Why Delinking Graduation from the Smarter Balanced Assessment & Other Tests is the Right Thing to Do.

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I am writing to encourage everyone who values the 13 years of hard work completed by students as they reach their senior year to call their state legislators. My request is simple: ask your legislator to pass HB 1046. This bill will serve to delink all high stakes testing requirements in all subjects from high school graduation.

While this bill does not eliminate the state tests, it DOES eliminate the high stakes attached to these tests, which is a big step forward in supporting students whose futures have been severely damaged by high stakes testing.

In 2013, Seattle Times writer Donna Blankenship notified her readers about some stark facts tied to the state’s End of Course Math tests:

“But that doesn’t make life any easier for the nearly 7,000 students in the Class of 2013 who have yet to pass the newly required math test and didn’t get their diplomas last month.”

2013 was the first year the state required students to pass an end of course math test in order to graduate and earn their diploma.

This got me thinking. Since 2013, how many students in Washington State have been denied a diploma for failing a high stakes tests required for graduation? I don’t see the numbers posted clearly anywhere, despite the state’s creation of these high stakes.

It gets worst. In 2017-18, students will  be required to pass three high stakes tests in order to receive their diplomas, per OSPI:

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I wrote OSPI and asked them about the number of students who will be denied a diploma because of end of course tests required by the state. After all, we know approximately 7,000 students were denied graduation in 2013 because of one math test. What will happen when three tests are required?

Hello OSPI Communications and Community Outreach,

I have a question about SHB1046. Does OSPI have an estimate of how many students will fail to graduate if testing is not delinked from graduation, please?  How many failed to graduate last year due to testing?

Thank you kindly, Susan DuFresne

OSPI’s  response:

“As of late April, there were 15,645 students in the Class of 2017 who had not met the assessment graduation requirements.  Students are required to pass an assessment – or a graduation alternative – in each of the three subject areas ELA, math, and science.  The 15,645 number includes students who may have passed 0, 1, or 2 of the requirements, but haven’t met all 3.  Also note that these numbers only reflect their status with respect to the assessment grad requirements; it does not include information about whether the student has met other graduation requirements such as credits.”

15,645 students in Washington State are at risk of being denied graduation after investing 13 years of their lives in school.  In years past, a child attended 13 years of school, received passing or failing grades by their professional educators, earned their credits, and graduated with their diploma.

Shannon Ergun, ESL 9-12 Mt Tahoma High School, Tacoma Public Schools is highly concerned about the undue stress level these high stakes create for students and she states:

“I estimate based on there being 1.1 million students in WA that there are 70K-75K seniors that means that about 20% of current seniors are waiting on test scores to know if they can walk at graduation in 4-5 weeks. That is an inappropriate level of stress for a 17 or 28 year old to carry while still faced with AP exams, final exams, and final plans for beyond high school.

Until large numbers of kids are actually impacted everyone will continue to believe it will all be ok.”

I think Shannon makes a great point: What about the ordeal our kids experience just by taking these high stakes tests, knowing graduation is on the line? As adults, it’s sometimes easier to ignore rather than face the pressure these tests place on our kids.

For instance, did you know some students find these tests so stressful there’s an actual protocol for what to do should a student vomit on a test? That’s a lot of pressure. When was the last time you vomited at work over the pressure you felt to perform? I’m guessing this would be a highly unusual occurrence, not likely covered by a particular protocol in the employee handbook.

And what’s the message we’re sending to those kids born without the very particular gift of being a good test takers? You only have value if you can score high on a standardized test?

The State Board of Education is offering a compromise solution: delinking the biology end of course exam, while continuing to use the other end of year course exams as graduation requirements.

Why would it be acceptable to offer a deal to 3,302 students but leave 12,343 behind?

As an educator, I want ALL students who have otherwise completed their graduation requirements based on grades and credits earned to receive their diplomas – despite failing one or more of any of the three high stakes tests imposed by the state.

And what happens to the chances of bright futures for those left behind?

High school exit exams contribute greatly to the school-to-prison pipeline as noted here by FairTest:

“High school exit exams (FairTest, 2008) push many thousands of students out of school. As a result of these factors, urban graduation rates decreased. Some students see no realistic option other than dropping out; some are deliberately pushed out or fail the tests. Either way, these young people are much more likely to end up in trouble or in prison. One study found that high school exit exams increase incarceration rates by 12.5 percent (Baker & Lang, 2013).”

Sadly, youth who are unable to acquire a diploma are often relegated to minimum wage employment, live with state support through DSHS, or become homeless. In 2012, for example, DSHS reported that 69% of their “Opportunity Youth” did not have a high school diploma.

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And what about earnings for youth who do not receive a high school diploma?

“The average dropout can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (PDF). That’s a full $10,386 less than the typical high school graduate, and $36,424 less than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

PBS Frontline reports in Dropout Nation by Jason Breslow and per the 2012 US Census here:

“The challenges hardly end there, particularly among young dropouts. Among those between the ages of 18 and 24, dropouts were more than twice as likely as college graduates to live in poverty according to the Department of Education. Dropouts experienced a poverty rate of 30.8 percent, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree had a poverty rate of 13.5 percent.

Among dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24, incarceration rates were a whopping 63 times higher than among college graduates, according to a study (PDF) by researchers at Northeastern University. “

Conclusion

Are we OK with throwing away the futures of kids who are unable to perform on high stakes tests – after they’ve devoted 13 years of hard work to their education? What message does this send to kids about hard work when it doesn’t payoff and they end up rejected by the system.

What if OSPI was required to report how many students have been denied graduation due to high stakes testing each year? What if our US Department of Education had to file a yearly report which focused on the living conditions of each state’s youth denied a diploma due to high stakes tests?

Perhaps outraged parents, educators, and students would rise up and stop the high stakes testing; the state’s means to punish children, educators, and schools would be lost forever.

By delinking ALL high stakes tests from graduation we can protect thousands of students in Washington from being denied their rightfully earned diploma for simply missing a few questions on a test.

Also by delinking these tests from graduation requirements, we will also save our state between $9-$11 million dollars. Money that could be better spent on actual teaching vs testing.

Call 1-800-562-6000 and ask your legislators to protect our students by delinking high stakes testing from graduation – vote YES on SHB1046! Delink them all! Give our youth the bright futures they deserve!

-Susan DuFresne – Integrated Kindergarten Teacher with General Education and Special Education endorsements – 7 years in the Renton School District, Teacher of Professional Conscience, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, Social Equality Educator, Artist, progressive and social justice education activist, unionist, mother and grandmother – The views I express are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. #FreeSpeech

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Common Sense Questions About the Common Core Test

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I came across this article today while Googling information about the SBAC and is well worth a read.

From eduresearcher by Roxana Marachi, PhD:

Critical Questions about Computerized Assessments and SmarterBalanced Test Scores

A recent report from the Public Policy Institute reveals that the majority of California’s public school parents are uninformed about the new tests their children took this past year. And despite numerous concerns regarding the lack of validity, technological barriers, biases, and test administration problems, “test scores” soon will be released to the public.

