Archive for the ‘testing’ Tag

Update: High-Stakes Testing Pushback News   Leave a comment

 tes

Once again, we are indebted to Colorado Principal Bob Schaeffer who has collected this list of national news articles about pushback concerning high-stakes tests in the U.S.

Before I post the list of news articles, I want to share a concern recently raised by Utah Dr. Gary Thompson: that perhaps the heated, national testing pushback could result in public acceptance of another nascent trend called stealth assessments. What do you think?  Stealth Assessments are tests that are so deeply embedded into the curriculum and into video-game-based assignments that students do not suffer from test anxiety, not knowing they are being tested; but parents cannot easily opt children out of the tests; and in fact, teachers may be unaware that any testing/data mining is going on during stealth assessment. The tests blur the lines between assessment and curriculum. Is that to be the solution to all the test trouble?  Which is worse? View Dr. Thompson’s full lecture on SAGE testing (Utah’s Common Core testing) here.  See minute 35 for information on stealth assessments.

Now, here is the testing pushback news list:

2015 Will Be “Crunch Time” for New Common Core Assessments
http://www.districtadministration.com/article/outlook-assessments-crunch-time-common-core

Republican U.S. Senate Aides Drafting Bill to Overhaul “No Child” Law; May Eliminate Annual Testing Rule
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2014/12/gop_senate_aides_working_on_dr.html

Los Angeles Superintendent Seeks Suspension of California’s Test-Based School Rating System
http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2014/12/15/17683/lausd-superintendent-seeks-state-testing-relief/

Annual Testing Not Beneficial to Colorado Parents, Teachers Says New Survey
http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101987812292-130/DAPE+survey+money+results+pdf+executive+summary.pdf
Opt-Outs Reduce Colorado’s 12th Grade Test Participation Rate to 83%
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/12/10/cde-participation-rate-only-83-percent-for-12th-grade-tests/#.VIihrC7vcZw

Is This the “Mean Season” for Educating Connecticut Children
http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-is-this-the-mean-season-for-educating-our-children/

Delaware’s Test-Data Fetishism Doesn’t Work
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/12/13/education-departments-solution-work/20331407/#.

Backlash Against Testing Overkill Finds Home in Florida, Where It All Began
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/testing/national-backlash-against-school-testing-finds-an-audience-in-florida/2209931

 

More Florida Families Opting Out of Standardized Exams
http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/more-and-more-parents-opting-out-standardized-test/njRTd/
Many Florida Teachers Resign Over Common Core Testing Demands
http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/osceola-co-teachers-resigning-en-masse-over-common/njPXY/?nmredir=true

Idaho Board of Ed Appoints Parent, Teacher, Community Committee to Review Test Items for Bias
http://magicvalley.com/news/local/state-committee-to-review-standardized-test-questions/article_325c5da6-6c21-534f-8cb8-407d86f06e2b.html

Chicago Mayoral Candidate Wants to Slash Illinois’ School Testing Requirements
http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/garcia-unveils-education-plan-vows-cut-back-testing/thu-12112014-345pm

Indiana Education Dean: Test-Based Teacher Measures Are Not Fair
http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/12/09/indiana-education-dean-teacher-measures-arent-fair/#.VIhcfy7vcZw

PARCC Test Creates New Hurdle for Maryland English Language Learners
http://news.wypr.org/post/new-state-standardized-tests-pose-unique-challenges-new-english-speakers
The Rising Tide of Maryland Opt Outs
http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/education/the-rising-tide-of-opting-out/article_f4d38eeb-83f8-5703-baa6-bd7692ac726f.html

Michigan Test Changes Frustrate Educators
http://www.cadillacnews.com/news_story/?story_id=1823394&year=2014&issue=20141213

New Jersey Parents: Students Take Too Many Standardized Exams
http://www.app.com/story/news/education/in-our-schools/2014/12/09/marlboro-tests/20136527/

New Mexico Teachers Think Online PARCC Test Will Confuse Students
http://www.abqjournal.com/512077

North Carolina Parents Worry About Schools Testing Too Much
http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/12/13/buncombe-parents-worry-schools-testing-much/20381487/

Growing Support Across Ohio to Limit High-Stakes Tests
http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/growing-support-limit-highstakes-tests-schools-21949.shtml

Telling the Truth About Oklahoma Standardized Testing
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/you-just-heard-it-we-must_b_6319886.html

