How privatization of schools (charter schools) works: An infograph

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What’s the big secret about the SBAC and PARCC test questions?

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Back in the day, after I took a test and it was graded, I got my test paper back to see what questions I got wrong. It was part of the learning process.

It seems these days that Pearson doesn’t want the students or teachers to know what the questions are, therefore what questions each student needs to review and focus on to further educate themselves.

It has now gotten to the point where if ANYONE shares one question on the PARCC or SBAC tests, they are to be censored and threatened with legal action.

This is education?

An article was written by a teacher about the Common Core Standards PARCC test (the equivalent of the SBAC used in Washington State) and posted on the blog Outrage on the Page. It described the type of questions given, with examples of specific questions and critiqued each one superbly.

The people at PARCC/Pearson, weren’t happy about this and threatened the publisher of the article with legal action.

Because of the threats, the questions were deleted from the article.

Tweets about the article were taken down and Diane Ravitch’s post on the article disappeared off of her blog overnight. Because of these actions, I and other education journalists are reposting the original article that was written by the teacher and sharing it broadly on our websites as well as twitter and Facebook.

Please share widely the following thoughtful article written by an educator about the PARRC test.

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according toScholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. EvenCCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says:“Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

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Post script by the editor:

I just came across this cartoon on Facebook and wanted to share it.

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A related article:

NJ Teachers Union President: PARCC Is a Flawed Assessment

 

 

 

 

The skinny on Pearson and the Common Core Standards

From Long Island Business News:

Uncommon Costs

by Claude Solnik

The federal government is barred from creating the curriculum. But the feds set aside $4.35 billion to support the shift to the Common Core curriculum, developed in conjunction with firms such as Pearson that would get big contracts.

New York State was offered $700 million if it implemented Common Core and linked its test results to teacher evaluations.

“They promised money based on acceptance of these standards,” said Estelle Kamler, a professor of educational leadership and administration at LIU Post in Brookville and a former public school superintendent. “Everything was tied to the standards and testing.”

White sees the billions of dollars as “the way the federal government bribed states to adopt the Common Core.”

More than 80,000 students on Long Island and twice that number state-wide gathered in auditoriums, gymnasiums, libraries and classrooms for three days last week – neither to take tests nor to learn something new. Meanwhile, others toiled over lengthy tests designed to evaluate teachers more than the students taking them. They gathered again to repeat the ritual for three more days this week.

As parents pondered the best choice to make for their children, one company scored big profits over six days that shook the school system.

While debate rages over whether to opt out of the rigorous testing, little attention is being paid to the British company that helped craft the Common Core curriculum and created those tests administered in New York and much of the nation.

Headquartered in London and with U.S. operations based in Iowa, Pearson PLC has quietly grown into possibly the most powerful education firm in the United States. It has $16.7 billion in market capitalization, $7.2 billion in sales and $357 million in 2014 profits globally.

At a time when teachers are being fired due to budget shortfalls, hundreds of millions of dollars are being pumped into testing companies, with Pearson emerging as the biggest winner in this race to the top of the testing world.

Pearson, which did not provide comments for this story despite repeated requests, has grown by buying competitors, spending millions in lobbying and research and developing tests rapidly that some say measure little beyond the tests themselves.

Supporters say testing means accountability, while critics say quantity isn’t quality. Even if the Common Core works, they say two tests shouldn’t take six days (1/30th of the school year) – and a whole year to prepare for.

Thirteen-year-olds take tests that last as long as the bar exam – without ever learning the correct answers.

“They’re not teaching kids,” said Allison White, co-founder of Port Washington Advocates for Public Education. “It’s not just the time (lost) for the testing. It’s weeks and months they spend prepping for the tests. I don’t see any educational purpose for the individual kid.”

Supporters say students get grades, even if they never find out what they got right or wrong. But a new debate has formed over whether there’s too much testing and too little benefit.

“The results won’t be in until they’re in the next grade,” said Alan Singer, a professor of education at Hofstra University. “This is not for evaluating or helping students.”

New York State Education Department spokeswoman Jeanne Beattie says the state must obtain official data from all 700 districts before it can evaluate the scope of opting out. But South Huntington School District Superintendent David Bennardo believes high-stakes testing has taken over schools on Long Island, where education has long been an asset.

“Anything good about Common Core is being eclipsed by the testing system, which is broken right now,” he said. “The sad thing is that this was terribly handled.”

It’s the economy

While much of the debate around testing focuses on education, the shift may be driven by economics. To evaluate what’s occurring, it may make sense to look at who backs it, believes in it and benefits from it.

“I really believe it’s ‘follow the money,’” said White, who leads one of dozens of groups critical of what they view as excessive and inefficient tests. “Where is it leading us? None of this makes its way back to my local school district.”

President George Bush created “No Child Left Behind” in 2002, calling for national education standards. The federal government – while increasing its role in healthcare, education and finance – pumped billions into persuading states to adopt standards through “Race to the Top,” a program created in 2009.

The federal government is barred from creating the curriculum. But the feds set aside $4.35 billion to support the shift to the Common Core curriculum, developed in conjunction with firms such as Pearson that would get big contracts.

New York State was offered $700 million if it implemented Common Core and linked its test results to teacher evaluations.

“They promised money based on acceptance of these standards,” said Estelle Kamler, a professor of educational leadership and administration at LIU Post in Brookville and a former public school superintendent. “Everything was tied to the standards and testing.”

White sees the billions of dollars as “the way the federal government bribed states to adopt the Common Core.”

The problem was, no curriculum existed or had been approved. Companies like Pearson worked quickly, creating tests used to evaluate students.

“If you look at many questions, all the answers appear correct,” Singer said of one flaw. “They ask questions as if they’re fact questions. Really, they’re opinion questions. When you say, ‘What is the best answer?’ you and I might have different opinions.”

While many public school parents are opting out, Common Core is turning into great news for private schools. One parent of a child in Catholic school sees private schools’ freedom from these mandates as a big plus.

“Private schools don’t have to take these tests,” White said. “If these tests are so important and the only way to measure whatever people pushing them claim they measure, why don’t we require them in private schools?”

Core values

While Pearson is a relatively recent entry in the exam business, it has a rapidly growing educational testing empire. The College Board, which makes the SAT, and ACT, producer of the eponymous test, are nonprofits.

Pearson, a public company traded on the London and New York stock exchanges, invested heavily in buying businesses as the Common Core was adopted in 45 states.

Founded in 1844 in London by Samuel Pearson as an engineering firm, Pearson acquired a stake in the London operation of Lazard Brothers. Pearson acquired publications such as the Financial Times and then set its sights on education as a promising market. While publishing faced challenges, Pearson saw testing as the future.

The firm acquired the education division of HarperCollins in 1997 and, two years later, absorbed Simon & Schuster’s education business. Pearson later acquired National Computer Systems, which did educational assessments.

The firm in 2006 acquired National Evaluation Systems, which did state assessments for teacher certifications in the United States. In 2007 it acquired Harcourt Assessment and Harcourt Education International from Reed Elsevier for $950 million.

The firm grew to 41,000 employees in more than 70 countries and an army of temporary workers who grade tests typically for $13 an hour. Pearson, in its quarterly reports, refers to the United Kingdom as its “core” business, but its biggest business is in the United States.

The firm generates 60 percent of revenues and has more than half of its employees in North America. More than a quarter of shareholders are registered in the United States.

“I think we are every bit an American company as we are a British company or anything else,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a call with analysts in March.

The firm snagged a $32 million contract (up to $38 million with amendments) in New York in February 2011 to create tests for millions of students.

But the big money may be in serving the state’s 4,530 public schools (there are roughly 1,700 private schools). It found an effective way to sell books: Create the tests and everybody will want your texts.

“The schools are spending a fortune on new materials that are, in many cases, worthless,” Kamler said. “They really should be spending on professional development.”

Pearson’s donations problem

While Pearson is evaluating students and teachers, the firm has come under fire for how it won contracts. Pearson says it donated $130 million through its charitable foundation.

But New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year announced Pearson agreed to a $7.7 million settlement for violating laws banning companies from using “charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations.”

Pearson gave grants to school officials to attend summits around the world, paying travel and lodging expenses for officials, speakers and presenters.

Schneiderman said, “Sales personnel attended these international summits, while no employee of any other for-profit education company ever attended.”

Schneiderman said $7.5 million is going to hire teachers with the remaining $200,000 used to pay legal bills.

“Pearson has positioned itself to influence education,” Singer said. “The Pearson Foundation was taking superintendents and school-based personnel all over the world to conferences.”

Pearson late last year dissolved its charitable foundation. But the firm still has contracts including one that expires at the end of this year in New York.

From A to Z to K Street

While Pearson may have crossed the line, testing companies have been pumping up lobbying to unprecedented heights.

Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill spent more than $20 million on lobbying from 2009 to 2014. Pearson spent more than $8 million, including more than $1 million in 2012 in New York State.

Although President Barack Obama promised not to hire lobbyists, he sparked a controversy when he hired Broderick Johnson, a lobbyist at Bryan Cave, whose clients include Pearson and Microsoft. Johnson donated more than $150,000 largely to Democratic candidates since 2008 and was a high-ranking Obama adviser.

“All these things are awarded based on whose lobbyist is doing a better job,” White said. “A lot of decisions don’t get made in the best interest of children.”

Pearson hired educators to be on its board, including Susan Fuhrman, recently named president of Teachers College at Columbia University. She also served as president of the National Academy of Education.

Fuhrman later wrote an open letter to the Teachers College community, saying she realized her “affiliation with the board of Pearson is disturbing” to many.

“I also appreciate – and agree with – concerns about the overuse of and emphasis on testing in education policy and reform,” she added.

Fuhrman was paid more than $60,000 annually to serve on the Pearson board, obtaining thousands of shares of stock. She said she believes it’s wise “to be fully engaged in – and, I would hope, influence – the discussion of the role of the private sector in public education.”

She said it’s important to “have an educator’s point of view about policy, research and practice represented at the highest levels of the company.”

Why an education company would need an “educator’s point of view” is a question, until you realize Pearson isn’t run by educators.

High stakes for high tech

If educators aren’t driving the change, who is? Computer companies are big backers and potential beneficiaries. One might say computer giants hacked into education.

IBM, Intel, Cisco Systems, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson fund the Education Development Center, an academic nonprofit research center. Singer said these firms “stand to benefit from [the center’s] policy recommendations,” because standardized testing, eventually, will be given on computers.

Singer said EDC concluded Common Core tests accurately measure teacher performance, although their study “draws no connection between the evaluation system and improved student learning.”

The Gates Foundation poured $85 million into the Common Core curriculum and its tests, including millions for Pearson.

“You get more free market competition,” Bill Gates told the American Enterprise Institute last March. “Scale is good for free-market competition. Individual state regulatory capture is not good for competition.”

Critics believe more than testing was turned over to these firms: They see it as the outsourcing and selling of the American education system. Pearson doesn’t only create tests, but materials used to teach curriculum.

