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

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This just in: No standardized tests in Alaska this school year

cancelled

From the Washington post:

Alaska cancels all K-12 standardized tests for the year, citing technical problems

Alaska officials have canceled the state’s computer-based standardized testing for the year, citing repeated technical problems that were interrupting students’ exams, throwing schools into chaos and threatening the validity of results.

“I don’t believe under the circumstances that the assessment we were administering was a valid assessment,” Susan McCauley, interim commissioner of the state education department, said in an interview Tuesday. “Validity relies on a standardized assessment condition, and things were anything but standardized in Alaska last week.”

The cancellation means that tens of thousands of Alaska’s public school students in grades 3 through 10 won’t sit for math and reading exams that are mandated under federal law, leaving a hole in annual data on student performance statewide, and in each district and individual school. Science tests for students in grades 4, 8 and 10 also were canceled.

Alaska’s decision comes amid a national debate about standardized testing fueled by parents and teachers who say that tests and test prep have warped public schools and siphoned too much time away from instruction. Even the Obama administration, which has played a key role in pushing standardized tests as a way to measure the effectiveness of teachers and schools, has acknowledged that in many cases, children are spending too much time taking tests that in many cases are poorly designed.

McCauley said that besides the technical glitches that plagued Alaska’s tests last week, students were so frustrated by the continued interruptions that they weren’t motivated to do their best. The purpose of a test, she said, is “to provide an accurate assessment of what students know and are able to do. In order to do that, students need to take the assessment seriously,” she said. “The widespread lack of motivation among our students compromised, in my opinion, the validity of the assessment.”

Alaska is one of a very few states that never adopted the Common Core State Standards. But the state did revise its own math and language arts standards in 2012, accompanied by a new test — the Alaska Measures of Progress — which was first administered last year.

This year’s testing began early last week, and it was interrupted Tuesday when a construction worker accidentally cut a fiber optic cable thousands of miles away at the University of Kansas, according to the Alaska education department. The cable was an essential connection between the university’s Achievement and Assessment Institute — which provides Alaska’s state test, the Alaska Measures of Progress — and Alaska schools.

Schools tried to resume testing Thursday, but the connection was intermittent. Each time the system rebooted, some students’ answers disappeared, rendering their tests invalid — they couldn’t start over at the beginning, because they’d have the advantage of answering questions they’d already seen. State officials initially said they would suspend testing until the vendor could assure that the tests would function smoothly, but McCauley ultimately decided to pull the plug, deciding Friday that she didn’t want to leave teachers and students in long-term limbo.

She said teachers were forced to rewrite lesson plans multiple times as testing schedules shifted last week. When the computer system went down on Tuesday, and again Thursday, they “on the fly had to punt in terms of lesson plans and learning.”

“The level of chaos was just beyond what is acceptable in terms of a learning environment for students,” she said.

This was just the second year for the Alaska Measures of Progress, and it will be its last. Even before the latest technical problems, state officials had decided to adopt a new test for the 2016-2017 school year after widespread complaints that the test results were too vague to give teachers the detailed information they need to help students.

“Educators felt that the results did not tell them much,” McCauley said. “They want the results to give them useful information that is actionable.”

She said some students took a paper-based test and officials are still determining what to do with those exams.

The test cost the state about $5 million annually, and officials do not yet know whether they will get a refund for this year. McCauley said she will be “exploring options” regarding the financial terms of the state’s contract with the testing vendor.

Standardized tests from a teacher’s point of view

test boxes

Originally posted on The Progressive by Peter Greene.

Straight Talk About Standardized Tests

The People in Charge know, even before the test is taken, that some students will be marked below basic. Imagine if I told my class of twenty-five students, “No matter how well you all do on this test, six of you will fail.” That’s the situation with the Big Standardized Test—no matter how well the students of your state do, some of them will fail.  

For the average civilian who doesn’t spend hours obsessing over the details of education reform, it may seem odd or even hypocritical for teachers to complain about big Common Core tests like the PARCC or SBAC or [Your State’s Name Here] Big Standardized Test. After all, we’ve been giving students standardized tests forever, and classroom teachers have been giving tests even longer than that.

But there are fundamental differences between the tests I give my students and the tests mandated by the federal government.

Who Scores The Test?

It’s a big, important test, so it’s probably scored by trained professionals, right?

No. I’ve learned that these tests are scored by seasonal, minimum wage workers in temporary test-scoring sweatshops. The emphasis is on speed—the kind of throughput that a factory might worry about.

Test companies are also searching for the “Even-Cheaper-Grail” of computer software that can score writing samples.

In my classroom, I score every test myself. I take whatever time is needed to dig in and understand what your child has done. More than that, I design my tests based on the best methods for determining if your student has acquired the knowledge and skill I tried to teach her; I have not designed it to be easily gradable by a person who doesn’t even know what the test is about.

Who Passes The Test?

Every test involves a line drawn between success and failure. But with the Common Core tests, that line is drawn only after the tests have been scored.

In my classroom, I draw those lines before students even take a test. I decide, ahead of time, that anyone who proves that they can do X, Y,  and Z passes. But tests like the PARCC and SBA do not set a passing score until after the test has been taken. So students will not be able to find out what they need to do until after they have taken a test on doing it. I can tell my students– before they even take the test– what they will need to do to get an A. With the Big Standardized Test, we have to wait and see what has been set as a passing score.

My tests are also designed for the possibility of every student’s success. If every student in my class masters the material, every student in my class will get an A. The Big Standardized Tests are designed for the certainty of failure. The People in Charge know, even before the test is taken, that some students will be marked below basic. Imagine if I told my class of twenty-five students, “No matter how well you all do on this test, six of you will fail.” That’s the situation with the Big Standardized Test—no matter how well the students of your state do, some of them will fail.

This after-the-fact level setting also means that the line can be drawn differently every year. Last year’s passing score could be this year’s failure, and your child’s success can depend on which cohort she’s part of.

What Tests Don’t Tell Us

All of this means that even if they were great tests (that’s another conversation), they would not give parents or policymakers a picture of how a school is doing. Before the test is taken, we’ve already decided that a bunch of students are failing, but we won’t know what “failing” even means until after the tests have been taken. We can look at the results all day and taxpayers will still not know whether they’re getting their money’s worth or not.

In my classroom, my tests are created with consistent, clearly communicated expectations, an opportunity for every single child to succeed, and the promise that the work will be a good measure of the content and skills being taught.  The test is also evaluated by a professional expert in the material. The Big Standardized Tests that have become part of federal education law do not meet any of those standards, and that’s why I oppose them.

Peter Greene is the Midwest Regional Progressive Education Fellow and editor of Curmudgucation. 