Philadelphia City Council Resolution on Pennsylvania State Testing — as Adopted
http://www.workingeducators.org/call_city_council_support_the_standardized_testing_resolution
Impact of Philadelphia City Council Resolution on Opt-Outs and State Ratings
http://thenotebook.org/blog/148033/effect-student-opt-outs-schools

Tennessee Gov. Proposes Temporary Roll Back in Student-Test Weight in Teacher Evaluations
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2014/12/push_to_reduce_test_scores_weight_in_evaluations_announced_by_tenn_governor.html

Texas Advocates for Meaningful Student Assessment Posts Reform Agenda
http://www.tamsatx.org/

What Arne Duncan Says vs What Arne Duncan Does
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/12/10/what-arne-duncan-says-vs-what-arne-duncan-does/

Duncan Brings the Sham of VAM to Teacher Evaluation
http://www.livingindialogue.com/duncan-brings-sham-vam-teacher-education/

School “Reform” Flunks the Test
https://theamericanscholar.org/school-reform-fails-the-test/

Thirty Years of Failed “Accountability” Policies
http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/2014-ncuea-fall-conference-thirty-years-of-accountability-deserves-an-f/

What (Besides Tests) Should Count?
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/2014/12/paul_tough_on_what_besides_tests_should_count.html

Who Is Really Failing Students
http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/whos-really-failing-students/

Season of Protest: Interview with Jesse Hagopian
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-berkshire/high-stakes-testing-protests_b_6295622.html

Bad Ass Teachers Call on Sec. Duncan to Investigate Civil Rights Abuses From Testing
http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2014/12/bats-send-open-letter-to-secretary.html

The Testing Camera: A Cartoon Allegory
http://fablevisionlearning.com/blog/2014/12/the-testing-camera/

United Opt Out National Conference — Jan. 1618, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale
http://unitedoptout.com/2014/11/30/united-opt-out-stand-up-for-action-florida-schedule/

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Has Your School Adopted All-Year-Round Common Core Testing?   10 comments

mtville

 

One of the reasons that our family moved from Wasatch County to Utah County last month was to be closer to the school in Alpine (Utah County) that my son is attending this year. The 50-mile (times two) daily commute was worth it.

Filled with uniformed students and happy-looking staff, Mountainville Academy’s a cheerful, academically-focused K-9 school that displays the Covey Seven Habits of Highly Effective People posters all over the school (and incorporates the 7 habits into classwork.)  Parents each volunteer 40 or more hours of service to the school, and it shows.

We chose Mountainville Academy because it was one of the few remaining public schools that was using time-tested, excellent Saxon Math (2007 version; pre-Common Core), and it was a rare school where students were grouped by achievement level rather than by age, at least for math.  This meant that a sixth grader would often be found in an eighth grade math class, or vice versa, placed not by government tests, but by a “results-remained-in-the-school” performance test.

Also, despite the government  mandate that the school administer end-of-year Common Core SAGE/AIR tests, the school had been gracious with parents who chose to opt students out of those end of year tests.

This school year had been good, so far.

But last night, I received a school email that has resulted in our family’s decision that our son will not attend Mountainville next year.  I was so sad.  I truly felt sold out, as Alyson Williams described it, because this board could not claim ignorance.  I had met with them, presented to them, emailed them, shown them links and documentation and countless reasons why this decision would harm the students and the school.

The email, from the school’s academic excellence committee, stated that despite the two presentations I made, and despite other parents also speaking out, the school will abandon “results-remain-in-the-school” performance testing, to adopt year-round, formative SAGE/Common Core testing.

This, the email said, was in the best interests of the children.

I was sickened by the email’s news, but also confused– how can anyone, having received the amount of information and documentation that I presented and emailed to the board and the committee about SAGE/AIR, still say with seriousness that this decision was “in the best interests of the children”?

I don’t get it.

But I’m going to post the email that I gave to the board, which the board had requested from me as a follow-up to my five or ten minute oral presentation.  I’m also going to post the email I received last night.

So, is this an epic ruination of a great, formerly-parent-led school, or was this decision made truly “in the best interests of the children”?  The school  has been altered to its very center.  The school-altering decision was made without taking a vote from parents, without even announcing in the weekly “Mountainville Minute” that the school will now be very, very different.

It will be administering Common Core testing throughout the year, and on purpose, voluntarily, rather than only administering the state-mandated end of year SAGE/AIR test.   It will  necessarily align its teachings more and more to the federal desires for what college-and-career readiness is, because placing students in different levels of learning will be structured all year long now upon common core testing and teaching.

