Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s June 2015 Testimony at Bridgewater State University – Public Hearing   16 comments

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Before I post Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s most recent testimony, I will tell you why I am a devoted fan of Dr. Stotsky and why I’m a tomato-thrower at the Common Core version of English Language Arts.

Despite its charming claims, Common Core deforms –not reforms– the English classroom.

Common Core stifles the joy of learning by limiting students’ exposure to imaginative literature, limiting students’ practice of imaginative writing, and pushing students toward utilitarian readings and informational writings.

It also closes what used to be a wide door to the treasure trove of the classics– now the trove is shut, to only a crack.  By their senior year in virtually every high school across this land, American students are only allowed to have 30% of their readings be imaginative or classical readings; 70% is “informational text” under Common Core.  It’s frankly stupid.  But why?

Why the change in focus?

Here’s a clue. Common Core standards were drawn up primarily by a businessman, David Coleman, at Achieve Incorporated.  This workforce and business-eye’s-view explains why Common Core standards focus on language as business, not as heritage. It may explain why Common Core’s centerpiece is imagination-less,  with a focus on teaching impersonal, non-narrative, (aka boring) writing skills.  It may explain why tests aligned to Coleman’s standards invite students to write only from narrow selections of pre-cut opinion samples.

Of course, getting a job is one facet of education; but the Common Core’s dogged focus on that alone, on making individuals into state-inventoried human capital whose purpose is to get skills and get to work, comes at high cost.  One of the costs is literature.

Common Core’s ravishing of proper English education, and its focus on utilitarian, workforce-centric skills above actual literary knowledge, has been amply expressed in white papers, scholarly articles, interviews, books and more, by top literature professors across the United States.  (Please study these professors’ wise words.  I won’t take the space now.)  Dr. Stotsky’s friend, Dr. Anthony Esolen, nutshelled it this way:

“It is rotten because its whole approach to education is wrong; it is based upon a wrong understanding of the human person.  That is why it has no real place for the humanities, reducing them to occasions for scrambling up “skills,” rather than for opportunities to grow wise, to learn how to behold and cherish what is beautiful, and to build up the intellectual / moral virtues…” 

Cheer as Dr. Stotsky stands in the ring, gloves off, representing me, you, and countless teachers and professors, whose dedicated scholarship and love are sunshine and water to sprouting, thriving student minds!  Know that Dr. Stotsky is not someone that America can easily ignore or dismiss: she served on the original validation committee for Common Core ELA standards– and after studying them, she refused to sign them off as being adequate or valid standards; for years thereafter, she has spoken and published on this subject, fighting for the free exercise of academic thought, access to good and proper English education, and meaningful, reasonable school tests.  

As a lifelong author of and professor of curricular standards, as editor of a premier research journal on English teaching, as one who truly understands why legitimate English education is a treasure worth defending, she can right the toppled applecart –if enough people hear what she’s saying.

Please share.  

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   Why Massachusetts Should Abandon the PARCC tests and

      the 2011 Coleman et al English Language Arts Standards

                               on which the MCAS Tests are Based

             Sandra Stotsky

              June 10, 2015

                                                                 

 

Acknowledgments:  I want to thank Chairman Paul Sagan of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for his invitation to testify at the public hearing at Bridgewater State University on whether the Board should abandon the MCAS tests and adopt the PARCC tests. 

Overview of my Testimony:  I first describe my qualifications, as well as the lack of relevant qualifications in Common Core’s standards writers and in most of the members of Common Core’s Validation Committee, on which I served in 2009-2010.  I then detail some of the many problems in the 2011 Massachusetts English language arts (ELA) standards, written by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, James Patterson, and Susan Wheltle (so the document indicates), in the tests based on Common Core’s standards (PARCC), and in the two external reports—one issued in February 2015, the other yet to be completed—comparing the PARCC tests with MCAS tests. I offer several recommendations for parents who want civically sound and academically rigorous standards and tests written and reviewed by English teachers and who want a form of accountability that doesn’t penalize their children’s teachers for results of tests based on either the Coleman et al standards or Common Core’s standards.

I.  My Qualifications: I am professor emerita at the University of Arkansas, where I held the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality until retiring in 2012. I was Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) from 1999-2003, in charge of developing or revising the state’s K-12 standards, teacher licensure tests, and teacher and administrator licensure regulations. I served on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) from 2006-2010, on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel from 2006-2008, and on the Common Core Validation Committee from 2009-2010. I was one of the five members of the Validation Committee who did not sign off on the standards as being rigorous, internationally competitive, or research-based.

I was also editor of the premier research journal, Research in the Teaching of English, published by the National Council of Teachers of English, from 1991 to 1997. I have published extensively in professional journals and written several books. In recent years, I have testified before many state legislative committees and boards on the flaws in Common Core’s standards.