The following includes adapted selections of a letter I sent to the California State Board of Education for the July 2015 State Board of Education meeting.  My purpose in sharing this information is to draw attention to the lack of scientific validity of the test scores that are soon to be released to the public and to promote critical thinking about issues of fairness, accessibility, data security, and standardization in the test administrations.

It is important to consider that unless assessments are independently verified to adhere to basic standards of test development regarding validity, reliability, security, accessibility, and fairness in administration, resulting scores will be meaningless and should not be used to make claims about student learning, progress, aptitude, nor readiness for college or career (see Legal Implications of High Stakes Assessments: What States Should Know).

QUESTIONS: 

Q1: How is standardization to be assumed when students are taking tests on different technological tools with vastly varying screen interfaces? Depending on the technology used (desktops, laptops, chromebooks, and/or ipads), students would need different skills in typing, touch screen navigation, and familiarity with the tool.

Q2: How are standardization and fairness to be assumed when students are responding to different sets of questions based on how they answer (or guess) on the adaptive sections of the assessments?

Q3: How is fairness to be assumed when large proportions of students do not have access at home to the technology tools that they are being tested on in schools? Furthermore, how can fairness be assumed when some school districts do not have the same technology resources as others for test administration? 

Q4: How/why would assessments that had already been flagged with so many serious design flaws and user interface problems continue to be administered to millions of children without changes and improvements to the interface? (See report below)

Q5: How can test security be assumed when tests are being administered across a span of over three months and when login features allow for some students to view a problem, log off, go home (potentially research and develop an answer) and then come back and log in and take the same section? (This process was reported from a test proctor who observed the login, viewing and re-login process).

Q6: Given serious issues in accessibility and the fact that the assessments have yet to be independently validated, how/why would the SmarterBalanced Assessment Consortium solicit agreements from nearly 200 colleges and universities to use 2015 11th Grade SBAC data to determine student access to the regular curriculum or to “remedial” courses?http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/04/sbac.html.

Projected failure rates disproportionately impact youth of color, students with special needs, and English Language Learners, cut scores have yet to be validated, and the use of the test scores may be argued to contribute to systemic barriers that already limit access to higher education for students from historically underserved populations.

[Chart data from SBAC / Screenshot from post on J.Pelto’s Wait, What blog] 

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Q7: [Background] I participated in the cut-score setting process during October of 2014 as I had learned through a public announcement on social media about the opportunity to take part. According to their own documents, SBAC confirms that 7% of their feedback about the cut scoresetting was from the “general public.” Smarter Balanced is inviting anyone who’s interested—you don’t have to be a teacher or even work in education—to register to participate in the “standard-setting” process.

It was apparent by the lack of screening that as long an individual had a pulse and an email address, any member of the public who so wanted was given open access to at least 30 test itemsand answers considered for use in the assessments. Despite signing an electronic statement promising not to share any information from the activity, anyone (including test-prep profiteers) could have downloaded within a matter of minutes dozens of test items developed for use by the consortium. It is appalling that such an epic breach of security would be allowed in the process of test development.

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Q7: Given the open access of hundreds of test-items to large numbers of unscreened participants who took part in the public cut-score setting procedures, how can the State Board of Education ensure the security of test items used by the SmarterBalanced Consortium?

[Additional note (not included in original letter)] 
One might also consider issues of students sharing test-related topics and posts on social media as potential security breaches of content.
With a three month testing span and countless new apps for anonymous sharing, the possibilities are endless.   Still, testing companies seem laser-focused on following students’ visible social media feeds with controversial surveillance strategies that have led to serious privacy concerns (here, here, and here) in states with the PARCC versions of CCSS tests administered by Pearson.  While public awareness and concern has focused primarily on Pearson’s activities, the SmarterBalanced Assessment Consortium has also been critiqued for its policies on student monitoring.  As we consider issues of test security, we should acknowledge the thousands of potential, alternate, creative hashtags or other communication tools that youth may use aside from the obvious #PARCC #SBAC and #SmarterBalanced tags to discuss their experiences with the assessments.  Let’s take a look at how [in]effective it was for the College Board to require sworn statements from test-takers to refrain from posting about the PSAT on social media:

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Q8: Will the California State Board of Education hold the SmarterBalanced Assessment Consortium member states and test developers accountable to adhere to the basic terms, timelines, conditions, and agreements described in the Race to the Top Assessment Development Proposal?

http://www.edweek.org/media/sbac_final_narrative_20100620_4pm.pdf [Note: Pages 47-50 offer detailed descriptions of intended features of the assessments and proposed supports for implementation. Readers are encouraged to compare and contrast these descriptions with what has actually been developed (evidence below).] 

Q9: Since data gathering for the development of the SmarterBalanced Assessments has been conducted through a Federal Research Grant, and the Public Policy Institute has determined that the majority of parents have been uninformed about the new tests, how can the State Department of Education and/or SmarterBalanced Consortium ensure that Basic Protections of Human Subjects were upheld during the pilot and field test administrations over the past two years? http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocfo/humansub.html.

Is it the responsibility of the SmarterBalanced Testing Consortium, the Federal Government, or State/District Board of Education Trustees to ensure that student and parental rights and ethical protections of Human Subjects were not violated in the process of developing the new tests?

Q10 (Background): As you are aware, ETS (Educational Testing Services) has been provided the multi-million dollar contract to administer and score the tests in Californiahttp://www.kcra.com/news/whos-grading-your-kids-assessment-test-in-california/31857614.According to the following article “ETS has lobbied against legislation to require agencies to “immediately initiate an investigation” after complaints on “inadequate” testing conditions. It alsolobbied against a bill designed to safeguard pupil data in subcontracting.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/30/report-big-education-firms-spend-millions-lobbying-for-pro-testing-policies/

Q10a: How will the State Board of Education ensure the student data being provided to 3rd party entities (unbeknownst to many parents and students) would be secure?

Q10b: What are the responsibilities of the State and Districts to inform parents of how their children’s data may be used by 3rd party entities should they choose to take part in the testing?

Evidence of Testing Barriers and Implementation Problems

The Board is encouraged to consider the following evidence documenting serious concerns regarding the validity, reliability, security, accessibility, and fairness of the SmarterBalanced Assessments.

SmarterBalanced Mathematics Tests Are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used documents serious user-interface barriers and design flaws in the SmarterBalanced Mathematics assessments. According to the analyses, the tests:

  • “Violate the standards they are supposed to assess; 
  • Cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use; 
  • Use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces; or 
  • Are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect.

No tests that are so flawed should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. Responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage. Read the full report…

Rasmussen notes that the numerous design flaws and interface barriers had been brought to the attention of the SmarterBalanced Assessment Consortium during the Spring 2014 pilot test and remained unresolved during the Spring 2015 test administration.