I can’t see any way that this course of action can take place and still keep classic education, Saxon math for example, at the school for long.  Because formative tests are utterly Common Core and David-Coleman-club  aligned, to get the state version of “excellent” scores on these tests, teachers will be pressured to teach more Common Core and less classic Saxon.  The formative tests will form student’s paths and teacher’s definitions of what education now means, and that’s giving up the reins of power, reins that had made this school so unique and wonderful.

Beyond the academic transformation is something probably even more serious:  student data privacy.  Privacy for Mountainville students is thrown out the window, because individuals and schools were the only defense we had against the federal-corporate partnership that is aiming to rape the nation of its student privacy.

The state government won’t protect us if Mountainville’s board won’t; the state’s SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System) tracks children without parental consent or knowledge and gives much of it to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange and to the corporate American Institutes for Research, which is then free to share that data with its countless affiliates, including Data Recognition Corporation and Smarter Balanced Advisory Consortium (SBAC) which happens to be under contract to share its student level data with the federal government.  American Institutes for Research, the primary data collector of Utah’s SAGE tests, is a behavioral research organization focused on psychometric data collection and behavior.

All of this is known to Mountainville’s Board of Trustees, and with full knowledge, the Board has decided to still jump on the year-round SAGE testing bandwagon.  Neither preserving a classical education nor student data privacy apparently matters too much to the Mountainville Board.

But it does to me.

My heart goes out to the students and their families who will remain at Mountainville, most likely oblivious to the fact that the school’s educational program and their student’s academic and behavioral data privacy  just took a very sharp nose dive down.

 

Here are the emails.

——————————————–

On Oct 13, 2014, at 2:12 PM, Christel wrote:

 

Dear Mountainville Academy,

 

I’m following up from last week’s school board meeting with a summary of my concerns underlying my request that Mountainville Academy continue to use the in-house testing system that’s worked so well in past years, rather than switching over to the state’s SAGE/AIR formative testing system.

 

(I began to study education reforms two and a half years ago and have researched, summarized and posted findings at  “Common Core: Education Without Representation” where I hope you will read much more than I can summarize here about student data privacy,  the common core experimental standards, and the unconstitutionality and freedom-sapping of recent education reforms.)

 

The reason my sixth grade son’s commuted 50 miles– from Heber to Alpine– and back, each day this school year (up until this week when our family moved from Heber to Pleasant Grove) is that Mountainville is very different in important, crucial ways, from other public schools.  I love those differences and want them to remain in place.

 

  • The use of time-tested Saxon math rather than the kind of experimental Common Core math that’s being taught elsewhere was reason #1 for our choosing Mountainville.
  • Reason #2 was the in-house testing that places children where they need to be, rather than placing them in a common pace that does not serve individual needs as well; the fact that these in-house test results remained only at Mountainville, rather than being submitted to state or federal entities— as government-mandated school tests are– was a big deal to me.

 

If Mountainville switches to SAGE/AIR formative testing, I predict that many parents, like me, will very sadly decide to leave the school.  Here’s why:

 

  1. LOCAL CONTROL:   American Institutes for Research (AIR), the company that writes Utah’s SAGE tests (along with some limited Utah educator input), represents a lack of local control and freedom to me. AIR is federally approved and  is officially partnered with the federally funded and micromananged SBAC, Utah’s former Common Core test maker.  AIR/SAGE partnership makes Utah indirectly   partnered with the federal government via that SBAC partnership.  AIR has a progressive, left-leaning agenda, a focus on psychometric rather than academic testing, and a set of values that do not match mine. I do not trust that the questions will be values-neutral nor that the questions will not push children toward pre-determined beliefs that go far beyond traditional academic facts or even critical thinking about traditional truth.  I feel this way about AIR based on carefully studying AIR’s own website, mission statement, clients, staff, secretive questions, history; vague responses by the USOE and state leaders in response to parental concerns; the research of Alpine School Board members, and the actual contract between AIR and Utah.

 

  1. PARENTAL KNOWLEDGE:  Neither Mountainville parents nor teachers are ever allowed to view SAGE tests– not even months after the testing has happened.