It then evaluates tests, students, teachers and schools in a closed loop where one company does it all with little supervision and non-disclosure orders rein in dissent.

“Essentially, they’re a monopoly,” White said. “They make the tests, the test prep materials, the remedial materials you need if you fail the test. If more kids fail the test, you can convince the school to buy more remedial materials.”

Kamler said tests routinely have questions not for the appropriate grade level. The tests, she believes, are out of touch.

“They design the curriculum so it can be tested. It doesn’t mean the tests are measuring anything of value or the curriculum is any good,” Singer said. “What you have is a closed circuit product of questionable validity and use.”

 High anxiety

Although the high-stakes testing market involves high stakes, Pearson is busy looking to other potentially lucrative exams.

New York State hired it to develop leadership exams for principals and superintendents, measuring them with multiple-choice questions before they are given jobs.

“They now have new tests for school leaders,” Kamler said. “Those tests are so poorly designed.”

Pearson is targeting attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as the next potential goldmine for testing students. The firm in 2013 acquired the assets of the BioBehavioral Diagnostics Co. (BioBDx), which created the Quotient System, the first U.S. Food & Drug Administration-approved test to measure ADHD.

Aurelio Prifitera, CEO of Pearson Clinical Assessment, said he planned on “introducing the Quotient ADHD Test to mental health and education professionals in both clinical and school settings.”

Even if Pearson built an education empire, it could lose contracts if No Child Left Behind isn’t renewed or states opt for other providers.

Doug Kubach, president of Pearson’s school business, said in a fourth quarter earnings call that the firm is “following the reauthorization quite closely, because that does drive a lot of aspects of our business…” He added government could move “more of the control around accountability back to states.”

Some states are rejecting the federal Common Core Standards and, to quote a phrase from the anti-drug war, just saying “No.”

Indiana’s state Senate this month approved a bill to exit Common Core and develop standards to “maintain Indiana sovereignty” by July. The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a similar bill, although the state Senate may block action. The Tennessee Legislature is considering putting Common Core on hold.

Fallon said, “Public awareness for Pearson as the world’s leading learning company is still relatively limited.” That could change for better or worse.

“Now you have a situation that is untenable,” Bennardo said. “It is dividing communities. We’re going to be left with communities where half the students take the test and the other half do not.”

How can the state spend millions to have hundreds of thousands of students not take tests?

“What Common Core will be replaced with is the question,” Bennardo said.

“The investors and shareholders of Pearson are benefiting,” White concluded. “The problem is they were standards that were not developed by educators.”

Others say the problem is with the process by which the testing industry, in conjunction with computer companies, took over a nation’s education system.

The recent turmoil could take its toll on the testing company. Moody’s said last week it would maintain a negative outlook for Pearson’s debt that “cautiously reflects the potential challenges/policy-related disruptions that could emerge during the course of 2015.”

Pearson’s stock started the year at $17.79 per share, up from $15.96 at the start of 2011. It was trading at about $21 a share earlier this week, near its 52-week high.

“The most significant problem is the lack of educators’ voices. When they bring in educators, they bring them in with information that’s skewed,” Kamler said. “It’s absurd and it’s really on the back of kids. It’s totally inappropriate. What’s happening in schools is not good for children.”

Testimony by a mother who knows: The SBAC, graduation, “College and Career Ready”

JON KRAUSE/NEWS ART

I am a high school math teacher and Richland School District parent. I’ve worked on the SBAC as a contractor for McGraw-Hill and on assessment committees for Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). I am a parent who understands the history of Washington state standards and assessments, and how we came to SBAC and the Common Core State Standards. There was a time that I supported the Common Core. I believe in accountability and rigor. But making a question harder is not rigor and closing the door to a child’s future is not accountability.

Our community’s future grows dark when our children can’t graduate. Without a diploma, they can’t enter the military, apply for trade jobs, and entry into community college or finding work becomes less likely. It’s easy to say “Not our kids” when we’re used to living in a community with an 80% graduation rate. But the probability of our children not graduating will increase with the SBAC. The SBAC designers have predicted an average failure rate of at least 60%. 60% of our children are going to be labeled as failing in school, at learning, and failing at their future before they even step out of high school. They will be labeled failing by a test that doesn’t actually assess what OSPI says it does.

While Pearson, Gates, and McGraw-Hill are draining billions of dollars from our public schools, they are giving us false promises that the SBAC will make our children “college and career ready”. The SBAC can’t do that. Recent studies have shown that even the SAT isn’t an accurate predictor of college readiness. High school students who have scored well on the SAT, but did poorly in high school, were more like to drop out of college than students who did well high school but struggled with testing. If the SAT can’t make these predictions, then neither can the SBAC.

The people who teach our children and live in our community do a far better job of predicting success. High school GPA, proven to be a better predictor of college success, depends on tests that teachers design and curriculum that is selected by the local school district. Not a faceless group of people and corporations whose end goal is to make money. Teacher tests aren’t secretive, they don’t cost billions of dollars, and they really do guide instruction. A local curriculum and standards reflect local community values.

The failure of the SBAC and my trust in my children’s teachers is why I chose to opt my them out-of-state testing. We didn’t vote for the Common Core. We didn’t need the SBAC to tell us that we were ready for careers or college. That’s what report cards were for. Teaching can and has occurred without national standards. It’s time to stop paying for corporate lies. It’s time to take back education for our community and our children. We reached out to state representatives, and they have chosen to ignore us in favor of the corporations. Since the state won’t hear us, we ask that you, our locally elected school board, listen. We need you to support parents who want to protect our children from the abuse of the corporations.

-Elizabeth Vann-Clark

Pearson and the DOE in NJ, spying on social media of students

Superintendent-Jewetts-letter-about-Pearson

One motivation is clear–the more students who take the test, the more Pearson gets paid. This explains a lot about the state’s and the company’s aggressiveness in ensuring as many students as possible take the test.

The PARCC is the same test as the SBAC test. It is a Pearson copyrighted product sold to different states under different names to put it simply. It leads one to believe that if Pearson is spying on students taking the PARCC tests, they are doing the same to students taking the SBAC.

I haven’t heard any confirmation that students in Washington State are being watched via social media but be aware it is happening in other states.

From Bob Braun’s Ledger:

Pearson, NJ, spying on social media of students taking PARCC tests

“The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during the PARCC testing.” Jewett continued: “I have to say that I find that a bit disturbing–and if our parents were concerned before about a conspiracy with all of the student data, I am sure I will be receiving more letters of refusal once this gets out.”

Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests. This website discovered the unauthorized and hidden spying thanks to educators who informed it of the practice–a practice happening throughout the state and apparently throughout the country.

The spying–or “monitoring,” to use Pearson’s word–was confirmed at one school district–the Watchung Hills Regional High School district in Warren by its superintendent, Elizabeth Jewett. Jewett sent out an e-mail–posted here– to her colleagues expressing concern about the unauthorized spying on students.

She said parents are upset and added that she thought Pearson’s behavior would contribute to the growing “opt out” movement. So far, thousands of parents have kept their children away from the tests–and one of the reasons is the fear that Pearson might abuse its access to student data, something it has denied it would do.

In her email, Jewett said the district’s testing coordinator received a late night call from the state education department saying that Pearson had “initiated a Priority 1 Alert for an item breach within our school.”

The unnamed state education department employee contended a student took a picture of a test item and tweeted it. That was not true. It turned out the student had posted–at 3:18 pm, well after testing was over–a tweet about one of the items with no picture. Jewett does not say the student revealed a question. There is no evidence of any attempt at cheating.

Jewett continues: “The student deleted the tweet and we spoke with the parent–who was obviously highly concerned as to her child’s tweets being monitored by the DOE (state education department).

“The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during the PARCC testing.” Jewett continued: “I have to say that I find that a bit disturbing–and if our parents were concerned before about a conspiracy with all of the student data, I am sure I will be receiving more letters of refusal once this gets out.”

The school superintendent also expressed concern about “the fact that the DOE wanted us to also issue discipline to the student.” Clearly, if Pearson insists on claiming test security as a justification for its spying on young people, that reasoning is vitiated by its cooperation with the state education department in trying to punish students who are merely expressing their First Amendment right to comment on the tests.

I contacted Jewett by email. By that time she had discovered not one but three instances in which Pearson notified the state education department of the results of its spying. In her email to me, Jewett was vague about the role of Pearson and the education department.

She wrote: “In reference to the issue of PARCC infractions and DOE/Pearson monitoring social media, we have had three incidents over the past week. All situations have been dealt with in accordance with our Watchung Hills Regional High School code of conduct and academic integrity policy. Watchung Hills Regional High School is a relatively small district and a close-knit community; therefore, I am very concerned that whatever details your sources are providing may cause unnecessary labeling and hardship to students who are learning the consequences of their behavior.”

Jewett acted professionally, I believe, but I must point out the irony of her lecturing me about protecting the identity of students when she has just dealt with both an inexcusable breach of privacy involving minors and an attempt by state government to punish dissent. I made it clear to her I have no intention of revealing names of students–but I would be more than happy to speak with their parents.

The state education department official identified as the person cooperating with Pearson is Veronica Orsi, who is in charge of assessment for grades 9-12 in the department. She refused to answer this website’s questions about her involvement and passed them on to superiors who also did not answer.

Neither the state education department nor Pearson’s would respond to my emails on the company’s spying on students. New Jersey is paying $108 million to run its PARCC testing program, an enterprise that has engendered opposition throughout New Jersey–and that was before the spying was revealed.

One motivation is clear–the more students who take the test, the more Pearson gets paid. This explains a lot about the state’s and the company’s aggressiveness in ensuring as many students as possible take the test.

But what isn’t explained is the willingness of the state education department to punish New Jersey children on behalf of a private company. According to sources–and not denied by Jewett–state officials tried to have the students involved suspended.

State Education Commissioner David Hespe spent hours testifying before the Legislature’s Senate Education Committee Thursday but did not once mention the possibility that the London-based Pearson would be “monitoring” the social media accounts of students taking the test. Jewett’s email, however, indicated the department–presumably including Hespe–were well aware of the practice.

A few days earlier, state education department officials–including Orsi–held a background briefing for some media–Bob Braun’s Ledger was not invited–and none of the mainstream media accounts of the session revealed the Pearson spying program.

Testing is scheduled for this month and May. Passing or failing the test has no consequence for the students who take it. PARCC does not serve as a graduation test. It can, however, be used in the evaluation of teachers.

UPDATE: The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss picked up the story and managed to get Pearson to comment:

“The security of a test is critical to ensure fairness for all students and teachers and to ensure that the results of any assessment are trustworthy and valid. We welcome debate and a variety of opinions. But when test questions or elements are posted publicly to the Internet, we are obligated to alert PARCC states. Any contact with students or decisions about student discipline are handled at the local level. We believe that a secure test maintains fairness for every student and the validity, integrity of the test results.”

