Archive for the ‘Common core tests’ Tag

Video: Florida Senators Lee and Hayes: Why They are Done With Common Core Testing   3 comments

florida senator lee florida senator hayes

Florida’s Senators Tom Lee and Alan Hayes

This week in Florida, senators are speaking up against the Common Core testing and “accountability” systems.

In the video below, Florida’s Senator Lee’s states:

“I’m done with the testing program in the state of Florida; I’m done with the “accountability” system.  Whoever those people are out there from whatever foundation they may be from, whatever testing groups they may be supporting:  I’m over you.  You’ve lost my confidence… You’re so married to this system, you don’t have a shred of common sense left…. As this has progressed, it has become a behemoth… We are now complicit in this problem…  I hear the people supporting this system telling me that it’s so important to them that we maintain the bureaucracy that we hold this system up as so sacrosanct and so inflexible…

I just want to send a message… go find somebody else to talk to ’cause I’m done with you.  

And I hope the folks over at the Dept. of Education understand that it takes a good long while to get me fed up, but I’m there.  “

Senator Alan Hayes also stood up and spoke against the ed reform machine that’s hurting children. Senator Hayes’ admission here is that he realizes that he has been part of the problem, and now he regrets the mess that’s been made.  He said that the intentions of ed reforms were honorable but the results are not good.

These short videos should be widely shared.

With Common Core States Face Critical Problem: Which Tests?   1 comment

By Sandra Stotsky

 

The burning education issue facing most states at the moment is which tests should they give their K-12 students next year to satisfy the conditions of their waivers from the United States Department of Education (USED) or the commitments they made in their Race to the Top (RttT) applications, whether or not they received an RttT grant or other funds from the USED or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The two testing consortia funded by the USED – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – for the purpose of developing common tests based on Common Core’s standards have experienced dwindling state commitments. SBAC is down to less than 20, and PARCC is down to possibly 9. Both consortia have been piloting test items across the states this past academic year to acquire the pool of items needed for computer-adaptive testing (by SBAC) and for gauging difficulty levels at all the grade levels participating in the assessments (K-11).

A new twist is the question of whether state boards, commissioners, and/or departments of education committed their states (i.e., the taxpayers) to particular testing companies and future technology costs without going through statute-mandated bidding procedures and cost-benefit analyses. New Mexico and Louisiana seem to be tied up in constitutional issues on contractual matters, while Arizona is trying to ensure it follows its own statutory bidding procedures.

What hasn’t been getting much attention from mainstream media, possibly because most reporters have no children in Common Core-based classrooms and don’t talk to parents of school-age children on a regular basis, are the problems students and teachers are encountering with the tests themselves and the similarities in the problems reported for PARCC and SBAC pilot tests.

The information on PARCC’s pilot tests comes from school administrators in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District in Massachusetts, as reported on June 18 in Wickedlocal.com. The article was based chiefly on what took place at a school board meeting in June, during which the School Committee voted unanimously to stay with MCAS, the state test, for the next academic year. At the meeting, the school administrators explained why they wanted to stay with MCAS, based on the experiences teachers and students had with the PARCC pilot tests the school district gave in the spring of 2014. 

“It’s like telling our teachers, ‘We’ll teach you how to drive.’ But then the test says you won’t be driving cars. You’ll be driving boats,” said Bridgewater-Raynham school Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes of the PARCC exam. “It’s not aligning with our curriculum or instruction.”

angryteacher

Based on pilot testing, school officials said PARCC did not match up with Bridgewater-Raynham’s teaching methods and also contained numerous technological flaws.

“The one word I’d use to sum up our experience is ‘frustration,’” said Brian Lynch, an elementary school principal. “First, there were a lot of problems administering the test, which is taken on a computer – and the snags weren’t on the district’s end.”

“Second, the test requires students to be familiar with software programs the district does not teach,” Lynch continued. “The district uses a lot of technology, but students still take basic math tests on topics such as number lines and graphing using a paper and pencil.”