 

  1. PRIVACY:  Privacy will go out the window.  What is reported about students by Mountainville to the state, federal and corporate research entities will go from a tiny trickle to a fast-flowing river of data.  Formerly, Mountainville performance tests remained at the school level.  Now, the state of Utah would be tracking and collecting all in-house formative information on each child, without parental knowledge or consent.  While parents can opt out of end of year SAGE tests, they cannot opt out of year -round formative tests while remaining at this school.

 

  1. FEEDING THE SLDS:  Because the legislature has not clearly defined, as far as I can tell, who owns individual student data in our state, the state is making what I feel is  the wrong assumption –that it owns or is entitled to student data.  Common sense says that the student and his/her family should own his/her data.   Because it’s not clear in current law, our children are unprotected.  This is evidenced by the existence of the state longitudinal database system (SLDS) which follows and tracks students without parental knowledge or consent, from the moment a parent registers a child for school (unless it’s private school) until the child is in the workforce.  The SLDS system was created to federal specifications, with federal interoperability rules, using $9.6 million federal dollars to build Utah’s SLDS.  Every other state also has a federally paid for SLDS.  Much student data is shared from the SLDS to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange.  Because we do not know exactly what data is shared from Utah to the federal government, we are wise to not feed Utah’s SLDS any more data that we are absolutely required to by state law; i.e., don’t drop our in-house testing and use the state’s SAGE/AIR system.

 

  1. FEEDING THE NDCM DATA POINTS:  There is a National Data Collection Model at the federal level  which requests– it does not mandate, but it requests— over 400 data points about every student in our state. It is an invasion of student and family privacy, yet at the state level, Utah is increasingly conforming to the NDCM requests using its P-20 system promoted in Governor Herbert’s Prosperity 2020 program. I do not see any benefit or need to cooperate with these unethical requests.

 

  1. FERPA WAS SHREDDED: We are not protected by formerly protective federal privacy law, FERPA.  The Department of Education went behind Congress’ back to make regulatory, policy changes (not laws, but still binding).  These changes included reducing the requirement to get parental consent (before viewing/sharing student data) to a “best practice” rather than a mandate. The changes also included redefining personally identifiable information (pii) as biometric information. That means that behavioral data (the type of data AIR specializes in collecting) and biological data can be used to identify students at the federal level.  The Federal Register lists fingerprints, blood type, handwriting samples, DNA and many other methods of identifying pii of a student..  We have to ask ourselves whether a vast data-collection archive or student privacy is of greater value to our children.  We cannot have control of both.

 

  1. DON’T PASS THE BUCK ON PROTECTING CHILDREN:   In my experience I have found that most Utah legislators, state school board members and even our governor’s staff do not know nor work to understand these things..  They have not taken the time to understand recent education reform changes, or they see them as a positive thing.

 

We cannot depend on others to protect our children.  We need to be the first line of defense as parents, teachers and local school board members.  I ask you to retain Mountainville’s in-house tests, keep the strengths of Mountainville, and reject the opportunity to use Utah’s SAGE/AIR year-round testing system.

 

Thank you.

 

Christel Swasey

Mountainville Academy Parent

(also a Utah credentialed teacher)

————————————————————————–

Date: Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Re: Request to continue with in-house testing rather than
formative SAGE testing


Christel,

I just wanted to let you know the status of our SAGE testing decisions.


At Mountainville Academy, we make every decision based on what is best for our students.  After listening to all sides with concerns about SAGE testing, we as an academic excellence committee has decided to go ahead with the interim SAGE testing.  We feel that it will help students learn and prepare for SAGE testing in the spring.  As you know, spring SAGE testing is mandatory and schools are not allowed to opt out of testing.


After reviewing the results from SAGE testing of spring 2014, we recognize the many challenges that come with a new test, but are excited by the tools created to help our students achieve greater understanding of various topics.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.  I completely understand your concerns and we will continue to monitor the testing and SAGE program.  Thanks for coming to our board and committee meeting.

Thanks Again!


Board of Trustees
Mountainville Academy

—————————————————————————

(For those with concerns,  look into schools that are not yet taking the path of Common Core year-round testing.  In Utah County there’s the (fully aware of the Common Core problem) Maesar Prep (a public chartered jr. and high school), American Heritage (private K-12), Timpanogos (public elementary charter) or one of the many home school co-op academies nearby.)

Alan Singer on Pearson Ed: Why Pearson Tests Our Kids   2 comments

Note to Utahns: Utah children are being tested by AIR, not by Pearson.  So why post this article?

