What is WestEd and why should you care?
“In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.
The information cited on these pages comes from WestEd’s website and WestEd employees.
How WestEd is funded:
In 1966 Congress created a network of Regional Educational Laboratories, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, two of which became WestEd. Today WestEd is no longer officially run by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), but it is still funded largely by the federal government. With grants from the DOE and other federal and private granting agencies, WestEd laboratories work as “a public agency performing an essential government function, exempt from income taxes.” Last month, Nancy Pelosi congratulated WestEd on a $5 Million Department of Labor Award.
The WestEd – Utah connection:
WestEd is the project manager for the SBAC, a consortium of states all willing to take the same federally-funded and overseen test. SBAC was joined by Utah in 2009. Although Utah does not receive any money through its membership in SBAC, the consortium’s testing cooperative is funded by the RTTT federal grant to produce tests that Utah students are slated to take beginning in 2014. Larry Shumway, Utah’s Superintendent of Schools, is on the board of the SBAC’s test producer/project manager, WestEd. WestEd also has other connections with Utah, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported in November 2011 that WestEd would now be partnering directly with the Utah State Office of Education on another, unrelated, school program.
How WestEd’s relationship with U.S. DOE impacts Utah’s educational concerns:
WestEd/SBAC is required, by the document entitled “Cooperative Agreement” which is written by the U.S. DOE, to coordinate “across consortia,” which means working closely with Achieve, Inc., (program manager for PARCC, the Common Core’s other testing arm) as well as having to coordinate, report and give status updates to the DOE. This triangulation appears to be in violation of federal laws prohibiting federal involvement or oversight in state educational programs.
According to the company itself, its activities and “influence is enormous, from the daycare center… to the floors of Congress… Our products and services… sometimes even shape national policy… Legislators need sound information to inform their decisions… WestEd offers them access to the best research and to the most effective practices…. We give policymakers the information they need.”
Stanley Rabinowitz, Director of Assessment & Standards at WestEd, was a member of the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee before he got the job of writing tests for those standards.
Letter from WestEd to a concerned Utah educator: (emphasis added)
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 4:44:12 AM
Dear Edynn Sato and Cathy Carroll / WestEd,
Please help me understand how differents states’ standards will be “crosswalked” or taken into account, on the SBAC assessments.
Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test.
For example, if Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15% more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?
If the WestEd’s test contains neither Colorado’s calculus nor Utah’s geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government’s, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?
Date: Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 7:07 PM
Cc: Edynn Sato <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for the question regarding assessment alignment within the Consortium. Consistent with the terms of this Race to the Top grant, the Consortium will be developing an assessment system that ensures comparability across member states. To that end, the Consortium is developing, through state-led input and consensus, test blueprints that measure the Common Core State Standards that are the same across all member states.
If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to the Consortium test, then that additional information can be included in their local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.
In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards).
As a condition of the grant, all member states participating in the assessment must adopt the Common Core. In our discussions with member states regarding the desire to implement the additional 15% we have found that most interest comes from states with standards that fall outside English language arts or mathematics (e.g., Native American history).
If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me directly or email SBAC@wested.org
Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.
Senior Research Associate
Assessment and Standards Development Services