II. Lack of Relevant Qualifications in Common Core’s Standards Writers

The absence of relevant professional credentials in the two standards-writing teams helps to explain the flaws in Common Core’s standards. The two “lead” writers for the ELA standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, have never taught reading or English in K-12 or at the college level. Neither has a doctorate in English or reading. Neither has ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither has a reputation for literary scholarship or research in education. At the time they were appointed, they were virtually unknown to English and reading educators and the public at large. They now earn large fees for Student Achievement Partners (their business) consulting to school systems trying to implement their ELA standards.

The three lead standards writers in mathematics were as unknown to K-12 educators as were the lead ELA standards writers. None of the three mathematics standards writers (Phil Daro, William McCallum, and Jason Zimba) had ever developed K-12 mathematics standards that had been used—or used effectively.  The only member of this three-person standards-writing team with K-12 teaching experience had majored in English as an undergraduate (although Phil Daro had taught mathematics at the middle school level for two years).

Who recommended these people as standards writers and why, we still do not know.  No one in the media commented on their lack of credentials for the task they had been assigned.  Indeed, no one in the media showed the slightest interest in their qualifications for standards writing. 

III. Lack of Academic Qualifications in Most Members of the Validation Committee

The federal government did not fund an independent group of experts to evaluate the rigor of the standards, even though it expected the states to adopt them. Instead, the private organizations in charge of the project created their own Validation Committee (VC) in 2009. The VC contained almost no academic experts in any area; most were education professors or associated with testing companies, from here and abroad. There was only one mathematician on the VC—R. James Milgram—although there were many people with graduate degrees in mathematics education or with appointments in an education school, and/or who worked chiefly in teacher education. I was the only nationally recognized expert on English language arts standards by virtue of my work in Massachusetts and for Achieve, Inc.’s American Diploma Project.

Professor Milgram and I did not sign off on the standards because they were not internationally competitive, rigorous, or research-based.  Despite our repeated requests, we did not get the names of high-achieving countries whose standards could be compared with Common Core’s standards. (We received no “cross-walks.”) Nor did the standards writers themselves offer any research evidence or rationale to defend their omission of the high school mathematics standards needed for STEM careers, their emphasis on writing not reading, their experimental approach to teaching Euclidean geometry, their deferral of the completion of Algebra I to grade 9 or 10, or their claim that informational reading instruction in the English class leads to college readiness. They also did not offer evidence that Common Core’s standards meet entrance requirements for most colleges and universities in this country or elsewhere.

IV.  Flaws in the 2011 Massachusetts ELA Standards (the document lists David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, James Patterson, and Susan Wheltle as the four lead writers)

 A. Most Coleman et al standards are content-free skills, not “content” standards. They do not address specific literary knowledge, specific literary history, or specific reading levels, i.e., they omit significant literary/historical content. E.g., there is no standard on the history of the English language, on British authors or texts, or on authors or texts from the ancient or classical world.

Examples of Coleman et al literature standards in grades 11/12:

  1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  1. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

Examples of authentic ELA literature standards

*In California’s pre-2010 standards for 11/12:

3.7  Analyze recognized works of world literature from a variety of authors:

a.  Contrast the major literary forms, techniques, and characteristics of the major

literary periods (e.g., Homeric Greece, medieval, romantic, neoclassic, modern).

b.  Relate literary works and authors to the major themes and issues of their eras.

*In Massaschusetts’ pre-2010 standards for grades 9/10:

16.11:  Analyze the characters, structure, and themes of classical Greek drama and

epic poetry.

 

B. The 2011 Coleman et al standards expect English teachers to spend at least half of their reading instructional time at every grade level on informational texts. They contain 10 reading standards for informational texts and 9 for literary texts at every grade level, reducing literary study in the English class to about 50%. Pre-2011 Massachusetts English classes spent about 20% of reading instructional time on nonfiction (which included informational material). No research studies support increasing the study of nonfiction in English classes to improve college readiness.

C. The 2011 Coleman et al standards reduce opportunities for students to develop analytical thinking. Analytical thinking is developed when teachers teach students how to read between the lines of complex works. As noted in a 2006 ACT report titled Reading Between the Lines: “complexity is laden with literary features.”  According to ACT, it involves “literary devices,” “tone,” “ambiguity,” “elaborate” structure, “intricate language,” and unclear intentions. Thus, reducing complex literary study in the English class in order to increase informational reading, in effect, retards college readiness.

D. The 2011 Coleman et al standards discourage “critical” thinking. Critical thinking is based on independent thinking. Independent thinking comes from a range of observations, experiences, and undirected reading. The Coleman et al document contains no standards for writing a research paper like those spelled out in the pre-2011 Massachusetts ELA standards.

 

V. Why the MBAE and Fordham Studies Cannot Tell Us Much

As noted by the Commissioner of Education in his announcement of the five public hearings on MCAS vs. PARCC, the Board would review studies conducted by “outside organizations.”