“Are we testing math or are we testing a child’s ability to drag and type?” asked Forbes. “We don’t teach typing in third grade. It’s not developmentally appropriate.”

According to high school Principal Angela Watson, the district piloted the PARCC Algebra I test to randomly selected ninth graders.

“Unfortunately, what we found is our written, taught and assessed curriculum doesn’t match up exactly with the PARCC exam. … It puts kids in unfamiliar territory,” Watsonsaid. “It would take time and resources to make the switch to a curriculum that matches up with PARCC.”  

Forbes, however, said that effort might turn out to be misdirected because other districts have articulated similar concerns about the PARCC test.

Regarding SBAC’s pilot tests, a recent letter by Fairgrounds Middle School Principal John Nelson to Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad provided a disturbing picture, wrote theNashua Telegraph in late January.

New Hampshire teachers had been asked by their local superintendent of schools to take an early version of SBAC in December 2013. According to the article, the teachers said the “new computerized test is confusing, doesn’t work well, and leads to frustration.”

In his letter to members of the Nashua Board of Education, Nelson said, “Teachers shared frustrations they had when they were taking the test and disappointment in test format and the difficulties they had trying to use their computer to take this test.”

His teachers agreed the test should not be used on Nashua students.

Nelson wrote:

The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task.

Despite the teachers’ plea and support from Nashua’s teacher union, Conrad, the state board, and Department of Education refused to back down, leaving Nashua’s students with a test their own teachers think is meaningless.

As in Nashua and Bridgewater-Raynham, local reporters all over the country are likely reporting what is happening in their local schools as they pilot Common Core-based tests. But Congress, state legislators, governors, and other policymakers at the state and national levels are not getting an accurate picture of what is happening to the curriculum in our public schools or to the children in them. 

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas.  This article is posted with her permission and was first published at Breitbart.com

Fact-Checking Associate UT Superintendent Judy Park on Nonacademic Data Collection   13 comments

Once again it seems necessary, unfortunately, to provide a fact-checking rebuttal to statements made by Utah’s Associate Superintendent Judy Park about student data privacy.

In a letter given out to parents of children attending a St. George charter school recently, Judy Park was quoted at length.  Park, the Associate Superintendent of Utah, made the following statements that will be scrutinized here with links to opposing evidence.

In that letter, Ms. Park  wrote:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”.  They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim…” 

Here’s evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.

1.  First, there are Utah laws about standardized tests requiring the testing of behavioral indicators.  One law, HB15, created in 2012, that requires the collection of behavior indicators calls for ” the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing.   This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.  But another law  (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!

2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research”s  mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park herself is a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

5.   “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG)   is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data.   It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.

-From page 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data  include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”

This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to do this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.

But lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore.  Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this.  But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it.

Unless people stand up– unless bills like Jake Anderegg’s current HB169 student data privacy bill  and others like it will pass, we have very few protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscious data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Dr. Gary Thompson on Common Core A.I.R. Testing   5 comments

Dr. Gary Thompson is an African American Doctor of Clinical Psychology from Utah.

He doesn’t mess around.

He recently posted the following letter, which he wrote in response to the Common Core testing company, American Institutes for Research (AIR).  The letter has to be shared. If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s the toothpaste-cap-sized serving of what he’s saying:

1. A.I.R., the testing company to which Utah has written out a check for $39 million to write Common Core tests, will not answer specific, professional, focused questions and lacks the professional qualifications to do what it has set out to do.

2. Dr. Thompson says that “The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.”

3. Dr. Thompson calls for the resignation of John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education.

—————————————————-

Here is the intro.

Public Response Letter to Mr. Jon Cohen – American Institutes for Research

*Note: In light of Dr. Thompson’s recent appointment to the Board of Trustees at the Utah Law & Disability Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, it must be noted for the record that his opinions are independent, and do not represent the official positions of any one Board member or employee of the Center or their affiliates.