An alternative to high stakes testing works. New York schools have proven it.

consortium

71 percent of English language learners in New York Performance Standards Consortium schools graduated on time in 2015, versus 37 percent across New York City, where all but two of the consortium schools are located.

This is a model that teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle have been studying, traveling to New York to learn how to implement the New York Performance Standards Consortium program described below. This collaborative relationship is highlighted in the film “Beyond Measure.

From the Hechinger Report:

NYC schools that skip standardized tests have higher graduation rates

An interview with the woman overseeing the group defying convention

After almost 30 years at an alternative high school, Ann Cook now heads a consortium of New York public high schools that assess students with little reliance on standardized tests.
After almost 30 years at an alternative high school, Ann Cook now heads a consortium of New York public high schools that assess students with little reliance on standardized tests.

The role of standardized tests is one of the most contentious subjects in public education. And while many people oppose high-stakes testing, few offer concrete proposals for other ways of measuring student progress. But for more than 20 years, schools in the New York Performance Standards Consortium have quietly demonstrated an alternative.

While most New York students must pass state exams in five subjects to graduate, the consortium’s 38 schools have a state waiver allowing their students to earn a diploma by passing just one exam: comprehensive English. (An additional nine schools have a partial waiver.) Instead, in all subjects including English, the students must demonstrate skill mastery in practical terms. They design experiments, make presentations, write reports and defend their work to outside experts.

Getting a waiver is not easy. The number the state grants is limited, and the alternative methods of assessing students can mean far more work for teachers. The schools’ funding is not affected.

Proponents say the alternative system is worth the effort because it engages students and encourages them to think creatively. They also point to data. According to the consortium, 77 percent of its students who started high school in the fall of 2010 graduated in four years, versus 68 percent for all New York City students.

Of consortium students who were high school freshmen in 2008, 82 percent graduated by 2014, compared with 73 percent citywide. (All but two of the consortium schools are in the city, versus elsewhere in New York state. One in Rochester brings up the consortium’s rate slightly.)

The schools have done particularly well getting English language learners and special needs students to graduation. Last year, 71 percent of students learning English at consortium schools graduated on time, versus 37 percent of English learners citywide. The six-year graduation rate for English learners was 75 percent, versus 50 percent for New York City.

The Hechinger Report asked Ann Cook, the consortium’s executive director, to explain its method of student assessment. Cook previously served as co-founder and co-leader of one of the consortium schools, Urban Academy Laboratory High School in New York City.

Question: What are your schools, and how do they work?

Answer: The schools are New York state public high schools. They range from schools working with kids who are academically challenged to [students who] are very academically oriented.

In the major subjects –– English, social studies, math and science –– there are tasks students must complete and requirements for how the work is looked at. The students learn things they can apply [to] whatever the topic might be. So in social studies, they might be experts on the history of the civil rights movement or the role of parties in American politics. They might not know too much about the War of 1812, but they would know how to go about finding out about it if somebody asked.

Very often the students have had a say in what the topics are. Teachers have the opportunity to use their subject knowledge and shape curriculum that meets the standards in a way that is interesting and appealing.

Students present their work starting in ninth grade or 10th grade. By the time they get to their senior year [and must complete performance tasks required for graduation], many of them [present] extremely sophisticated papers. Outsiders sit in on the presentations, so they’re pretty rigorous.

Related: Want high schoolers to succeed? Stop giving them fifth-grade schedules

Q: What kind of results have you had?

A: We graduate double the number of English language learners, double the number of special education kids. … We’ve tracked [our graduates] into their third semester of college. These kids were doing 10- and 15-page papers for years. Writing a paper when they get to college is a no brainer. I think [our students] just have much stronger preparation.

We have five schools that are all English language learners. In these schools we don’t have a lot of directed teaching. You try more discussion. The kids do oral presentations. By the time they graduate, their English is really strong.

Q: What about math?

A: Urban Academy is a transfer school [for students who did not succeed in their regular high school]…. They’ve had algebra, but their math understanding is appalling, and many have a real aversion to math….

We’re introducing different kinds of math curricula. Students have a basic computational understanding, but they also have logic exercises and a project they have to be able to explain.

In science, the students design experiments, carry them out, write them up, have those papers read by committees and defend them orally. I was at a presentation, and kids were presenting things about attitudes toward race. We had a kid who was a dropout and came back to school. He was a skateboarder, and his science proficiency [task] was on the kinds of wheels that give the best friction and traction.

If teachers raise questions in ways that kids can grab onto, they’ll come up with issues that they’re interested in. You stand a better chance of motivating kids if you can tailor things to their interests. That doesn’t mean dumbing down.

We know assessments have an impact on curriculum and instruction. If you have a testing environment, teachers are going to teach to the test. If you have a system that requires kids to write and present, then that begins to affect curriculum and instruction.

Q: Are there similar efforts outside New York state?

A: All over the country, there are teachers who are interested in doing something different. The problem is that the federal government has put all of its eggs in the testing basket and links dollars to it. If you were to get rid of the requirements states are under, more innovative efforts could come forward.

We’ve been testing for 30 years and we don’t have much to show for it. We say we want kids to be critical thinkers. We say we want engagement, but what are we having them do? It’s not the kids who are the problem. It’s the disconnect between what we want kids to do and what we have them do.

A letter to give your principal at the beginning of the school year on testing

signform

…or any time during the school year.

From the Parents Across America website:

Model Parent Letter on Testing

A PAA-Roanoke Valley leader Laura Bowman shared this excellent model letter prepared by her PAA chapter for parents to bring to school at the beginning of the school year:

Dear_____________,

Parents are concerned with the number of standardized tests their children take each year. In addition, parents believe the time spent preparing for the tests is excessive and they see the emotional fallout from the pressure from standardized testing on their children and on their children’s teachers. The expense of the tests at a time when our schools are being historically under-funded, and teacher retention rates are at an all-time low, has parents questioning the use of their tax dollars for these tests.

Parents understand the need for a reasonable amount of accountability and assessment. However, parents believe the focus on standardized test scores to gauge student learning reduces their children to mere data points, narrows the curriculum, and robs their children of meaningful learning experiences in the classroom. Parents want their children to become lifelong lovers of learning, not good test takers.

Therefore, parents in your district are requesting the following information on the standardized tests their children will be subjected to this school year. If you deem these standardized tests vital to instruction and assessment, parents are requesting transparency and accountability on your part. In short, parents are asking that you justify the resources, including time and money, being spent in your school district, on standardized testing.

It would be helpful for your school district to provide an answer sheet to each parent at the start of the school year, detailing the answers to the questions below.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response and to the answers to the questions below.

