occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools/

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NEWS/ARTICLES

ON NATIONAL COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS (SAT – ACT)

  ALIGNING TO ERRANT COMMON CORE:

David Coleman, 2016 SAT:  A Sow’s Ear http://www.educationviews.org/david-coleman-2016-sat-sows-ear/

FAIR TEST:  http://fairtest.org/node/2964

Critics Give SAT Revisions a Failing Grade http://www.mintpressnews.com/critics-give-new-sat-reforms-failing-score/185941/

The Real Reason the SAT is Changing: Competition from ACT http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/05/why-the-sat-is-really-changing-its-facing-tough-competition-from-the-act/

College President: SAT is Part Hoax and Part Fraud http://time.com/15199/college-president-sat-is-part-hoax-and-part-fraud/

NEA Pushes Bill to Reduce Federal Testing Mandates http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2014/03/nea_pushes_legislation_to_redu.html

When Education is Nothing But a Test Score http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/05/23mcgill.h33.html

13 Ways High-Stakes Exams Hurt Students http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/10/13-ways-high-stakes-standardized-tests-hurt-students/

Believing We Can Improve Schooling with More Tests is Like Believing You Can Make Yourself Grow Taller by Measuring Your Height http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BiKnOqrIQAAVIEg.jpg
Accountability and Motivation — Test-Driven Policies Get it Wrong http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2014/03/accountability_and_motivation.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

Common Core Testing Further Undermines Educational Equity http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/10/the-myth-of-common-core-equity/

I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests, Then Learned a Thing or  Two http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/03/standardized_testing_i_opted_my_kids_out_the_schools_freaked_out_now_i_know.html

Testing Diverted The War on Poverty  — By FairTest Board member  Deborah Meier http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/05/23meier.h33.html

Parent to Pres. Obama: Why Don’t Private Schools Adopt Test-Driven  “Reforms”? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/05/parent-to-obama-why-dont-private-schools-adopt-your-test-based-school-reforms/

What the U.S. Can Learn From Finland http://www.npr.org/2014/03/08/287255411/what-the-u-s-can-learn-from-finland-where-school-starts-at-age-7

Activists Call for Congressional Hearings on Standardized Test  Misuse http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/04/activist-calls-for-congressional-hearings-on-standardized-testing-gets-unexpected-support/
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Thanks to Donna Garner,  Mike Antonucci,  Dr. Bill Evers,  Pioneer Institute, and Bob Schaeffer for assistance with this compilation.

High-Stakes Tests and Common Core Standards are Inseparable   3 comments

tami and martell

Two leaders who make judgments for our schools –two whose judgment I wish we were able to trust, each have made statements: that high-stakes tests and data mining are unrelated to Common Core standards.

This is a fact-checking post.

First, look at their statements:

Our governor’s education advisor, Tami Pyfer, was quoted in the  Morgan News:  “while not related to the Common Core, data mining and over-testing ‘will not be happening with Utah students.'”   The Morgan News also wrote that Pyfer: “is concerned with high stakes testing and test results being used for purposes the tests were not originally designed for. ‘We do not support high stakes testing.‘”

tami

Pyfer also wrote, at  a blog called The Blue Hat Movement:

I’m confused about how/why you are connecting assessment issues, like the one in this video, to the Common Core Standards.

menlove

Really.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Martell Menlove has also said in many settings that he has concerns with high stakes testing and data mining –but says that he does not understand the relationship between high stakes testing and the Common Core.  In emails to the public he has also written, “I am not aware of any additional data reporting requirements that are associated with Common Core.”

Oh, Dear.  Tami and Martell!

Utah’s new school test is inseparable from the Common Core standards.

(FYI, readers, the test goes by many names:  Computer Adaptive, AIR/SAGE, Utah Core, Common Core).  And neither is the data-mining inseparable from Common Core, with its CEDS (common education data standards) and its SLDS (my nickname: longitudinal student stalking system).