Introduction:

In early March of 2013, we as concerned parents of children in public schools in Utah, wrote a detailed letter upon the request of Utah State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove regarding our serious trepidations about privacy and testing issues surrounding the implementation of “Common Core.” In it, we expressed strongly that our children would be pulled from Utah public schools unless these concerns were addressed, or in the alternative, at least acknowledge that they were “a work in progress”.

After I accepted a national television appearance, Dr. Menlove was kind enough to invite  both Mr. Flint and I into his office where the conversation started out with him sincerely asking, “What can we do to ensure that your daughter Zoey will be enrolled in a Utah public school Kindergarten?”

We described our concerns verbally, but we were asked to write down our apprehensions, as well as appropriate suggestions for changes for the Utah State Office of Education to consider implementing prior to Common Core arriving at full speed in the State of Utah.

We both spent an entire weekend drafting our 12-page letter to the Superintendent and presented an email copy to him, as well as to the entire Utah State Board of Education. Dr. Menlove was kind enough to call my home three weeks later to let me know that our concerns “were heard”, our clinic was a “wonderful asset” to the community, and he appreciated all of the hard work that we do for the children in the State of Utah.

Apparently he forwarded the letter to AIR, and AIR responded to Dr. Menlove specifically about our concerns. The original AIR letter link in response to our concerns is cited below:

http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/AIR-Letter-to-Superintendent.aspx.  The following is our joint response to the letter:

————————————————————————————–

Here is the whole letter.

—————————————————————————————

Dear Mr. Cohen:

The Utah State Office of Education was kind enough to post your rejoinder to our inquiries into possible professional practices regarding AIR on their state webpage. Both Attorney Edward D. Flint and I have reviewed your letter. We would both like to thank you in advancefor the kind tenor of your response. In our state, apparently a titanic issue with parents is whenever many of them have questioned the accuracy or efficacy of issues surrounding Common Core, they are publically branded as “right wing, conspiracy theorists wearing tin foil hats.”

We both wish to thank you for your professional tone by not dragging political or religious ideology into an issue that is purely about science, law, parental choice, and common sense. Clearly, neither Mr. Flint nor myself have ever been accused of, or confused with being “right wing nut bags.”

The vast majority of your response letter dealt with Mr. Flint’s privacy concerns. I will cut and paste Mr. Flint’s direct response in the latter parts of this letter under the section titled “Privacy Issues”.

As for the issues regarding disability and learning disorders, you devoted a grand total of exactly 74 words (compared to my to my 8 pages of written concerns) regarding issues associated with Adaptive Testing and Common Core. Here is the exact quote from your letter regarding disability issues and the Common Core:

“On a final note, Dr. Thompson expresses concern about the tests appropriately serving students with disabilities. AIR has a long history of serving students with disabilities, and we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible. In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing, which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf

Here are my professional thoughts regarding your paragraph:

1. You state that you have a “long history of serving students with disabilities.”

Yet you failed to provide a single reference or smidgen of evidence that you have designed adaptive tests/assessments for children of color, gifted children, or children with specific learning disabilities that are scientifically reliable or useful. Providing data links to pilot studies of successes you have had with these, and other groups of children with “learning quirks” in regards to adaptive testing would have been the appropriate professional response to a interested “shareholder” in your corporation. Whereas my tax money is funding this $39,000,000.00 endeavor, I indeed have the strong attitude that you work for the parents of public school children in the State of Utah. Your responses along these lines lacked intellectual rigor and were disingenuous at best.

2. You stated, “we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible.”

Where is the data from pilot studies that support your claim?  If is only accurate “as much as possible,” then certainly you are aware that certain groups of children will most likely statistically slip through the proverbial cracks with your adaptive testing design. Who are these kids? What have you done to encourage these children from avoiding potential emotional/psychological harm from opting out of this test you are designing? Your response along these lines again lack intellectual rigor and again was professionally affronting to me.

