Archive for the ‘SBAC’ Tag

Missouri Common Core Test Use Altered by Restraining Order   4 comments

missouri

A judge has issued a restraining order in Missouri that says that Missouri is “restrained from making any payments in the form of membership fees to the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium… including but not limited to disbursements pursuant to “Invoice #1″ issued to the State.”  The restraining order is, at least temporarily, halting [some aspects of] Common Core SBAC tests in the state.

According to the Missouri Education Watchdog, “the Solicitor General, in arguing for the state defendant, argued that  if the fees were not paid, there would be no assessments available in Missouri schools this year at all.  This contradicts what an SBAC spokesperson said on the phone to legal counsel for the plaintiff when she said  that the membership fees are separate and distinct from the charge for using the assessments.  It also seems to contradict provisions of federal regulations that require the assessments developed by the consortia to be generally available to non-member states…  if other states were to withdraw their membership based on the same grounds, this would require a significant reorganization of the test supplier into a commercial venture as opposed to a testing consortia…  it would weaken the federal government’s requirement that states use the consortia tests in order to comply with federal regulation or waivers, because then the federal government would be granting a monopoly to a particular private company.

This ruling is a sign that the court sees some merit in the case, that SBAC may be an illegal interstate compact and thus the state’s membership in it should be null and void.

Update:  Missouri Education Watchdog has asked to make the following clarification/correction.  Here it is:

The TRO does not stop the state from implementing the SBAC test. It simply stops the state from paying any money to SBAC in the form of membership payments. The state will continue with its plans to administer the SBAC test in spring 2015, but the recently passed HB1490 prohibits the student scores from that test from being used in teacher evaluations or district accreditation determinations. They call it a “Pilot” test. The money we pay them would have to be classified as a purchase of SBAC… 

We were stuck in an odd situation where the company that serviced our previous test (we called it MAP) stopped providing that test in 2014 so continuing with that for another year while we develop new standards was not even an option. The legislature went for the easier temporary fix of allowing the state to use SBAC for our NCLB accountability while the new standards are being developed. They didn’t have the guts of KY to simply say we won’t be providing test data for a year. “

 

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

UT Associate Superintendent Park Responds to Open Letter on Student Data Privacy   4 comments

judy park

Yesterday, UT Associate Superintendent Judy Park responded to an open letter  (posted below) that I sent a week ago.  I had sent the letter to support St. George parents who want to opt children out of the standardized testing.

Ms. Park’s response was a one-sentence email message that included a link to a graphic, also posted below, under the open letter.

She did not respond to the vital issues brought up in the letter, nor did her graphic reveal, despite its little red lock-icons (labeled “secure“) –any actual laws or proper policy protections that exist to make our students’ data secure from inter-agency and vendor sharing.  No such laws, that I am aware of, yet exist in Utah.

——————————-

Here’s my letter:

Dear Associate Superintendent Judy Park,

Recently, you wrote (and were quoted in a letter sent out by a St. George charter school to the parents –a letter that aimed to prevent parents from opting children out of the Common Core testing– the following:

“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. The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

Here’s unfortunate evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.  First there is a Utah law about Common Core standardized tests. This law, HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators. It 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 academicswill 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, you are 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 assess 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 bills like Rep. Anderegg’s HB169 student data privacy bill and others like it are taken seriously, we have no proper legal protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscuous data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

—————————-

From: Park, Judy <Judy.Park@schools.utah.gov>
Date: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: Open Letter to Judy Park on Student Data Privacy Facts
To: Christel S <212christel@gmail.com>
Cc: “Allen, Dixie” <dixieleeallen@gmail.com>, “Menlove, Martell” <Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov>, Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, Constituent Services <govgoca@utah.gov>

A data document is available on the website.

http://schools.utah.gov/assessment/Testing-Director-Resources/StateLong-DataSys-5.aspx

——————-

Yep.  That one sentence is all the response that she had.