The first outside study, commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), was released in February 2015.  It recommended abandoning MCAS, yet it did not indicate that current MCAS tests are based on the Coleman et al standards, while the PARCC tests are based on Common Core’s. Do the contents of the test items differ?  We don’t know. Nor do we know what test items were examined in this study.  Nor does the study give us a single clue to the contents of the test items in either set of tests at any grade level.

A second outside study is being undertaken by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The MBAE study had earlier indicated that “the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Human Resources Research Organization will conduct a full-scale evaluation of how well aligned PARCC, MCAS, and other national assessments are to the Common Core State Standards and the extent to which they meet the criteria for high-quality assessments established by the Council of Chief State School Officers.” It is not clear why CCSSO is qualified to establish criteria for high-quality assessments. All we know at present is that the Fordham Institute decided to use a portion of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds it regularly receives to compare MCAS and PARCC test items and to let BESE know what it would recommend as an organization dedicated to the Common Core project. Its report will be issued in time for BESE’s official vote to adopt PARCC in fall, 2015.

Nevertheless, we face the same problems in learning anything from the Fordham report that we face with the MBAE report. The test items for both the 2015 MCAS ELA tests and the 2015 PARCC ELA tests are test-secure and can’t be discussed in a public report. I have twice asked directors of both assessments for permission to examine under secure conditions all their ELA test items for 2015 but have not been given permission to do so. I have also asked DESE for a copy of all proposals or requests to DESE for permission to examine non-released MCAS test items, but DESE has not sent me a copy of this public information.

The public CAN examine “sample” and “practice” test items that PARCC has made available online (which I have done).  The public CAN examine all released test items for all MCAS tests from 1998 to 2007 (which I have done—see Appendix A for URLs to these test items). And parents and teachers CAN testify about what students say about the test items they have responded to on their computers or in their test booklets. But researchers cannot present either an evaluation of the grade appropriateness of PARCC test items or a comparison of the contents of MCAS and PARCC test items, two of the sub-topics that testifiers were asked to address at the Bridgewater hearing, because they are not allowed to say anything about the actual contents of the test items if indeed they examined them.

Until all the test items used by PARCC and MCAS in ELA in 2015 are available to BESE and all parents, legislators, and other citizens for inspection under secure conditions, BESE has no legitimate information on which to base an official decision. In fact, the entire process leading to a decision on which set of tests to use appears to be a sham, beginning with the fact that the Commissioner of Education chairs the Governing Board of PARCC, yet is to make the final recommendation to BESE, and ending with the fact that all local superintendents were told in 2014 that the decision had already been made (according to a letter from Superintendent William Lupini to the Brookline School Committee in June 2014, in Appendix B). The public, including the media, have been abused by a fake process.  Only a post hoc, pro forma vote for PARCC remains to be taken.

Yet there are significant differences between PARCC and MCAS for ELA tests that can be brought to public attention.  These differences have their source in the criteria established by English teachers in Massachusetts in 1997, as explained above, and in other sources.

VI. Problems with PARCC in 2014-15, based on the examples/test items given

* The overall reading level of PARCC sample test items in most grades seems to be lower than the overall reading level of test items in MCAS ELA tests based on the pre-Coleman et al standards—sometimes by more than one reading grade level. E.g., an excerpt from The Red Badge of Courage is an example in the 2015 grades 10 and 11 PARCC. But an excerpt from this novel was assessed in a pre-2011 grade 8 MCAS.  E.g., an excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is an example in the 2015 grade 11 PARCC but appears in a 2010 grade 10 MCAS.

* PARCC doesn’t tell us who determines the cut (pass/fail) score, where it will be, and who changes it, and when. Cut scores on MCAS tests are set by Massachusetts citizens.

* PARCC test specifications do not indicate from what authors or kinds of text the literary passages are to be drawn, and how they are to be balanced. English teachers in Massachusetts have had higher expectations for MCAS than do test-developers at PARCC, it seems.

* PARCC 2015 grade 11 test samples are not aligned with Common Core’s standards; there are no passages from founding political documents.

* PARCC offers too many tests at each grade and across grades.

* PARCC requires extensive keyboarding skills and too much time for test preparation.

* PARCC plans to provide only a few released test items for teachers to use, it seems.

* The change to a grade 11 PARCC for fulfilling the requirement for a high school diploma hurts low-achieving students, who often need two years for remediation and retests before graduation.

* The PARCC tests are very long (see the chart in Superintendent Lupini’s June 2014 letter to the Brookline School Committee), even though they have been recently shortened.

* The writing prompts in PARCC in 2015 do not elicit “deeper thinking” because students are not given a provocative question about a reading assignment and encouraged to make and justify their own interpretation of an author’s ideas based on a range of sources, some self-chosen. They are almost always given the sources to use, beginning in grade 3: e.g., “Write an essay comparing and contrasting the key details presented in the two articles about how endangered animals can be helped. Use specific details and examples from both articles to support your ideas.”