There are also misrepresentations of technology interface features in public awareness campaigns to inform parents and students about the new tests. According a video on the BeALearningHero.org website, fractions spontaneously appear [in fraction form] on the screen as a visual feature of the new assessments:

However, the actual screens that students encounter on the tests are completely different than what is shown above and the process of entering even one fraction into the text space provided is problematic.

Why are the actual screen representations of the tests not provided in the public education campaigns?

Further evidence of testing problems are included in the following clip with a selected portion of the transcript from the NAACP Press Conference on SBAC Testing in Seattle. The segment below is by Jesse Hagopian and the rest of the full Press Conference includes additional evidence and perspectives:

[Segment starts at 7:00 Minutes from original video] …

 

“SBAC testing in Seattle has been an unmitigated disaster. We have had reports across this city of absolute testing meltdown in building after building. You’re going to hear today from some of the people who have experienced that first hand. They’ve experienced the technological gliches that have wasted hours of instructional time. They’ve experienced their computer labs and their libraries shut down for weeks at a time and unable to be used for research. And they’ve experienced the human disaster of labeling kids failing and seeing the impact that that has on children and crushing their spirits, turning them off to education… and you’ll hear that I think in graphic detail…”

Hagopian continued,

“…these tests are invalid… the SBAC test is invalid. That’s a bold statement. How can I make that claim? It’s not based on my own estimation. It’s based on the SmarterBalanced Consortium itself. The SmarterBalanced Consortium has acknowledged in a memo, that the test has not been proven to be externally valid.And yet our state rushed to implement this test all across the state?”  See also http://sco.lt/729uev

In Maine, educators also have expressed concern regarding the validity of the SBAC exams. In Test Fatally Flawed, School Officials SayScott McFarland, Mount Desert Elementary School Principal posited:

“I’ve seen enough of it, seen enough glitches to know that it’s invalid data.”

From EdSource April, 2015 

“Laura Bolton, a teacher at William Saroyan Elementary in Fresno, who spoke to EdSource earlier about her students’ keyboard challenges, recently gave the Smarter Balanced midterms to her 3rd-graders. She said her students struggled with the instructions and added that they were not appropriate for the age of her students.”

The article also describes high school students’ experiences with instructional and user-interface barriers: A ninth grader quoted in the article, for example said “she didn’t know how to make the online calculator work on the test.”  The following excerpt from another article described that “Everyone was freaking out,” … with “students struggling to find the calculator and other function buttons on their tablets.”  

An 11th grader was quoted as indicating that “There was no paper available” to work out math problems.“We’d have to draw on the computer screen [with a stylus]. Being on a computer was distracting.”

From a Parent comment in “SBAC in Ca”:

“According to my child, there were numerous technical problems with test administration. Not much of the questions addressed things they had learned. Confusing. Bandwidth continued to be a problem along with tablets accepting answers. As parents, our district failed to notify us when testing would take place. Normally we are inundated with information about dates, times, how to feed our kids, how much sleep they needed, etc. Had I known when these tests would take place, I would have opted my child out. We get no feedback from the school, district or the state of results, which seems immensely wrong. I have to based this all on what my child told me as my school and district told me nothing.” (Emphasis added)

From a Principal/Administrator: “Accessibility in SmarterBalanced”:

“Our district recently completed the Smarter Balanced Field Test. I was very disappointed with accessibility features of the assessment. I have heard and read that the assessment has unprecedented accessibility features and provides avenues for students to participate. The accommodations and embedded features were incredibly confusing for students with disabilities and struggling learners. Students needed to click and drag or click and highlight. The use of language glossaries were found to be inaccurate on many occasions. I’m concerned about the quality checks in place for language translations and the manner in which student can locate a word to see the glossaries. Likewise, we were told that devices needed to be certified to use with the assessment. There are currently ”no” certified devices. Sad to develop a system that looks good on paper and creates a ”good story” for accessibility but falls short with real world application. To my knowledge there is no means established to get feedback on the accessibility features. That too is disappointing. How will improvements be made if there isn’t a means to solicit input from users? I fear that we will be faced with the same issues next year.” (Emphasis added)

From a Teacher who teaches Mild and Moderate Special Day classes:

“I feel it is unfair that my SDC students are being required to take grade level state tests when they are not taught or learning at that grade level. I would like my 8th grade students whom are learning 4th grade math, to take the test at the 4th grade level. There is no point in throwing complex algebra problems to students who are working on their basic math facts. This does not tell use anything about what the students know or what they are gathering from school.”

From a Teacher in LAUSD on using ipads for the SBAC testing:

“Today was the worst day I have had in a classroom for 20 years.
At my school we received the ipads last Thursday. We started testing today.
1. I have never used an ipad, and had no training whatsoever. They had them on campus for a week, yet they did not train us to use them and navigate how to help students out.
2. It took 45 minutes to get my 35 students logged in, both sessions.
3. We got kicked off during a session due to the fact that the server was busy.
4. Many of the readings were too long for the students.
5. Students had trouble highlighting text.
6. Some students could not answer questions because they could not see them on the Ipads.”

From a Media Specialist on pilot tests:

“After administering the language arts and math pilot tests for smarter balanced, teachers gave me their feedback. The tests were extremely time consuming; some students were sitting for over two hours. The structure and content of the test were not age appropriate. Teachers found the level of student frustration to be very high–students were actually angry and acting out during the testing sessions.Students were giving up on questions based on the lengthy reading passages presented–even strong readers. One teacher described the testing sessions as ‘child abuse.’” (Emphasis and links added)

From a Teacher:

“We have been teaching critical reading strategies in all subjects at my junior high. I was very surprised to not see any easily accessible tools to mark the text on the language portion of the SBAC, including underlining key words or phrases, numbering paragraphs, marking out incorrect answers, and more. If we are to test our students with screen after screen of completely filled, multiple columns of text, we should have at minimum, easy to use tools to apply these strategies.”

From an Administrator:

“I recently took the 3rd grade sample test for SBAC. I was truly horrified and felt panic-stricken for the children who may potentially interact with this type of assessment. While the content rigor was greatly increased, my biggest concern was all of the varied technology responses that a 3rd grade student would have to have mastered to be able to present the correct answer. I highly suspect that students will know answers but will get them incorrect because they don’t know how to manipulate the varying technology skills required to show the correct answer. As a highly proficient adult, I had difficulty manipulating the technology required to plot points on a graph and when I returned to the directions for guidance, the directions fell short of what I needed to know. If my prediction is correct, we will not only have poor-looking data, but will also have false data.” (Emphasis added)

***

My letter to the Board is to encourage responsible, ethical, and legal communications about the assessment data that will apparently soon be disseminated to the public. Students’ beliefs about themselves as learners will be caught up in the tangle of any explanations surrounding the assessments, and as we know, decades of research demonstrate the power of student belief to be a factor impacting subsequent effort and persistence in learning.