Below is what Ms. Park’s link brings up.   Click here to see it for yourself at the USOE site.

Alisa Judy 1

alisa judy 2

——————–

Notice the continued insistence that no behavioral or belief related data is collected despite the links I provided above.   Notice that the USOE states its purpose for the SLDS database is to serve schools and districts on this graphic; but in federal grant applications, federal sites and federal/corporate partnered websites, it’s stated that the SLDS exists to serve federal and “stakeholder” decision-making. Always it’s a two-step, two-faced dance.

Please know, Utahns, that while probably Ms. Judy Park is a lovely person in many ways,  she is very unfortunately and very definitely not a friend to local control.   She’s an active member of the CCSSO, which created national Common Core, and she was an Executive Committee co-chair of SBAC, the federally funded testing group which, by federal contract, mandated that states aligned with SBAC must allow federal management of testing and data.  FYI– Utah since then dropped its SBAC membership and is currently partnered with AIR, but AIR is fully partnered with federally mandated and funded SBAC.

I can also testify that if a teacher or parent asks Ms. Park a question in person, which I have, she’ll put her hand on her hip, beam an uncomfortably long-lasting smile; not answer the question, and lightly dismiss the legitimate issue of concern with: “You certainly are passionate about what you believe.  I need to move on to the next person.”

This oft-demonstrated attitude, pervasive at the USOE and USSB, is truly hurting some of the most important and best people –the students and teachers– in our beautiful state of Utah.

U.S. Secretary of Ed to News Editors: Spin It Like Duncan   12 comments

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, is angry.

How dare Americans demand freedom from nationalized testing, nationalized standards and data collection?

In yesterday’s speech to the American Society of News Editors, Duncan said:

“…This event has been an opportunity for federal leaders to talk about touchy subjects.  For example, you asked President Kennedy to talk about the Bay of Pigs.  So, thanks for having me here to talk about the Common Core State Standards.  Academic standards used to be just a subject for after-school department meetings and late-night state board sessions. But now, they’re a topic for dueling newspaper editorials. Why? That’s because a new set of standards… are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools…  And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important.”

Indeed it is.

Duncan admits: “… the federal government has nothing to do with curriculum. In fact, we’re prohibited by law from creating or mandating curricula.  So do the reporting. Ask the Common Core critics: Please identify a single lesson plan that the federal government created…Challenge them to produce evidence—because they won’t find it. It simply doesn’t exist”.

Thank you, Secretary Duncan, for pointing this out.

FEDERAL FINGERPRINTS

Federally created lesson plans don’t exist because Duncan’s department has worked so hard to get around the rules (i.e., Constitution) and to make others do the wrongs that the Department then promotes and funds.  The Department’s associates (i.e. Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Gates, David Coleman) work with Achieve, Inc., with SBAC, with PARCC, with CCSSO, with NGA and others, to collectively produce the federally-approved education “reform” agenda known as the Common Core Initiative. We know this.

But, thanks to Duncan for bringing up the term “lack of evidence.” We’ll get to that.

AUTHORITY, PLEASE

Duncan says: “The Department of Education is prohibited from creating or mandating curricula.”  YES!

Yet the Department has coerced and urged and cajoled  and bribed American educators into joining the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has funded tests upon which these standards are bases, and have mandated that the testing consortia must share student-level data with the federal government concerning Common Core tests. Just see the Cooperative Agreement for oodles of power-grabbing evidence that uses the tests as vehicles.

Duncan says there is no evidence of a federal takeover using Common Core.  Well, almost;  there is no trace of an Department of Education fingerprint on the writing of the national standards, tests and curriculum. This it correct.

But there are massive, unmistakable Department of Education fingerprints all over the promotion, marketing, funding and imposition of the standards on states. These fingerprints are everywhere.

But the Department of Education has been very careful to use other groups as smokescreens for its “reforms” while the Department oversteps its authority. It was the CCSSO/NGA that copyrighted the national standards, not the Department of Education.