Sincerely,

____________

Parent in your school district

  1. How many standardized tests does my child have to take this year?
  2. What are the names of these tests and what is the specific academic purpose of each one?
  3. Where do these tests originate? Are they mandated by the state or are they the choice of the district?
  4. How will these tests affect my child’s academic future or standing?
  5. For each test, does the teacher see individual student results and have a chance to adjust individual instruction to help each student?
  6. Who sees the scores, where will they be recorded, and for what purpose?
  7. Do the scores become part of my child’s record?
  8. What are the costs associated with the tests per student and to the district per grade level?
  9. How much time does the administration of the test take?
  10. What training is provided to staff to administer the test and how much time does that encompass?
  11. Can you explain how test costs are used in a way that is in the best interest of the students?
  12. How many staff are taken away from teaching or counseling duties to administer the tests?

A video: Wayne Au, PhD on High Stakes Testing, Unequal by Design

Dr. Wayne Au presenting his keynote for the Freedom To Learn event in Newcastle, UK.

About Wayne Au, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Bothell:

Academic Interests

Dr. Au’s academic interests broadly encompass critical education theory and teaching for social justice. More specifically his research focuses on educational equity, high-stakes testing, curriculum theory, educational policy studies and social studies education.

Professional Activities

Editorial Board Member – Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org)
National Council for the Social Studies
Washington State Council for the Social Studies
American Educational Research Association
American Educational Studies Association
National Association of Multicultural Education

Honors and Awards

2010 Skipping Stones Multicultural Resources Honors Award, Rethinking Multicultural Education Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice (Au, W., ed.)

2010 Excellence in Creative and Scholarly Activities Award, California State University, Fullerton.

2006-2007Arvil S. Barr Fellow, awarded to one outstanding advanced doctoral candidate based on a school of education-wide competition. School of Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
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2002 Early Career Advocate for Justice Award, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), honoring “individuals in teacher education who firmly support equity issues, who have linked their work with social justice and teacher education, and whose work shows evidence that it will have impact over time.”

Education

Ph.D., Curriculum & Instruction (Curriculum Theory major, Education Policy Studies minor), University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Master in Teaching (Washington State Credentials in Social Studies, Economics, and Language Arts). The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA.

Bachelors of Liberal Studies, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA.

Background

Assistant Professor, Department of Secondary Education, California State University, Fullerton (Curriculum Studies, Educational Research, Multicultural Education)

Student Teacher Clinical Supervisor, Secondary Social Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Social Studies and Language Arts Teacher, Berkeley High School, Berkeley Unified Schools, Berkeley, CA.

Social Studies and Language Arts Teacher, Garfield High School, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, WA.

Social Studies and Language Arts Teacher, and Head Teacher, Middle College High School – South Seattle Community College, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, WA.

Practitioner in Residence, Women’s Center for Intercultural Studies, St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN.

History Teacher, Upward Bound, South Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA.

Tutor/Counselor, Residence Manager, Dorm Director, Teacher, Upward Bound, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA.

Select Publications

Au, W. (2009). Unequal by design: High-stakes testing and the standardization of inequality. New York: Routledge.

Apple, M.W., Au, W., and Gandin, L. (2009). The Routledge international handbook of critical education. New York: Routledge.

Au, W. (2009). Rethinking multicultural education: Teaching for racial and cultural justice. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools Ltd.

Au, W. (2009). Obama, where art thou?: Hoping for change in U.S. education policy. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 309-320.

Au, W. (2009). Social studies, social justice: W(h)ither the social studies in high-stakes testing? Teacher Education Quarterly, 36(1), 43-58.

Au, W. (2008). Devising inequality: A Bernsteinian analysis of high-stakes testing and social reproduction in education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(6), 639-651.

Chang, B. & Au. W. (2007-2008). You’re Asian, how could you fail math?: Unmasking the myth of the model minority. Rethinking Schools, 22(2), 14-19.

Apple, M. W., & Au, W. (2007). Politics, theory, and reality in critical pedagogy. [Chinese translation by Yan Guan Cai]. Comparative Education Review, 29(9), 1-9.

Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.

What’s wrong with standardized tests?

Julie Woestehoff, who is Executive Director of PURE and a founding member of Parents Across America, developed this fact sheet regarding standardized testing.

What’s wrong with standardized tests?

They are designed to rank and sort children. Many use a scoring system in which half of all children in the nation always score below average.There is a well-known achievement gap between the test scores of white and Asian students and African-American and Latino students. Rather than help all children achieve, this overemphasis on standardized tests simply labels more minority children and their schools as failures.

Standardized tests can be biased. A study by Jay Rosner in 2002 showed that sample questions which were answered correctly by more African-American students were not chosen for use in the tests; this was done so that test results – showing African-Americans scoring lower than whites – would be “consistent” from year to year (more on this research and test bias below).

Tests always contain errors. The fact that most of these tests are kept secret from the community makes it likely that even more mistakes happen – we just never find out about them.

Overemphasis on standardized tests can lead to a dumbed-down curriculum. These tests are made up mostly of multiple choice and short answer questions which can’t and don’t measure higher-order thinking, creativity, speaking or artistic skills, or many other important areas our children need to learn about. Unfortunately, areas which are not tested are becoming less and less a part of school, especially under the pressure of NCLB.

Test bias

Decades of research have documented the biases in standardized tests, with students of color bearing the brunt of that discrimination. Across age groups, standardized tests discriminate against low-income students, English language learners, and students of color.

Although in recent years test makers have attempted to address concerns about test bias by establishing review committees to “scour” the tests for bias, and by using statistical procedures, significant problems remain in the content of the questions, the cultural assumptions inherent in the “wanted” answers, etc. Here are just a few examples:

Discriminatory item selection: Jay Rosner, executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, which provides test preparation programs for the college-entrance Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), reported in 2003 that potential SAT questions which are answered correctly more often by black students than white students are rejected by the test makers. This was apparently done to assure that test results (showing African-Americans scoring lower than whites) would be “consistent” from year to year.

Outright racism: A series of questions on the 2006 global history New York State Regents exam asked students to describe how Africa “benefited” from imperialism. Using this 150-year-old quote: “We are endeavoring … to teach the native races to conduct their own affairs with justice and humanity, and to educate them alike in letters and in industry,” students were asked to name “two ways the British improved the lives of Africans.”

Socio-economic bias masquerading as cultural diversity: The 2006 New York State Regents third grade reading practice test used the example of African-American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams to ask children questions about tennis “doubles” and country clubs.

Accidental (?) bias: In 2001, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) included a reading passage taken from Ann Cameron’s book, More Stories Julian Tells. The book is about an African-American family and is familiar to many African-American children, but the illustrations showed a white family.