Here are several hard-to-ignore reasons why:

1.)  Utah’s 2012 house bill 15 makes Computer Adaptive Testing the law in this state, and it uses specific language that mandates that Common Core standards are used for the Common Core Computer Adaptive Tests for all Utahns.

2.)  The four assurances or four key reforms for which the executive branch gave ARRA stimulus dollars (in exchange for Utah’s agreement to obey them) included common college and career-readiness standards, tests, and data collection. It was always a package deal.

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/factsheet/stabilization-fund.html

“SFSF requires progress on four reforms ….
1.Making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities;
2.Establishing pre-K-to college and career data systems that track progress and foster continuous improvement;
3.Making improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students, particularly students who are most in need;
4.Providing intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.”

3.) The federal government paid for the Common Core tests and mandated in its test grant contract that testing groups align to one another and to Common Data Collection standards and to Common Core Standards. The standards promoters use veiled language and most often refer to Common Core as “college and career ready standards” instead, but they have been specifically defined on the ed.gov official website in a way that can only be interpreted as the Common Core. Utah’s testing group, AIR, is officially partnered with SBAC, which is under mandate to align its tests with Common Core and with the other testing groups.

4.  The lead sponsor of Common Core Standards, Bill Gates, spoke at at national Conference for State Legislatures. He said that We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards.” This alignment has been the point all along.  (Wouldn’t the man who funded multimillions of dollars toward the creation, development, marketing, implementation, and curriculum development of Common Core know what the goal was to be?)

5. The Council of Chief State School Officers, to which Supt. Menlove belongs, co-created and copyrighted Common Core.  The CCSSO officially partnered with the Department of Education  toward a common goal to collect “data on the national level” (see below) and to “coordinate assessments” –and to use the Common Core standards which CCSSO co-wrote.

It is difficult for me to understand how Menlove, who belongs to the CCSSO, or how Pyfer, who works so intimately with both the NGA and CCSSO, can mentally separate the Common Core aligned, high-stakes tests from the goals of the Common Core standards creators themselves.

Take a closer look at the CCSSO/EIMAC website:

“Education Data & Information Systems Programs:

Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)

The Common Education Data Standards Initiative is a joint effort by CCSSO and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in partnership with the United States Department of Education. Educators and policy makers need clear, consistent data about students and schools in order to draw valid comparisons between key indicators of educational success and identify areas where we can improve classroom instruction and student support from early childhood through K-12 education to post secondary education and the workforce.

Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC)

The Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) is CCSSO’s network of state education agency officials tasked with data collection and reporting; information system management and design; and assessment coordination. EIMAC advocates on behalf of states to reduce data collection burden and improve the overall quality of the data collected at the national level.”

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In light of these five points, can anybody honestly say that they cannot see a connection between the Common Core test and the Common Core high stakes AIR tests?  Are we still to be called “conspiracy theorists” (my school board member Dixie Allen’s latest term of endearment for me)  –for declaring that the tests and standards are one, are inseparable, and are equally harmful to our schools and to our liberties?

So, having made this point, now let me share what Principal Bob Schaeffer of Colorado shared with me today:  a compilation of how bad the national Common Core high-stakes testing is waxing.

Enjoy.

NEWS UPDATE:  NATIONAL PROBLEMS WITH HIGH-STAKES TESTS

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich Blasts “Obsessive Focus on Standardized Tests” http://dianeravitch.net/2014/02/19/robert-reich-on-standardized-testing/

Test Score Pressure May Lead to More ADHD Drug Prescriptions http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304275304579392932032900744

NCLB Waivers Reinforce Flawed Accountability Measures http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2014/02/waivers_missed_opportunities.html

Testing Resistance & Reform Spring Alliance Formed to Bring Sanity to Education Policy

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/21/anti-testing-groups-form-alliance-to-bring-sanity-to-education-policy/