It was David Coleman and his four friends who wrote the standards (with token feedback, largely ignored, from others) It was PARCC, SBAC, and AIR that created the common tests.  It was Bill Gates (who partnered with Pearson) to write the lion’s share of the American educational curriculum.  And it is the Department of Education that put a 15% cap on top of those copyrighted standards that they say are state-led.

EVIDENCE, PLEASE

Guess what? There is no evidence that Common Core will do anything it has claimed it can do does not exist— there’s no empirical data, no pilot test, no study to verify claims that the standards will improve diddledy.

We might each ask the reporters to ask for that evidence.

NOT RADICAL/ NOT CURRICULUM

Duncan says that Common Core agenda is “neither radical nor a curriculum.”

I beg to differ.

It is radical to create nationalized, (socialist-styled) testing and standards for schools in a land of liberty.

It is radical to shred the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) as the Department of Education has done, to demote “parental consent” from a privacy-protecting mandate to a “best practice” and to redefine protective terms to make them nonprotective, including “educational agency,” “directory information,” and “authorized representative.”

It is radical to carefully work around the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law’s prohibitions against federal control of education. For just one example: in the “Cooperative Agreement” between the Department of Ed and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) the federal government demands that states give conferences and phone updates, synchronicity of educational tests, triangulation of collected student-level data under the federal eye, and much more.

 

And Common Core is driving and creating a national curriculum, by encouraging governmental and corporate collusion to narrow and monopolize the educational purchases of the nation.

Duncan tries hard to persuade the American Editors Society in his speech to separate standards and curriculum, yet we all know that standards and curriculum go hand in hand –like frames shape homes, like hands shape gloves, like bones support flesh– standards direct curriculum.

As the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates, said in his speech at a 2009 Conference of State Legislatures, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point. We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the Common standards, the curriculum will line up as well…. for the first time, there will be a large, uniform base of customers.” Watch clip here.

WE’RE NOT COLLECTING STUDENT DATA

Duncan also denies the existence of any federal push to collect personal student data. He says that critics, “make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, we are not allowed to, and we won’t.”

No federal collection of student data? What a huge lie. Readers, please fact-check Secretary Duncan yourselves.

Aggregated student data has long been collected federally at the Edfacts Data Exchange. Edfacts states, “EDFacts is a U. S. Department of Education initiative to put performance data at the center of policy, management and budget decisions for all K-12 educational programs. EDFacts centralizes performance data supplied by K-12 state education agencies.” Although the information collected here is aggregated (grouped, not individualized) data, this will change because of the federal requests for more disaggregated (ungrouped, individualized) data.

Here are some federal sites you may click on to verify that the federal government is asking for more and more data points about each individual in our school systems. Click on:

Common Educational Data Standards – click on K12 student and find personally defining words like “identity,” “parent,” “incident,” “contact,” “authentication identity provider.”

National Data Collection Model – under “core entities” you will find “teacher,” “student,” “school,” “bus stop” and other identifying terms.

And Duncan is surely aware that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which helped copyright and produce the standards, has a stated commitment to disaggregation of student data.

Lastly. A simple common sense test.

If Arne Duncan were truly concerned about the quality of American schools, if he and his group cared about the education of children and not the controlling and surveillance of populations, then would they not have pushed for tested, piloted standards that would have used, for example, the sky-high standards of Massachusetts as a template, rather than circumventing all voters, circumventing academic tradition, and using this literature-diminishing, algorithm-slowing, cursive-slashing, informational text-pushing, unpiloted experiment called Common Core?

So am I suggesting that this is a diabolical scheme? YES.

Duncan himself used the term in his speech. To make fun of those of us who see it as exactly that.

He quoted columnist Michael Gerson —President Bush’s former speechwriter— who wrote that if the Common Core “is a conspiracy against limited government, it has somehow managed to recruit governors Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, current governors Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce… A plot this vast is either diabolical or imaginary.”