Lack of cultural awareness: A Latina “bias reviewer” caught this item while reviewing questions prepared for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. “I remember one question that showed a picture of a couch on a porch and asked, ‘What doesn’t fit?’ ” she says. “I started laughing…the way I grew up, everyone had a couch outside.”

Watch for the increasing use of “feeling” questions which supposedly evaluate the student’s ability to construct meaning from the text but may also evoke a wide variety of life experiences resulting in “wrong” answers.

-Dora Taylor

Why Lunch and Recess Matters

This post was written by a parent with two students in the Seattle Public School system:

children-playing

Turns out the personal really is political – at least for me. Two seemingly small, unrelated changes at my child’s school had a huge impact on my family, making me a believer in the importance of lunch and recess.

First, our school went from two cafeteria workers to one. This change resulted in my child  spending most of lunch standing in line waiting to be served. Once lunch was in hand, there wasn’t enough time to eat before it was time to clean up and go outside for recess.

Second, my child began to miss recess on a semi-regular basis. Some days it was because math had run long. Other days, recess was missed in order to finish incomplete nightly math homework. (Homework could be a subject of a whole other blog post.)

By the end of the school day, my child was cranky and frustrated. And so was I.

So, why does lunch and recess matter?

Let’s start with lunch.

Kids who are hungry have difficulty focusing and learning. Add to that the growing pressure for kids to perform well on standardized tests (a third graders in SPS spends 13.5 hours/year taking standardized tests) and it’s not difficult to predict a poor outcome.

Long lines punish kids who need lunch the most. For some children, school is where they have their best meals. Long lines and shorter lunch periods keep these kids from getting the nutrition they need to be successful students.

Now recess.

Recess is an important part of learning. Movement facilitates brain development in ways classroom instruction can’t. Think of the playground as a large chaotic, learning laboratory.

Children need to move their bodies. They also need the opportunity to participate in unstructured play; figure out how to join a group, settle a dispute, or engage in imaginative play.

Sometimes kids just need an opportunity to push the mental reset button. If a situation or behavior isn’t working in the classroom, please don’t withhold recess as a punishment. Give children the chance to run around and reset their behavior. Kids don’t respond to the same incentives as adults do, expecting them to is doomed to fail.

How did we get here?

Obviously, shorter lunch periods and less recess are the result of multiple causes. What isn’t helping is the lack of ample funding from the state, coupled with less school funding at the federal level. Add to this a top down push for more testing/academic achievement, the additional testing based on the Common Core Standards and a surge in student enrollment. It’s apparent there are no easy answers.

What can we do?

Talk to other parents. Share your stories and ideas. Join the Lunch and Recess Matters Facebook group. Start your own school based Lunch and Recess Matters group. Organizing takes time and patience, but there is power and voice in numbers.

Change the conversation.

Let’s rethink how lunch and recess are structured. Maybe flip the schedule so recess is first, followed by lunch. Studies have shown this to be an effective way to get kids to eat their lunch. Best of all, this requires no extra funding.

Maybe it’s time to fund recess monitors and cafeteria workers. Saving money by running a bare bones staff, may result in a short term financial gain, but it has widespread secondary effects. Are they worth it?

Let’s also begin to talk about the amount of standardized testing that our kids are having to endure which cuts into other more healthy activities.

Finally, recess needs to be redefined as a student need and a right.

Let’s agree that withholding recess for minor classroom infractions isn’t the answer. Also, let’s recognize recess as an essential part of learning. It shouldn’t be used as flex time for squeezing in extra instructional and testing time or having kids make up incomplete homework.

Carolyn Leith

A Kindergartner’s Nightmare

crying

Is this education? Is this what we want for our children and grandchildren?

Teachers have called the testing regime child abuse and here you get to read about it firsthand.

A teacher’s recount of the first day of Common Core Testing as posted on the Badass Teachers (BATS) Facebook page:

“I’m aiming for the short version here.

My kindergartners had their standardized computerized test today.

There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes. Multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”). Kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything. Kids accidentally swapping tangled headsets and not even noticing what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen. Kids having to solve 8+6 when the answer choices are 0-9 and having to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14. Some questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason). No verbal explanation that you must click the little speaker square to hear the instructions. To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so about many shut-downs or kids winding up in a completely different program.

If this is not what you want for your kids and grand-kids, you’d better start making some noise. Ten years ago we would’ve thought this would be literally impossible.”

This is kindergarten people! This is what it has become between the Common Core Standards and high stakes testing.

This is a good way to create students who don’t want to go to school and think learning is hell.

Join me and Jesse Hagopian in a discussion about the Common Core Standards, high stakes testing and opting out. Due to the demand, we will be Skyping this workshop to those who are interested.

Enough is enough!

Dora

Post Script:

I received a comment stating that children in the US are not keeping up with other nations, that’s why the “need” for Common Core Standards. If you believe that we went into Iraq for reasons of  “national security” and because there were “Weapons of Mass Destruction” you might believe this. If you think that the NSA is protecting our Constitutional rights, then you might believe this also.

The truth is that parents from around the world are still sending their students to US Universities and secondary schools because of our “standards”. Quite frankly, I taught students from Great Britain for a year and for the most part they lack creative and critical thinking skills, something that has set us apart as a nation. The accomplishments with NASA, the developments that we have made over the years reflect us as thinkers and leaders and most of us have been the product of our public educational system.

The statement that we are not keeping astride of other nations is propaganda, a marketing ploy, and nothing more.

See what Diane Ravitch has to say on the subject:

What Do the NAEP Scores Mean?

Every once in a while, a new set of test scores is released by the National Assessment Governing Board, the federal agency that supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Just a few days ago, the NAEP scores for science were released for 4th and 8th grades, and once again there was woe and gnashing of teeth in the land (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/10/31naep_ep.h31.html?tkn=VPXFO3wzO2s%2Bbex2WwFqNNnCfYtzrpCNzSmA&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1). The scores had improved, but not enough to satisfy the nay-sayers.

The media react with alarm every time the NAEP scores appear because only about one-third or so of students is rated “proficient.” This is supposed to be something akin to a national tragedy because presumably almost every child should be “proficient.” Remember, under No Child Left Behind, ALL students are supposed to be proficient in reading and math by the year 2014.

Since I served on NAGB for seven years, I can explain what the board’s “achievement levels” mean. There are four levels. At the top is “advanced.” Then comes “proficient.” Then “basic.” And last, “below basic.”

Advanced is truly superb performance, which is like getting an A+. Among fourth graders, 8% were advanced readers in 2011; 3% of eighth graders were advanced. In reading, these numbers have changed little in the past twenty years. In math, there has been a pretty dramatic growth in national scores over these past twenty years: the proportion of students who scored advanced in fourth grade grew from 2% in 1992 to 7% in 2011. In eighth grade, the proportion who were advanced in math grew from 3% in 1992 to 8% in 2011.