To be transparent to the public regarding the current status of the assessments, the Board is encouraged to consider full disclosure regarding the lack of validity of the assessments as well as the numerous complaints that have been documented regarding the problematic administrations of the tests. While this may be difficult from a public relations standpoint, to misrepresent the scores as valid or accurate would likely lead to more serious problems. If the State does plan to base policy decisions on test scores provided by the SmarterBalanced Assessment Consortium (including this year’s full field administrations as any form of “baseline” for future comparisons), again, please consider the full range of legal and ethical implications.” 

[End of letter segment]

___________________________________________________________________________

[September 2015 Update]

To hear the State Board of Education discussion on the SmarterBalanced Assessments, including further questions that remain unanswered by the Executive Director of the SBAC at the September 2nd, 2015 California State Board of Education meeting, please click on the video below and view from ~1:45:00.  

Screenshot 2015-09-03 21.18.13

Please also see an Open Letter to the State Board of Education on the SBAC Test  including written comments made publicly by Dr. Doug McRae, a retired test and measurement specialist who has been communicating concern about the lack of validity of the SBAC Assessments directly to the State Board of Education over the past 5 years. His September 2nd, 2015 public comment may be viewed on the video linked to the image below from 02:50:55 – 02:52:52. The Open Letter has also been translated to Spanish and is accessible here: Carta abierta a la Junta de Educación del Estado de California respecto a la publicación de calificaciones [Falsas] #SBAC.  

It’s taking four months to send out results of the COMPUTERIZED Common Core Standards SBAC test. Really.

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After millions of dollars in tests, workbooks, texts and technology along with weeks of lost library time and class time, this CCS SBAC test that is to close the achievement gap, part the seas and bring about world peace… is not ready for prime time.

That’s right folks. The much anticipated results of all that work, stress, time and money poured into the SBAC testing will not be seen until September of this year. It is taking the powers-that-be four months to tally results of a computerized and much touted test.

The best part is after results are received, parents, students and teachers will not be able to see the questions or answers to know exactly what areas need to be improved. No, that will come out in pages of computer printout referred to as “data” that the teachers are to interpret in their free time. We don’t want to leave anything to the wisdom and experience of teachers, that would be woefully inadequate in the eyes of Randy Dorn, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and the plethora of soldiers who are demanding that we follow the orders of test taking and question nothing.

Here is the pathetic letter that just came out of Seattle Public Schools offices:

Dear Seattle Public Schools family,

The timing of the state assessment score reports has changed from June to September. These are the score sheets from your student’s spring Smarter Balanced tests in reading, writing and math. Last month, the district told families that the score reports would likely be sent home with final report cards in June. Due to unanticipated delays at the state level, the district will now send score reports home in September. Scores also will be posted online to the Source in the fall. September is the typical timing for state assessment score reports, but the district this year had initially anticipated they would be ready earlier. To learn more about the assessments, please see our Smarter Balanced web page:  http://www.seattleschools.org/students/assessments.

Thank you for your patience as we work with this new state assessment system.

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Dora Taylor

A Parent’s Testimony at the Seattle NAACP Press Conference about SBAC testing

students are not standardized

 

My name is Carolyn Leith and I’m a member of the Seattle Opt Out Group. I’m also a parent of a 3rd grader at Olympic View Elementary.

Already, 3rd graders at Olympic View have spent six hours of class time taking the English Language Arts portion of the SBAC– which is the new test tied to the common core standards.

When testing season is over, 3rd graders at Olympic View will have spent a total of 12 hours testing. Six hours on the ELA portion of the SBAC and another 6 hours on the Math assessment.

I find it deeply disturbing that the Smarter Balanced Consortium feels it’s developmentally appropriate for eight and nine year old children to spend 12 hours testing.

At Olympic View, we work very hard to create a loving and caring school community. Given our school’s values, I’m very worried the SBAC will discourage our community’s most vulnerable learners.

According to a report by the Smarter Balanced Consortium, only 15.8% of 3rd graders, with IEPs, will pass the ELA portion of the SBAC. For English language learners, the pass rate is 13.6%. Overall, only 38.1% of 3rd graders will pass the ELA assessment.

Because of these reasons, I have opted both of my children out of the SBAC. I can’t, in good conscience, allow my children to participate in a flawed assessment –which will unfairly label students and schools as failures.

I’m not alone in this decision.

Parent leaders who are opting their students out have been identified in thirty-five schools in the Seattle School District; amongst those schools we have staff–counselors, librarians and teachers–who are opting out their own children.

More than 100 students have opted out at Ingraham High School, Nathan Hale High School and Garfield High School. More than 50 students have opted out at TOPS K-8 and Pathfinder Elementary.

This year we are actively witnessing more opt outs of standardized tests than any other point in the history of the Seattle School District.

These are conservative numbers–just from those parents who have stepped forth to share with us their stories–and we strongly suspect there are many, many more.  After testing ends, the school district will have more exact numbers which can be requested by the public.

This unprecedented event is happening just before school board elections this Fall. Four seats will be vacant. Savvy candidates would do well to recognize Seattle’s growing opt out movement.

Parents, know your rights, become informed, advocate for your children–and VOTE.

-Carolyn Leith

Have you received a robo-call from Ready Washington about the wonders of Common Core Standards and the SBAC? If so, this is why

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People around the state are receiving robo-calls from a (Gates backed Teachers United) teacher who was declared “Teacher of the Year” by The Office of the State Superintendent (OSPI) which is headed by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn. Mr. Dorn is also on the board of CCSSO which is an organization receiving $84M from Bill Gates to promote the Common Core Standards. Do you see where I’m going with this? Lyon Terry representing “Ready Washington” declares in his unsolicited call the virtues of the Common Core Standards and the importance of the SBAC test. So who or what is “Ready Washington”?

We did a quick search and oh, what a surprise, a coalition of the bought. Here’s the list:

Ready Washington Coalition:

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

Partnership for Learning, the education arm of the Washington Roundtable. From the Gates Foundation website. received $499,492 “to support the Ready Washington Coalition and stakeholder groups to improve communications and outreach around the Common Core State Standards”.

Stand for Children Washington (Gates)

Washington STEM (Gates)

Excellent Schools Now, from their website, The steering committee of Excellent Schools Now consists of: League of Education Voters, Partnership for Learning, Schools Out Washington, Stand for Children Washington and Tabor 100. Received money through the League of Education Voters to the tune of $1,499,543 for the “Purpose: to continue public engagement and action project to advance the policies and priorities of A+ Washington through the Excellent Schools Now (ESN) Coalition.

Washington State PTA (Gates money)

Council of Presidents State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Department of Early Learning: $6M+ from Mr. Gates

League of Education Voters (Gates)

ReadyNation (Gates)

Democrats for Education Reform (Gates and corporate money)

Puget Sound Educational Service District (Who brought us Race to the Top and data mining of our students’ information)

Washington State Board of Education (populated with a few of the usual suspects. Dorn, Deborah Wilds-Gates and Peter Maier)

The Parents Union (Gates)

College Spark Washington

Schools Out Washington (Gates-$2M+)

Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (Gates- $1M+)

Washington Association of School Administrators

Washington Student Achievement Council (Gates)

Washington Roundtable (Big business money)

Renton Technical College (?)