Diabolical is the right word.

While Duncan and his education reformers may truly believe that socialism/communism is the way to go, I do not. And if most of America does, then let’s at least vote on it.

If anyone doubts that total governmental control of schools and children, to the detriment of families, is Duncan’s direction, view Duncan’s interview on Charlie Rose, where he outlines his goals for the complete takeover of family life by schools. Schools are to be health clinics, parental education centers, are to be open six or seven days a week and twelve hours or more per day, all year round, as day and night centers of civilization.

Folks, it’s not just standards.

Not by a long shot.

Alaska Succumbs   5 comments

I used to think of Alaska as one of the hero holdouts, because that state, along with Texas, Virginia, others, once flatly rejected Common Core. I remember reading with a mixture of awe and envy, how Alaska had opted out of the standards project in June 2009.

An Alaska Dept. of Ed spokesman, Eric Fry had once explained in a Heartland.org article that “We wanted to formulate our own plan… [Alaska] “would like to be the entity that declares its own standards.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

That was then. This is now.

https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreAK

Alaska has now succumbed to the federal pressure and has officially and quite enthusiastically jumped into the nationalized education control trap.

Alaska will no longer be “the entity that declares its own standards.”

How did it happen? Well, Alaska decided to join the Common Core testing group called Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

http://education.alaska.gov/news/releases/2013/sbac_april2013.pdf

Membership in SBAC demands that Alaska obey the decisions made by other, “governing” and “lead” states of the SBAC.

Of course, there was no vote by the Alaska legislature to decide to join Common Core. It’s an underhanded business, education reform. And what does it mean?

If you read the “Cooperative Agreement” between the SBAC and the Dept. of Ed, you will learn that despite the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and GEPA law, the SBAC members have agreed to obey every whim of the Department of Education and must:

Provide updated, detailed work plans and budgets for all major activities identified in the recipient’s application, including but not limited to:
• development, quality control, use and validation of artificial intelligence for scoring;
• selection of a uniform growth model consistent with test purpose, structure, and intended uses;
• development of performance tasks (addressing items such as technical challenges of scoring, reliability, and large-scale administration of performance-based items);
• development of a research and evaluation agenda (addressing items such as validity, reliability, and fairness);
• development and delivery of the technology platform for assessment.
3) Actively participate in any meetings and telephone conferences with ED staff to discuss (a) progress of the project, (b) potential dissemination of resulting non-proprietary products and lessons learned, (c) plans for subsequent years of the project, and (d) other relevant information, including applicable technical assistance activities conducted or facilitated by ED or its designees, including periodic expert reviews, and collaboration with the other RTTA recipient.
4) Be responsive to requests from ED for information about the status of the project, project implementation and updated plans, outcomes, any problems anticipated or encountered, and future plans for the assessment system, including by providing such information in writing when requested.
5) Comply with, and where applicable coordinate with the ED staff to fulfill, the program requirements established in the RTTA Notice Inviting Applications and the conditions on the grant award, as well as to this agreement, including, but not limited to working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis…” (page 3, Cooperative Agreement.)

But citizens of Alaska are speaking out.

An Alaska economist, Dr. Barbara Haney, put together the following list of questions:

1)What elected officials were involved in the process to opt into SBAC?

1a) Upon what authority did the state of Alaska put our state’s education system under the authority of the state of Washington and the SBAC consortium? Doesn’t this violate the Alaska Constitution?

1b) Isn’t SBAC an example of an Agenda 21 style regional board? In fact, isn’t this agenda 21?

2) Isn’t it true that the real reason that SOA entered into agreement with SBAC is to get the RTTT money and the NCLB waiver? How much money exactly are we getting from RTTT? To whom will those funds be disbursed?

3)The Race to the Top grant defines College and Career read as follows:
According to the USDOE “College- and career-ready standards: Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.”
http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions
In other words, if you adopt the common core standards, you have career ready standards.