The Washington Post also posted a letter written by Jewett:

Dear Watchung Hills Regional High School Learning Community,

On Friday, March 13, 2015, Bobbraunsledger.com published a story referencing an email I had sent to other superintendents about issues regarding PARCC testing and Pearson’s monitoring of social media. The email shown in his article is authentic. It was an email I sent on March 10, 2015 at approximately 10:00AM to a group of superintendents to share my concerns and to see if other schools had a similar experience. I did not authorize the release of this email nor am I aware of who did release it. I am also not aware of the motives they may have had behind the release. That said, I completely stand behind my comments as they represent not only my views and concerns; they also represent the views and concerns of our Board of Education.

The article references instances involving students during PARCC testing and any related disciplinary action. For student privacy issues, we cannot comment on any of the specific students or discipline referred to in the article. What I am able to share is that all issues have been dealt with in accordance with our Code of Conduct, Academic Integrity and Acceptable Use of Technology Policies.

Our main concern is, and will always remain, supporting the educational, social and emotional needs of our students. The privacy and security of student information remains the utmost priority for our district.

The district will have no further comment on this matter at this time.
 
This site also has learned that at least one of the three students at Watchung Hills Regional was suspended. It should be kept in mind that there are no consequences to students for this test–and students everywhere are smart enough to know when there are no consequences and they act accordingly–as they do when a sub shows up. 

That one or more students may have been suspended for treating PARCC like the bad joke it has become shows how sad–and maybe scary–this cooperation between government and the private testing industry has become.

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.

The Opt Out Update: Protests planned in Chicago and Colorado this week as the Opt Out Movement continues to grow and Louisiana opts out of the Common Core Standards

opt out5

Bush, Obama focus on standardized testing leads to ‘opt-out’ parents’ movement

A decade into the school accountability movement, pockets of resistance to standardized testing are sprouting up around the country, with parents and students opting out of the high-stakes tests used to evaluate schools and teachers.

 

From Seattle, where 600 high school students refused to take a standardized test in January, to Texas, where 86 percent of school districts say the tests are “strangling our public schools,” anti-testing groups argue that bubble exams have proliferated beyond reason, delivering more angst than benefits.

 

“Over the last couple of years, they’ve turned this one test into the all and everything,” said Cindy Hamilton, a 50-year-old mother of three in Florida who founded Opt Out Orlando in response to the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which starts again Monday. Her group is one of dozens of new organizations opposed to such testing.

 

The opt-out movement is nascent but growing, propelled by parents, students and some educators using social media to swap tips on ways to spurn the tests. They argue that the exams cause stress for young children, narrow classroom curricula, and, in the worst scenarios, have led to cheating because of the stakes involved — teacher compensation and job security.

To read this article in full, go to the the Washington Post.

From students in Chicago:

Join Us!

Chicago Student’s Boycott

PSAE Second Day

Wednesday, April 24TH 2013

SPREAD THE WORD!

Tell your friends about boycotting the 2nd day of PSAE!

Load up the buses or stay home. Send a message. Stop School Closings !!

Find out more, contact us at:

csosos.chicago@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/csosos

And the video:

And an article on the student boycott:

Students want to boycott state test

 

chicago students2

A group of Chicago high school students plans to boycott part of next week’s state exam, because they’re upset with how their results are being used.

 

They said it’s unfair to judge whether their schools are good or not based on one test. (Chicago Public Schools uses a complicated formula to judge performance, but more than half of the possible points are based on parts of the PSAE)

 

Two student-led groups, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, called on their classmates to walk out of the second day of testing for the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, Wednesday. Students take the ACT during the first day and many don’t want to jeopardize their chances at college.

 

Isaac Velasquez, a junior at Curie High School and part of the group: Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, said he’s sick of test prep.

 

“Throughout the year, most of my teachers insisted on preparing us with EXPLORE quizzes as the administration believed it is efficient to prep us for the ‘big day,’” he said. “As a student, I found myself baffled, as I felt I had to make a decision between keeping up with current events and debates and doing well in school.”

And from the Facebook page OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement:

Heads up Colorado – student walkout May 10th.

Where there is a lot of money involved, as there is with the testing industry, there will be bribes and scams. I have learned that there is no such thing as a free lunch even though some “education officials” would say otherwise.

money3

Testing Firm Faces Inquiry on Free Trips for Officials

New York State’s attorney general is investigating whether the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation’s largest educational publishers, acted improperly to influence state education officials by paying for overseas trips and other perks.

The office of the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued subpoenas this week to the foundation and to Pearson Education seeking documents and information related to their activities with state education officials, including at least four education conferences — in London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro — since 2008, according to people familiar with the investigation.

At issue is whether the activities of the tax-exempt Pearson Foundation, which is prohibited by state law from engaging in undisclosed lobbying, were used to benefit Pearson Education, a for-profit company, according to these people. Pearson sells standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.

Specifically, the attorney general’s investigation is looking at whether foundation employees improperly sought to influence state officials or procurement processes to obtain lucrative state contracts, and whether the employees failed to disclose lobbying activities in annual filings with the attorney general’s office. The inquiry follows two columns about the conferences by Michael Winerip in The New York Times this fall.

If there is evidence that the foundation engaged in substantial lobbying and failed to disclose it, it could face fines and lose its tax-exempt status under state and federal laws. No subpoenas were issued to state education officials, the people with knowledge of the matter said.

In a statement Wednesday, a Pearson Education spokeswoman said, “As a matter of policy, Pearson does not comment on government inquiries or potential legal proceedings.” A spokesman said the foundation “does not currently have a comment” about the inquiry, and added, “nor is it our practice to offer comment on legal proceedings or government inquiries.”

In New York, Pearson Education most recently won a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state tests, and it maintains a $1 million contract for testing services with the State Education Department, according to state records. The last contract was awarded after David M. Steiner, then the state education commissioner, attended a conference in London in June 2010 that was organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers and underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

To read this article in full, go to the New York Times.

And from Diane Ravitch’s Blog:

John White Pulls Louisiana Student Data Out of Gates Warehouse

John White, Louisiana State Superintendent, announced that he was recalling all confidential student data from inBloom, the massive data warehouse funded by the Gates Foundation with $100 million.

Is this for real? Time will tell.

Parents in the state loudly protested the release of their children’s identifying information to the data warehouse, which was developed by Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify. Murdoch’s News Corporation is under investigation in England for hacking into people’s cell phones and computers. The most egregious case, which he settled for an undisclosed amount, involved hacking into the cell phone of a dead girl, in hopes of getting information about her killer.

To read this post in full, go to Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

The last word I will give to Suli Breaks:

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

-Dora Taylor

The Weekly Update: The good news the ed reformers don’t want you to hear, following the money of corporate reform, testing, the Common Core Standards and how it all relates

So much news, so little time.

First, the good news from edushyster:

The Great Deception

How to convince the public to abandon the wishy-washy notion of education for all in three easy steps.

F

It is an indisputably true fact that our public schools are *hopelessly* failing beyond any hope of excellence. Yet the public remains strangely attached to the idea that publicly-funded schools have an obligation to educate all kids. Alas, that old-fashioned notion of equity is like the Lindsay Lohan of principles: washed-up and of waning interest. Today’s edu-visionary is all about excellence: the laser-honed vision of a 21st century skills-lined path to prosperity for a few outstanding strivers. But how to convince the public to abandon the wishy-washy notion of education for all?

bad_news3-300x187

Step One: Bad News Bears

The news is bad folks. In fact it’s worse than bad. It’s *terrible.* You thought you knew just how badly our union-stifled public schools were doing? Take what you thought you knew and ratchet up (or is that down?) the failure by a factor of 9—no, make that 10.  While there may be astonishing news to the contrary (like the fact that African American 8th graders in Massachusetts outscored the Finns in math on last year’s TIMSS tests, the global equivalent of March Madness), I can’t think of any reason to report that—can you?

As for long-term good news trends which contradict the daily barrage of bad news about our hopelessly failing public schools TO AN ALMOST COMICAL DEGREE, forget about those too. High school graduation rates in Boston at their highest level in history? Nothing to see here folks, move it along. College enrollment and completion numbers way up too? Yawn…And don’t even get me going on that non-story about the unprecedented math gains recorded by students in the Boston Public Schools between 2003-2011. While *technically* the largest ever recorded anywhere in the US in the 30 year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, this does not change the fact that the news is bad. Did I say bad? I meant worse than even bad. I meant “F minus,” “fall into the achievement gap,” “vote with your feet” bad.

blue-ribbon

Step Two: Hype, Hype, Hooray

The good news is that there is some great news about schools that are achieving outstanding results with the exact same students being failed on a daily basis by our failing public schools (see above). Reader: join me as we traverse the peak up high expectations mountain to Boston’s City on a Hill Charter Public School, one of the most outstanding academies of excellence in the entire nation. In fact none other than Arne Duncan proclaimed City on a Hill a Blue Ribbon School for outstandingness just last year. City on a Hill has attracted particular praise for its trajectory of excellence that catapults students to college and directly into 21st century careers. As for that silly nonsense about the tiny number of students who actually graduate from City on a Hill, nothing to see here folks. Please completely disregard the following. In fact, I recommend closing your eyes and humming a gentle tune until this next section is over.

  • Number of ninth graders in the City on a Hill 2012 cohort: 130
  • Number in that cohort who made it to 12th grade: 47
  • Number of boys in the 12th grade class: 18
  • Percentage of 2012 cohort who will graduate: 66%
  • Number of students in the 2012 cohort who will graduate from college according to City on a Hill’s own predictions: 23.
  • Number of boys who will graduate from college: 7*

To read this post in full, go to edushyster.

Ed reform protocol is to label a school “failing”, close it and usually convert it into a charter school. The target areas are the minority communities and the privatizers are rolling through Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, closing schools and destroying neighborhoods in their wake. Some of the reason is because of the Title 1 money that comes with many of the students and the other reason? There are very few middle and upper class white communities that want a KIPP or its equivalent. The privatizers know better.

Parents, students, teachers and community citizens have voiced their concerns and indignation over the wholesale closing of schools that is to occur most recently in Chicago.

Here is one voice of many:

County board prez: Why are we closing schools and packing the jail?

 Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle: Chicago's school closings plan is a "terrible idea."
Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle: Chicago’s school closings plan is a “terrible idea.”

As the top official in Cook County government, Toni Preckwinkle didn’t have any formal say in the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team to shutter 54 Chicago elementary schools.

But she does have a few thoughts on the matter. Like: What are they thinking?

“I talked to a member of the school board that I knew and said what a terrible idea I thought it was,” Preckwinkle told me in an interview. “You know, schools are community anchors. They’re social centers. They’re part of a community’s identity. And often kids go half a dozen blocks and they’re in different gang territory.

“The closings are going to take place almost entirely within the African-American community, and given the problems we already have with violence, I think it’s very problematic.”

To read this article in full, go to the Chicago Reader.

Now more on the reality of closing schools.