Consider the source.

Most of these faux roots organizations and even some who are not, including the Washington State PTA, receive money from Bill Gates.

Check out How to create a faux grassroots ed reform organization!

images Dora Taylor

Pearson and others are exploiting our children by using them to establish the validity, or lack thereof, of the SBAC

Shame
The Wall of Shame

The state and school district are spending millions of dollars to buy the copyrighted tests, texts and teaching materials, purchasing computers and setting up the technology to administer the SBAC.

We are not only paying in terms of cash but also in terms of our children’s time in school spending three days in a row this week taking the first part of the SBAC along with eliminating resources such as library and computer time for students.

In simple terms, our children are being used for product development.

A call to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) confirmed that the SBAC has not been deemed reliable or valid. The office of the OSPI then referred to a memorandum produced by Smarter Balanced that proves the test is being used this year for the purpose of, hopefully for Pearson, establishing reliability and validity of the tests.

This is the relevant segment of the memo:

Test reliability will initially be modeled through simulations using the item pool after item review, which is due to be completed December 31, 2014. Operational test reliability will be reported in the technical manual following the first operational administration in spring 2015.

Evaluation Phase:

Once the Smarter Balanced assessments are administered operationally in spring 2015, it will be possible to determine “external validity,” which is the degree to which test results correspond to external indicators (consistent with expectations).

For example, students who perform well on the summative test are expected to perform well in the classroom. These external research studies are listed in the attached Validation Worksheet document.

The information in this table shows the main validity activities established through the Smarter Balanced Validity Framework and the associated sources of evidence, past, present, and future. Because this type of evidence continues to be gathered through the operational administration of the assessments, this table mostly reflects future plans for external validity.

People, we’ve been had.

Some of our legislators, school board members and the superintendent have led us down the path. School Board Directors Sue Peters and Betty Patu requested a hearing on a resolution that states the SBAC has not been deemed valid but did not receive the vote to be heard. They understand what is happening and kudos to them for getting the word out. You can read Sue Peters’ introduction to the resolution below.

The ramifications of using our students as guinea pigs to validate the SBAC for Pearson are huge.

Graduation is now being determined by a student’s performance on the SBAC. The grade of a school and, according to the defenders of the test, Title I funding is being predicated on the results of the SBAC tests.

The time is now to take a careful look at what we are doing to our children and teachers and consider opting out of this SBAC testing immediately.

Also, contact OSPI, your state legislators and school board members about this situation.

The OSPI and the Superintendent Nyland coercing our students into taking the SBAC is wrong on so many levels.

Note:

For those who think Pearson has nothing to do with SBAC, read this from the SBAC website:

Smarter Balanced and PARCC to Launch New Technology Readiness Tool to Support Transition to Online Assessments

Pearson to Develop and Support Open Source Tool for Evaluating School Technology and Infrastructure Readiness

Olympia, Wash.–Jan. 31, 2012–The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today announced they have awarded a contract to Pearson to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool to support states as they transition to next-generation assessments. This new open source tool, with the assistance of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), will support state education agencies as they work with local education agencies to evaluate and determine needed technology and infrastructure upgrades for the new online assessments to be launched by the two consortia in the 2014-15 school year. http://www.smarterbalanced.org/news/smarter-balanced-and-parcc-to-launch-new-technology-readiness-tool-to-support-transition-to-online-assessments/

Dora Taylor

School Board Director Sue Peters’ introduction to the resolution:

We are asking our colleagues on the board to allow an addition to the agenda of a resolution for introduction tonight. No vote on the resolution itself is required tonight. There will be two more weeks available for consideration and feedback.

To my colleagues, these are the extenuating circumstances that bring us to this atypical request.

Our resolution concerns the new Common Core Smarter Balanced tests which the test-manufacturer itself acknowledges will fail 60 percent or more of our students, with even higher failure rates for  students of color, English Language Learners and students with special needs.

These tests will be administered to elementary school students as soon as next week.

This resolution is also in response  to growing and legitimate concerns in the community that came to a head last week when Nathan Hale high school registered concerns and objections to the impact of the test on its 11th grade students, for whom the test has no bearing on graduation.

As for the argument that the tests are a state or federal mandate, I would respond that the very legislators who voted to adopt the Common Core state standards and their associated assessments – without any public dialogue —  are not fulfilling their own mandate, but are being held in contempt by the state supreme court for failing to fully fund K-12 public education.

At one point do we stand up and say this mandate will harm our students, our children?

Common Core and the tests were adopted without any community conversation about the value and implications of both. We need to have those discussions at the state and district level.

This was not a spontaneous effort. I have requested this discussion for a year. Others on the board have long expressed concerns about testing. I requested an assessments work session, but that didn’t satisfactorily cover the impact and implications of SBAC. A few points that were brought up in that discussion are included in the resolution.

It should come as a surprise to no one that these tests are problematic. And at the same time, it has become apparent that we have not clearly communicated with our students and families what the impact and nature of these tests will be. We need to have this conversation honestly, openly — and immediately.

We requested to have the resolution added to next week’s Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting, but have been told the agenda is already finalized, and there may not be an opportunity to take it through committee until April.

This matter demands greater urgency than that would allow. So we bring it before you tonight to begin the conversation about what does it mean to administer an experimental new test to our students that the majority are expected to fail, and how does it reconcile with our duties to these students to ensure their well-being and success? If we don’t show some courage and vision on behalf of our students, who will?

Thank you for your consideration.

Everett teachers come out against the SBAC

From Mariner High School in Everett, Washington:

A RESOLUTION OF DISAPPROVAL OF THE SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT

WHEREAS, the motto of Mariner High School is to “provide an excellent education to every student;” and

WHEREAS, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is not required for graduation; and

WHEREAS, this computer based assessment will take approximately eight hours for each 11th grader to complete and its confusing format is unlike anything students will experience outside the testing environment; and

WHEREAS, there are not enough computers to test the students in a reasonable amount of time and it is unacceptable for computers to be unavailable to non-testing students for such a long period of time; and

WHEREAS, the failure rate of the assessment is going to be extraordinarily high (possibly 60%) for the general population and even higher for students of color, ELL students, and students on individualized education plans; and

WHEREAS, student performance on this test will in no way be indicative of their learning and instead this test must be given to meet arbitrary, antiquated and poorly considered state/federal mandates; and

WHEREAS, graduation and standardized testing requirements in Washington State are in constant shift, confusing, and poorly communicated; and

WHEREAS, the sheer number of state mandated standardized tests is unacceptable; in addition to other assessments during the last seven weeks of school we must administer two weeks of AP testing, many weeks of 11th grade SBA testing, the 10th grade ELA exit exam, the Biology EOC exam, the Geometry EOC exam, and the Algebra 1 EOC exam; many of these exams are required for graduation or could possibly earn students college credit; moreover, during this time we are also required to teach our students and administer year end finals and projects; and

WHEREAS, the detrimental impact on the school schedule and more importantly student learning cannot be justified simply to meet a superfluous bureaucratic requirement; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, the members of the Mukilteo Education Association at Mariner High School object to the administration of the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment for spring 2015 as an unacceptable obstruction to providing an excellent education to every student.