How do these new standards meet the needs of Alaska’s employers? (Specific references, specific industries, not platitudes). What career codes in Alaska’s economy are these standards keyed to? How does the SBAC test demonstrate this to Alaskan employers? How do these standards fit in with Alaska’s Manpower forecasts by AKDOL?

4) “Smarter Balanced is grounded in the notion that putting good information about student performance in the hands of teachers can have a profound impact on instruction and—as a result—on student learning.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html
Isn’t this teaching to the test?

Further, if that is so, then how will Alaska students perform well on the Common Core curriculum tests if they are not using the common core curriculum?

Isn’t this just the state’s way of bullying local districts into adopting the common core curriculum?

5) Another statement by SBAC to the State of MO in May 14, 2013 “This spring we are pilot testing the first 5,000 items and tasks we have developed with about a million students, engaging more than 5,200 schools drawn from all 21 of our governing states. The pilot test also serves as a beta test for our test delivery software. In addition to testing out our items, performance tasks, and software, the pilot test also gives us an opportunity to evaluate a variety of accessibility features for students with disabilities and English language learners.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html

Why is the state of Alaska not looking at established tests like ITBS and the ACT? Why are we using a test that doesn’t exist yet? Why are we using an experimental test?

How can SOA even argue that this is a test superior to other tests when the test hasn’t even been used anywhere?

Why was this test selected rather than ASPIRE, ITBS, or Alaska’s past NCLB test? Since that test is written for Alaska why couldn’t we continue to use it?

6) When SBAC was asked about their own cost structure on May 14, 2013 own cost structure, they stated:
“One element dominates the cost: approximately 70 percent of the vendor cost for summative assessments is tied to hand-scoring. Measuring the deeper learning required by the Common Core requires that students write extensively and much of that writing cannot yet be scored by technology. Paying teachers, faculty, and other content experts to score student responses is costly, but it is currently the only effective way to measure important elements of the Common Core.”

a) will Alaska Teachers be employed to grade Alaskan students?
b) isn’t this essentially what the original Alaska Test went to SBA testing? Didn’t we leave SBA testing due to this cost and alleged capricious nature of the grading system?
c) How then is the writing SBAC actually cheaper than the Digitcorp writing test?
Isn’t it true that SOA adopted this for the NCLB waiver and not because it is a superior test?
How does this test then become a superior instrument of evaluating student success?

7) In the area of English Language Arts (ELA), Smarter Balanced places these capabilities within its claims for both writing and for speaking and listening. In rural village schools there are some English speaking conventions are radically different from those in the roadway system. There is no way to avoid the obvious outcome that this test could discriminate against certain ethnic groups.
Has there been any effort to prepare these schools in speaking? Further, given that Hanley’s office indicates these schools will likely have a paper & pencil version of the test, how will the speaking component be evaluated?

8) SBAC funding ends Sept. 2014. In their comments to the state of MO on May 14, 2013, SBAC stated:
“At the conclusion of the federal grant, Smarter Balanced will transition to being an operational assessment system supported by its member states. The consortium does not plan to seek additional funds from the U.S. Department of Education.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html

How much will Alaska be expected to commit in the future of their funds? How does this break out on a per pupil basis (Vermont was told it would be $300 per student for the test alone). Where will this money come from?

Why did the state submit the members of the state to a new taxing authority?

Given Governor Parnell’s commitment to SB21 (now signed) and the short term revenue fall, where will the revenue come from in 2014 to pay for SBAC?

9) Pioneer Institute study on implementation show a staging acceleration in costs of SBAC. On average the costs are 4 times the amount given by the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant monies.
http://pioneerinstitute.org/education/study-estimates-cost-of-transition-to-national-education-standards-at-16-billion/

Will Borough Governments be expected to pay a share to SBAC? If so, have borough governments been informed for budgetary purposes?
How much will property taxes have to increase to meet these costs?