3. You stated in the paragraph, “we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing….”.

Who in UTAH is designing this new adaptive common core test?  What qualifications does this person have? I assume that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education, is not this person, whereas he does not have the training or experience to design such a complex, adaptive test for every public school child in the entire State of Utah.

If someone was found in our State to design this test, please tell me why a $39,000,000.00 check was written out to your company to design this test? Your attempt to conceptualize Utah as “design partner” is either a direct lie, or a mistake on your part. For $39,000,000.00, Utah taxpayers and parents expect a certain degree of honesty and/or accuracy from a company that is designing the most important test in the history of our state.

4. Speaking of accuracy, you referred us to link via this sentence:

“In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing,which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf. ”

The link in the letter you drafted and posted to the entire State of Utah to view as evidence of your concern for children with disabilities in Utah was THE CATALINA ISLAND CONSERVANCY.

I simply am speechless.

As far as the Washington D.C. based, non-profit special interestgroup, “Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities” is concerned, the guidelines on their webpage are bereft of any references towards specific practices regarding at risk children and adaptive testing. This may have something to do with the fact that it appears that absolutely none of their Board of Directors has any type of formal, graduate school level education or clinical training experience with children displaying disabilities in assessment settings. I could go on for days regarding my concerns about CCD, but time is a limiting factor.

In addition, you also failed to detail how AIR works specifically with CCD as such might concern the development of the pending $39,000,000.00 Utah adaptive test. How often have your test designers consulted with CDC? What specific advice did the CDC give you concerning our unique population of children? Did the CDC make your aware that Utah has the highest number of children diagnosed with Autism in the entire United States?

If so, what specific professional guidance did the CDC give to AIR in regards to designing test for children with Autism? Would you be so kind to share this information with my fellow parents in the State of Utah?

I will not rehash the vast majority of my concerns to you again. I do believe you have a copy of our last letter. In that letter I provided multiple avenues by which AIR and the Utah State Department of Education can alleviate our “paranoia” by at least considering the implementation of several transparency features into your $39,000,000.00 contract with the citizens and parents of the State of Utah.

Let me refresh your memory with a few nuggets of change to consider from our previous letter:

1. “Anyone who states that AIR does not have the capacity to input selected variables that measure “behavioral characteristics”, along with variables that measure language arts, science or math is sorely misguided. It would be relatively “easy” to design a language adaptive test that has behavioral characteristics embedded into the design of the test.”

2. “Someone, independent of AIR, MUST have access to every single item on the tests being designed in order to insure and that absolutely ZERO behavioral indicators are being measured on tests that parents in Utah believe are only measuring “reading, writing and arithmetic”.

3. “A truly independent review by three independent, Board Certified, joint Ph.D. level psychometricians and licensed clinical psychologist, of all of the test items developed by AIR to ensure that there are no line item variables that could be reasonable utilized to measure“behavioral characteristics” as such may be defined by the American Psychological Association, or Journals published by this group.”

4. Implying, as was done in the USOE Alpine Town Hall Meeting, that any disability group in the country has approved a test (that has not yet to be designed) for the valid use with these populations, is disingenuous at the very least, or a flat out, deliberate misrepresentation to the parents of Utah (and the rest of the country) at worst.

5. An “opt out option” for children with disabilities until data of validity and efficacy is published and disseminated to the public, which ensures fair and accurate measurement of academic achievement.

Your letter failed to even acknowledge reflection of these common sense suggestions and protections for our $39,000,000.00 investment with AIR.

Per se, as far as your response to our clinic’s concerns that were outlined to Superintendent Menlove, I find it to be nothing but a piece of disingenuous public relations rubbish that is affronting in its lack of clarity and references. In a nutshell, you have asked the entire State of Utah to simply “trust you.”