From the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research:

When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools

This report reveals that eight in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students displaced by school closings transferred to schools ranking in the bottom half of system schools on standardized tests. However, because most displaced students transferred from one low-performing school to another, the move did not, on average, significantly affect student achievement.

The report demonstrates that the success of a school closing policy hinges on the quality of the receiving schools that accept the displaced students. One year after school closings, displaced students who re-enrolled in the weakest receiving schools (those with test scores in the bottom quartile of all system schools) experienced an achievement loss of more than a month in reading and half-a-month in math. Meanwhile, students who re-enrolled in the strongest receiving schools (those in the top quartile) experienced an achievement gain of nearly one month in reading and more than two months in math.

To read the report, go to CCSR.

And now, let’s follow where all this leads to. Even The Young Turks get it.

And more money…

Stop the Minnsanity!

Minnsanity combines cronyism and contempt for democracy served up with a cherry of condescension.
Minnsanity combines cronyism and contempt for democracy served up with a cherry of condescension.

The next stop on TFA’s “listening tour” should be CEO Matt Kramer’s hometown: Minneapolis

The first stop on today’s Minnsanity tour is the Minneapolis board of education, a topic of near EduShyster obsession due to the recent purchase of a school board seat by Teach for America, whose co-CEO happens to reside in the city. So what do board meetings look like when everyone agrees that the achievement gap is the civil right$ issue of our time? At one recent meeting:

  • Eli Kramer (brother of TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer) urged the board to sell a shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy, the outstanding and innovative charter that he runs.
  • Hiawatha Academy’s expansion is backed by Charter School Partners, which employs TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s wife.
  • The TFA-backed school board member who moved to Minneapolis to run for office had to recuse himself from the vote because his girlfriend will be the principal of the new Hiawatha facility.
  • A second board member also recused himself from the vote because he sits on the board of Hiawatha Academy.
  • The board voted to sell the shuttered public school to Hiawatha Academy. According to the MinnPost, the newspaper owned by TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer’s father, the sale heralds a new era of collaboration. I’ll say.

There’s more. To find out all of the machinations of this group, go to edushyster.

And even more money:

Money (2)

On the Rise of Pearson (oh, and following the money)

A long post that is worth a read here on the rise and influence of Pearson and corporate influence in education reform.  Take pause, friends.  Take pause but feel free to share and post comments here.  Thoughts?

The Pearson Monopoly Jennifer Job, UNC Chapel Hill

If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of the publishers they own, like Adobe, Scott Foresman, Penguin, Longman, Wharton, Harcourt, Puffin, Prentice Hall, or Allyn & Bacon (among others).  If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of their tests, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Millar Analogy Test, or the G.E.D. Or their data systems, like PowerSchool and SASI. [1]

 In a little over a decade, Pearson has practically taken over education as we know it.  Currently, it is the largest educational assessment company in the U.S. Twenty-five states use them as their only source of large-scale testing, and they give and mark over a billion multiple choice tests every year.[2]  They are one of the largest suppliers of textbooks, especially as they look to acquire Random House this year.  Their British imprint EdExcel is the largest examination board in the UK to be held in non-government hands.[3]

Pearson has realized that education is big business. Last year, they did 2.6 billion pounds of business, with a profit of 500 million pounds (close to a billion dollars).[4]  And business is looking up, which I will return to in a minute.  First, I want to talk about the vicious cycle that Pearson drives through education.  

Pearson’s first big jump was acquiring Harcourt’s testing arm in 2008, taking Harcourt’s 40% market share and parlaying it into controlling more than half of all assessments taking place that year.[5]  At this point, Pearson began to coordinate all of the textbook imprints it owns (as one of the three biggest textbook publishers in the U.S.) with its tests, completing its own equation of curriculum and assessment.  It was just a matter of locking down their territory and growing it. 

To grow into the multibillion-dollar corporation they are today, Pearson blurs every line among for profit, nonprofit, and government systems.  They have prominently partnered with University of Phoenix, whose parent company’s CEO also sits on the board of Teach for America.  They acquired America’s Choice, which partners with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations.  The Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is Sir Michael Barber, a lobbyist who pushes for free-market reforms to education.  And the list of executives and partnerships goes on.[6]

What are some of the benefits of these partnerships? Pearson’s advocates for education reform were instrumental in the development of the Race to the Top initiative, from which they have benefitted in numerous ways.  For example, Race to the Top requires significant data accumulation, and thus Pearson partnered with the Gates Foundation to be the ones to store the data.[7]  Pearson also is a key partner of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers.  When the plan for the Common Core Standards was hatched, Pearson paid to fly the policymakers to Singapore for luxurious “education” trips to promote the educational methods they promote. [8]

As a result of their work with the NGA, the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top assessment requirements for those standards work heavily in Pearson’s favor.  It doesn’t matter that Stephen Krashen found that 53% of educators oppose the Common Core—nearly every state has adopted it anyway, and they encourage a 20-fold increase in the number of tests given every age from preschool to grade 12. [9] Tests that will be administered by Pearson.

To read this post in full, go to newteacher.

And speaking of the Common Core Standards:

Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core’

I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted.  The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.

I hear about those distortions every day.  Many of the teachers in my high school are also the parents of young children.  They come into my office with horror stories regarding the incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that is taking place in their own children’s classrooms.  Last month, a colleague gave me a multiple-choice quiz taken by his seven-year old son during music.  Here is a question:

 Kings and queens COMMISSIONED Mozart to write symphonies for celebrations and ceremonies. What does COMMISSION mean?

  1. to force someone to do work against his or her will
  2. to divide a piece of music into different movements
  3. to perform a long song accompanied by an orchestra
  4. to pay someone to create artwork or a piece of music

Whether or not learning the word ‘commission’ is appropriate for second graders could be debated—I personally think it is a bit over the top.  What is of deeper concern, however, is that during a time when 7 year olds should be listening to and making music, they are instead taking a vocabulary quiz.

To read this post in full, go to The Answer Sheet.

And more about the Common Core and Pearson:

Okay, five-year olds, first let’s annotate this math problem

I found this disturbing  little tidbit on @TheChalkFace.com

Here’s another case of a frustrated mother and distraught child – another child who is being taught to hate school from the start.

Sara Wottawa is a parent in New York who is highly conscientious of her kids’ school work and progress.  Today, she posted the following on Facebook:

Today I am very emotional and upset. My son, who is in kindergarten, is very cooperative in school but when he comes home he emotionally falls apart. Today after trying to assist him with his developmentally inappropriate homework I reached my breaking point. I decided for the remainder of the year he will no longer take part in completing developmentally inappropriate homework.

Here is his Kindergarten homework, brought to you by the Pearson Envision math program (which, according to Pearson, is very well aligned to the Common Core State Standards):

common core

Check out tested to despair for more interesting tidbits.

Another item that the corporate reformers don’t want you to know is how many states are opting out of the Common Core Standards.

From Truth in American Education:

States Fighting Back

The Pending Rejection states are so marked as a result of serious discussion or action taken towards withdrawing from the Common Core State Standards, withdrawing from PARCC or SBAC, delaying implementation of standards or assessments, or not funding the implementation.  The discussions or actions considered include public forums, legislative bills, and hearings on state legislative floors in 2012 or 2013.

Alabama

Colorado

Florida 

Georgia

Idaho

Indiana

Kansas

Michigan

Missouri

Oklahoma

South Carolina

South Dakota

Utah

**Minnesota appears on the map as having rejected the CCSS. MN did not adopt the CCSS for Mathematics.

Check here for links to groups actively working to stop the Common Core State Standards implementation and related issues.

Check out Truth in American Education for more information on the Common Core Standards.

Now for something that works, A year at Mission Hill

This is a 10-part series, which chronicles a year in the life of one of America’s most successful public schools. Guiding Question for Chapter 1: What characterizes a great school, and how do schools sustain greatness over time?

Chapter 1

To watch all of the chapters as they are posted, go to A Year at Mission Hill.

Have a good one.

Dora Taylor

The Weekly Update: The Master Plan for privatizing our schools, student privacy, or a lack thereof, in Seattle Public Schools, Teach for America’s gold plated digs…and more.

youcount500

There is so much insanity going on in the wild and whacked world of education these days that I am posting two updates this week and that does not include the opt out update.

So let’s get started.

First up, a follow-up on the issue of student privacy rights. Seattleites, if you haven’t already, check out The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA? to get up to speed on student privacy issues that could affect our students for the rest of their lives.

There is a lawsuit in response to the culling of information that is going on by Pearson and others. From The Washington Post:

Lawsuit charges Ed Department with violating student privacy rights

The U.S. Education Department is being sued by a nonprofit organization for promoting regulations that are alleged to undercut student privacy and parental consent. The rules allow third parties, including private companies and foundations promoting school reform, to get access to private student information.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has been fighting for the department over 2011 regulations involving the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA,  a law that is supposed to protect the privacy of student education records at all schools that receive federal education funds. FERPA was passed to give parents specific rights in regard to their children’s education records, rights which transfer to the student he/she becomes 18 or goes to a school beyond the high school level.

But in 2011, regulations issued by the department changed FERPA to allow the release to third parties of student information for non-academic purposes. The rules also broaden the exceptions under which  schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first obtaining written consent from parents. And they promote the public use of student IDs that enable access to private educational records, according to EPIC, a nonprofit public-interest center based in Washington D.C.

Government officials have defended the regulations. A government notice in the Federal Register says the rules are necessary

to ensure that the Department’s implementation of FERPA continues to protect the privacy of education records, as intended by Congress, while allowing for the effective use of data in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) as envisioned in the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES Act) and furthermore supported under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Improved access to data contained within an SLDS will facilitate States’ ability to evaluate education programs, to build upon what works and discard what does not, to increase accountability and transparency, and to contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in education.

But privacy advocates oppose the rule change because student data can be shared by local officials with private companies and foundations. Some say FERPA was loosened to make it easier for third parties to get access to student data by funding initiatives such as student data bases. Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote in this story about a new $100 million database built in large part with Gates Foundation money that:

…already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

The database has files of students from at least seven states that have agreed to participate so far and is allowing access to third parties. According to Simon, the infrastructure for the database was built by the for-profit Amplify Education, which is run by school reformer Joel Klein and owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The database is being run by a new nonprofit, inBloom Inc., and is

“We think it is a very serious threat to student privacy,” said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Once the data gets out there it has all sorts of ramifications. It weakens the [FERPA] structure Congress put in place because Congress understands that a lot of student data can be stigmatizing, keeping people out of jobs, for example.”

To read this article in full, go to the Answer Sheet.

There has been a very frightening development in Seattle in terms of Pearson, the mega giant corporation that provides textbooks and tests to K-12 schools around the country and is a part of the information gathering apparatus described in the previous article.

The Source which is a place for parents and students in Seattle Public Schools to go to get information on their a student’s grades and other information that is gathered by the school and was run by Blackboard has been replaced with software provided and run by Pearson. That means that all of the student’s information goes directly to Pearson now, no more middle-person. This is not a good development.

Here is Pearson’s take on it.