10) According to a CRESST study by UCLA & CA Board of Regents of SBAC and PARC dated May 2013 at http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf, page 9, second column, states
“Smarter Balanced plans to refine its specifications as it develops items and tasks, a contract for item development has been established, and item and task development are currently underway, as is a contract for specifying the test blueprint (see http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balancedassessments/ for the preliminary blueprints).

Why did the state of Alaska sign on to a test that is not yet written or tested? When there are clearly other tests available that are cheaper (by SBAC’s own admission) and comparable (according the Washington States’ OWN Washington Policy Center), why are we going with this far more expensive assessment?

11) The CRESST Report by UCLA on page 10 states, “However, collaboration may be incorporated into Smarter Balanced performance tasks, and metacognition may well be required in solving the complex, extended problems that both consortia plan as part of their performance task components.”

The use of group answers is a radical departure in Alaska State testing. How will group answers be used in scoring individual students? Will Alaska students be denied a diploma because they did not pass a group answer? Has the use of group answers been vetted in national testing norms? How will group answers be received by parents? Why does SOA DOE feel the use of group answers to be a superior measure of student performance over traditional methods of assessing individual students?

12) The CRESST Study further states on page 18 http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf
Both consortia have been optimistic about the promise of automated constructed-response and performance task scoring and have incorporated that optimism into their cost estimates for the summative assessment. Both are estimating summative testing costs at roughly $20 per student for both subject areas. In the absence of promised breakthroughs, those costs will escalate, there will be enormous demands on teachers and/or others for human scoring, and the feasibility of timely assessment results may be compromised.

(My note: Optimistic is academic way of saying full of excrement…) How will these escalating costs be met by the state of Alaska, particularly given that the full results of SB21 may not be realized?

13) Continuing on page 17: http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf the study states
“In addition to costs, extended performance tasks also offer a challenge in assuring the comparability of scores from one year to the next. Without comparable or equitable assessments from one year to the next, states’ ability to monitor trends and evaluate performance may be compromised.”

What this is saying that that this years scores cannot be compared to last years score (of course, there is no test yet either). So if there is no ability to make time series comparisons, how can you tell if a school is doing better or worse over time? This is a radical departure from past assessments used by SOA where there has been some degree of comparability over time. How can a school then look at last years results and this years results to measure improvement?

14) Continuing on page 19 of the CRESST Study http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf states specifically that SBAC is going against the grain of deeper learning assessments in their methodology.

“For example, Smarter Balanced content specifications include a relatively large number of assessment targets for each grade—on average 29 targets in mathematics and 35 targets in ELA. The claims, in contrast, reflect a reasonable number of major learning goals and represent the broad competencies that students need for college and career readiness. History suggests that focusing on discrete, individual standards is not the way to develop deeper learning, yet this is the strategy that states, districts, schools, and teachers have typically followed.”

Why is the State of Alaska then using an assessment of “deeper learning” that is designed in a way that history has shown will not reflect that deeper learning? Further, how will the curriculum used in schools reflect the acquisition of this deeper learning?

15) The CRESST Study on page 19 states, “Smarter Balanced has been very transparent in posting all of its plans and the results of its contracts. Yet, because its computer adaptive testing approach essentially individualizes test items to every student, it may be difficult to ascertain how well deeper learning is represented for every student or overall. The test blueprint will provide rules for item selection and presumably, those rules will include those for representing higher levels of depth of knowledge, but this is yet to be seen.”

If test questions are not the same for each student, then how can results be compared across students? Further, since the adaptive technology for the test does not yet exist, why is the state investing in it? Doesn’t this represent a radical departure from the traditional type of test given in SOA? Why does the state want to engage in this experimental test over other proven testing methods?

16) Many of the state’s schools do not have the equipment to offer this test on line. Who will be paying the cost of upgrading the school computer lines? Software? Computers? The purchase of additional computers?

