Archive for the ‘tests’ Tag

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

Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise.   Leave a comment

Mercedes Schneider has written another detailed, rich article exposing the “unprecedented education profiteering” scandal that is Pearson Education’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.

Read it:     Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise..

 

New Film With Dr. Chris Tienken: THE ASSESSMENT LANDSCAPE   4 comments

 

Professor Tienken turns his critical thinking on the testing megastrosity of Common Core. 

Please share.  You’re going to love this one.

Unless, of course, like millions of Americans, Bill Gates or Secretary Arne Duncan are paying the folks that you happen to work for, to believe otherwise.

 

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.

Rally Tomorrow: School Grading Bill is Interconnected with Common Core Tests   1 comment

Tomorrow, Sept. 3rd, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a rally. It’s not directly about Common Core. But it’s about an issue very, very closely related: school grading. And what makes this one interesting is that it’s not parents, but the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) that’s heading the rally. The USBA may even be surprised to see that many Utahns Against Common Core members will be there to support their rally. (I can’t go; I will be teaching at that time, but I’m there in spirit.)

Wendy Hart, a school board member in Alpine school district, has written an article that explains how school grading and common core are intertwined and must be opposed. I highly recommend it. She says, “School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?” (Read the rest.)

I think people get stuck on the misused word “accountability” which is often used as if it is always a good thing. But accountability’s obviously dependent on who is accountable to whom. People who don’t have authority to ask for an accounting, shouldn’t be given any accounting. It’s wrong. And it leads to abuse of power.

Should teachers and principals be accountable to the parents of the children they serve? Yes.

But should they be accountable to the long list of so-called “stakeholders” who have no authority over them under the Constitution, GEPA law, or common sense? No.

Should they be accountable to Common Core’s creators or testing agents, including the nonelected clubs of superintendents (CCSSO) and governors (NGA) and the AIR testing group, groups which now hold power over what will be on Utah’s standardized, nationally common test, to be nationally used as an accountability measuring stick? No!

And that’s why I oppose these Utah bills touting school grading. It’s accountability to the wrong groups, groups who are far removed from those who actually care.

Details of this Stop School Grading rally: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings).

Parents and others from Utahns Against Common Core have been encouraged to bring signs saying “No School Grading tied to Common Core Tests.”

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Wendy Hart has given her permission to repost her entire article here. Thanks, Wendy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

No Man Can Serve Two Masters: School Grading/Accountability

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24)

School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?

A prime case in point is the presentation we received as a Board on Aug. 13 about the new school grading and teacher evaluation programs. (A great overview can by found online, courtesy of the Alpine Parent Society.) These programs have been put into law by the legislature, but are also requirements of the Federal Waiver from No Child Left Behind. I could go into the mathematical flaws in the system, the necessary faith in the test creators, and the fact that testing drives what is taught in the classroom. However, the biggest issue I have is who will truly have the power to determine what our children learn. If you realize teacher evaluations, school grades and student grades are all tied to the Common Core tests, you realize whoever writes and grades those tests affects every aspect of education in this state. Say what you will about standards, the practical application of it will be in the tests.

Here’s an example. Some people have heard recently of the Toni Morrison book, The Bluest Eye. I have never read it, but the excerpts I’ve read put it, in my opinion, in the category of pornography. (You may disagree, but bear with me for the sake of the argument.) I have an acquaintance back East whose children have read this repeatedly in her private, Catholic school, not because the teachers and administrators agree with the book, but because selections from the book appear on the AP English test. In this case, the AP test determines what is taught in the classroom, even if it is completely contrary to the values and mission of a particular school.

Additionally, the federally-funded Common Core tests (SBAC and PARCC) are testing “process and communication skills over content knowledge”, according to one reviewer. Since our test-developer (AIR) is also developing the SBAC test, one wonders if our state tests will follow suit. If so, anyone who fails to teach the proper methodology, not just the facts, puts their students, their career, and their school in jeopardy. (An example of this from another state can be found here.) Testing is the way standards, curricula and teaching methods are enforced.