Proficient is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.

Basic is akin to a B or C level performance. Good but not good enough.

And below basic is where we really need to worry. These are the students who really don’t understand math or read well at all. The proportion who are below basic has dropped steadily in both reading and math in fourth and eighth grades since 1992.

When the scores are broken out by race, you can really see dramatic progress, especially in math. In 1992, 80% of black students in fourth grade were below basic. By 2011, that proportion had dropped to 49%. Among white students in fourth grade math, the proportion below basic fell in that time period from 40% to only 16%.

The changes in reading scores are not as dramatic as in math, but they are nonetheless impressive. In fourth grade, the proportion of black students who were below basic in 1992 was 68%; by 2011, it was down to 51%. In eighth grade, the proportion of black students who were reading below basic was 55%; that had fallen to 41% by 2011.

The point here is that NAEP scores show steady and very impressive improvement over the past twenty years. Our problems are tough, but they are not intractable. The next time someone tells you that U.S. education is “failing,” or “declining,” tell them they are wrong.

Post Script 2:

Here are videos about the Common Core Standards from different perspectives:

From a “Warrior Mom” and and editor of Education without Representation.

From a 15 year old student in Arkansas who connected the dots on the Common Core Standards:

And this from a teacher:

Regarding the comments below:

I go through each comment before posting. All comments that are within my understanding of civil conversation and are relevant to the subject, are posted, If there is a comment I want to respond to, I take my time with it because I want to respond accurately.

To me the comments provide additional information that all can use, that’s why I take care in my responses or answers.

Unfortunately I do have to hold down a couple of day jobs to support my blogging/writing habit, so please be patient if you do not see your comment posted immediately.

I appreciate all responses and the interaction with all of you.

Dora

Seattle Education Meetup: An Opt Out Workshop with Jesse Hagopian

test-cartoon
First No Child Left Behind, then Race to the Top and now the Common Core Standards.

Unsure what the Common Core Standards are?

Want to know more about the term “high stakes testing”?

Have you heard about parents, students and teachers opting out of standardized testing and the Common Core Standards around the country?

Do you know why so many are opting out?

If you have these questions or others pertaining to the testing regime that has gripped our school system or why and how the Common Core Standards are being rolled out in Seattle, join us for an evening of discussion with Jesse Hagopian and me, Dora Taylor, on standardized testing, Common Core Standards and the opt out option.

Seattle Education Meetup

The Common Core Standards, High Stakes Testing and Opting Out

An evening of discussion and information

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Parents, teachers and students are all invited

We will be providing this meetup on Skype for those outside of Seattle who want to participate.

RSVP seattled@icloud.com

This Meetup will be held in a private home so if you would like to join us, please send an RSVP e-mail to seattled@icloud.com. We will respond with the address and any additional information that you require.

Update:

We’ve met our maximum number of guests who can comfortably participate in the private home. If you would like to Skype in, please contact us. We can accommodate 20 more individuals or groups on Skype.

For more on the Common Core Standards, high stakes testing and opting out, see:

Stop Common Core in Washington State

Rethinking Schools: The Trouble with the Common Core

Seattle pushes back on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing

Truth in American Education

Rethinking Schools: Testing Our Limits

What’s wrong with standardized tests?

The Opt Out Update with a Parent “Get Tough Guide”

To download a flyer, go to the Seattle Education doc site.

Post Script:

This just in from New York:

NY

Dear neighbor:

On behalf of the thousands of frustrated parents, students and teachers that I represent, I’ve just voted against confirmation of the four Board of Regents candidates that were nominated by the State Assembly.

The roll-out of Common Core has been profoundly flawed, and the State Education Department and Board of Regents are responsible for this mess.

Today’s vote sends a loud and clear message that our students deserve better and that this bureaucratic disaster needs to be fixed.

New York State must return its focus to one overriding goal: providing a quality education that helps every child achieve a bright, successful and rewarding future.

Sincerely,

DEAN G. SKELOS
Majority Coalition Leader
New York State Senate

http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/standing-our-kids

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Seattle pushes back on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing

raised_hands

The Battle for Seattle continues.

Please submit this resolution, modified for your district, for adoption at the March 9th Democratic district caucuses, specifically the legislative district chair. The deadline for submissions is this Wednesday. The more districts that pass a resolution against Common Core Standards, the more likely it will pass at the county and, ultimately, the state levels.

RESOLUTION CONCERNING

RACE TO THE TOP AND COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS EDUCATION “REFORMS”

WHEREAS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of academic standards, promoted and supported by two private membership organizations, the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), who receive millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop the CCSS without a grant of authority from any state; and

WHEREAS the CCSS were developed by a committee of 24 individuals, almost all of whom were associated with educational corporations, with no decision-making authority granted to practicing K-12 teachers, through a process not subject to public scrutiny or Freedom of Information Act laws, and were adopted by the Legislature without sufficient opportunity for public review or comment; and

WHEREAS funding the implementation of the CCSS, its associated reforms, and the assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a substantial financial burden on local school districts, the state, and taxpayers in a time when Washington is already insufficiently fulfilling its paramount duty to fully fund K-12 education; and

WHEREAS the CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college or career, and the funds allocated for their implementation and associated reforms and assessments are made unavailable for purposes that have been proven effective, such as reducing class sizes and hiring teachers, providing special education services, diversifying course offerings, etc; and

WHEREAS research has proven that high-stakes, standardized tests of any kind limit the curriculum to tested subjects and have caused changes to pedagogy in ways that are detrimental to student learning, and there is no evidence that SBAC developed assessments for the teaching and learning of the CCSS will depart from this historical norm, and

WHEREAS research has continually raised serious and substantive questions about the accuracy and statistical reliability of using high-stakes, standardized tests to measure learning and evaluate teaching, and there is no evidence that the SBAC developed assessments for the teaching and learning of the CCSS are any more accurate and statistically reliable for evaluating teaching and learning; and

WHEREAS Race to the Top (RTTT), CCSS “reforms”, and the SBAC developed assessments include and facilitate the collection of confidential personal and non-educational student, family, and teacher data, and the SBAC Cooperative Agreement allows for access to that data by the federal government and third party organizations without parent, student, or teacher notification or prior written consent;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the King County Democratic Party recognizes RTTT and CCSS “reforms” as a coordinated effort to centralize control of public education under the influence of private interests; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we oppose high-stakes testing and any attempt to tie teacher evaluations to the SBAC developed assessments or other state test, further raising the stakes of high stakes testing and distorting the teaching profession; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Legislature to reconsider its adoption of the CCSS and direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to withdraw Washington state from the SBAC, allowing local control of education to return to Washington state and Washington districts.