* The two-part multiple-choice format in PARCC (and in SBAC) often requires students to engage in a textual scavenger hunt for the specific words, phrases, or sentences that led to their own thinking when answering the previous question. This two-part multiple-choice format is especially taxing and problematic in the early grades. E.g., in grade 3: “Part B: Which sentence from the story supports the answer to Part A?” “Which detail supports the answer to Part A?” “Which detail from X shows another example of the answer to Part A?” “Which detail from paragraph 14 best supports the answer to Part A?” “What phrase from paragraph 14 helps the reader to understand the meaning of thriving?” “Which section in X introduces how the scientists made wolves feel comfortable in the park?”  In sum, the questions are poorly worded, confusing, tedious, unfriendly to children, and cumbersome. 

 

VII. Criteria for MCAS ELA Selections Developed in 1997 by the State’s English Teachers

  1. About 60% of the selections should be literary.
  1. At least half of the literary selections should come from authors in a list of suggested authors or works reflecting our common literary and cultural heritage
  1. About half of the literary selections could come from authors in a second list of suggested contemporary authors from the United States, as well as past and present authors from other countries and cultures.

These criteria were enforced in two ways for MCAS ELA tests: by the Guiding Principle on literary study in the introduction to the ELA standards and by the use of texts by authors in the two lists. The Guiding Principle itself (“An effective English language arts curriculum draws on literature from many genres, time periods, and cultures, featuring works that reflect our common literary heritage.”) indicated that a “comprehensive literature curriculum contains works from both [lists].”  The two lists of recommended authors served as guides to choosing MCAS passages at all grades. MCAS ELA tests from 1998 on were dominated by literary selections because of these criteria, the Guiding Principle on literary study, and the two lists.

BESE voted to add the Guiding Principles and the two lists in the 2001 Massachusetts ELA curriculum framework to the Common Core standards adopted in 2011. But DESE altered the wording of the Guiding Principle on literary study to read An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum draws on literature in order to develop students’ understanding of their literary heritage” so that it no longer expected the school curriculum or literary passages on MCAS to feature works reflecting “our common literary heritage.”

 VIII. Recommendations for Massachusetts:

  1. Fewer grades tested (just 4, 8, and 10), as in the 1993 MERA and 1994 authorization of ESEA
  2. Paper and pencil tests; no computer-based tests
  3. All or most test items released every year, as MERA requires
  4. Retention of grade 10 competency determination for a high school diploma, required in MERA, for the benefit of low-achieving students
  5. Tests requiring less time for preparing for and teaching to the tests
  6. Test passages and questions chosen and reviewed by Massachusetts English teachers
  7. A Massachusetts-determined cut score

Appendix A.  URLs for locating all MCAS ELA test items from 1998 to 2007, plus some URLs for later items

http://www.edbenchmarks.org/schoolimprovement/stuach.htm  On MEAP 1992-1999

https://archive.org/details/massachusettscompr00mass (1998)

https://archive.org/details/masscomprehensiv00mass (1999)

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2000.pdf

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS_2001.pdf

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2002.pdf

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2003.pdf

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2004.pdf   (Grade 10 ELA includes an excerpt from Tartuffe)

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2005.pdf (grade 10 ELA includes excerpts from Macbeth and Pride and Prejudice; and Theodore Roethke poem)

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/TeachingLearning/MathResourcesK-8/MCAs-Questions/MCAS-2006.pdf

https://www.brocktonpublicschools.com/uploaded/DistrictDepartments/Assessment/mcas_2007.pdf

misterambrose.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/2009_Spring_MCAS.1244029.pdf (grade 10 ELA includes excerpt from Oliver Twist)

http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/2010/release/g10ela.pdf (grade 10 ELA includes excerpts from Heart of Darkness and Love in a Time of Cholera; Shakespeare’s Sonnet #73)

http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/testitems.html?yr=14  (Selected items from 2010 to 2014 available here.)

 

 

Appendix B:  Letter from Superintendent William Lupini to the Brookline School Committee in June 2014

 

THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF BROOKLINE

333 WASHINGTON STREET BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS 02445

TEL: 617-730-2401

FAX: 617-730-2601

Office of the Superintendent of Schools

William H. Lupini, Ed.D.

June 3, 2014

 

To: Members of the Brookline School Committee

From: William H. Lupini, Ed. D. Superintendent of Schools

Re: State Assessment for 2015

 

 

On May 22, 2014, I recommended that the Public Schools of Brookline administer the PARCC Assessment for grades 3-9 and 11 for the 2014-2015 school year. This recommendation was based on the following considerations:

• Our experience with the recent PARCC field test allowed our team to gain a deep understanding of all that is required to administer this assessment to support students’ success. Our learning was detailed in my presentation to the School Committee at our last meeting.