Joseph Stalin is supposed to have said, “It doesn’t matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes.” Similarly, “He who makes the tests, controls the education.”

Parents can want certain things taught. Our laws and constitution can say how parents are primarily involved in their child’s education. We can speak till we’re blue in the face about how parents and local control of education is so important. But as soon as we tie everything to the grade on a test–a test parents have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over–we realize we have a different master. Instead, we must have complete faith in the test developers. Have they created a fair, accurate system of measuring what we, as parents, want? And if they do not, there is nothing we can do at a local level to change it.

We think an end-of-year test will be testing fact, knowledge, and information. However, the emphasis of Common Core and its testing is to test “higher-order thinking” over fact. Most parents want their kids to learn higher-order thinking. But what does higher-order thinking mean to the test developer? Benjamin Bloom, author of the well-respected Bloom’s Taxonomy (used extensively in education) defines it this way,”…a student attains ‘higher-order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong.” (Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, p. 185) This is completely inconsistent with my motto on education: Truth vanquishes darkness. You cannot serve two masters. Education cannot serve the parents if they don’t control the test. Higher-order thinking cannot lead to the discovery of truth if it also means no right or wrong. In the end, who is the master of education in Utah? The state tests, brought to you by American Institutes for Research. It’s not you, and it’s not me.

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About 50% of the time, I agree with the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) on legislation. This is one of those times. We may not agree for all the same reasons, but we agree on the end result. Last session, the legislature passed SB271 on school grading. This is an update of a school grading bill from 2011. In response to the 2011 law, the State Office of Ed developed a process for grading schools, called UCAS. UCAS is mathematically flawed and, like every accountability measure emanating from the state, will take local control away. SB271 is opposed by the USBA because, while they must have some sort of school grading to get the No Child Left Behind waiver, they prefer the UCAS grading system. I think we need to get rid of it all. However, I will be at the press conference/rally the USBA is holding in opposition to the current version of school grading, SB271, on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings). I’d invite everyone who is opposed to the enforcement Common Core via testing, or to centralized control over education to attend.

Just remember, we can’t serve two masters. Until we reassert our rightful position, as masters of our children’s education, education in Utah will continue to be subject to a master set up by those who are willing to fill the void we have left.

–Wendy Hart, member, Alpine School Board

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OTHER STOP COMMON CORE EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Layton, Utah
Wednesday night, September 4th 7:00 pm
Common Core Informational Meeting
Speakers – Peter Cannon (Davis School District Board Member) and Pamela Smith (Eagle Forum)
Layton City Library – September 4, 2013
155 Wasatch Dr.

Cedar City, Utah
Saturday, September 7th, 7 pm
Speaker – Alisa Ellis – of Utahns Against Common Core
Crystal Inn (1575 W. 200 N. Cedar City, Utah)

Roy, Utah
Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 7:00 pm
Roy Library, Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

Ogden, Utah
Tuesday September 24, 2013 @ 6:30pm
North Ogden Library
(475 E. 2600 N. North Ogden, Utah 84414)
Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

BYU Math Professor David Wright on Common Core Math   12 comments

This letter (posted at Utahns Against Common Core) is written by a BYU professor to help Utah legislators know the facts about Common Core math. Other important letters on this subject from other math experts to the State Office oF Education are posted here.

Dear Senators Osmond and Weiler,

I see that Diana Suddreth sent a “Your Action is Needed” email to defend the Utah Math Common Core. She is encouraging letters of support for the Utah Common Core and is concerned that the Common Core is under a “vicious attack.” She is inviting her supporters to send letters to both of you.

As a mathematics professor and someone who is very aware of the details of the Common Core, I would like to comment on what I feel is the awful way the Common Core Math Standards have been implemented by the USOE.

1. The Core was implemented before there were textbooks. In fact, some of those who favor the Utah Core do not even feel that textbooks are important. When I hear Suddreth say, ”And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided” I know something is seriously wrong.