Adopted                                              by                                                                                     

Submitted by:

Breann Treffry, Washington State Against Common Core

Wayne Au, PhD, Associate Professor: Education Program at UW Bothell

Dora Taylor, President: Parents Across America

Post Script:

We encourage people in Seattle and beyond to print this resolution and take it with you to school events, PTA meetings, your community and civic meetings and your district’s legislative town hall for discussion and action.

We can do this.

For additional information on the Common Core Standards with a focus on Washington State as well as opting out of the MAP test and state test, see:

Stop Common Core in Washington State

Truth in American Education

Common Core Standards

A recommended article is The Trouble with the Common Core.

Post Script 2:

March 10, 2014

The resolution passed in the 36th District which is where I reside. Now it’s on to the County and State meetings to vote on the resolution being a part of the Democratic Party platform.

Dora Taylor

The Opt Out Update: Portland students plan to walk out of test, Tennessee lawmakers want to starve children for not doing well on tests, really, student data collection “unnecessary and Orwellian” and the push back gains momentum

When will the corporate ed reform madness end?

Melissa Harris Perry Slams Lawmakers Who Want to Tie Welfare Benefits to Student Grades

Melissa Harris Perry
Melissa Harris Perry

Parents who receive TANF benefits would see their payments reduced by 30 percent if their children perform poorly in school.

Tennessee lawmakers have proposed an absurd bill that would punish parents who receive welfare benefits if their children perform poorly in school.

Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Republican State Rep. Vance Dennis introduced legislation in late March that would reduce payments to parents who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by 30 percent if their children do not make “satisfactory progress” in school.

Because why would lawmakers work harder to support parents in poverty when they can just punish them?

Meanwhile, as ThinkProgress pointed out,the state’s maximum welfare benefit is $185 per month, which hasn’t changed since 1996. So if parents even get the maximum benefit, this legislation would reduce it to under $130 for the month. Tough love I guess?

The Tennessee Clergy for Justice has created an online petition to strike down what they’re calling the “Starve our Children” bill.

As Ms. Perry points out, this only applies to poor parents….

Check out the video of Ms. Perry providing her opinion on taking away food benefits to families who students do poorly on standardized tests.

Fortunately the lawmakers pulled the bill at the last minute because of one 8 year old:

8-year-old follows Tenn. lawmaker around Capitol until he drops welfare bill

8 year old followed lawmaker Stacey Campfield around the state capitol until he relented.
8 year old followed lawmaker Stacey Campfield around the state capitol until he relented.

A Tennessee lawmaker has relented and agreed to drop his bill linking academic performance to the family’s welfare benefits after an 8-year-old girl shamed him by following him around the state Capitol.

On his way to vote on Thursday, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) was confronted by 8-year-old homeschooler Aamira Fetuga, who presented him with a petition signed by people opposing his welfare bill, according to the Tennessean. Nearby, a choir of about 60 activists sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

“You are so weak, to not listen to a child,” a parent said as Campfield walked away with the girl following.

“Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” 8-year-old Fetuga asked after she caught up with him on a Capitol escalator.

“Well, I wouldn’t as long as the parent shows up to school and goes to two parent-teacher conferences and they’re exempt,” the state Senator explained.

The confrontation continued during what appeared to be long, uncomfortable walk to the Senate floor for Campfield.

“Using children as props is shameful,” he grumbled at one point.

But the protest tactics may have worked because Campfield decided to withdraw the bill before Thursday’s vote after several other former supporters began to express doubts.

To read the article in full, go to The Raw Story.

There is a pushback movement that has taken on momentum and at this point will not be stopped.

The following are examples of what is happening across the country.

walk out

On Facebook,Cleveland Walk Out!

Cleveland students are walking out against standardized tests. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to walk out at 10:30, right before 2nd period. If you don’t go to Cleveland you can still come and support!

 

We will be walking through the halls, loudly, and making our way to the front doors. Once we exit school we will head to Powell Park.

 

This may or may not last all of second period, but you are free to go back to class whenever you want.

and here are some reasons why standardized tests suck:

 

-It uses up money that could be going to better things, like art/science classes. Or new text books.

 

-Teachers are evaluated on them, and for the most part they just show how students are able to react during a high stakes test, not their education. So it’s not a fair evaluation.

 

-The curriculum and the tests don’t match up, so it’s not a fair test of our knowledge.

-People don’t learn in a standardized way, so why test them that way?

 

-The standardized tests are written by people who are not teaching or taking any of the classes.

 

-They are written by white men who think they know what everyone should be learning, and they write it based on their culture. That leaves out a whole percentage of students who are not part of that culture. Take grammar for example, people in different communities speak a different way and aren’t always taught “correct” grammar. Therefore those parts of the test they are already deemed to fail. The test is written for a certain culture and therefore is made to hold up a certain status quo, that is the white privilege lifestyle.

school-HZT

In the state of New York, Standardized test rebellion:

After a decade of high-stakes standardized testing, a revolt is brewing. Many local parents and — more quietly — teachers don’t like the effect that constant test prep has had on our local schools. Such tests measure a narrow band of intelligence, and schools should diversify the curriculum to allow for more creativity and hands-on learning.

 

This year, Kingston, New Paltz and Rondout school boards have passed resolutions opposing high-stakes testing. The issue hasn’t been taken up by the Saugerties School Board, but the local education community has many fellow travelers. Some from Saugerties attended a recent roundtable in Kingston.

“Kingston has been a big driving force,” said a Saugerties elementary school teacher and parent. “And people are saying, ‘You know what? If New Paltz can do it, so can we.’”

 

…“What started a few years ago as a mild breeze of parents requesting that their children not participate in the assessments is about to become a tsunami,” Turner said. “At least locally, the PTAs are beginning to hold forums collectively to talk about what the value is of standardized testing, and there are form letters which we are beginning to receive.”

 

Cahill parent Jennifer Mangione is one of the founding members of the Saugerties group PACE (Parents Actively Committed to Education).

 

“As far as high-stakes testing goes, I believe the stress that these tests impose on our students and teachers are not worth the results of the tests that will not accurately measure our students’ knowledge,” she said. “In addition, these tests are yet another unfunded mandate that we cannot afford. I know there are many parents thinking about opting out of these tests and finding out their rights as parents to do just that.”

To read this article in full, go to Saugerties Times.

In Buffalo, New York:

WNYers hold forum for Opt Out Movement

New York’s standardized tests are just that — standard, for all children who attend school in this state — right?

Wrong, say a small but steadfast group of advocates.

 

While it is not widely-publicized, it’s a fact that parents can choose to ‘opt out,’ and not have their kids take the tests. And this idea of refusing to take the tests is beginning to gain steam, with parents and teachers who feel the tests are doing more harm than good.