  It’s no secret that Utah, as well as the federal government, has heavily invested in Pearson/Microsoft‘s philosophy and product.  Pearson leads out in all Common Core implementation and student-data gathering products nationwide, including here in Utah (except for the SAGE/AIR test itself).  

Alan Singer’s article adds to the growing argument against Pearson, period.  My hope is that both Pearson’s products and its “one-global-governance-system” philosophy will be vigorously rejected and that Pearson will not  receive one more penny of the countless Utah tax dollars it has already claimed, both via curriculum sales and via its creepy database building for our state’s school system.  

Why Pearson Tests Our Kids

by Alan Singer,  Hofstra University

 (Posted with permission from the author and also published here)

 

Pearson invited me to breakfast. Well not just me. I received an email inviting Long Island educators to a free “Breakfast Briefing” promoting “Pearson Personalized Learning” that would empower me to “Turn your traditional student learning into Student-Centered learning by delivering the right curriculum to the right student, at the right time.” I checked out Pearson’s personal learning products online and then decided that the free breakfast and the opportunity to annoy them was not worth the trip.

 

Pearson is promoting GradPoint, “an easy to use web based solution for grades 6-12” that “includes over 180 rigorous courses (Core, Electives, AP and Foreign Language & CTE).;” iLit, “a tablet-based reading intervention for students in grades 4-10” which promises “it has everything your class needs to gain two years of reading growth in a single year;” and aimsweb, “the leading assessment and RTI solution in school today-a complete web-based solution for universal screening, progress monitoring, and data management for Grades K-12.”

 

I thought calling their literacy program iLit was pretty funny, but otherwise I find their promotion scary. “Pearson Personalized Learning” is not about supporting schools; it is about replacing them. And it is about replacing them without any evidence that their products work or any concern for the impact of their products on schools and student learning.

 

Pearson executives Sir Michael Barber, Saad Rizvi and John Fallon call their global market strategy “The Incomplete Guide To Delivering Learning Outcomes.” Fallon, Pearson CEO, has been with the company for most of his professional career. He is behind the push for “efficacy,” the corporate buzzword, which in practical terms translates into the constant assessing of student performance who are using Pearson products. The testing strategy tied into common core in the United States is neither an accident nor an accessory. Testing is the core of common core.

 

I find Barber and Rizvi even more interesting than Fallon for understanding Pearson’s marketing strategies. Barber is Pearson’s chief education strategist and leads its three-pronged assault on education around the world through what Pearson calls efficacy, affordable learning, and the Pearson Knowledge and Research Centre. Efficacy is supposed to be about what works in education based on research done at the research centre, but everything is actually organized around the Pearson goal of “finding business models for affordable schools” that they will be selling, especially in “developing areas of the world.”

 

If you want to know how Pearson plans to operate, you have to look at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm and advisor to some of the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. Before joining Pearson, Michael Barber had a similar role at McKinsey where he was a partner. Saad Rizvi, who is Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Efficacy and head of its Catalyst for Education team, was a consultant at McKinsey. McKinsey & Company’s clients include 100 of the top 150 companies in the world. It has advised the Bank of England, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and the German government.

 

The main job of McKinsey is to help companies maintain profitability by closing subsidies, selling assets, shifting production, and laying off workers. McKinsey has had its share of mishaps. Former employees include Jeff Skilling, the disgraced chief executive of Enron and Rajat K. Gupta, who was convicted of insider trading. Other disasters include advising Time Warner on its ill-fated merger with AOL, advising General Motors on how to compete with Japanese automakers, and advising AT&T not to be concerned about cellphones. A top McKinsey partner dismissed these failures saying “We are advisers, and it is management’s job to take all the advice they receive and make their own decisions. Not to say that McKinsey told me to do this.”

I think a fair question to ask is, do we want the business model that led to the Eron scam and these other corporate disasters employed in operating American schools and McKinsey’s no-fault attitude toward advising local, state, and federal governments on educational policy?

 

Pearson’s Affordable Learning division currently focuses on emerging markets in Africa and India, but it is the model for Pearson business worldwide. It includes eAdvance (South Africa), which sponsors a blended learning chain called Spark Schools; Omega, a chain of thirty-eight private schools in Ghana; Bridge International Academies in Kenya; and Zaya, an educational technology and service company contracted to operate twenty-seven schools; Suiksha, a chain of pre-schools; Experifun, which markets science learning products; Avanti, after-school test prep; and Village Capital (Edupreneurs) promoting private education start-up companies, all based in India. The blurb for eAdvance’s Spark Schools give some sense of what Pearson is trying to do in Africa, India and worldwide – under price the market to disrupt existing educational institutions so Pearson companies can move in, take over, and gobble up profits.