2. The Core was implemented before there were assessments in place.

3. The standards do not dictate any particular teaching method, but rather set goals for student understanding. However, the USOE has used the implementation of the new Core to push a particular teaching method; i.e., the “Investigations” type teaching that was so controversial in Alpine School District.

4. Evidence of the type of teaching promoted by USOE comes from the textbook used for the secondary academy, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein) as one of the primary resources. The book is about the kind of group learning envisioned by Investigations and Connected Math (the sequel to Investigations).

5. The Mathematics Vision Project was created in partnership with the USOE. It has developed integrated secondary math material for the Utah Core. They openly admit that their “teaching cycle” is similar to the model of the Connected Mathematics Project. Here is a statement about their teaching method:

As students’ ideas emerge, take form, and are shared, the teacher orchestrates the student discussions and explorations towards a focused mathematical goal. As conjectures are made and explored, they evolve into mathematical concepts that the community of learners begins to embrace as effective strategies for analyzing and solving problems. These strategies eventually solidify into a body of practices that belong to the students because they were developed by the students as an outcome of their own creative and logical thinking. This is how students learn mathematics. They learn by doing mathematics. They learn by needing mathematics. They learn by verbalizing the way they see the mathematical ideas connect and by listening to how their peers perceived the problem. Students then own the mathematics because it is a collective body of knowledge that they have developed over time through guided exploration. This process describes the Learning Cycle and it informs how teaching should be conducted within the classroom.

6. The USOE does hold students back. This is not the intent of the Common Core, but it is Utah’s implementation. I regularly judge the state Sterling Scholar competition. Almost all of the bright kids take AP calculus as a junior or even earlier because they were taking Algebra 1 by seventh grade. Now it will be difficult to get that far ahead. The National Math Panel made it clear that there was no problem with skipping prepared kids ahead. The Common Core has a way for getting eighth graders into Algebra 1 which the USOE has ignored.

7. The USOE chose the “uncommon” core when they picked secondary integrated math. Hardly anyone else is doing this program. So there are no integrated textbooks except the one that the USOE is developing. I have been told that this is the “Asian” model, but I am very familiar with the textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Mathematics Vision Project Material does not look like Asian material, it looks like Investigations/Connected Math.

8. There is substantial information that Diana Suddreth, Syd Dickson, Brenda Hales, and Michael Rigby of the USOE participated in unethical behavior in the awarding of the Math Materials Improvement Grant. The USOE chose reviewers (including Suddreth and Dickson) who were conflicted. Suddreth helped the University of Utah choose a principal investigator who was her own co-principal investigator on a $125 K grant . According to the USOE internal email messages, the required sample lesson of the winning proposal contained “plagiarized material.” The sample lesson had “no text” instead it contained 79 pages of “sample materials” (some of which was plagiarized) for a teacher study guide including problems for discussion and homework. The adaptive performance assessment program for the winning proposal was non-existent. The principal investigators redefined “adaptive assessment” to be something that was never intended.

Regards,

David G. Wright

I am a Professor of Math at BYU, but this letter is written as an educator, parent, and concerned citizen and does not represent an official opinion from BYU.

Brigham Young University has a policy of academic freedom that supports the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and ideas. The university does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty.

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Thank you, Dr. Wright, for your courage in speaking out.

The USOE’s Diana Suddreth has called the movement to stop common core a “vicious attack.”  The State School Board’s Dixie Allen has said that we (teachers and parents against common core) are “creating turmoil in our state.”

In our defense:  1) we do not wish to disparage personally the USOE or the USSB or Governor Herbert’s staff, despite their endless claims, in the face of truckloads of evidence to the contrary, that Common Core is a benefit to Utahns.  We do have much against the fact that as a state, we’ve sold out our kids to common core– to its slashing of local control, slashing teacher autonomy,  slashing the right to amend our own education standards, deleting legitimate and proven academic standards, and ending student privacy.

I would appreciate not being called names, such as special interests, turmoil-makers or vicious attackers –since we have made no personal attacks, and are not making but are losing our personal money in this fight for true principles, our rightful duty to defend;  and since we’re  the ones trying to clean up the turmoil our leaders created by signing away local rights, privacy and standards, without letting us know it.