 

Saturday, they held a public forum at Buffalo’s Niagara Branch Library to inform other parents of ‘opt-out’ right, what its consequences are, and how to exercise it, if they so choose.

 

Bob Mahany has three children, two in high school and one in 5th grade. He’s also a high school social studies teacher. “Standardized tests are a good idea, to a point. It’s excessive, that’s where we are right now. It’s excessive use of standardized tests,” Mahany says.

 

Lisa Mihelbergal, also a parent who teaches art to Kindergarten through 5th graders, agrees. “It’s gone very, very extreme towards data and at the expense of students’ learning [and] our teaching… Anything that’s really meaningful,” says Mihelbergel.

 

Talk to teachers in any school district, she says, and they will tell you the same thing — children are being done a disservice.

Increasingly, school days are consumed by test prep and test-taking rather than creative projects, and one-on-one instruction that helps kids develop critical thinking skills.

 

“Teachers are now beginning to have to care about points, that don’t have to do with anything that’s of value, really, for the child and their education. Your time should be focused completely on those children, spending the time with them and teaching them,” Mihelbergel says. “Real education, it’s the relationship that you build with your children and what they’re really capable of doing.

To read this article in full, go to WIVB.com.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls
Dr. Jessie Ramey, a Pitt professor and parent of two Pittsburgh Public School students, is among a growing number of parents who are opting out their children from PSSA tests due to a variety of concerns. Ramey helps her son, Ian Zimmerman, 9, with his homework at their Point Breeze home on Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

In Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania parents take stand against standardized tests.

As students prepare to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams this week, a growing number of parents are refusing to let their children take the high-stakes standardized exams aimed at showing which schools are excelling or failing.

 

It’s part of a national groundswell of opposition by parents who cite design flaws in standardized tests, increasing anxiety in students and teachers, and unrealistic performance standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

 

The 2001 law requires all public schools that receive federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually. By 2014, schools must have 100 percent of students score proficient or better in reading and math to meet the federal benchmark.

 

In Pennsylvania, parents can exclude their children from PSSA tests, given in grades 3 through 8, based on religious objections, although many of the parents contacted cited reasons other than religion for their decision to opt out.

 

When pressed on how their objections are tied to religion, some parents contend that low test scores lead to cuts in school resources, rather than increases, which exacerbates gaps in racial or economic achievement. They believe that violates many religions’ social justice missions.

To read this article in full, go to Trib Live News.

pssa-opt-out_original

More on Pennsylvania:

Why I won’t let my son take the PSSA

The opt-out movement is growing because high-stakes tests are wrecking our schools

 

I am an English professor. So you can imagine how my pride was hurt when my 9-year-old son Jacob started bringing home low scores on his practice reading tests for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.

 

My husband and I have been helping Jacob with his test-prep reading homework every weeknight this year, and it has been a grim slog. At times I have found myself getting angry when Jacob has fidgeted, or when he has had trouble focusing. Sometimes I have gotten angry when he simply hasn’t been able to answer the questions.

Then one day this March it dawned on me. I am getting angry at my son about a test. A test that I do not like. A “high-stakes” test that will put so much pressure on Jacob that it probably will not reflect his true abilities. I also realized something else: Jacob does not love to read.

After doing some research and talking with other parents, my husband and I decided to “opt out” Jacob from the PSSA tests. We are opting him out because we do not like what high-stakes tests are doing to Jacob, to our family, to his teachers, to his school and, ultimately, to our entire education system.

 

High-stakes tests like the PSSAs are used to evaluate, close and punish public schools, including my son’s school, Pittsburgh Linden, a K-5 magnet school in Point Breeze. Linden’s Adequate Yearly Progress score is bound to Linden’s PSSA test results. According to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, every public school in the United States must be 100 percent proficient in reading and math (based on test scores) by 2014.

 

Last year, Linden did not make AYP. In fact, only six Pittsburgh Public Schools did. A neighboring school, Colfax, which is one of the best schools in the East End, has been labeled “low-achieving” and is currently under something called “Corrective Action II.” Under this label, a school can be reconstituted, chartered or privatized.

 

High-stakes tests also warp the educational environment. This March, as Linden was gearing up for the PSSAs, the hallways were stripped bare, though state law requires only that displays pertaining to the tests be taken down. Artwork, motivational slogans, student-made posters, the Women’s History display my kids helped to make, my daughter’s picture of herself as a “writer” when she grows up, the “dream” statements everyone filled out in January with the large cutout of Martin Luther King — all of it has been removed. During testing season, access to Linden’s new iPads — for which I helped to write the grant that allowed us to acquire them — will also be curtailed.

 

The curriculum at Linden is narrowing, too. As testing has ratcheted up, and as Gov. Tom Corbett’s billion-dollar cut to Pennsylvania’s K-12 education budget have kicked in, schools across the state are dropping programs that are not measured by tests.

 

Last year at Linden the third-grade band program was cut, dozens of hours of music instruction were cut, our science programming was reduced, and we were slated to lose our art teacher (fortunately we were able to save her). We lost dozens of hours of library instruction, and children are allowed access to the library only once every two weeks. Ironically, the loss of our library hours will hurt the students more when it comes to testing. A recent study found that “[w]ith a full-time librarian, students are more likely to score ‘Advanced’ and less likely to score ‘Below Basic’ on reading and writing tests.”

 

Also, there is the stress. Jacob, only a third-grader, has cried, gotten dejected and thrown fits over his test-prep requirements, both at home and at school. Sixth graders in our district will take 23 different tests this year — up from nine the previous year.

 

During the tests, students are treated like prisoners, with limited bathroom breaks and constant monitoring. These conditions are especially hard for special-needs children and children with Individual Education Plans.

Teachers are also stressed. My son’s third-grade teacher has been working so hard this year that he arrives many days as early as 6 a.m. and stays for hours after school, sometimes as late as 9 p.m. From around the district I am hearing stories about teachers crying in the hall — devastated by the harm they believe the tests are inflicting.

 

Let me be clear. I believe in evaluation as a tool — I use quizzes and other testing techniques in my college classroom. But high-stakes tests, tests used to label schools, teachers and students as failures, are damaging our nation’s educational system.

 

Here in Pittsburgh and across southwestern Pennsylvania, the movement to opt out of standardized testing is taking root. In the Pittsburgh Public Schools there are parents at Colfax, Greenfield, Liberty, Linden, Montessori and Phillips who are opting their children out of the PSSAs. Across the region, some parents in Mt. Lebanon, Somerset County and Westmoreland County are doing so as well.

To read this op-ed in full, go to the Post Gazette.

Jesse
Jesse Hagopian and Tracy Barrientos speak before the forum.