Passed Unanimously 3/6/2015

Notes from the field: The Nathan Hale Rally

IMG_0309_NHale_WEA_LEG_3.21.15

What was to be a forum presented by the League of Women Voters and the Seattle PTA with some of our state representatives there to field questions on funding for public schools quickly turned into a rally when a teacher from Nathan Hale High School brought down the house while talking about the SBAC and its unfairness to students and families. At the end of his speech, parents started chanting “Opt out, opt out, opt out!” and stomping their feet. Soon, the entire gymnasium exploded with excitement as the chant caught on and everyone was on their feet clapping, stamping and demanding in one voice to refuse the test.

Sally Soriano (former Seattle Public Schools’ Board Member) was there and took notes as one teacher after another astutely articulated their concerns.

Representative Gerry Pollett attended the event also and showed himself to be a voice of the people.

To follow are Sally Soriano’s field notes about the forum that quickly turned into a rally.

My Notes from the WEA/SEA Legislative Forum • Sat. 3/21/15, 10AM – Nathan Hale High School

Panel: Sen. Jeanne Khol-Welles (36th); Rep. Gael Tarleton (36th); Rep. Strom Peterson (21st); Sen. Rosemary McAuiffle (1st); Rep. Frank Chopp (43rd); Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (43rd); Rep. Jessyn Farrell (46th); Rep. Gerry Pollet (46th); Sen. David Frockt (46th)

Smaller Class Size

-Social Studies teacher in Shoreline. It’s time to reduce class size in WA State as we’re 47th in the nation. Last year educators in this state didn’t feel comfortable without a petition in our hands. We collected hundreds of thousands of signatures and smaller class size is now the law.

-5th grade science teacher at Olympic View. Last year I had 29 students. I’m a veteran teacher and skilled at my profession but with 29 students it was not possible to reach every student. Our charge as teachers is to reach every student. In talking with other educators, I’ve been finding out that 29 students is not even the largest class size. This year I have 22 students. The difference of 7 fewer students has made a drastic change in my teaching. Now I can sit down with students on a one on one basis. I have to do less prep time and can focus on better instruction.

-Frockt (46th) Response: I’ve been working with the WEA on a timeline to start implementing smaller class size beginning with low income students at the elementary level. Then we’ll move to the middle school level and then add nurses. I think we will be able to get there. We have to work with the court and with new revenue. It is my commitment to fund McCleary.

-Khol-Wells (36th) Response: I agree with Sen Frockt; I am former teacher but we also have to work with the Senate majority.

Compensation

-SEA Comment: WA is 47th when comes to class size; also is 42nd when comes to compensation.

-I teach in Edmonds; my husband teaches in Everett. When I talk with people about the reality of being a teacher I warn people — don’t ever marry a teacher! We live very modestly and have over $700 a month in student loans. My sister has no degree and just took a job for $70,000/yr with a $10,000 bonus. We are a healthy family but have medical bills. We continually make medical decisions on the basis of having no money. This winter we had to put off getting the brakes fixed on our car. Every few months my Grandma takes me to the store to stalk up our cupboards. We cannot afford violin lessons for our child and wonder how we are going to pay for two children to go to college when we haven’t even paid for our own college. Legislators must understand how important it is to retain quality people. They have to make this system work for teachers.

-I love working to support teachers. I wear many hats. I’m a special ed teacher and parent educator in Northshore. I work at Moreland Elementary School. I’ve worked part-time doing home repair and painting. I was in the Naval Reserves. I’ve been a fine art photographer. I need medical benefits. I make $16.00 an hour and my gross pay is at $1,700 a month with take-home pay of $1,200 a month. I am a single woman and am lucky that I own my home. Still I don’t cover my expenses with my take-home pay. I will have to continue working as long as my health holds out. We are not compensated equitably. I should be making $9,000 more each year. I guess this is what I’m donating to the state. I’m continually using up my retirement savings. My situation is the norm. I’m here to ask you to do something to fund educators. We have to be able to survive in this economy.

-SEA Question to panel: COLA is still not enough, would you support competitive wages as recommended by your own task force? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Local flexibility, local districts negotiate with teachers? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to Chopp: Please comment on the COLA, Speaker Chopp, as you play crucial role in the House?

-Chopp (43rd) Answer: I am a community organizer who happens to be Speaker of the House. I support raising COLAs; my brother and two sisters are teachers so our get-togethers sound like a WEA union meeting.

-Rep. Peterson Answer: We have to honor the COLA deal we have made as honoring these promises is exactly what we have to do to maintain the safety net.

-From an Audience Shout Out: When?: Answer: This year; How? Answer: Revenue packages; Capital gains; Cap and Trade

Salary and Benefits

-I’m a parapro at Stevens Elementary. I am doing the work I love and I’m lucky to have a place to live inside Seattle as I have landlords who appreciate my teaching and therefore give me a good deal on rent. If I did not have this relationship, I could not live here. I have neighbors who are also educators at Stevens and we all live pay check to pay check. We never have money at end of the month. There is no retirement and healthcare costs are rising. Inslee raised healthcare by $200 which is a minimal raise as it barely covers anything. I’m thinking that I’ll have to reconsider whether I can do the work I love. What does this say about how we are valued?

-SEA Question to panel: The decrease in healthcare has impacted teachers; $786 per month since 2011. Most educators are taking home less pay every year. Do you support increasing teachers to the same level as state employees? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Do you oppose the state takeover of our healthcare system? Everyone on panel answers YES (except Tarelton, she didn’t know anything about a takeover)

-Tarleton (36th) Answers: I’m in support of teachers getting healthcare funding that keeps up with the cost of healthcare.

-Walkinshaw (43rd) Answers:  My mom was a teacher and my dad was on my mom’s healthcare plan. As a kid growing up I know what family finances are like. Kids know when families are budgeting and there has been a huge change over the last 20 years. It is essential to be fighting on this issue.