Perhaps you have not spent any recent time in our great state. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the vast majority of Utah citizens have become a little queasy regarding believing authority figures in politics and business regarding positions of fiduciary and moral trust. Common Core, good or bad, is undisputedly the largest experiment of academic and assessment change in the history of our country. With such a grand experiment, the word “trust” should never be uttered.

I strongly suggest that both AIR and the Utah State Office of Education step up to the plate with some real answers, as opposed to the public relations fluff that we as parents are tired of digesting. Your joint, continued efforts of quasi-deception by proxy might incite this highly intelligent, bi-partisan, independent group of Utah parents to descend 10,000 strong to have their voices heard on the steps of our Capitol. Outsiders may make fun of our dominant culture, may laugh regarding our Utah Jazz, however we draw the line where it comes to the health and safety of our children. Our children will not become your psychological and academic guinea pigs without reasonable pilot-study data, specific to our unique population of children and teenagers.

Privacy Issues:

The vast majority of your letter was in response to attorney Flint’s concerns regarding data mining and related privacy issues. The following is a direct quote from Mr. Flint that I received this morning after he reviewed your letter to Dr. Menlove:

“AIR responds to our concerns about privacy, misuse of data and the protection of the database by re-stating that their contract precludes misuse or dissemination and would violate existing laws. I think we can all agree on that, however, it completely fails to answer the questions posed.

For example, in my letter to Superintendent Menlove, I cited a number of instances where both governmental and private agencies have lost or misplaced data while transferring it via flash drive, and the numerous instances of professional hackers obtaining the most sensitive and private information from medical and other databases.

The government agencies and companies that were “victims,” were also all required by law and contract to not disclose, disseminate or negligently lose the data, and to have sufficient firewall and other protections against hackers. They failed. Miserably.

AIR is in no better position than the dedicated public servants who have utterly failed us on a regular basis. They ignore the new 21st Century realities of data-mining and the veracity of how valuable data is sought after by many organizations for many, including nefarious, purposes. AIR dangerously skips past my concerns for the numerous exemptions to obtaining parental written consent, such as “academic surveys” or the oft-repeated abuses now being reported in other states that have implemented Common Core.

Like the Utah State Office of Education, they simply say “trust us, we’re professionals.” What they really mean is “screw you, we’re in charge here.”

It appears off hand that you failed to impress a trial lawyer with 26 years of litigation experience, as well as a father of a young son with Asperger’s Disorder.

Conclusion:

The repeated refusal of education leaders in positions of trust to responsibly address privacy and testing concerns (as well as other well documented concerns regarding curriculum development) surrounding Common Core may ultimately result in potential academic and emotional harm to a significant portion of Utah’s public school children. The repeated refusal to even responsibly acknowledge the very possibility of potential harm to children in our communities borders on delusional thought processes.

The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.

In plain terms, you are experimenting with our children without our consent. Such actions are not acceptable to any parent in the State of Utah, regardless of political or religious affiliations. It’s time for some “new perspectives” to be heard in various education circles.

As such, I would deferentially request that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Ms. Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Ms. Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education resign from their respective professional and/or political duties prior to the commencement of the 2013-2014 public school academic year.

(Superintendent Menlove is new to the political jungles associated with Utah, and appears to be making an active effort in trying to wrap his head around the massive changes he inherited from Washington D.C. and his predecessor. In addition, I believe that he is a man of integrity.)

As an alternative to resignations of the above named parties, I would respectfully request that both the Utah State Office of Education, as well as the Utah State School Board, discuss and objectively educate parents via their respective official websites regarding areas of Common Core that have not been vetted in a reasonable and proper manner via pilot studies (e.g.,testing issues), as well as acknowledge that potential exists for the misuse of private “educational” data. This new transparency and intellectual honesty will result in allowing parents to make individual decisions regarding either opting out of Common Core, or making arrangements for alternative educational instruction for their respective children.