 

“SPARK Schools has bold aspirations to disrupt the South African education system through introducing an innovative learning methodology to the African continent. In the SPARK Schools model, students split their time between digital content that adapts in difficulty to their learning and classroom interaction based on best practice pedagogy. Importantly, the blended model also allows eAdvance to deliver high quality education at an affordable price.” It will “build eight low-cost blended learning schools over the next three years, and more than 60 in the next ten.”

Pearson is also using mergers to expand its markets and influence. In December 2013, Pearson agreed to purchase Grupo Multi, an English-language training company in Brazil, to accelerate growth in Latin America.

 

Pearson uses the desperation of Third World countries to modernize to get its foot in the door and to act without regulation or oversight. Up until now, about sixty percentof Pearson’s sales were in the United States, however expansion stalled in this country because of lower freshman enrollments in U.S. colleges and a slowdown in textbook markets. Sales also suffered in Great Britain because of curriculum changes and the company spent about $200 million organizing its push into foreign digital markets.

 

As a result of these issues, Moody’s Investors Service, a ratings agency, lowered its evaluation of Pearson from stable to negative. “We are changing the outlook to negative as Pearson’s debt protection metrics for fiscal year 2013 are likely to weaken considerably,” says According to Gunjan Dixit, a Moody’s Assistant Vice President-Analyst, “This view reflects Pearson’s tough trading conditions, particularly in North America and the UK; the greater-than-originally-anticipated spending on restructuring; and certain start-up costs for new contracts in higher education and increased provisions for returns.” According to Moody’s, key challenges for Pearson in the future include (1) the fiscal health of U.S. states and international government funding bodies, in its schools and higher education businesses; (2) difficult market conditions in the U.S. education market; (3) the vulnerability of its Financial Times group; and (4) the accelerating transition of trade book publishing to electronic formats. Pearson stockholders were so disappointed in the company’s financial performance that in April 2014, shareholders protested against excessive executive bonuses.

 

In the United States, Pearson faces other problems that may be related to over expansion, the inability to deliver what was promised, and possible under the table agreements on contracts. In Florida, state officials blamed Pearson Education when at least a dozen Florida school districts were forced to suspend online testing this April because students had trouble signing in for the test. for the situation. Other problems included slowness when students tried to download test questions or submit answers and an inexplicable warning message that students should notify their teacher or proctor about a problem that did not exist. “State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart complained to Pearson that the “failure is inexcusable. Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”

 

Pearson blamed the test problems on a third-party hosting service provider. However, in recent years Pearson has had similar problems with computerized tests in Florida before as well as in other states. In 2011, Wyoming fined Pearson $5.1 million because of software problems and then switched back to paper tests. In April, Pearson was also forced to acknowledge and apologize for “intermittent disruptions to some of our online testing services.” This time they blamed a different sub-contractor.

 

In the meantime, the American Institutes for Research is challenging the awarding of a lucrative common core test development contract to Pearson. While the complaint is being brought in New Mexico, it has national ramification. The contract is for developing test-items, test delivery, reporting results, and analysis of student performance for states that are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two main consortia designing tests linked to the common-core standards. The plaintiff claims the process for awarding the contract was designed to specifically benefit Pearson, which ended up being the only bidder, and was therefore illegal.

 

In New York State, parents and teachers are outraged because teachers and building administrators are forced to sign statements promising not to discuss or release questions about new Pearson “Common Core” aligned high-stakes tests. In the past, questions from past state high school “Regents” exams were posted on the State Education website. Now Pearson, which is paid $32 million by New York State to create the tests is demanding a payment of an additional $8 million to permit the state to post the questions.

 

 

In New Zealand, a group called Save Our Schools NZ is protesting the misuse of PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) tests and rankings by national education departments. They charge “Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition.” Pearson holds the contract to prepare PISA assessments starting in 2015.

 

For all its claims about efficacy, Pearson is not a very efficient company. For all its claims about valuing education, the only thing Pearson appears to value is profit.

 

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549

Conspiracy Fact: Obama Budget to Cement Common Core   4 comments

Conspiracy theory: not.  This is conspiracy fact.