I have a feeling parents will feel differently. If you are a parent or a student and are concerned about where all of this information is ultimately going, contact your school board members and the superintendent. Someone needs to be held accountable for the decision that was made to provide information directly to Pearson and explain how that information is being protected.

Post Script: A parent contacted Seattle Public Schools and the district has assured her that student data is not being managed or shared with Pearson. The district’s IT department is managing the system.

weekly

The following is something that was in my mailbox this morning and I thought could use the light of day, from Charter School Scandals:

The Master Plan

A Master Plan to eliminate urban public school districts was clearly outlined by the Fordham Institute’s Andy Smarick in “Wave of the Future” (Winter 2008):

First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent.

Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). [Smarick’s suggests the “potentially fertile districts” of Albany, Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.]

To read this post in full, and see what the big picture was for reformers five years ago and how that has worked out, go to Charter School Scandals.

And now onto Teach for America, Inc., another money changer in the halls of education. From edushyster:

Will Teach 4 a Place 2 Live

real-estate
Teacher Village is under construction in Newark NJ, thanks to the support of Goldman Sachs. Teachers will live on site next to three charter schools.

When education reform and real estate development get together, miracle$ happen…

Once in long ago historical times teachers came from the same places where they taught. But the teachers wanted to stay in their communities and this caused them to become LIFO lifers. Fortunately a visionary reform movement was born and bold visionary leaders known as transphormers understood that kids score best on standardized tests when teachers come from far away and stay for a short time. This was also a happy coincidence in that it resulted in cost $aving$ that could be used to purchase blended learning devices that have also been proven to cause test score increases. Problems solved!

Make that almost solved. Because the fresh new teachers traveled from far away to boost achievement and excellence, they didn’t have anywhere to live. Fortunately bold visionary leaders who have figured out one way to boost profits  achievement almost always have another great idea waiting in the wings. Stop one on today’s tour of excellence takes us to Philadelphia where even as we say farewell to 23 old school schools and their teachers, “a vibrant ecosystem of reform” is under construction. That sound you hear is the last nail being hammered into the coffin of public education the construction of a bold new headquarters for Teach for America, housing for hundreds of TFA corps members and office space for a rainbow of edupreneurs.

The bold visionary behind this bold vision is construction magnate turned education reformer turned construction magnate Donald Manekin. Let’s meet him, shall we?

“This is about helping teachers solve the mystery about where to live, giving them a community where they can come home and share lesson plans or just say, ‘Today sucked’ to one another,” Manekin said.

Gee, remember when teachers used to have place to live and a community because they came from one???

To read more on this subject, go to edushyster.

The following is a teaser for a documentary that an educator is putting together but she needs additional funding to complete the project. Please watch this short video and consider supporting her in her effort.

Dora Taylor

The Weekly Update: Gates’ test metric is imploding, disappearing students in El Paso, Pearson sells a blank art book and takes down 1.5M ed sites.

Courtesy of EduShyster

The Weekly Update for the news and views you might have missed.

Let’s start with Bill Gates. Posting this article gives me great sadness. I feel no anger and frustration, just sorrow in regards to what Gates has wrought with his millions of dollars. It will take time to turn the tide but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Gates’ way is not the right way. Unfortunately teachers and students have had to suffer much stress and turmoil being a part of Gates’ latest experiment.

Gates Foundation’s MET Project Has Leaped Before Looking

It is especially hard to understand why the Gates Foundation’s opinions about “teacher quality” have already been imposed on urban schools. Three years after the Gates’ theories became law in many states, the MET will issue a final report on “the most vexing question we face [which] is whether or not our results were biased by the exclusion of important student characteristics from the value-added models.” The MET sample of students was only 56% low income with 8% being on special education IEPs, so it is even harder to see how it could provide evidence relevant to schools serving intense concentrations of extreme poverty. Moreover, it seems that the MET’s economists have overlooked the likelihood that value-added will drive the top teaching talent out of the schools where it is harder to meet test score growth targets.

The Measures of Effective Teaching Project (MET) is the Gates Foundation’s flagship effort to fill what they believe is a huge void in the teaching profession. According to them, up until this project, there was no way to know how effective any given teacher is. Their goal has been to develop scientifically accurate means to accomplish this.

I would have no problem with the Gates Foundation’s Measuring Effective Teaching process if it was conducted as pure research. The MET’s Tom Kane, in “Capturing the Dimensions of Effective Teaching,” illustrates the good that could have come from the experiment had “reformers” considered evidence before imposing their theories on teachers across the nation.

The MET is a $45 million component of the “teacher quality” movement which studies test scores, teacher observations, and student survey data to isolate the elements of effective teaching. That’s great. But the MET’s assumptions about the outcomes they anticipated have been the basis for Arne Duncan’s test-driven policies — which require test scores to be a “significant part” of teacher evaluations in order for states to receive waivers for NCLB. Then, as evidence was gathered, preliminary reports noted problems with using test score growth for evaluations. The MET has continued to affirm the need for value-added (VAM) as a necessary component of their unified system of using improved instruction to drive reform, even as it reported disappointing findings.

If the MET had been seen as basic research, as opposed to a rushed set of mandates (that have already been enacted into laws), Kane’s assumptions could have been phrased more precisely. He could have deleted the word “the” and issued the then accurate statement that one “goal of classroom observations is to help teachers improve practice, and thereby improve students ‘outcomes.” Kane could have then acknowledged that, real world, evaluations are also driven by ego, power, vindictiveness, and the full range of human emotions. An academic study, being an academic study, could assume that evaluations would only be used for righteous purposes. Actual policy should have never been built on such a naïve proposition.

Had the Duncan Administration not jumped the gun and forced districts to attach high stakes to not-ready-for-prime-time metrics, Kane could have written, “the shallowness of the items on the test does not necessarily translate into shallow teaching” but we know that it often (or usually) does. He could have then reported:

Our (MET) results did raise concerns about current state tests in English language arts. … Current state ELA assessments overwhelmingly consist of short reading passages, followed by multiple-choice questions that probe reading comprehension. Teachers’ average student-achievement gains based on such tests are more volatile from year to year (which translates to lower reliability) and are only weakly related to other measures, such as classroom observations and student surveys.

It would have been easier to deal with the finding that “state ELA assessments are less reliable and less related to other measures of practice than state math assessments” if districts were not already using those flawed results to sanction ELA teachers and schools. Similarly, if the MET was pure research there would be nothing wrong with waiting until the last year of the project before reporting on the results of the 9th grade value-added experiment. On the contrary, if “reformers” had not leaped before they looked at the evidence, MET scholars would have been free to warn against the dangers of using value-added for schools with large populations of students who are unable to read for comprehension or for high schools.

It is especially hard to understand why the Gates Foundation’s opinions about “teacher quality” have already been imposed on urban schools. Three years after the Gates’ theories became law in many states, the MET will issue a final report on “the most vexing question we face [which] is whether or not our results were biased by the exclusion of important student characteristics from the value-added models.” The MET sample of students was only 56% low income with 8% being on special education IEPs, so it is even harder to see how it could provide evidence relevant to schools serving intense concentrations of extreme poverty. Moreover, it seems that the MET’s economists have overlooked the likelihood that value-added will drive the top teaching talent out of the schools where it is harder to meet test score growth targets.

To read this article in full, go to Living in Dialogue.

Administrators across the country, in public and charter schools, have gone to great lengths to create the impression that students are performing well based on their test scores. This story is one of the worst I have heard of so far. This is what high stakes testing has wrought Mr. Gates.

El Paso Schools Confront Scandal of Students Who ‘Disappeared’ at Test Time

Roger Avalos, a former El Paso student, with his mother, Grisel. He says his principal urged him to drop out and suspects an effort to improve test scores.

It sounded at first like a familiar story: school administrators, seeking to meet state and federal standards, fraudulently raised students’ scores on crucial exams.

But in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.

It led to a dramatic moment at the federal courthouse this month, when a former schools superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia, was sentenced to prison for his role in orchestrating the testing scandal. But for students and parents, the case did not end there. A federal investigation continues, with the likelihood of more arrests of administrators who helped Mr. Garcia.

Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Garcia, 57, with devising an elaborate program to inflate test scores to improve the performance of struggling schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and to allow him to collect annual bonuses for meeting district goals.

The scheme, elements of which were carried out for most of Mr. Garcia’s nearly six-year tenure, centered on a state-mandated test taken by sophomores. Known as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, it measures performance in reading, mathematics and other subjects. The scheme’s objective was to keep low-performing students out of the classroom so they would not take the test and drag scores down, according to prosecutors, former principals and school advocates.

Students identified as low-performing were transferred to charter schools, discouraged from enrolling in school or were visited at home by truant officers and told not to go to school on the test day. For some, credits were deleted from transcripts or grades were changed from passing to failing or from failing to passing so they could be reclassified as freshmen or juniors.

Others intentionally held back were allowed to catch up before graduation with “turbo-mesters,” in which students earned a semester’s worth of credit for a few hours of computer work. A former high school principal said in an interview and in court that one student earned two semester credits in three hours on the last day of school. Still other students who transferred to the district from Mexico were automatically put in the ninth grade, even if they had earned credits for the 10th grade, to keep them from taking the test.

“He essentially treated these students as pawns in a scheme to make it look as though he was achieving the thresholds he needed for his bonuses,” said Robert Pitman, the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted Mr. Garcia.

Another former principal, Lionel Rubio, said he knew of six students who had been pushed out of high school and had not pursued an education since. In 2008, Linda Hernandez-Romero’s daughter repeated her freshman year at Bowie High School after administrators told her she was not allowed to return as a sophomore. Ms. Hernandez-Romero said administrators told her that her daughter was not doing well academically and was not likely to perform well on the test.

Ms. Hernandez-Romero protested the decision, but she said her daughter never followed through with her education, never received a diploma or a G.E.D. and now, at age 21, has three children, is jobless and survives on welfare.

“Her decisions have been very negative after this,” her mother said. “She always tells me: ‘Mom, I got kicked out of school because I wasn’t smart. I guess I’m not, Mom, look at me.’ There’s not a way of expressing how bad it feels, because it’s so bad. Seeing one of your children fail and knowing that it was not all her doing is worse.”

To read this article in full, go to The New York Times.

Fortunately the students get it. Check out this video that was made by students in Georgia.

Go To School On The Georgia Charter School Amendment

Now for the “You gotta’ be kiddin’ me!” stories.

First up, even China is getting into the act with charter schools. From Diane Ravitch’s blog:

The Latest Charter Scam

An earlier post described how Chinese investors can get green cards by funding charter schools. The article linked there said that wealthy Chinese had poured $30 million into charters in Florida.

A reader comments:

A Chinese investor gets a green card for investing $1 million in a project that will “create” ten jobs. The publicly funded charter fraud industry, however, doesn’t create new jobs. It converts well paying public sector jobs, with reasonable benefits, into low paying jobs without benefits. Let’s follow the money through this profit-generating machine.