• The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will “hold harmless” the accountability status of Districts choosing to administer PARCC in 2015. Specifically, a school’s level will either stay the same or improve but cannot decline due to PARCC test results.

• MCAS will be phased out in favor of either PARCC or another new “next generation” assessment after the 2015 test administration.

• Administering PARCC in 2015 will allow all students tested the opportunity to get comfortable with the new expectations and testing environment, and will give us the opportunity to fine-tune its administration, which may reduce the risk of disruption in future years.

• The high school did not participate in the 2014 pilot. Administering PARCC in grades 9 and 11 in 2015 offers BHS a year to pilot the new assessment. Also, a score of 4 or 5 on the PARCC Assessment would allow an 11th grader to skip remedial courses at Massachusetts state colleges. MCAS will still be administered to all 10th grade students through the class of 2018 for competency determinations.

• In addition to being “held harmless,” DESE has mitigated other risks for districts that choose to administer PARCC in 2015, including:

-Pencil and paper tests will be an option for a number of years in order to allow districts to adequately prepare their technology to meet the needs of the online test; and,

-Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) will be calculated continuously; therefore, there will be no interruption in utilizing SGP in the educator evaluation system.

The purpose of this Memorandum is to provide you with additional information about PARCC testing, our revised recommendation for your consideration during the June 5th Public Hearing and your June 19th vote, and the reasoning for these revisions to our thinking. Additional Information One of the main areas of discussion during our May 22nd presentation involved the number of PARCC testing sessions at each grade level.

Following is a chart detailing the grade-by-grade and subject area testing sessions for both PARCC and MCAS (grades 3-8):

Grade Level                PARCC & Science                   MCAS                 Difference

 

3rd                                         9                                         5                               +4

(5 ELA; 4 Math)             (3 ELA; 2 Math)

4th                                          9                                        7                                 +2

(5 ELA; 4 Math)              (5 ELA; 2 Math)

5th                                         11                                        7                                 +4

(5 ELA; 4 Math)              (3 ELA; 2 Math)

(2 MCAS Science)           (2 MCAS Science)

 

6th                                          9                                           5                                 +4

(5 ELA; 4 Math)            (3 ELA; 2 Math)

7th                                           9                                         7                                   +2

(5 ELA; 4 Math)             (5 ELA; 2 Math)

8th                                          11                                        7                                   +4

(5 ELA; 4 Math)             (3 ELA; 2 Math)

(2 MCAS Science)          (2 MCAS Science)

 

These differences are somewhat governed by the addition of end-of- year (EOY) testing in PARCC, along with the inclusion of a writing composition component for grades beyond the fourth and seventh grade currently tested in MCAS.

The amount of time to be spent in testing is a much more complicated analysis. Students are permitted 50% additional time beyond what is recommended in PARCC, while MCAS is an untimed assessment. Below is a comparison of the “expected” times for both grade 3-8 scenarios described above:

Grade Level                            PARCC & Science                           MCAS                                     Difference

3rd                                      490 minutes (8.2 hours)      270 minutes (4.5 hours)             +220 minutes (+3.7 hours)

4th                                       530 minutes (8.8 hours)      360 minutes (6.0 hours)            +210 minutes (+3.5 hours)

5th                                       620 minutes (10.3 hours)    360 minutes (6.0 hours)            +260 minutes (+4.3 hours)

6th                                       570 minutes (9.5 hours)       270 minutes (4.5 hours)            +300 minutes (+5.0 hours)

7th                                       570 minutes (9.5 hours)        370 minutes (6.2 hours)            +300 minutes (+5.0 hours)

8th                                       660 minutes (11.0 hours)      370 minutes (6.2 hours)           +290 minutes (+4.8 hours)

These numbers are somewhat misleading in that the PARCC timing is probably much closer to actual for most students, given the “timed” nature of the assessment. Furthermore, given that factor, it would be possible to schedule multiple testing sessions in one day with PARCC, while this is not possible in our current MCAS assessment configuration.

The high school analysis is even more difficult, given the following factors:

• As noted earlier, current MCAS assessment occurs only in 9th grade with a Science test, 10th grade with the English Language Arts and Mathematics exams, and again beyond 10th grade for those students who did not initially meet the competency determination standards.

• The PARCC assessment system is designed to provide 11th grade students who score of 4 or 5 on the PARCC Assessment to skip remedial courses at Massachusetts state colleges.

• MCAS will still be administered to all 10th grade students through the class of 2018 for competency determinations.

• PARCC high school math assessments are based on courses aligned to the Common Core State Standards, not grade levels.

Assessments are available for Algebra I, Geometry, Mathematics I, Mathematics II, Algebra II and Mathematics III.

Given these factors, it is more difficult to provide a comparison of numbers of testing sessions and total time devoted to assessment for PARCC v. MCAS. However, it is very safe to conclude that students would experience a greater volume of testing under the PARCC plan than is currently the case.