Student Testing

-I’m a Nathan Hale Teacher (loud applause). We teach students to be citizens, to be honorable, skillful citizens. After studying the research and using a broad-based input process with students, parents, teachers, we came to the conclusion that the SBAC was of no benefit. Since then, Dr. Larry Nyland stated we could be guilty of misconduct if we refuse to give the SBAC. We will be fired and could never again be able to teach in Washington State. Fortunately there is a large parent movement and a large student movement. The state and city and school board must listen to these protests against this unreliable test. All across the country parents and students are protesting against these tests — NY, NJ, PA and TX and California just decided to postpone Common Core testing for the next year. I think the federal government is more likely to listen to the public’s opinion about these tests because it is an election year. (standing ovation)

-I’m a Graham Hill elementary special ed teacher and also the parent of a student at Ballard High School. I have already opted my teenager out of the SBAC. I have been the testing coordinator at Graham Hill for nine years. During that time I have seen the required amount of assessment given to students increase and increase. There is no longer enough time each day for the important instruction in the classroom. There is no time for in-depth teaching. Students have to spend an enormous amount of time on their homework and this is actually content they should have been learning in school but don’t have the time because of testing. Students average 2.5 hours for each of the district mandated tests and now the SBAC will take 8 hours. Most all of this testing has nothing to do with what the kids are working on. What happens is, through the testing, you end up telling little kids that they are dumb. What am I suppose to do with this data from all these tests? I know that when I send the results to the district they just all fall into a black hole. As you all know, when you test your students the testing is timely, it is related to your curriculum and is relevant. Your tests are individualized for your students. Students realize these tests are created for them. Your tests then inform your curriculum. Students are not guinea pigs; teachers are not guinea pigs. These other tests are created by people who are more concerned about students as a number and making money off of these students. (standing ovation)

-I’m from Lake Washington School District. I just administered the SBAC. Students were looking to me with fright, trying to figure out what was going on. All I could say was: “I will not be able to help you.” These tests are taking way too much time and there is no research that shows they improve student learning. I think it is premature to be giving these tests now and it will just lead to a real narrowing of the curriculum. We must make sure how we measure our students — we must use a just process. Who is going to be the voice for our kids? Who will do what’s right for our kids? (standing ovation)

-SEA Question to panel: Do you support removing high stakes testing as grade requirement?  Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Will you work with us to limit tests? Everyone on panel answers YES

-Jessyn Farrell (46th): There is so much energy in this room! I have a 6-year old and 4-month old. When I walk into my 6 year olds classroom, I think to myself what amazing things are happening here in spite of what the Legislature is doing. I’m learning about this just the way you are. My 6 year old had a day off a while back. What did we do? We played testing. Thank you Nathan Hale. We need to and want to be your partners.

-Gerry Pollet (46th): Thank you Nathan Hale. When we were here in October I urged students to go to their parents and talk with them about boycotting SBAC. As a parent I am disturbed by what Seattle Schools are doing. I received a letter from Superintendent Nyland who states parents can “refuse” the test. He has it wrong. I have a right. It is a legitimate option for my child to not take the test. It is not a refusal! I have a legal and moral option. Our kids are not guinea pigs. (standing ovation)

-Khol-Wells (36th) — I’ve always opposed using student test scores for teacher evaluations. I would have voted against SB 5748 again this year but there was an amendment offered which was exactly what the SEA has supported. Evaluations would not be based on test scores but on assessment data and it would be up to each district what assessment data would be used. I care a lot about getting back the $40M. I have always been opposed to “high stakes” testing and I am not the enemy. I have repeatedly talked about the horrible nature of “high stakes” testing. My granddaughter is a high achiever; I was a 4th grade teacher. We know our students are achieving well and we know what we want.

-Frockt (46th): I’ve heard you loud and clear about how we use the tests and the proliferation of tests. I voted for SB 5748 for one reason. I wanted to try to restore NCLB and services to low income kids. I’ve worked with Governor Inslee crafting a waiver based on the statement of Arnie Duncan. I’ve asked Inslee to re-double his efforts. By adopting the amendment which would allow multiple measures, I was hoping this would be the right direction for public policy.

-McAuliffe (1st): When we brought it in, the wording was “may use”; not “must use.”

Fully Funding Education

-SEA Comment: We remain focused on the importance of fully funding education.

-President Northshore School District. This is the paramount duty of the State and McCleary has reaffirmed this and the State Supreme Court is now holding the Legislature in contempt. Through various initiatives, such as I-728, funding for education has become a shell game. No fair revenue has been added.

-SEA Question to panel: Do you agree full funding and smaller class size? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Should there be competitive professional wages? Everyone on panel answers YES

-Seattle PTSA lobbyist. I have a second grader and classrooms in Seattle are bursting at the seams. We need to build more school buildings. In Seattle, we have kids in 6,000 portables. In order to meet K-3 we need 350 more classrooms. Kids need quality learning environments. We have to invest in our buildings.

-SEA Question to panel: Will you work to make sure in this biennium there is full funding for K-3 classroom construction; we need 5,000 new classrooms at a renovation cost of $40M? Everyone on panel answers YES

-SEA Question to panel: Will you support fixing the formula for building classrooms? Everyone on panel answers YES

-League of Women Voters. We know state funds are central to many programs. Where is the money going to come from? Will it be sufficient?

-SEA Question to Chopp: What can we expect this year and how can we work together? We have 84,000 educators across the state (Chopp adds: and 1 million students across the state).

-Chopp Answers: First we have to improve our tax system. Leaders in Apple Health have already learned this with $1.4B in new revenue. The problem is with the Republican dominated Senate. People in this room and throughout the state have contacted me about the bad Senate bill SR 5748 regarding teacher evaluation and testing. I’ve received 1,300 emails opposed and zero email in favor.

From the field,

-Sally Soriano

Will the US Department of Education take your school’s Title 1 funds if you opt your student out of the SBAC? Short answer, no.

95-participation

There is no federal or state law that requires financial penalties to schools’ Title I funds if parents refuse to allow their children to take the PARCC tests. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95 percent participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. The intent of that law was to prevent schools from hiding subgroups of students from the accountability structure and was not aimed at preventing parents from refusing to have their children tested.

The parents in the states of New York and New Jersey have been fighting back against the Common Core Standards for the last year and the corresponding  PARCC battery of tests which is our SBAC set of tests in Washington State.

But let’s start at the beginning.

It is illegal for the Federal Government to specify a national curriculum or national test.

From my post High Stake Testing: A little history:

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into Federal law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as part of the “War on Poverty” program. This bill ensured that children in poverty would receive additional funding for their school programs. The funding allocated was to include the professional development of teachers, class materials, and support for parent involvement. This federal money is referred to as “Title 1″ funding. (Note: Part of the original ESEA agreement ensured there would not be a national curriculum decided by the Federal government, but rather that each state would determine its own curriculum.)  ESEA was to continue for five years, but Congress has reauthorized the bill every five years and each time it is reauthorized, members of Congress, along with the President, have made changes to the bill.

Any standardized curriculum can only be legally developed at the state or district level. Arne Duncan and his backers, particularly Bill Gates, really, really wanted a standardized curriculum throughout the fifty states. Conundrum. What to do? Have a private entity, led by Achieve Inc., create the curriculum and tests and make it sound like the states had determined the standards, thus the name “Common Core State Standards”. Thing is, no one at the state level in any state ever had anything to do with creating the standards and in fact, the Common Core Standards had not been completed when the state legislators across the country voted to have them implemented in their states. It took some slick lobbying to pull that off.