Mr. Cohen, your role at AIR will be key to ensuring that USOE honors our request for more in-depth, and objective scientific and legal transparency, as well as building bridges of trust between you and the community of citizens who are paying for your services. I think I speak for and in behalf of tens of thousands of Utah parents who believe that trust must be earned when it comes to the process and execution of educating our children. The days of signing “blank checks of trust” are done in our state…especially when such involves $39,000,000.00 and our children.

This is all very simple: Prove your claims with scientifically reliable pilot data, or in the alternative, acknowledge potential deficits in a clear and concise manner so that parents, who are the true experts of their children, can make decisions regarding their unique kids and their continued involvement (or not) in Common Core.

One size does not fit all.

Best Regards,

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

Edward D. Flint, Attorney at Law

  • Dr. Thompson can be reached for comment at drgary@earlylifepsych.com.
  • Mr. Flint can be reached for comment at specialedflint@gmail.com.

Dr. Thompson’s appearance on The Blaze t.v. show with Glenn Beck is highlighted below.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjqOBEc3HU

Report on Nebo District’s Public Meeting on Common Core Testing   Leave a comment

The Greatest Assessments in the U.S.A.

(and other such nonsense)

guest post by Alyson Williams

During the first public meeting on anything Common Core related in Nebo School District it probably should not have come as a surprise to the USOE that there might be a number of intensely inquisitive or disenfranchised parents in attendance… or that their questions might extend beyond the bells and whistles of the new testing software that was being introduced.

This is, after all, part of a broader reform that was set in motion when former Governor Huntsman and Superintendent Harrington signed a Memorandum of Agreement to participate in the National Governor Association’s Common Core State Standards Initiative in the spring of 2009.

Mr. John Jesse, the Assessment Director for the USOE must have felt like he’d been fed to the wolves… or more accurately to bears of the mama and papa variety.

Perhaps feeling caught off guard by the unusual and poorly communicated standards adoption process that required this initial agreement of participation before the standards were even written (recently re-framed by the State School Board as an “exploratory” phase minus the ability to explore), parents were understandably critical of Mr. Jesse’s emphatic claim that these tests were the “best in the United States” and that Utah was a shining example to the rest of the country of all things assessment.

“But, you said these particular assessments haven’t even been written yet, or piloted anywhere, right?” one mother clarified in an attempt to point out the glaring credibility gap of showing the timeline of implementation that is just beginning while at the same time making this emphatic claim.

There were so many questions a decision was made to have parents write their questions on a white board, to be answered at the end, in order to allow Mr. Jesse to complete his presentation (or even complete a sentence) with some coherence.

The introduction to the testing company that Utah has contracted with included the disclaimer, or justification, that a company can be involved with a variety of projects or seek certain societal outcomes that one does not agree with, but it is still okay to use their products that are unrelated.

This was likely intended to pacify or pre-empt concerns about the mission of the testing company, American Institutes of Research (AIR), to promote global values as key supporters of the Clinton Global Initiative, or with their work on issues of mental health and sexuality as applied to children.

In other words, as long as the tests themselves meet the need, it shouldn’t matter that Utah tax payers are giving $39 million to a company whose mission they would not otherwise support.

The main advantages of this software, according to Mr. Jesse, are features to accommodate special needs, i.e. hearing or vision impaired, that it is adaptive (questions each student sees are determined in real time based on previous response) and that the results are instantly available.

He also touted the optional, formative assessment capability that is basically the ability to administer both mini-tests and mini-curriculum from an open source curriculum library that has been developed by AIR and comes pre-loaded with the system. After being pressed on the issue, Mr. Jesse confirmed that student activity while using the formative system is tracked.

A number of teachers attended the meeting as well, and one had to wonder what was going through their minds as Mr. Jesse pointed out at least three times that these tests were not high-stakes tests for children but that they were high-stakes tests for teachers and for schools. (A reference to a law passed in 2012 linking teacher pay and school grading to tests.)

What might an experienced teacher’s reaction be to his explanation of how, with the help of precise statistical analysis by a computer, a teacher could really know if a student was struggling or excelling?