Revised Recommendation

After considering input from the Headmaster and her administrative team, as well as issues raised by School Committee members at our May 22nd meeting, we are now recommending that the Public Schools of Brookline participate in the PARCC operational test for grades 3-8 only during the 2014- 2015 school year.

High School testing would be limited to those MCAS tests required for the competency determination in 9th and 10th grades.

Reasoning

We do not come to any of these recommendations lightly. This new assessment will consume more valuable teaching time than the current program. The timed nature of the assessment for students who do not have an IEP is not in the best interest of any of our students and represents a significant change in beliefs for the Commonwealth. The PARCC assessment is still in development and, as such, will continue to represent a learning opportunity for all of us, even while students are receiving scores for their performance on the exams. Finally, we are not at present prepared to move to an on-line testing environment as a school system, meaning that some of our students will participate in a paper and pencil assessment and, therefore, we will have students being tested on somewhat different competencies and skills across our schools.

However, much of our rationale for this recommendation is, in our view, compelling and remains the same as discussed in May. We cannot recommend staying with MCAS for another year if this assessment is to be phased out in favor of either PARCC or another new “next generation” assessment. We believe that students should be given the opportunity to experience “next generation” expectations and testing environments, and that we need the chance to work with the administration of these assessments. Finally, we need to take advantage of having school accountability status held “harmless” while we work to support student, teacher and school success within this new testing situation.

While this same logic exists with respect to high school testing, we simply do not believe that it outweighs the issues for our students. As was discussed on May 22nd, eleventh grade students would be taking a PARCC assessment after most of them had already met the competency determination in their sophomore year, without the benefit of knowing up front that this was to be the case. Ninth grade students would be participating in a “next generation” pilot program, only to revert to MCAS as a competency determination exam. Therefore, we do not believe that the benefits of PARCC testing outweigh these concerns for our high school students in 2014-2015.

I am looking forward to continuing our discussion of this recommendation with you at our meeting on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

16 responses to “Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s June 2015 Testimony at Bridgewater State University – Public Hearing

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  1. Reblogged this on hocuspocus13 and commented:
    jinxx ♣ xoxo

  2. Pingback: Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. | UARK – DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REFORM

  3. So you continue to circulate the myth that “By their senior year in virtually every high school across this land, American students are only allowed to have 30% of their readings be imaginative or classical readings; 70% is “informational text” under Common Core.” As was clear in our previous discussion of this, you show a morally suspect lack of interest in the truth. The standards themselves say “the ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama, and poetry) as well as literary nonfiction.” I’m sorry that you continue to show such disregard for the facts. The wise man built his house upon the rock. What do you expect to build on sand?

  4. In viewing some of the example Common-Core mathematics problems that were shown to the public, I must say that Common-Core does very little in the area of actual, thorough problem-solving skills! There is a right answer, and many wrong answers. Life is filled with copious examples, every day. When students are being demerited points for not solving these problems in the exact, same, confusing sequences, even in spite of them having accurate and correct answers, this defies the logic present in solving mathematical equations!

    And,

    When, under the premises of Common-Core, we are seeing students being given assignments on “updating” the Constitution of the United States, and the attendent Bill of Rights – without actually teaching them WHY those Nation-Founding documents are so important and a part of American History to begin with, sets in motion another generation of Americans who know even LESS about the how and why We, as a people, came to be!

    It is also understandable that Common-Core was NOT designed with the needs of We, the People in mind to begin with. It was designed, behind closed doors, without ANY public input, by private individuals and/or individuals representing private commercial interests, on behalf of and FOR those private interests! Common-Core is a virulent statist’s wet dream!!!

  5. Reblogged this on Lady Liberty 1885 and commented:
    FULL STOP RIGHT HERE – Common Core IS an experiment:
    “The absence of relevant professional credentials in the two standards-writing teams helps to explain the flaws in Common Core’s standards. The two “lead” writers for the ELA standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, have never taught reading or English in K-12 or at the college level. Neither has a doctorate in English or reading. Neither has ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither has a reputation for literary scholarship or research in education. At the time they were appointed, they were virtually unknown to English and reading educators and the public at large. They now earn large fees for Student Achievement Partners (their business) consulting to school systems trying to implement their ELA standards.”

    See the related video: https://youtu.be/TcQV5t4IYIA

  6. Dr. Stotsky has elsewhere written about the long-term consequences of Common Core’s diminishment of the study of classic, imaginative literature. See this:

    “A diminished emphasis on literature in the secondary grades makes it unlikely that American students will study a meaningful range of culturally and historically significant literary works before graduation. It also prevents students from acquiring a rich understanding and use of the English language. Perhaps of greatest concern, it may lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking.