Timely Statement by Former U.S. Labor Sec. Robert Reich on Eve of Testing Resistance & Reform Spring Launch

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/02/coalition_launches_testing_res.html

Campaigns Against Test Misuse, Overuse Explode Across Nation

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/20/1279029/-Testing-Resistance-Reform-Spring-Launched?detail=hide

New National Alliance Aims to Unite Grassroots Opposition to Testing Overkill

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/parentsandthepublic/2014/02/new_alliance_aims_to_unite_grassroots_testing_opposition.html

High School Grades Are Better Predictors of College Performance Than Test Scores Are

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/confirmed-high-school-gpas-predict-college-success/

New Report: Test-Optional Admissions Promotes Equity and Excellence

http://fairtest.org/new-report-shows-testoptional-admissions-helps-div

The Failure of Test-Based School “Reform” — By the Numbers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/23/why-test-based-school-reform-isnt-working-by-the-numbers/

Test-Based “Accountability” Does Not Work

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2014/02/nclb_california_and_accountability_in_all_its_guises.html

No High-Stakes Testing Moratorium, No Common Core

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/no-moratorium-no-common-c_b_4843791.html

Common Core Testing Costs Strain Rural Schools

http://www.wbir.com/story/news/2014/02/18/common-core-testing-costs-strain-rural-tennessee-schools/5575073/

Washington State Senate Revolts Against Teaching to the Test

http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2014/02/state-senate-revolts-against-teaching-to-the-test.html

Feds Threaten Washington State With Return to NCLB Testing Rules

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/21/washington-no-child-left-behind_n_4828183.html

Chicago Parents Organize Opt-Out Campaign

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-isat-testing-boycott-met-20140225,0,1746622.story

Left and Right in Colorado Agree on Testing Cutback

http://coloradostatesman.com/content/994657-left-right-agreement-state-testing

Colorado Students Take a Stand Against One-Size-Fits-All Test-Driven Education

N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Continues to Support Common Core Test-Based Evaluation

http://www.lohud.com/article/20140223/NEWS/302230033/Educators-say-evaluation-system-broken-Cuomo-isn-t-convinced

Computerizing a Poor Standardized Exam Does Not Magically Make it Better (or Stop Test Score-Misuse)

http://udreview.com/2014/02/24/delaware-explores-new-testing-options/

Common Core Assessments: Myths and Realities

http://fairtest.org/fairtest-infographic-common-core-more-tests-not-be

Teacher Apologizes to Third Grades for Being Forced to Label Them with Test Scores

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/18/teacher-to-3rd-graders-i-apologize-for-having-to-quantify-you-with-a-number/

Mom of Severely Disabled Boy Asks Florida School Board to Let All Kids Experiencing “Pain and Suffering” Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/19/mom-to-officials-stop-forcing-severely-disabled-kids-to-take-high-stakes-tests/

Washington, D.C. Mayoral Candidate Says Test-Driven Schooling is a Failure

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/shallal-criticizes-dc-school-reform-efforts-saying-he-would-chart-a-different-course/2014/02/18/4ba4b45a-97f7-11e3-9616-d367fa6ea99b_story.html

Important New Book: “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools” by David Berliner, Gene Glass and Associates

http://store.tcpress.com/0807755249.shtml

Yes, You Can Opt Out of Common Core Tests   36 comments

Good news: after sending an opt out letter (seen below) I received three letters back, from my high school student’s principal, math teacher and English teacher.

Each letter said that my child may take a paper-and-pencil alternative to the Common Core tests without any academic penalty. The school is apparently not enforcing the absurd current state law which states that schools must punish the student who opts out with a non-proficient score. Hooray!

I’m sharing this, so that anyone may create or adapt this letter for their use, if they like.

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Dear Principal and Teachers,

Thank you for all you do for our kids. I sincerely appreciate your hard work, dedication and caring.