The investors get 30 green cards, and their profits are guaranteed by the free services of well connected edubusiness lobbyists, working through organizations like ALEC, Students First, and Stand for Children. The US DOE cooperates, through Race to the Top, by requiring states to legally compel local districts to hand over their American tax dollars to private charter operators.

It’s all for the kids, as Jeb Bush likes to say.

And if you think the previous story is out of the realm of what we would consider reality, check this one out, an art book published by Pearson at a cost to students of $180 but…where are the pictures?!

Art School Tells Students to Buy Pictureless $180 Art History Book

What is this, October!? According to a blog post published by a disgruntled parent of a student, the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) is forcing students to buy an art history book for $180 — which wouldn’t be unheard of, but the catch is that the publishers of this book didn’t get any of the image rights for the artwork it includes. To reiterate, that’s an art history survey without any pictures. WTF?

Instead of having pictures of artwork, the book, Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800 (so named for the course it goes with), instead just has placeholders with instructions to see a digital version for the actual image. It’s like a website with only broken image links. Just check out this hilarious sample page from the book:

At first, it seemed that the publisher couldn’t clear the copyright permissions before the book’s print run. But as it turns out, the book is actually a zombie-like combination of parts of three different art history books. A letter from the school’s dean stated that had they decided to clear all the images for copyright to print, the book would have cost a whopping $800.

The disgruntled parent complains, “I’m not particularly interested in paying any amount for an imageless art history textbook.” We’re inclined to agree. In the context, OCAD’s faux-inspiring slogan of “imagination is everything” takes on a whole new meaning. Don’t have any pictures of art? Just imagine them all!

It could also have something to do with the fact that there is an online program that has to be used that goes along with the book. Anyone see dollar signs somewhere?

There were a lot of educators and students who thought they were in the Twilight Zone recently when they discovered that their websites were no longer online.

Textbook Publisher Pearson Takes Down 1.5 Million Teacher And Student Blogs With A Single DMCA Notice

 If there’s one thing we’ve seen plenty of here at Techdirt, it’s the damage a single DMCA takedown notice can do. From shuttering a legitimate ebook lending site to removing negative reviews to destroying a user’s Flickr account to knocking a copyright attorney’s site offline, the DMCA notice continues to be the go-to weapon for copyright defenders. Collateral damage is simply shrugged at and the notices continue to fly at an ever-increasing pace.

Textbook publisher Pearson set off an unfortunate chain of events with a takedown notice issued aimed at a copy of Beck’s Hoplessness Scale posted by a teacher on one of Edublogs’ websites (You may recall Pearson from such other related copyright nonsense as The $180 Art Book With No Pictures and No Free Textbooks Ever!). The end result? Nearly 1.5 million teacher and student blogs taken offline by Edublogs’ host, ServerBeach. James Farmer at wpmu.org fills in the details.

In case you don’t already know, we’re the folks not only behind this site and WPMU DEV, but also Edublogs… the oldest and second largest WordPress Multisite setup on the web, with, as of right now 1,451,943 teacher and student blogs hosted.

And today, our hosting company, ServerBeach, to whom we pay $6,954.37 every month to host Edublogs, turned off our webservers, without notice, less than 12 hours after issuing us with a DMCA email.

Because one of our teachers, in 2007, had shared a copy of Beck’s Hopelessness Scale with his class, a 20 question list, totalling some 279 words, published in 1974, that Pearson would like you to pay $120 for.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that Pearson somehow feels that a 38-year-old questionnaire is worth $120, and the fact that the targeted post was originally published in 2007, there’s still the troubling question as to why ServerBeach felt compelled to take down 1.5 million blogs over a single DMCA notice. There’s nothing in the DMCA process that demands an entire “ecosystem” be killed off to eliminate a single “bad apple.” This sort of egregious overcompliance gives certain copyright holders all the encouragement they need to continue to abuse the DMCA takedown system.

Making this whole catastrophe even worse is the fact that Edublogs already has a system in place to deal with copyright-related complaints. As the frontline for 1.5 million blogs, Edublogs is constantly fighting off scrapers and spam blogs (splogs) who siphon off content. The notice sent to Edublogs had already been dealt with and the offending post removed, but these steps still weren’t enough.

So, yesterday, when we got a DMCA notice from our hosts, we assumed it was probably a splog, but it turned out it wasn’t, rather just a blog from back in 2007 with a teacher sharing some materials with their students…

And the link they complained about specifically is still on Google cache, so you can review it for yourself, until Pearson’s lawyers get Google to take that down… or maybe Google will get shut down themselves ;)

So we looked at it, figured that whether or not we liked it Pearson were probably correct about it, and as it hadn’t been used in the last 5 years ’splogged’ the site so that the content was no longer available and informed ServerBeach.

Clearly though that wasn’t good enough for Serverbeach who detected that we still had the file in our Varnish cache (nevermind that it was now inaccessible to anyone) and decided to shut us down without a word of warning.

To read this article in full, go to techdirt.

Today I will leave you with some additional information about Pearson.

Pearson Corporation (or Race to the Money) (BTW, thanks, Arne)

Noun: Pearson Limited Company is a London-based publishing corporation, although it has a secondary listing on the NYSE due to its financial holdings and operations in North America.  There are several divisions of Pearson, ranging from financial publishing (Financial Times newspapers), Penguin publishing, and education publishing (primarily testing and test design).  Pearson is considered one of the largest book publishers in the world.  In fact, beyond its current operations and holdings, Pearson’s real business acumen in the burgeoning field of educational politics is displayed over and over again in its futuristic projects and plans based upon the movement in education from a public responsibility to a private for-profit enterprise.

As Naomi Klein warned us in Shock Doctrine, private enterprise looks for any opportunity in crisis or sudden change to establish an adaptable revenue source for profit, and nothing was ever so financially fertile as our “great national crisis” in education and the urgent need for political remedies.   

The introduction of Dubya’s NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and the furtherance of Obama’s RttT (Race to the Top) have provided multiple designs to remedy the “national crisis in public education” through the use of standardized testing – testing that measures a school’s effectiveness, a teachers’ effectiveness, and a student’s inabilities through a series of bubble tests which are being administered in increasing numbers of school districts for largely increasing amounts of time during each student’s academic year. 

In fact, in some cases, student testing this next year will double in order that some companies may “field test” the reliability of test questions placed among other questions that will count toward the student’s, teacher’s, and district’s performance ( http://www.parentvoicesny.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10facts_HST.pdf ).  Of course, no one has suggested that such field-testing of minors without permission of parents might be considered an inappropriate use of instructional time or even illegal; in short, this speaks to the maddening acceptance of standards testing as a primary part of the educational program in our school systems.  Forget the comprehensive program or the variability in region or child: nowadays all good schools should be able to provide a similar sound and ready product measurably alike in specific skill sets determined necessary for the workplace.  And, in fact, there are four large corporations ready and willing to help us all in assessing who makes the grade and who doesn’t.

1.    Harcourt Educational Measurement: London-based developer of the SAT-9, and designer of tests that require passing before graduation in several states.  Standards testing is now 70% of the company’s overall business ($5.6 billion annually in revenue).

2.    CTB McGraw Hill: New York based corporation that developed TerraNova, a norm-referenced test.  Provides testing for 19 states in U.S. and achieves $4.2 billion in revenues per annum.

3.    Riverside Publishing: Developer of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a norm-referenced test taken by 4-5 million students in the U.S.  Also a major publisher of texts for at least eight states in the U.S.  Parent company was Houghton-Mifflin, acquired by Vivendi, Inc. in 2001 for $2.2 billion.

4.    Pearson: The largest test scorer internationally, and providing testing and scoring services in the largest markets in the U.S., including New York, Texas, Florida.  At this time, moving beyond just testing to other aspects of education.   Revenue = $9 billion in 2010 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html

Pearson remains most exceptional in its corporate ability and vision to move quickly and prominently to align itself with current political forces to achieve what it and they see as the future of education.  In addition, Pearson has even acquired the kinds of learning institutions that represent what it considers the future of learning, and the company has developed an international plan to do so on a global level.

Pearson now has designs to change the way and manner in which individuals achieve or receive GED’s, one which will become a profit-making enterprise for the company (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/collins-a-very-pricey-pineapple.html). In addition, Pearson has promoted heavily the concept of CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and provided a national summit for educators and politicians in Orlando, Florida, to cement the implementation of services in the coming year(s) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html).  In fact, Pearson’s exemplary initiative to influence would-be parties has come under the scrutiny of the New York Attorney General, who questions the relationship between the $32 million contract to provide testing for NY schools and the “free trips” provided across the state to educational officials to visit places like London, Helsinki, Singapore, or even Rio de Janeiro.  ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html)  And let’s not forget the current lobbyist for Pearson in Washington is the same fellow who helped Congress and Dubya draft legislation for the original NCLB.  ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/collins-a-very-pricey-pineapple.html?_r=2&).  Estimates of lobby spending by Pearson on the state level reach nearly $3 million for 2009-2011 ( http://www.parentvoicesny.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10facts_HST.pdf). 

To read this post in full, go to Pension Education.

Enjoy these days of fall and remember:

I couldn’t resist.

Dora

The Weekly Update: Following the money on online “learning”, education reform myths and the Pearson money grab

The Weekly Update for the news you might have missed.

For more information on Initiative 1240 go to No on 1240.

This week all eyes have been on Chicago where representatives of the Chicago Teachers Union are negotiating with the mayor and his appointed school board members:

Selling the Soul of Public Education

As we traipse through these weeks of conventioning, I know that the my-parents-showed-me-what-hard-work-means tales are getting a bit old. Still, please indulge me for a couple of paragraphs.

My dad taught for 34 years in inner-city public high schools in Chicago. For much of my childhood, my mom taught elementary school, also in a Chicago public school. They are two of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met, and I will forever be inspired by their capacity for personal sacrifice to serve the common good.

Growing up, I thought it was normal for adults to spend nights bent over towering stacks of papers, to fill weekends with lesson plans, to jump on the phone after dinner to speak with non-English-speaking parents in Spanish about their kids’ struggles. And there was the ugly side: my dad’s class sizes crept larger, books became scarcer, administrations grew more vicious, the threat of “reconstitution” (kicking out a school’s teachers based on students’ standardized test scores) loomed gigantic. I confess that observing my parents’ challenges and trials up close over the course of 18 years convinced me not to become a teacher. It also convinced me that teaching was one of the most important jobs in the universe.

Fast-forward to right now, as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) verges on striking. The contract being pushed by the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Sit-Down-and-Shut-Up Emanuel would devalue teachers, spurn the neediest students and unprecedentedly de-prioritize the public good. Their shameful proposal features a teensy pay raise, concurrent with markedly increased health care and pension costs – resulting, effectively, in a pay cut.

The Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS’s) school day was recently lengthened, and though the district promised that teachers’ hours would remain the same, many of their preparation periods are being crowded out by required duties like recess supervision. (Any teacher – or distant cousin’s friend of a teacher – knows that prep time is absolutely crucial.)