Personal pride, personal investment in the common core agenda, personal career investment related to the common core agenda, and social loyalties are not more important than LEGITIMATE education standards, student PRIVACY rights, PARENTAL consent requirements for state systems in testing students and in collecting student data, and most of all, they are not more important than constitutional, LOCAL control.

Common Core must be stopped.

Protecting Student Data   6 comments

Thanks to Alyson Williams and Utahns Against Common Core for providing the following.

Protecting Student Data:  Becoming Informed About Personal & Behavioral Data Collection & Sharing

Goal 1:

Allow parents to opt out* of  testing and certain data tracking on behalf of their  children.

Goal 2:

Prohibit non-academic data  collection, i.e. behavior and  require disclosure of student  data types tracked in Utah’s  Federally funded State  Longitudinal Data System.

Goal 3:

Prohibit any kind of testing  that does not allow  parents to see assessment  questions upon request 

The Federal government has established the National Education Data Model to facilitate state collection and sharing of behavioral, health, psychological, and family data.  In 2012, Utah included provisions in law to permit schools to assess “student behavior indicators.”  Utah also requires that “Computer Adaptive Tests” (CATs) be used in all Utah schools.

Utah has partnered with behavioral and social science company AIR to provide CAT tests. Utah has stated its intent to upload Utah student data to an AIR database in 2013.  Utah plans to keep “SAGE” CAT questions secret from all but fifteen Utah parents.  Utah has not disclosed to the public the student data types tracked in Utah’s federally-funded State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS.)

The US Education Department undercut “parental consent” in federal student privacy laws without going through congress “It is the public  policy of this state  that parents retain  the fundamental  right and duty to  exercise primary  control over the  care, supervision,  upbringing and  education of their  children.” -Utah Code Title 53A Section 302

National Education Data Model:

Sample from over 400 data points recommended for SLDS

Born Outside of the U.S.
Birthdate
Bus Route ID
Bus Stop Arrival Time
Career Objectives
Citizenship Status
City of Birth
Class Attendance Status
Class Rank
Days Truant
Death Cause
Death Date
Developmental Delay
Dialect Name
Diploma/Credential Awarded
Discontinuing Schooling Reason

Disease, Illness, Health Conditions
Distance From Home to School
Dwelling Arrangement
Economic Disadvantage Status
Electronic Mail Address
Family Income Range
Family Perceptions of the Impact of Early
Intervention Services on the Child
Family Public Assistance Status
Federal Program Participant Status
Immunization Date
Insurance Coverage
IP Address
Nickname
Non-school Activity Description
Religious Affiliation
Social Security Number
Voting Status

 

*  A form has been created and is being circulated now, which parents will send to the school and State Superintendent.  I will post it when I receive it from Utahns Against Common Core.  The form states that the parents of this child withhold permission for the State to track the child’s personally identifiable information.  We hope to flood the State Office of Education and the Governor’s Office with these forms to protect children across this state.

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References:

1

National Education Data Model, including behavioral, health, & other personal data elements:  http://tinyurl.com/cyecjwt.
2
Utah HB 15 (passed in 2012), line 59: http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
3
Utah HB 15 (passed in 2012), lines 9, 10, 11: http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
4
AIR behavioral testing: tinyurl.com/bp55kxd and behavioral profiling: tinyurl.com/bwfdmnr
5
Utah contracted with AIR to provide Computer Adaptive Tests: tinyurl.com/cpxuoxk
6
Utah student data to be uploaded to AIR: tinyurl.com/cujlplf
7
Utah computer adaptive test questions to be reviewed by appointed panel of 15 out of 700,000 Utah parents (line  22):http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
8
EPIC is challenging changes to the Federal FERPA http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
9
“Student Data,” for the purposes of this document includes, but it not limited to, behavioral test question results,  and the data elements in the federal government’s National Education Data Model (NEDM), found  at tinyurl.com/crd944a. The NEDM includes over 400 student data elements, including those listed above.

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