I am writing to let you know that ___________ my 11th grade child, will not be participating in the state’s new AIR/SAGE tests this year or next year. These are the Common Core aligned tests that feed into the federally funded State Longitudinal Database System and measure not only math and English, but also nonacademic, personal information including behavioral indicators (according to recent state law) and are to be used in grading schools.

I would like my child to have a pencil and paper alternative that is to be used ONLY at the school level, and not sent to the district or state levels.

I believe that this choice may be hurting this high school’s “school grade” so I apologize. It is not my wish to harm this excellent school in any way. I am also aware that it may hurt my child’s academic grade. Rather than getting an opt-out score, a non-test taker may get a non-proficient score. This is a tragedy for students and schools.

Our state leaders have created this situation that punishes schools and students when parents opt out of the tests.

(–You can quit reading here. But if you are interested in why I am writing this letter to opt my child out of the tests, please read on.)

Attached are PDF copies of the original bill SB175 and the amended bill put forth by the USOE at the Aug 2. meeting. On line 164 of the amended bill is what the USOE added. This is the part of the bill I find morally wrong.

164 (2) the parent makes a written request consistent with 165 LEA administrative timelines and procedures that the parent’s
166 student not be tested. Students not tested due to parent 167 request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be
168 used in school accountability calculations.

A parent should be able to opt their child out of the invasive computer adaptive testing without the child receiving a non-proficient score, after that child has spent an entire year in school and has received grades for the work that could easily determine proficiency.

A single test should not determine the success of a child’s school year in one swoop, any more than it should determine the grade for that school for the year. There are too many variables to consider yet testing is the only criteria by which a school (or student?) will be seriously graded. I realize there are other minor components that will factor into the grading of a school, but the main emphasis will be on the test scores.

There are many things wrong in education not the least of which are laws that tighten control over our children while telling parents what’s good for them. I should not have to pull my children out of school in order to protect them from invasive and experimental testing.

Signed…

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WHY DO PARENTS WANT TO OPT OUT OF COMMON CORE TESTING?

1. The AIR/SAGE/Utah Common Core tests, which test math and English, are nontransparent and secretive.

2. I don’t believe in the Common Core standards upon which these tests are based. They are experimental. They snub classic literature. They dilute classical math. They were developed and copyrighted by two D.C. private clubs who have no accountability to me as a teacher or as a voter– (the NGA and CCSSO). They give power to a centralized system that is contrary to the constitutional concept of separating powers and empowering local control.

3. The tests feed the national data collection beast via the 50 nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), feed the P-20 child tracking/surveillance program, and will gather nonacademic, private information on students, including “behavioral indicators” according to Utah state law HB5.

4. It’s nobody’s business, even in Utah, how my individual child does in math and English –except the teacher’s business, and mine. My child’s not to be counted as the government’s “human capital” and the government’s not an invited “stakeholder” in my child’s education, career, or life. Too bad for Governor Herbert’s darling, Prosperity 2020! Remember this: business leaders, governments and legislatures don’t have authority to use tests and data collection to snoop on any child (or adult) for “collective economic prosperity” or for any other reason.

5. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts kids and wastes instructional time.

6. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts teachers. They will be controlled by how students do on the tests; this limits teachers’ autonomy in the classroom and is an insult to teachers’ professional judgment.

Video: Chicago History Teacher Paul Horton on Common Core and Corporate Collusion   5 comments

Today, Alisa and I spoke with Chicago History teacher Paul Horton about Common Core and his group, Citizens Against Corporate Collusion.  A few highlights:

1.  What’s wrong with high stakes testing?

2.  How does Common Core turn teacher artisans into teacher widgets?

3.  Dept. of Ed Secretary Arne Duncan graduated from the high school where Horton teaches; what does Horton say about Sec. Duncan?

4.  Why does Pearson Company stand to face legal trouble?

5.  What does Horton see Bill Gates doing Common Core pushing for?

6.  Why are Democrats and Republicans increasingly seeing eye to eye on the need to stop common core?

Here’s the segment.

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