Contrary to Chris Christie’s blustering jerkifesto pitting “teachers’ unions” against “teachers,” the CTU is demanding not only justice for teachers, but also justice for kids and their families. One of CTU’s vital demands is a “better school day” for students across the socioeconomic spectrum, including modestly smaller classes, electives like art and music, and should-be-essential support staff like school nurses and social workers.

Under the district’s demands, teachers’ evaluations would largely reflect their students’ standardized test scores, an absurd barometer given the tests’ long-disproven ability to judge the quality of a student’s education. The measure would punish teachers at the city’s most disadvantaged schools.

Plus, though state law prevents the Board from making policy changes while bargaining is in progress, the Board has apparently charged ahead and nixed raises and sick leave increases for long-time teachers, according to the union.

My mom told me that – fresh off the CTU rally that energized thousands on Labor Day – she couldn’t bear to watch Mayor Emanuel’s speech at the Democratic Convention Tuesday night. (I watched it with my face squinched up and a glass of wine.)

The sad fact is, Emanuel can afford to deny CPS teachers and students their basic needs. That’s because his kids don’t go to public school – they’re enrolled in the University of Chicago Lab School (a great place, and the old stomping grounds of Malia and Sasha Obama). You can bet that the Lab School offers small classes, social workers, art and music. Oh yeah, and a school nurse.

To read this OpEd in full, go to truthout.

And while teachers are asking for fair pay and a fair evaluation system while rich mayors and city governments are crying “poor”,

US companies pay more to their CEOs, than to the US Government 

Twenty-six big U.S. companies, including AT&T, Boeing and Citigroup, paid their CEOs more last year than they paid the federal government in tax, according to a study prepared by the Institute for Policy Studies.

­Major companies paid less or no taxes on profits, as they took advantage of the tax deductions and credits designed to free up money for companies to spend in ways that stimulate the economy.

On average, these 26 companies generated pre-tax net income of more than $1 billion in the US, the study revealed. Meanwhile CEOs of these 26 firms received on average $20.4 million in total remuneration last year, 23% more than in 2010.

CEO of Boeing James McNerney Jr. got $18.4 million in pay last year while his company received a tax refund of $605 million. The study also laid into Citigroup for paying CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million while the bank received $144 million in net tax benefits.

For this story in full, go to RT.

The alternative progressive press is starting to pick up on the reality of ed reform. Information sources such as The Young Turks,  Democracy Now and the Stranger have gotten it and now Salon has picked up on it. Just don’t expect this sort of thing to appear as a headliner in the Seattle Times, pigs haven’t started to fly yet.

Education reform’s central myths

The education debate rests on two faulty premises: that public schools are failures, and choice is the solution

… if you follow the American debate about K-12 educational reform, don’t expect to look through a frame to see either America or the world as they really are. Instead, if you look through the Overton Window all you will see is a faded, mimeographed Cato policy paper from 30 years ago on the hypothetical wonders of school choice, taped to a brick wall in a dead-end alley.

The “Overton Window” is not a new kind of low-glare, high-insulation windowpane. Nor is it the title of a paperback thriller like “The Eiger Sanction” or “The Bourne Supremacy.” Identified by Joseph P. Overton of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Overton Window refers to the boundaries of the limited range of ideas and policies that are acceptable for consideration in politics at any one time. In other words, the Overton Window is the “box” that we are constantly exhorted to think outside of, only to be ignored or punished if we succeed.

The debate about K-12 educational reform in the U.S. is an example of the Overton Window at work. For a generation, almost all of the debate about improving American schools has been limited to minor variations on two themes. First, it is endlessly asserted, American public education is a miserable failure, compared to the educational systems of our major economic rivals in Asia and Europe. Second, the solution to this alleged failure is the privatization and marketization of public education.

Such is the power of the “framing” produced by Overton’s Window that these propositions command broad assent among thoughtful and well-informed Americans, even though the facts do not support them.

To begin with, the U.S. public school system is hardly the abysmal failure portrayed in the conventional wisdom. The international comparative data is skewed, by vocational tracking in Europe (all American high school students are sometimes compared to select Gymnasium and Lycee students in Germany and France) or geography (the entire U.S. is compared to the Shanghai metro area, rather than to all of China — the French educational system would look pretty bad, if it were compared in its entirety to Westchester County, New York).

Furthermore, non-Hispanic white Americans who are mostly the products of suburban public K-12 schools, are at the very top of global comparisons, as I pointed out in a recent Salon article:

The overall PISA scores of American students are lowered by the poor results for blacks and Latinos, who make up 35 percent of America’s K-12 student population. Asian-American students have an average score of 541, similar to those of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. The non-Hispanic white American student average of 525 is comparable to the averages of Canada (524), New Zealand (521), and Australia (515). In contrast, the average PISA readings score of Latino students is 446 and black students is 441.

Unlike Asian immigrants, many of whom are college-educated professionals, Latino immigrants tend to be less educated than the American average. And both Latinos and blacks are disproportionately poor. … America’s public school system works quite well, for non-poor native students. It is overwhelmed by a disproportionately black poor population, which suffers the legacy of centuries of discrimination, and a disproportionately unskilled and illiterate foreign-born population.

If you look at the facts, then, they don’t suggest that the U.S. public K-12 system is a failure. Rather American public education is a world-class success except among poor natives and immigrants, whose educational challenges have more to do with poverty and rural cultural legacies than alleged failings of public K-12.

The challenge remains of how to improve the results for Americans of all races from disadvantaged backgrounds. And here all of the right, and much of the neoliberal center, thinks it knows the answer: choice! Americans should be given education vouchers to spend on schools of their choice, either within the public school system (charter schools) or outside, in a purely privatized system.

As the Smithsonian magazine observes:

In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle [of international comparisons] for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on competition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers….

Before we abandon our existing, mostly-successful system of public education for an untested theory cooked up by the libertarian ideologues at the University of Chicago Economics Department and the Cato Institute (who, as it happens, have been wrong about almost everything else in the last quarter century), shouldn’t we see if there is any evidence to support their claims?

To read this article in full, go to Salon.

Is this your idea of school?

In the last few months I have been deluged with e-mails from online enterprises promising the next miracle cure in education and even offers to write posts for me on the wonders of online “learning”. All because I have a blog with the word “education” in it.

These salespersons are selling the next miracle product and there are huge profits to be made. Check out this excellent report on what’s been happening in Maine:

Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine

Documents expose the flow of money and influence from corporations that stand to profit from state leaders’ efforts to expand and deregulate digital education.

Celestial McBride, left, 14, and her brother Sevan, 12, work on their online classes from the Florida Virtual School at their home in Mims, Fla.

Stephen Bowen was excited and relieved.

Maine’s education commissioner had just returned to his Augusta office last October after a three-day trip to San Francisco where he attended a summit of conservative education reformers convened by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which had paid for the trip.

He’d heard presentations on the merits of full-time virtual public schools – ones without classrooms, playgrounds or in-person teachers – and watched as Bush unveiled the “first ever” report card praising the states that had given online schools the widest leeway.

But what had Bowen especially enthusiastic was his meeting with Bush’s top education aide, Patricia Levesque, who runs the foundation but is paid through her private firm, which lobbies Florida officials on behalf of online education companies.

Bowen was preparing an aggressive reform drive on initiatives intended to dramatically expand and deregulate online education in Maine, but he felt overwhelmed.

“I have no ‘political’ staff who I can work with to move this stuff through the process,” he emailed her from his office.

Levesque replied not to worry; her staff in Florida would be happy to suggest policies, write laws and gubernatorial decrees, and develop strategies to ensure they were implemented.

“When you suggested there might be a way for us to get some policy help, it was all I could do not to jump for joy,” Bowen wrote Levesque from his office.

“Let us help,” she responded.

So was a partnership formed between Maine’s top education official and a foundation entangled with the very companies that stand to make millions of dollars from the policies it advocates.

In the months that followed, according to more than 1,000 pages of emails obtained by a public records request, the commissioner would rely on the foundation to provide him with key portions of his education agenda. These included draft laws, the content of the administration’s digital education strategy and the text of Gov. Paul LePage’s Feb. 1 executive order on digital education.

A Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found large portions of Maine’s digital education agenda are being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to capitalize on the changes, especially the nation’s two largest online education providers.

K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., and Connections Education, the Baltimore-based subsidiary of education publishing giant Pearson, are both seeking to expand online offerings and to open full-time virtual charter schools in Maine, with taxpayers paying the tuition for the students who use the services.

At stake is the future of thousands of Maine schoolchildren who would enroll in the full-time virtual schools and, if the companies had their way, the future of tens of thousands more who would be legally required to take online courses at their public high schools in order to receive their diplomas.

The two companies have at times acted directly, spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Augusta and nurturing the creation of the supposedly independent boards for the proposed virtual schools they would operate and largely control.

Click image to enlarge.

More often they have worked through intermediaries. K12 Inc. donated $19,000 to LePage’s election campaign through a political action committee. K12 and Connections Education provided support to Jeb Bush’s foundation and to a controversial corporate-funded organization for state legislators, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Both K12 and Connections Education built relationships with Maine lawmakers and officials who introduced laws and policies beneficial to the companies’ bottom lines.

DIVERSIFYING THE LANDSCAPE, OR MILKING PUBLIC EDUCATION?

Defenders of full-time virtual schools say the schools will diversify and enrich Maine’s educational landscape, providing additional options – and substantial new curricular resources – for parents and students who wish to use them. The big online education companies have developed a wide range of courses and products, which they can provide at a lower per-pupil cost than a conventional class.

“We took a cautious approach in Maine, and the winner here will be everybody: the company that provides a good product; the state; and most importantly the student,” says Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Livermore Falls, who sponsored the 2011 charter school law that made such schools possible.

“The number one reason parents chose this form of education is the ability to have a more personalized form of schooling that will better suit their student’s needs,” says Connections Education CEO Barbara Dreyer. “Maine has a lot of independent-minded people in it who will find an education that’s very flexible and personalized very attractive.”

Critics charge that the online education companies that wish to operate Maine’s virtual schools divert precious public education dollars into profits and dividends while providing education of dubious quality. (See sidebar).

“There’s this drumbeat at state legislatures to pass what I think is a scam to milk dollars out of public schools,” says Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, sponsor of an unsuccessful amendment to last year’s charter school bill that would have closed the door to full-time virtual schools, which already exist in 27 states. “If you’re an investor these days with the economy going down, where are you going to invest? Oh, look, there’s a trillion dollars in public education funds waiting to be manipulated.”

“Speaking as an educator and someone concerned about the next generation of kids and their health and well-being, these things are disastrous,” says Gene Glass, professor emeritus at Arizona State University and a senior researcher at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “But do they have a future? Yeah, they probably have a great future financially because they line up with the need of states to cut their costs and they are cheap.”