In sum….
The test hasn’t been field tested, validated, or normed. The test will not offer a result that is comparable from one year to a next for a given institution. The adaptive technology isn’t available yet. Many of the districts in Alaska do not have the technology to offer this test. The Consortium is out of money in Sept. 2014.The test is using a strategy that has been shown to reflect the sort of knowledge it claims to test (deeper learning). The $20.00 per test estimate is considered overly optimistic and costs are expected to escalate. In contrast, there are instruments that have been validated that have a certain cost. Further, as the study states on page 18 “… while built-in accommodations may be easier to accomplish, there will still be the validity challenge of establishing the comparability of accommodated and non-accommodated versions of the test.”

17) Further, if the state is not using the Core Curriculum, then why are we using an assessment that reflects the core curriculum?

Great questions. Thank you, Dr. Haney.

Good luck, Alaska.

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform: #6 – Linda Darling-Hammond   32 comments

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform

 Linda Darling-Hammond

Countdown # 6

This is the fourth in a countdown series of introductions, a list of the top ten scariest people leading education in America.

  For number 7 ,  number 8number 9 and number 10,  click here.

Don’t be fooled by her sweet-baby face.  Linda Darling-Hammond stands for one thing:  forced national redistribution of wealth.

Yes, really.

And does Darling-Hammond wear  powerful hats!   A pillar of the Common Core movement, she’s been helping run closed-door meetings of the standards since before they were created, as a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Advisory Group since 2006.  She also leads (or plays key advisory roles) in all top educational bureaucracies, both governmental and corporate, including The Obama Administration, the National Governors’ Association, the  Common Core testing consortiaCSCOPE, WestEd, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Educational Research Association, the National Academy of Education and many more.  She is a hero to communist reformer Bill Ayers. Why?  And what is she likely saying behind the closed doors?

Try this on for an explanation:  it’s a speech she gave last summer at a UNESCO conference in Paris.

In the speech, Darling-Hammond says that “we allow this extraordinary inequality” in America which may cause us to “innovate our way to failure.”  She shows a chart entitled “The Anatomy of Inequality” (see minutes 15:06- 16:00) that explains that taking away money from the areas of richer kids’ schools is a good idea (she mentions rich schools having too many swimming pools).

In her book, “A Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity will Determine our Future,” she further explains why pushing for equity (communism) will solve the problems of education.  The book illustrates poverty’s effect on education (tell us something we didn’t know) and she comes to the false conclusion that a governmentally forced attempt at financial equity (redistribution) can create better education.  She doesn’t mention how this is to happen without harming individual liberty and without punishing the kids in financially stable schools.

Her ideas are being absolutely shoved down the throats of state school boards and legislators nationally.

And she is dead set on Common Core being the means to these ends.  Always has been.  She knew that others on the Common Core validation committee refused to sign off that the standards were legitimate; she was aware that common core would be an experiment on millions, implemented without any empirical data supporting its superiority claims. She not only supported this baseless decision making and the copyrighting and implementation of the common standards –but she’s now helping to write the common tests!

She provides professional development for CSCOPE teachers. (CSCOPE is the extremely controversial, secretive curriculum that parents cannot access, which now used in Texas schools.)

Darling-Hammond and her ideas are mentioned 52 times in the EEC report  For Each and Every Child, a “strategy for equity report” that she co-wrote.  In the words of Congressman Honda, another EEC member, it’s a “bold new vision on the federal role in education”  that wants to see “transformations in school funding.”

What does it mean that Darling-Hammond headed Obama’s  education policy team and is a member of Obama’s Equity and Excellence Commission (EEC)? What is she aiming to do for him?

Take a look at the EEC’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign.  Included in the “opportunity” is also the cessation of any semblance of liberty.  Dropping out is not an option; you can’t get suspended or expelled from school no matter how hard you try.  The EEC calls this “positive discipline.”  Also included in the “Opportunity to Learn Campaign” are “wraparound supports” such as extended learning time which might sound good until you realize that we’re moving away from a family-centered to a school-centered way of life that pushes parents to the periphery of children’s lives.