It’s become impossible to ignore the Constitutionally illegal federal takeover of education that uses federal grants, corporate partnerships with federal agencies, and now, the federal budget, to wrench power away from “we the people.”  They are successfully moving the levers of control from us to these non-transparent, unaccountable-to-voters, closed-door organizations which are officially partnered with the federal government.) The voter and her representatives are forgotten in the process.

I didn’t know, until I read Neal McClusky’s blog at Cato Institute this week, though, that Obama had planned to cement Common Core via his latest budget proposal.  But now I’ve seen it for myself.

obama

If Obama succeeds unimpeded by Congress, how will states still claim the option of withdrawing from the Common Core –and all the tests and data collection that Common Core entails?  How I hope Congress is watching –and will act.  This is where we need those checks and balances –ACTING.

President Obama, McClusky explained, “wants to make the Core permanent by attaching annual federal funding to its use, and to performance on related tests. Just as the administration called for in its 2010 NCLB reauthorization proposal, [the President] wants to employ more than a one-time program, or temporary waivers, to impose “college and career-ready standards,” which–thanks to RTTT and waivers–is essentially synonymous with Common Core. In fact, President Obama proposes changing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – of which NCLB is just the most recent reauthorization – to a program called “College- and Career-Ready Students,” with an annual appropriation of over $14 billion.

This was utterly predictable … RTTT was the foot in the door, and once most states were using the same standards and tests, there was little question what Washington would eventually say: “Since everyone’s using the same tests and standards anyway, might as well make federal policy based on that.”

Perhaps given the scorching heat the Common Core has been taking lately, most people didn’t expect the administration to make the move so soon, but rational people knew it would eventually come. Indeed, the “tripod” of standards, tests, and accountability that many Core-ites believe is needed to make “standards-based reform” function, logically demands federal control… the end game is almost certainly complete federal control by connecting national standards and tests to annual federal funding.  And that, it is now quite clear, is no conspiracy theory.” 

So much for  the Utah State Office of Education’s oft-published claim that Common  Core is federal-strings-free.  Maybe now they’ll remove those lies from the USOE website.  Maybe now our State School Board will stop dismissing people’s concerns by assaulting them with the label “conspiracy theorists.”  Maybe.

But I’m finding no relief in the thought  that the state school board can’t keep calling us names anymore.  (It really never bothered me that much, to tell you the truth.  I just took it as a sign of their confusion.)

But I wish– oh, how I wish– that Utah had never given away the right to keep control.  We had a Constitutional RIGHT to locally control that “tripod” — standards, tests, and local accountability.  We did not fight for it.   Too few made a peep.

If Obama’s budget succeeds,  we appear to be toast.

Call your Congressmen.

 

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P.S.  If you live in Utah, be the 10,000th petition signer at http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com

Yet Another Teacher Speaks Out Against Common Core: “Standards Do Dictate Curriculum”   4 comments

Here’s another teacher who is standing up and speaking out, saying exactly why she does not like Common Core for her students.

She recently took a large pay cut to transfer from a public school to an independent, Common-Core-less private school.

She speaks out here about what seven year olds really need and how Common Core hurts them, in this 7-minute video.

Video: Dr. Terrence Moore Testifies Against Common Core Readings and the Lack of Local Control   8 comments

Dr. Terrence Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College, testified last month to the Indiana legislature. This is the video of his short, (ten minute) excellent testimony.

He describes in detail what Common Core robs from students, as it cuts classic literature and dramatically cuts the heart away from readings including the U.S. Constitution and Tom Sawyer. He describes the truncation that will happen to classic works of literature in favor of informational texts in new Common Core aligned ELA anthologies. He describes how Common Core robs charter schools of parental control with the piercing question, “Are you Common Core compliant?” He also describes how Common Core testing makes teachers and charters servile to the Common Core.

He also says:

The thing that bothers me more than anything else is found on page number one of the introduction. That says that Common Core is a living work. That means that the thing that you vote on today could be something different tomorrow, and five years from now it is completely unrecognizable.”

That’s the real issue. Whether politicians, teachers or school board members like it today is actually, totally irrelevant. Don’t ask them if they like Common Core; ask them if they know that it can change at any time, but they don’t get a vote or a voice in what happens to it. Ever.

Thank you, Dr. Moore.