CRITIC SAYS COMPANIES ‘CREATE MARKETS FOR THEMSELVES’

In many states, the companies have also advanced their interests through their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council. While ALEC claims to be a nonpartisan professional association for state legislators, critics say it is really a corporate-funded conduit allowing businesses to write legislation for compliant lawmakers. Virtually all of its funding comes from its corporate members – which include K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Education – who have collective veto power over the text of its model bills, which cover everything from “right to work” labor laws to “stand your ground” gun laws. They also in effect pay the expenses of many legislative members to attend meetings.

ALEC’s membership lists and the model bills they provided to legislators were secret until last year, when they were obtained and published by a watchdog group, the Center for Media and Democracy.

The corporate chair of ALEC’s education committee was revealed to be Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education’s senior vice president of state relations, and members included K12, the International Association for K12 Online Learning, and Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. (Connections Education withdrew its membership in May.)

Bowen was also an ALEC member in March 2011, the month he was confirmed as commissioner, according to a second set of ALEC documents leaked to Common Cause and posted on their website earlier this summer. Bowen – then a senior adviser to LePage and the head of education initiatives for the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center – served as a private sector member of ALEC’s education committee, where he worked alongside officials from K12, Connections and other interested companies evaluating and approving model bills – including one creating centralized state clearinghouses for the sale of online courses.

The leaked documents also showed that ALEC-sponsored digital education bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country in recent years.

“This is the ideal form of crony capitalism,” says Glass from the National Education Policy Center, which receives some of its funding from a teachers union, the National Education Association. “These are free market entrepreneurial companies manipulating the law to create markets for themselves.”

Here in Maine, several ALEC model bills that would benefit online education companies were introduced by the current Legislature. They included several measures that sought to use public funds to pay private school tuition, a law that allows public schools to act like charter schools, and parts of the charter school bill sponsored by Sen. Mason, who said ALEC was among the many interested parties he consulted while creating it.

To read the article in full with links to backup information, go to The Portland Press Herald.

And speaking of the money, check out this post on Pearson, a company that is taking over the education landscape in the US by taking advantage of the profitable edicts of ed reform in terms of standardized textbooks, tests and now teacher evaluations.

Pearson ‘Education’ — Who Are These People?

The question that must addressed is whether the British publishing giant Pearson and its Pearson Education subsidy should determine who is qualified to teach and what should be taught in New York State and the United States? I don’t think so! Not only did no one elect them, but when people learn who they are, they might not want them anywhere near a school — or a government official.

According to a recent article on Reuters, an international news service based in Great Britain, “investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education. The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.”

Pearson, a British multi-national conglomerate, is one of the largest private businesses maneuvering for U.S. education dollars. The company had net earnings of 956 million pounds or approximately 1.5 billion dollars in 2011.

Starting in May 2014, Pearson Education will take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money. The evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance assessment or TPA was developed at Stanford University with support from Pearson, but it will be solely administered, and prospective teachers will be entirely evaluated, by Pearson and its agents. Pearson is adverting for current or retired licensed teachers or administrators willing to evaluate applicants for teacher certification. It is prepared to pay $75 per assessment.

The Pearson footprint appears to be everywhere and taints academic research as well as government policy. For example, the Education Development Center (EDC), based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is a “global non-profit organization that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic opportunity.” EDC works with “public-sector and private partners” to “harness the power of people and systems to improve education, health promotion and care, workforce preparation, communications technologies, and civic engagement.” In education, it is involved in curriculum and materials development, research and evaluation, publication and distribution, online learning, professional development, and public policy development. According to its website, its funders include Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel, the Gates Foundation, and of course, Pearson Education, all companies or groups that stand to benefit from its policy recommendations.

EDC sponsored a study on the effectiveness of new teacher evaluation systems, “An examination of performance-based teacher evaluation systems in five states,” that Pearson is promoting but there are two VERY BIG FLAWS in the study. First, of the five states included in the study — Delaware, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas — four (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas) are notorious anti-union states where teachers have virtually no job security or union protection, and Delaware used the imposition of new teacher assessments to make it more difficult for teachers to acquire tenure. In Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia collective bargaining by teachers is illegal. Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina used the new assessments to make it easier to fire teachers and Georgia used the assessments to determine teacher pay. The second flaw is that the study draws no connection between the evaluation system and improved student learning.

According to the Financial Times of London, a Pearson owned property, in what I consider a conflict-of-interests, Susan Fuhrman, the President of Teachers College at Columbia University has been a “Non-Executive Independent Director of Pearson PLC” since 2004 and a major stockholder in the company with over 13,000 shares worth according to my estimate over two hundred thousand dollars. Fuhrman also is “president of the National Academy of Education, and was previously dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and on the board of trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.”

In official Pearson PLC reports available online, Susan Fuhrman, President of Teachers College-Columbia University is listed as a non-executive director of Pearson. As of February 29, 2012, she held 12,927 shares of Pearson stock valued at $240,000. As a non-executive director she also receives an annual fee of 65,000 or almost $100,000. Fuhrman has been a non-executive director since 2004 and has received fees and stock I estimate worth more than a million dollars, certainly a substantial sum, but not the $20 million I initially reported.

There has been some resistance to Pearson’s influence over American education.

In May 2012, students and teachers in the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus School of Education launched a national campaign challenging the forced implementation of Teacher Performance Assessment. They argued that the field supervisors and cooperating teachers who guided their teaching practice and observed and evaluated them for six months in middle and high school classrooms were better equipped to judge their teaching skills and potential than people who had never seen nor spoken with them. They have refused to participate in a pilot program organized by Pearson and to submit the two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching and a take-home test. They are supported by United Opt Out National, a website that organized a campaign and petition drive to boycott Pearson evaluations of students, student teachers, and teachers. In June 2012, New York parents protested against Pearson designed reading tests that included stand reading passages and meaningless choices.

The question that must addressed is whether the British publishing giant Pearson and its Pearson Education subsidy should determine who is qualified to teach and what should be taught in New York State and the United States? I don’t think so! Not only did no one elect them, but when people learn who they are, they might not want them anywhere near a school — or a government official.

To read this article in full, go to the Huffington Post.

And finally, something that has nothing to do with money but with education and becoming a contributing world citizen. I will leave you with Sir Ken Robinson on “The Element”.

College does not begin in kindergarten.

Parents Across America in the News

PAA Action News

This is from the Parents Across America Newsletter that is issued every week. If you would like to receive this, e-mail PAAnews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and request a subscription.

Issue # 12

June 7, 2012

Information and action for parents coming together to strengthen our public schools.

More at www.parentsacrossamerica.org.

PAA Action Alert

Help save class size reduction funds!

The US Senate may vote as early as Tuesday next week on  the Obama administration’s proposal to cut more than $600M in Title II funds now used for class size reduction, and to re-allocated this money to competitive grants for “teacher quality” that could be given to organizations like Teach for America, which puts inexperienced recruits in mostly high-need classrooms.

TFA and other such programs have not proven to be effective in improving student learning, but, like other pet programs of corporate reform, they are very useful in getting rid of experienced teachers and undermining their unions.

Class size reduction, on the other hand, is a proven reforms, and one that parents understand and support.

What can you do? Everyone can get a message to your senators – keep valuable, effective smaller class size funds, don’t redirect them to boondoggles like TFA!

Your message is especially critical if you live in states represented by the following members of the Senate Appropriations Committee (links take you to contact form):

Sen. Harkin (Indiana)

Here’s PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson’s recent post on the Washington Post Answer Sheet about this issue Does Ed Secretary Duncan agree with Romney on class size?, and here’s PAA’s fact sheet on the value of smaller class size.

The Lessons of Pineapplegate

Please read Leonie’s excellent article in the New York Times School Book blog,“The Lessons of Pineapplegate”:

Many of us fear that our state and federal education bureaucracy is becoming inextricably tangled with for-profit testing companies and thus deeply compromised, like the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned of just before he retired. Their testing obsession is undermining our schools, not only in this city, but nationally, and it has got to stop.

Leonie references this week’s protest by New York City parents who are planning to boycott the Pearson field tests and rally outside Pearson headquarters, in what is being called a “field trip against field tests.”

If you haven’t endorsed the National Resolution against High-Stakes Testing, or encouraged your local school board, PTA, or other advocacy group to sign on yet, do it now!

More PAA(ers) in the news

North Carolina PAA’ers establish statewide group 

Public Education First – North Carolina is a new, statewide organization that brings together activists from several North Carolina cities to work for positive change at the state level, and in individual communities. PAA members Pamela Grundy in Charlotte, Natalie Beyer in Durham and Patty Williams in Raleigh were among the folks who’ve been working on the organization.

The group debuted with an op-ed piece in the Raleigh News and Observer regarding a piece of ALEC-inspired voucher legislation that has just been introduced in the NC state legislature.

Check out their website and Facebook page.

(Coming soon to the state of Washington.)

 Educational Courage  

Beacon Press announced the September 2012 publication of “Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education,” which includes a chapter by PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff. You can pre-order the book at Beacon Press, Amazon, etc.

Join Us!

Parents Across America invites existing local or statewide groups who share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policymaking to affiliate with us. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. We are also looking for parents who are interested in forming new chapters of PAA in their states and/or local communities. Check out what we believe, and if you agree, join with us!

PAA Chapter/Affiliate News

Welcome new affiliate!

Welcome to our new South Carolina affiliate, Sumter Education Task Force (SETF) in Sumter, SC; Founded by Parrish Rabon, they are working closely with Charleston Area Community Voice for Education.

PAA-CT

On Wednesday, three PAA-CT members, Mary Gallucci, Darcy Hicks and Wendy Lecker, testified at the Connecticut State Board of Education meeting in Hartford against the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Here is a video of some of the testimony:

Oregon

PAA member Susan Barrett reports on a march in Portland, “Standing up to Stand for Children,” that Stand for Children wanted to stop.

From the Portland Area Social Equality Educators: event Facebook page:

Yesterday, we received an email from the Stand Advocacy Director asking us to call off tomorrow’s march:

“I know it’s last minute, but we’d love to see if there’s a way to find common ground instead of fighting each other. Instead of a protest, would you be open to a conversation with available staff and volunteer leaders at Stand? We’d be glad to host anyone who is interested in our conference room on Thursday, May 31st at 4:30.

Portland SEE said “No thank you”:

We would be happy to sit down at a later date to have a conversation and explain in more detail why, in our view, the reforms Stand is pushing benefit the 1% at the expense of the 99%-teachers, students and parents. We also welcome you to come outside on Thursday and hear what we have to say.

PAA Blog Highlights

In addition to the articles already mentioned in this newsletter, new posts on the PAA blog this week include:

Grassroots or astroturf? Parents, be aware!

Parents’ secret anti-charter weapons: wit, talent, YouTube  

Fact-checking “Won’t Back Down” Parent Trigger propaganda flick

Another far-right-funded film, another false story about schools  

Parent Trigger flap over paid flacks vs. real advocates

Parents Across America (PAA) is a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together on improving our nation’s public schools.

PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school par­ents – and common sense – to local, state, and national education debates.