‘Out of a possible 810 students, the administration of Seattle’s Garfield High School was able to test only 118…’ Teachers and students who boycott tests speak of their experiences at CTU ‘More Than a Score’ forum.

In Chicago, Seattle Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian was a speaker at the More Than a Score Forum recently.

CTU President Karen Lewis, Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian, and several other speakers “enlightened, inspired, and energized” participants at a special community forum on standardized testing, said one teacher who spoke at the end of the meeting at Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church on March 19.

 

Approximately 100 people attended the event, sponsored by More Than A Score a coalition of the CTU, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand, and PURE. CTU Testing Committee co-chair Tracy Barirentos moderated the meeting, noting in her opening remarks that public education is in “crisis mode” because of excessive testing, which CPS is increasing in grades K-2.

To read more about the forum, go to Substance News.

Primary school tests

And in the UK:

Teachers threaten to boycott ‘meaningless’ primary literacy tests

Primary school tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue.

 

Teachers are threatening to boycott “meaningless” new literacy tests for primary school pupils.

 

At its annual conference in Liverpool, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) passed a motion calling for a boycott of spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for 11-year-olds and a reading check for six-year-olds. Both were introduced this year.

 

Delegates urged the NUT to hold talks with other teaching unions with a view to boycotting the tests next year. The union’s members would need to be balloted for the action to go ahead.

 

The tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue.

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. This year the tests include a spelling, grammar and punctuation paper.

 

Ministers have also introduced a reading test to be taken by six-year-olds. This uses phonics, a system that encourages children to use sounds to decipher words.

 

Joan Edwards, a primary teacher from Birmingham, said Michael Gove, the education secretary, wanted a “world without music, without art, without creativity”.

 

“We as teachers want a more balanced education for our children. We want children to develop a love of reading, not reading for a test,” she said.

Philipa Harvey, a primary teacher from Croydon, said the tests were too prescriptive.

 

The NUT’s motion stated that the union “condemned the manipulation of the primary curriculum and teaching methods through the imposition of unnecessary tests, in particular Year 1 phonics screening and the Year 6 spelling, punctuation and grammar test”.

 

Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, said the tests would leave many children feeling a failure.

 

“Primary school teachers are desperately concerned about what the school day will come to mean for their pupils,” she said. “The proposed primary curriculum will set education back generations. We need to ensure that children are given a love of learning, reading, writing and maths but this is not the right way to go about it.”

To read this article in full, go to The Guardian.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with bffr Eli Broad at Obama's first inaugural ball.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with BFF Eli Broad at Obama’s first inaugural ball.

There is a push now to collect an enormous amount of data regarding students and much of it would be considered confidential, not going any further than a file at the students’ school. This data is going into a state and ultimately into a national database and is being funded in part by Bill Gates. The state database is being promoted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and funded by Race to the Top funding.

To see the amount and type of information that is being collected in the state of New York, go to inBloom. It will shock you if you’re a parent to see what others will have access to in terms of your student’s personal information.

This data can be assessed not only by school districts but also by for profit companies and corporations developing and promoting any and all products and software related to education.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and Founding Member of Parents Across America describes concerns that many parents have in her article:

Student education data collecting initiative inBloom puts sensitive information at risk

The proposal to store complete sensitive personal information along with grades, test scores, health records and disciplinary records on a cloud comes from the officials who dreamt up ARIS supercomputer boondoggle.

Thousands of New York parents have emailed state and city education officials in recent weeks protesting this plan to share student data with private companies — yet no parent has gotten any response.

 

Why does the state refuse to allow parents to decide whether the benefits of this plan outweigh the risks? That’s because the advantages are all hypothetical and the risks are all too obvious.

The most sensitive confidential data is being shared, including children’s names, emails, phone numbers, photos, which will be stored along with grades, test scores, health conditions, disabilities and detailed disciplinary records.

 

If this information leaks out or is improperly used, it could stigmatize a child and damage his or her prospects for life. The state and the city are setting themselves up for multimillion-dollar class-action suits if and when these data breaches occur.

 

The data inBloom receives from the education department will be placed in a vulnerable data cloud. Many technology professionals do not trust clouds for their more sensitive data.

 

The Home School Legal Defense Association’s Director of Federal Relations William A. Estrada, Esq. recently wrote an article titled:

National Databases: Collecting Student-Specific Data is unnecessary and Orwellian

A national database of student-specific data is very concerning for many reasons. The national databases being created now include detailed records of students, including race, gender, birth information, learning disabilities, detailed academic records, and much more. This information is being collected soon after birth, all the way through graduation from college.

 

The more personal information that is included, the greater the danger to the student’s privacy and safety if the data is breached. Will certain data make it harder for students to get into higher education? Will it be disclosed to government employers, or even private employers?

 

HSLDA believes that each student is unique, with far more to offer society than just the sum of their academic years. Government tracking students from soon after birth until they graduate from college is Orwellian and seems like a “Big Brother” mentality, and has no place in a free society.

 

It is important to note that there are many reasons for aggregated student data to be available. Such data is helpful for researchers, and it is reported widely so that parents and policy makers can determine how students are doing academically. But HSLDA believes that there are very little reasons for the government to track student-specific data.

To read the article in full, go to the HSLDA website.

Parents are pushing back and one example are parents in Louisiana who started a petition, Stop Sharing Our Student Data!

The Louisiana Department of Education has provided our children’s private data (including medical conditions, grades, discipline information, SSNs Birthdays, and your child’s picture along with your home address and phone number) to unregulated, unmonitored third party vendors to market products to our children. 

 

These vendors plan to keep this data forever, and to sell it to others at our children’s expense.  These vendors like inBloom, Amplify, and Ed-Fi are even obtaining and sharing historical data from students (now adults) who have already graduated.  These vendors have stated they will take “reasonable precautions” but will not take responsibility nor be liable for any damages or disclosures of this data – which they intend to host on publically available “data clouds.” 

 

This data can be abused by identity thieves, insurance companies, future employers, and pedophiles to name just a few of the dangers.

 

When you sign this petition you are stating you want this practice by the Louisiana Department of Education to cease.  You want any data already transmitted to be destroyed. You want the US Department of Education to restore FERPA protections for our children (no sharing of confidential student data without parental consent) and you want our local legislators to pass legislation that will prevent this from happening ever again.

You can view the petition at this website.

This week I’ll leave you with:

None of the Above – Why Standardized Testing Fails: Bob Sternberg at TEDxOStat

Oklahoma State University Provost Bob Sternberg developed his first intelligence test in seventh grade and since then has become one of the top 100 psychologists of the 20th century. His talk discusses the faults in standardized testing and the new needs of today’s generation.

Dora Taylor