Is there research that substantiates the claim that student-teacher interactions are enhanced and not disrupted by certain applications of technology? This would seem an important reference to offer along with this particular assertion. So often in education assumptions that seem sound based on anecdotal observations have unexpected outcomes or unanticipated side effects.

Mr. Jesse did not touch on the aspect of the tests that might be considered the specialty of AIR, the integration of psychometric predictors – a science that requires far more scrutiny when applied to statewide assessments because of its powerful ability, in combination with statistical data mashing enhanced by the existence of interoperable State Longitudinal Data Systems, to profile individuals and assess “dispositions” without it being apparent in the questions or content of the assessment itself.

Utah Child Psychiatrist Dr. Gary T. Thompson has publicly expressed that parents and students deserve a more thorough explanation of how this science will be applied in these assessments. http://www.earlylifepsych.com/common-core-note-to-the-community/

He, along with Edward D. Flint Esq. Special Education Attorney at Law, issued the following assertion as part of a longer article addressing this topic:

“Someone, independent of AIR, MUST have access to every single item on the tests being designed in order to insure that absolutely ZERO behavioral indicators are being measured on tests that parents in Utah believe are only measuring “reading, writing and arithmetic.”

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-thompsons-letter-to-superintendent-menlove/

As the question portion of the meeting began, Mr. Jesse reiterated his focus on assessments and his inability to answer unrelated questions. He took a head count of parents who expressed concern over the broader reforms related to the Common Core State Standards with the promise to report this to the USOE along with a request that there be another forum in the future for questions to be answered on a broader range of topics.

In response to the concerns related to content and the inaccessibility of the test questions to parents, or regarding the “use of behavioral indicators” (as specified in the section of 2012’s House Bill 115 governing computer adaptive testing) Mr. Jesse said that there would be nothing objectionable in the tests and that the audience should take his word for it, challenging those present to check his references if there were any doubts about his credibility.

This ironically was the straw that, in light of the circumstances already mentioned, broke the proverbial camel’s back in terms of credibility. “Trust me,” is not a phrase that any parent in the state wants to hear from anyone involved in the implementation of any aspect of Common Core right now… nor should it be sufficient regardless of the circumstances when it comes to a parent’s right to vet any program to which their child will be subjected.

As the tone of the meeting further devolved, insults and accusations of misinformation were exchanged leading to an abrupt end to the Q&A.

Mr. Jesse was admittedly put in a tough situation, and the meeting by any account was a disaster.

An informal survey of sentiment afterward garnered reactions that ranged from disappointment over the tone of both presenter and attendees in their remarks, to surprise that the audience had not been even more insistent that answers have some verifiable basis other than the word of the person whose job it is to promote the project.

New York Parents Coach Students Not to Take Common Core Tests   5 comments

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/04/14/do-not-pick-up-the-pencil-new-york-parents-coach-kids-to-refuse-common-core-tests/?utm_source=googleplus&utm_medium=story&utm_campaign=Share%20Buttons

White House Hosts “Datapalooza” built on Common Core Tests   11 comments

Did you see the recent view that  Missouri Education Watchdog has taken on “Datapalooza” at the White House?  Most telling is a pleasant sounding speech by eScholar CEO Shawn T. Bay, given at the White House, in which he states that although aggregate data (not individual) is useful, it’s most useful to look at the individual consumer or the individual student. He says, too, that  Common Core is so important to the open data movement, because it’s “the glue that actually ties everything together.”

Common Core tests begin in 2014.  The tests are to be the vehicle for the nationwide student data collection, both academic and nonacademic.  Without Common Core, the federal and corporate invasion of privacy could not be effective.  I do not think many people, including the speaker in this video, understand the underhanded (nonconsensual) alterations to privacy law of the Department of Education.

Here is the video.  http://youtu.be/9RIgKRNzC9U?t=9m5s

At about minute nine, he explains how the data push depends on Common Core State Standards.

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