A Sickening Turn of Events: Common Core-Approved Pornography May or May Not Be on This Year’s Standardized Test   27 comments

When I saw, both in a Politichicks article and in a Blaze article, that it was on the recommended reading list of Common Core for 11th grade students to read “The Bluest Eye,” a book that graphically, vividly narrates sex crimes of a child molester in first person, I found it hard to believe that this would be approved in my state.

I wrote to my state school board member.

“Dixie, please tell me that in Utah, we have not approved “The Bluest Eye” for our students’ English reading which is on the Common Core’s list of approved readings. Please tell me that our curriculum committee is more selective. This is disgusting child pornography.
Thank you for finding out the answer.”

She wrote back after consulting with someone at the Office of Education with an assurance that although it was recommended by Common Core, it was not recommended by the Utah State Office of Education. Here is that letter:

“I hope this helps-was what I thought but wanted to be sure.

Dixie

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Dickson, Sydnee”
Date: Aug 25, 2013 10:43 AM
Subject: RE: Common Core approved reading: The Bluest Eye
To: “Allen, Dixie”
Cc: “Hales, Brenda”

Dixie,
You are correct in that there are no prescribed texts for the Common Core. There are examples of texts that could be used for text complexity by grade level but this is certainly not one of them in Utah. When you go to our Appendix A and look at the suggestions for 11th grade, you will not find Bluest Eyes listed http://schools.utah.gov/CURR/langartelem/Core-Standards/ELA-Color-Standards-8-12-13.aspx. When you look at Appendix B (pg. 154) in the document published by CCSSO and NGA you will find the following brief excerpt from Bluest Eyes considered as a piece of text with complex language. This is not a recommended book but a section of brief text from the book.

[Excerpt was shared here from Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”]

We have not recommended this excerpt nor is it published in our Core ELA Standards documents. Because the Common Core is NOT a prescribed curriculum, districts, schools, and teachers are free to use texts and materials that comply with their district policies. This is not a book or text that would be likely be approved by schools in Utah. Also, we are developing digital texts by teachers for teachers and have started with 6-8. Those can be found at http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/langartsec/Digital-Books.aspx. Last, and most importantly, we have the RIMS review process that is conducted by a commission of appointed community leaders, parents, and educators. They create a list of published materials that are recommended, recommended with reservation, or not recommended. That list can be found at http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/imc/RIMs-Search.aspx. You will not find Bluest Eyes on that list as it has not been requested to be reviewed by either a publisher or a school/district.”

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For a moment, I was relieved. Utah students were off the pedophilia-literature hook, it seemed.

But then the wheels started turning in my head again. Ms. Dickson had written that the book was not recommended reading in Utah. But we know that Utah’s teachers must follow the national Common Core to prepare children for a nationally-aligned Common Core test (AIR test) this year.

It would seem that an excerpt from this book or any Common Core approved book could be used on Utah’s AIR test, since AIR writes the test to Common Core alignment. Since I wasn’t completely sure whether AIR writes to Utah’s recommended reading list or to Common Core’s recommended readings, I asked Dixie to find out for me. I’m waiting very anxiously to hear back.

Meanwhile, I fact-checked the Blaze article’s statement that said that the Common Core expected students to read the whole texts, not just excerpts. Sadly, that was correct!

At the official Common Core website, it says: “When excerpts appear, they serve only as stand-ins for the full text. The Standards require that students engage with appropriately complex literary and informational works; such complexity is best found in whole texts rather than passages from such texts.”

So, “improving college and career readiness” and “rigor” means, to the architects of Common Core, exposing 11th graders to the literature of pedophilia.

I’m worried about what kinds of “literature” may appear on the Common Core test that Utah students will be exposed to this year. I’m also worried about their exposure to the new version of the ACT/SAT –since David Coleman has both led the creation of Common Core and is now the College Board president. He’s said he’s altering college entrance exams to match his vision of what college and career readiness means. I do not like and do not trust that man.

Then there’s this:

In Utah, there’s a law that 15 parents will be chosen to serve on a test watching committee. These 15 can see the test questions for the new Common Core AIR tests. I applied to be on the 15 parent panel. (I hope many, many Utah parents apply.) The state wrote back to say they received my application, and that I should know that there is a confidentiality agreement. So if any parent serving on this committee sees anything we find unacceptable like this, we can not speak out and specify what we saw. This seems to defeat the purpose of having the committee.

All of this makes me despise the Common Core Initiative, it’s nontransparent testing and nonrepresentative decision making, more and more and more.