Now everyone is in a kerfuffle because parents, teachers and students don’t think much of the standards or the emphasis on testing,  so lots of parents, teachers and students are opting out of the SBAC/PARCC testing regime. What to do? Threaten the masses. Tell parents “Your school is not going to get any money” and “It’s against the law”. Actually what’s against the law is what the US Department of Education is doing under the cover of Achieve Inc.

So let’s get real.

These are the facts.

Folks in New Jersey did their homework and came up with the following. To be clear, what is happening in New Jersey is happening here. The only difference is in New Jersey, they have the PARCC battery of tests and we have the SBAC drill and kill testing. Same test, different name.

Please share the following information far and wide because I am getting reports from around the state that there are threats being made by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn (who has bought into the Common Core Standards (CCS) and in fact sits on the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which is a private entity and has received more than $50 million from Bill Gates to promote Common Core Standards, SBAC and charter schools and is part of the unholy trinity of Achieve Inc. and the National Governors Association (NGA), another private entity, who pulled off this CCS charade), district superintendents, our own Nyland in Seattle sent out a nasty gram this week but I wouldn’t expect anything different from him, (remember we were not allowed to vet him) and Principals who want to keep their jobs.

It’s up to parents to protect their children from what is basically child abuse with anywhere from 10 to 30 hours of standardized testing slated for this semester for each student. (Get your student’s testing schedule from your principal and add up the hours yourself.)

Before I get too much father afield, to follow is the information you need to know:

NJ Legislators Need to Stand up for Our Children

By Christopher Tienken, Ed.D. and Julia Sass Rubin, Ph.D.

The first administration of the experimental new PARCC (same as the SBAC) high-stakes standardized tests is only weeks away and parents are increasingly concerned. Hundreds of families have notified their school districts that their children will not be taking the PARCC tests.

Approximately one-fifth of all New Jersey school districts have responded by assuring parents who refuse the test that their children will be provided with an alternative location, or at least the ability to read in class, while their classmates take the test.

Other districts, however, have taken a much more punitive approach, threatening to force children as young as eight to remain in the testing room with no other activities except sitting and staring for the two-week duration of the test. Some districts have even threatened students whose parents refuse the test with disciplinary actions.
In response, parents are asking the New Jersey legislature to intervene and pass A4165/S2767. This legislation requires all districts and charter schools to provide consistent, humane treatment for children whose parents refuse standardized tests.

As growing numbers of legislators indicate their support for A4165/S2767, officials within the New Jersey Department of Education have apparently initiated a campaign to block its passage by claiming that the proposed legislation would cost districts precious dollars. Specifically, the NJDOE is arguing that the US Department of Education would use powers it has under the No Child Left Behind law to cut Title I funding for any schools that fall below 95 percent student participation levels on the PARCC.

Keep in the mind that the proposed legislation does not direct parents to have their children opt-out or refuse the state mandated tests. The proposed legislation simply asks for a consistent statewide policy of humane treatment for children whose parents choose to refuse the testing. As more school administrators decide to make students needlessly “sit and stare” for two weeks of testing, plus up to two additional weeks of make-up testing, it is imperative that the legislature act to protect children from such treatment.

So will the US Department of Education take your school’s Title 1 funds if this legislation becomes law?

The answer is NO, and here are some reasons why.

1. There is no federal or state law that requires financial penalties to schools’ Title I funds if parents refuse to allow their children to take the PARCC tests. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95 percent participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. The intent of that law was to prevent schools from hiding subgroups of students from the accountability structure and was not aimed at preventing parents from refusing to have their children tested.

However, since 2012, NJ has had a waiver to NCLB that replaces those sanctions with a new accountability system.
Under the waiver, only schools designated “priority” or “focus” schools face direct intervention for missing state targets. New Jersey’s 250 priority and focus schools can have up to 30 percent of their federal Title I funds re-directed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) for specific “interventions,” but even these funds are supposed to be used for school improvement, not taken away. And the NJDOE already has the ability to redirect a part of the Title I allocations received by priority and focus schools.

2. No federal financial penalties related to Title I instructional funds have been imposed on any New Jersey school for missing the 95 percent participation rate.

And missing the 95 percent participation rate at the school level is not unusual in New Jersey.

According to NJDOE data, last spring, nine schools in seven New Jersey districts had overall school-wide NJ ASK participation rates below 95 percent; 175 schools in 104 districts had participation rates below 95 percent for at least one of the student subgroups (e.g., special needs, Limited English Proficient, economically disadvantaged, etc.,).[i]

None of those schools experienced any federal financial repercussions to Title I funds.  In fact, no school has ever lost Title I funds due to punishment by the federal government for missing the 95 percent participation rate.

3. Other states have laws that protect parents’ right to opt their children out or refuse high-stakes standardized testing and no federal financial penalties of any sort have been imposed on schools in those states as a result of these laws.

For example, in Wisconsin “Upon the request of a pupil’s parent or guardian, the school board shall excuse the pupil from taking an examination administered under sub. (1m).”[ii]

In California, a “parent or guardian may submit to the school a written request to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of any test provided pursuant to Ed Code Section 60640.”[iii]

4. The US Congress is rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – the federal legislation that mandates annual standardized testing. A reauthorized ESEA may completely eliminate the federal interventions that are in the current version of ESEA and is likely to give individual states much more decision-making authority when it comes to accountability and testing mandates.

So the NJDOE’s threat of Title I funding cuts at local schools seems premature at best given the past practice of the United States Department of Education to not sanction NJ schools’ Title I Funds for missing the 95 percent participation rate. The moral imperative for the NJDOE, the NJ Legislature and for individual school districts should be to act in the best interests of New Jersey children, and that means treating students humanely if their parents choose to participate in the democratic tradition of dissent.

Christopher Tienken is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy at the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University.
Julia Sass Rubin is an Associate Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and one of the founding members of the all-volunteer pro-public education group Save Our Schools NJ.

[i] http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/index.html
[ii] http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/118/30
[iii] Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, Division 1, Chapter 2, Subchapter 3.75.

Nathan Hale High School in Seattle says “No!” to the Common Core Standards SBAC test

iRefuse-feature
The Common Core Standards associated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam, the SBAC, will be implemented in March in the Seattle school district but this afternoon the Nathan Hale High School Senate, which functions as the Building Leadership Team typically made up of teachers, parents, staff and students, voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.

The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.

The reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included:

1. The SBAC is not required for graduation

2. Colleges will not use the SBAC this year

3. Since NCLB requires all students to pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that, all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.

4. It is neither a valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide our next instructional steps.

5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.

6. Students made the point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”

7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.

8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.

As a representative of Nathan Hale stated:

This is an important step. Nathan Hale High School is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.

And what was that the Seattle Times just said about the Common Core Standards? Oh yeah, State not joining revolt against Common Core learning model. Well, we know who butters their bread.

Dora Taylor

Seattle, one step ahead of the corporate brokers.

Also recommended,

School Superintendents (and Principals), stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test