    “Indeed, it is more than likely that college readiness will decrease when secondary English teachers begin to reduce the study of complex literary texts and literary traditions in order to prioritize informational or nonfiction texts. This is because, as ACT (a college entrance exam) found, complexity is laden with literary features: It involves characters, literary devices, tone, ambiguity, elaboration, structure, intricate language, and unclear intentions. By reducing literary study, Common Core decreases students’ opportunity to develop the analytical thinking once developed in just an elite group by the vocabulary, structure, style, ambiguity, point of view, figurative language, and irony in classic literary texts. It will be hard to find informational texts with similar textual challenges (whether or not literary nonfiction).

    “A volume published in 2011 by the National Council of Teachers of English on how English teachers might implement Common Core’s standards helps us to understand why. Among other things, it offers as examples of informational or nonfiction texts selections on computer geeks, fast food, teenage marketing, and the working poor. This is hardly the kind of material to exhibit ambiguity, subtlety, and irony. An English curriculum overloaded with advocacy journalism or with “informational” articles chosen for their topical and/or political nature should raise serious concerns among parents, school leaders, and policymakers.

    “Common Core’s standards not only present a serious threat to state and local education authority, but also put academic quality at risk. Pushing fatally flawed education standards into America’s schools is not the way to improve education for America’s students.”

    — See http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/12/questionable-quality-of-the-common-core-english-language-arts-standards

  7. I also love the essay from Dr. Thomas Newkirk (of University of New Hampshire) — “Speaking Back to the Common Core,” where he says not only that Common Core English standards take a “sterile view of reading” and not only accuses common core, rightly, of “underplaying the role of narrative,” but perhaps more importantly, Newkirk reminds us that:

    “…it is never too late to speak back, to question, to criticize. As Martin Luther King Jr. argued in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” it is never “untimely.” We simply cannot give up our democratic birthright and settle into compliance, not on something this important.

    “We need to pierce the aura of inevitability that promoters have woven around the Common Core. We have to “follow the money” and ask who benefits financially from this initiative (especially important considering the financial scandals that occurred with Reading First several years ago). We need to ask about the role of unaccountable think tanks, testing agencies, and foundations in driving this initiative…”

    https://www.heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources/e02123/newkirk_speaking_back_to_the_common_core.pdf

  8. My point, Christel, is that Dr. Stotsky is demonstrably wrong. I know she has assumed kind of cult status, like a saint, for Common Core opponents, but she’s wrong on the facts. There is simply no reduction in literary texts in the ELA classroom under Common Core standards. I’ll donate $50 to your favorite charity if you prove me wrong. But you have to refer to the standards. Don’t quote Dr. Stotsky again, because she’s wrong.

    • Steve. Interestingly, the Common Core creators have removed the page where they used to have the chart that showed the percentages. I had it linked here: https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/the-story-killers-by-dr-terrence-moore-book-review/ and when I went to the link, it said “Page Not Found”. It used to be on page five of the introduction to the Common Core Standards themselves. Maybe you should ask David Coleman where page five went, or where the link went, and why. I hate to argue with you. It is clear to every teacher I have ever spoken with, clear in every common core aligned textbook, that literary and imaginative literature are diminishing in favor of informational text. David Coleman’s own speeches say this, if you watch them on YouTube. I have never heard anyone but you– not even the state school board members who fight the anti common core crowd tooth and nail– ever say that this isn’t the case. My own public school educated child and stepkids’ altered educations make it abundantly clear. (This is why they now hate English, and used to enjoy it). But if you want to believe that Common Core doesn’t push info texts, increasingly as children grow older, well, that is your prerogative. 🙂

  9. The page is right there: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/introduction/key-design-consideration/ You are very quick to believe in conspiracies.

    The chart shows NAEP recommended proportions of literature to informational text BY GRADE LEVEL. Below the chart you will read: “the ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama, and poetry) as well as literary nonfiction.” So you can choose to believe what people tell you, or you can believe the standards themselves. I know you prefer to believe the myth that has grown up around literature and Common Core. But when you feed a myth, you turn it into a lie. And when you persuade other people to believe the lie . . .

    So no $50 dollars.

    P.S. I’m a high school English teacher.

  10. No, I’ll go further than that, even. SHAME on you for acquiescing in a lie. When all of these people tell you that Common Core REQUIRES a reduction in imaginative literature in the English class, you should be taking what you know of the standards and shouting “NOT TRUE!” You should be educating yourself, and them, about how subjects other than English need to engage more effectively with challenging texts. You need to hold them to the promise of the standards that literature will remain front and center, But no–you acquiesce in the little lie, because it suits your larger purposes, and then complain that people believe it. You convince others that Common Core demands the removal of literature, and then complain when literature is removed. Seriously, SHAME on you!

    • Dear Steve,

      Please stop the rudeness, or I will start deleting your comments. I will try to communicate with you for now, because I think you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care so much. So let’s talk.