To translate:  Linda Darling-Hammond pushes for communism in the name of social justice, for a prison-like view of schooling in the name of extended opportunity, and for an increased federal role in education in the name of fairness.  She gets away with it because she comes across as sweetly compassionate.

But she scares me.   And people who listen to her scare me too.

To Honor, Uphold and Sustain the Law… Even When You Think You Have a Really Good Reason To Do Otherwise   1 comment

Utah Board of Education Chair

Debra Roberts

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Thanks to Alyson Williams for this explanation of how our state board of education abdicated local autonomy.

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TO HONOR, UPHOLD AND SUSTAIN THE LAW
… even when you think you have a really good reason to do otherwise

by Alyson Williams
February 5, 2013

Board members insist that these standards are better… They also insist that there are benefits to having the same standards across states. They use these assertions as the justification for their acting outside their authority.

The Utah Constitution and related statutes establish the Utah State Board of Education and assign them authority to set standards for Utah students. Members of the State Board of Education are appointed or elected from a narrowed field of candidates to represent the citizens of Utah.

In adopting the Common Core State Standards it appears that the Utah State Board of Education abdicated their control over standards to unelected bodies* outside the jurisdiction of the State or Federal government, and usurped the role of parents or citizens to monitor or give feedback to the process.

This is not how standards have been established in our state before.

The authority to do it this way can’t have been implied or hidden in their legal commission, because this is a newly invented process. This is a creative path to national standards through private brokers who are not constrained by federal laws that would prevent the Federal Government from doing the same thing.

Abdicating authority (whether voluntary or motivated by federal or financial considerations) is not an option established under the constitutional commission given to the State Board of Education. Any right not specifically given to the Board by law is a right that is retained by the people.

The people of Utah did not vote directly, or indirectly through the representative voice of the legislature, to transfer the standards-setting authority to another body.

Board members claim to have retained control by representing the citizens of Utah during the standards writing process. Again, this was not their commission. Furthermore, the Board can point to no specific input or influence they had on the final, copyrighted, standards. In light of the fact that 46 other states were also involved, and they had zero input on who was hired to write the standards, any influence real or imagined would have been highly diluted.

There is broad disagreement on the quality of the standards. The term “scientifically-based” seems to have been re-defined to mean the opinions of few “experts” rather than peer-reviewed research. The wording of certain standards doesn’t just specify what the student should know, but how they should be able to demonstrate that knowledge which in some cases requires or favors specific, controversial methods of teaching.

Still, board members insist that these standards are better than Utah’s previous standards. They also insist that there are benefits to having the same standards across states. They use these assertions as the justification for their acting outside their authority.

Even if they were the best standards ever, or if the arguments for homogeny outweighed the real challenges of aligning demographically and financially diverse states, the end does not justify the means.

Despite a well-documented timeline and recorded statements that would suggest a correlation between the adoption of the standards and federal incentives in the form of Race to the Top grant money and a waiver from No Child Left Behind, the Board insists that Common Core does not represent a Federal overreach in violation of the 10th Ammendment and several other federal laws.

Finally, the Common Core State Standards do not represent the competing opinions of a diverse group of education experts. The writers were a group of like-minded education reformers. The writing, evaluation and promotion of the standards was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. While the State Board of Education can assert that they themselves were not influenced by the special interests of those funding the process, they cannot claim that the standards themselves were not wholly influenced by the education reform ideals of the funders.

It is a violation of trust that our elected officials would be complicit in a re-organization of the standards setting process that favors well-funded outside interests over the voice of the people.

* Unelected bodies include :

–the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

— the National Governors’ Association (NGA)

— the Department of Education (USDE)

–the 2 testing consortia: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and

–Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC)

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