      I think what you are trying to say is what the Common Core ELA writers themselves, in their own op-ed in the Huffington post in 2012, wrote. They said that the 70%-30% percentages are not going away. But they hoped that schools would interpret their documents to make most of the informational text be read elsewhere, outside English class, in History or Science, etc. “http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-pimentel/the-role-of-fiction-in-th_b_2279782.html However, if you look at what children are bringing home (what most English teachers are interpreting Common Core prescribing) you will notice that it’s mostly non-narrative writing, informational reading. That has been my experience with those of my children who attend public school. It has been the experience of countless, countless Americans. Maybe you, in your English classroom, teach mostly classical, imaginative texts rather than informational or indoctrinational texts, and that is wonderful. But you cannot argue that others’ personal experiences with their English classrooms are not happening. Not all teachers/districts interpret as you do. Nor should they, given the anti-narrative-writing speech of David Coleman — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu6lin88YXU — and the professional development seminars that teachers are now attending and the “more informational text at every age and grade” rhetoric of the State Office of Ed. http://www.schools.utah.gov/fsp/Home/ELAParent.aspx

      The actual reason that Common Core and its politically-motivated backers are prescribing readings across disciplines, and why disciplines are being blurred and restructured to please politicians, not students, is unclear to most people.

      It’s very clear to those who have studied the globalist education trends. Read this document called “Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit” which comes from the “United Nations Decade for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)”. The 130 page document explains that schools and disciplines must use education to push this political agenda, ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). The fact that most parents send their children to school to be educated in specific disciplines, not to be politically indoctrinated with disciplines being reduced to tools for ESD– that doesn’t come into their equation. On page 27, the document explains “, the synergistic strengths of combined educational disciplines can convey the knowledge, issues, skills, perceptions, and values associated with ESD. No one discipline can or should claim ownership of ESD . In fact, ESD poses such broad and encompassing challenges that it requires contributions from many disciplines. For example, consider these disciplinary contributions to ESD :
      • Mathematics helps students understand extremely small numbers (e.g., parts per hundred, thousand, or million), which allows them to interpret pollution data.
      • Language Arts, especially media literacy, creates knowledgeable consumers who can analyze the messages of corporate advertisers and see beyond “green wash.”
      • History teaches the concept of global change, while helping students to recognize that change has occurred for centuries.
      • Reading develops the ability to distinguish between fact and opinion and helps students become critical readers of political campaign literature.” And on it goes.
      http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001524/152453eo.pdf

      So, Steve, much as you or I might hope that United Nations’ programs, including “Education for Sustainable Development” have no relation to what’s changed in any English classroom in America and has no bearing on our discussion, much as we’d like to think that there was some other, nobler reason that David Coleman and Susan Pimentel created these arbitrary percentages, I have yet to see anyone try to explain what that reason is. I take the U.N. at its word.

  11. Sorry, doesn’t wash. You aren’t honest about what the standards actually say and won’t admit it. I stand by my words. You don’t argue honestly. I don’t write to convince you of course, but for the benefit of disinterested readers who might be inclined to take you at your word.

  12. Dear Steve,

    What specifically “doesn’t wash” and is not an honest argument? Please be specific. We can all read the standards for ourselves. We all know the percentages are what they are. Perhaps what is unclear and still debatable is whether teachers and districts and states read the 70-30% as taking place within the English classroom, or across the disciplines? Is that your point? I appreciate clarification and would also appreciate you ceasing to call me a liar. Very much.

  13. “The ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama, and poetry) as well as literary nonfiction” (page 5).

    And the footnote to the table: “1) The percentages on the table reflect the sum of student reading, not just reading in ELA settings. Teachers of senior English classes, for example, are not required to devote 70 percent of reading to informational texts. Rather, 70 percent of student reading across the grade should be informational” (page 5).

    Is there really more than one way to read this?

    So will you continue to repeat the myth? Or will you educate “teachers and districts and states” about what the standards actually say? And if you are wondering why so many believe the myth, you must know that your website serves as a megaphone for both information and disinformation.

  14. It’s been almost a year. Now, while I serve as an English teacher an a private, not-common-core school, Freedom Project Academy, where we have read, in the past seven months, cover to cover, a stack of marvelous classic works of literature cover to cover, including: The Old Man and the Sea, by Hemingway; The Scarlet Letter, by Hawthorne; Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare; Murder on the Orient Express, by Christie; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Twain; and have written about each of these novels– at the same time, the local public school students who are my friends in my neighborhood have read one novel.

    They have spent their time in their English classes reading political articles and writing about them on topics that included “green cars of the future” and “gender-neutral toys”. That is not literature; that is not time-tested, quality, classical education. The public school masses are being robbed.

    Steve, if you are still around, please explain to me why this phenomenon of dramatically less literature is taking place across this nation and in my own neighborhood, if it cannot be honestly said to be a direct result of the Common Core Initiative? It is heartbreaking.

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