Posts tagged ‘Standardized testing’

June 21, 2016

Petition and Open Letter: Stop testing Grade 6 students in Quebec with a ridiculous exam.

By Jo-Ann Connolly

Plea to parents and educators,

As a grade 6 teacher who has just finished correcting provincial math exams, I am convinced that our government has taken the wrong path in evaluating knowledge that our children in Quebec society have grasped through our educational system.  The exam is divided into 8 parts, with one large situational problem and 6 shorter applications.There is also a traditional multiple choice and quick answer booklet.

os-ed-standardized-testing-front-burner-intro--001There is no sound pedagogy in what the government is requesting from 11 and 12 year olds.  The applications took anywhere from 1 to 1 and a half hours, rather than the 20 to 30 minute time limit the government wanted.  The situational took 2 days rather than the 1 to 2 and a half hours.The children could not do this on their own, despite discussion beforehand to clarify exactly what was being requested of them.  The government is asking them to work in isolation on a budget proposal scenario which frankly is irrelevant for most children, and the steps involved are too complex.  Most twelve year olds do not hold the purse strings in their families.  They are lucky if they have an allowance.  Parents buy the necessities and children in poor neighbourhoods have never handled money. They may be able to find percents and calculate tax on an item when we scaffold the activities, but they have no idea what budgets and proposals are about.The applications are too long and the language is such that the child does not even know what is being asked.

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September 26, 2014

La Presse reports Liberals planning massive overhaul of education system

September 26, 2014

La Presse is reporting today that Couillard Liberals are planning a massive education reform that includes the abolition of school boards, reduction of private school subsidies by 50%, reduction in the number of ministry exams and the creation of a professional order by teachers.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/education/201409/25/01-4803683-reforme-tous-azimuts-en-education.php

May 12, 2014

States’ standardized tests have a negative impact on parents’ civic engagement

Published May 10, 2014 by Science Daily

New research from a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that parents of public school students in states with more extensive and stringent student assessment systems express lower trust in government, less confidence in government efficacy, and more negative views of their children’s schools, thereby threatening civic engagement and the potential for future education reform.

In a study published by the journal Political Behavior, associate professor Jesse Rhodes merged data from an original survey of public school parents with quantitative measures of the scope and alignment of state standards, testing, and accountability policies, to determine whether and how education reforms influence the parents’ political attitudes and behaviors.

He found that highly developed assessment policies alienate parents from government and discourage parental involvement in education, an effect he terms “demobilization.” Parental trust in government was 11 percent lower in states with the most extensive assessment policies, and parental assessments of government effectiveness were 15 percent lower, compared to states with less developed testing polices.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407130927.htm#.U2_MSsaKD_0.facebook

April 23, 2014

Standardized testing is detrimental to students’ education

By Robert Green | Published April 22, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

Though education is an issue of great importance to Quebecers, the only education-related issue discussed in the recent election campaign was the question of where in the education bureaucracy to find savings that could be redirected to schools.

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he favoured abolishing school boards, while Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said he wanted to trim the staff within the education department itself.

Trimming bureaucratic fat sounds appealing, but it can also have grave consequences for the quality of services. This is particularly true in the case of school boards that provide front-line services to students.

Now that Couillard is set to officially take over as premier this week, I have a modest proposal for him: He could save some money by cutting the bureaucracy involved in the production and administration of high-stakes standardized tests.

os-ed-standardized-testing-front-burner-intro--001There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that such testing does anything to improve educational outcomes. For more than a decade, the U.S. has been involved in an education reform driven by standardized-test results. Over this time, student achievement has not improved, while a host of other negative effects have been observed: the narrowing of curriculum, the widening of achievement gaps related to race and class, and growing rates of student stress and depression.

The problems with standardized testing have become so serious that there is now a growing movement of parents and educators in the U.S. advocating that parents opt their children out of such tests.

Meanwhile, the country whose students consistently rank highest in the world, Finland, imposes no standardized tests whatsoever. Finland’s approach is to focus on equity over excellence, ensuring that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, are given the support they need to succeed.

Finland worries about the resources going into schools, while the U.S. worries about the test results coming out of them. Quebec needs to learn from this.

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April 15, 2014

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors

We just wanted to teach.

When I was drawn to teach in Oakland, I saw a chance to give students the chance to do hands-on experiments, to answer their own questions, and explore the natural world. On field trips to the tide pools I found out some had never even been to the Pacific Ocean, an hour’s drive from their homes.  I did not enter teaching to prepare students for tests. I wanted my students to think and reason for themselves.

We teach the children of the middle class, the wealthy and the poor. We teach the damaged and disabled, the whole and the gifted. We teach the immigrants and the dispossessed natives, the transients and even the incarcerated.

In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students.  The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.

Read more: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/04/teachers_a_call_to_battle_for_.html

April 9, 2014

Why Are Teachers and Students Opting Out of Standardized Testing?

by Michelle Chen | Published April 7, 2014 by The Nation

After years of drilling, assessing and scoring youth to exhaustion, more than 25,000 kids in New York have defied the educational establishment in a test of wills. The “opt out” movement has exploded in schools across the state and other regions of the country, as students, parents and teachers resist the standardized testing regime that has fueled a free-market assault on public education.

Some New York teachers have placed themselves at the vanguard of test resisters, alongside student and parent activists, and are now using their professional leverage to deepen the battle lines in the ideological conflict over education reform.

The rebellion stirring in city classrooms was presented recently to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in an open letter from a group of “Teachers of Conscience” at the Earth School, an elementary school in Manhattan. Accompanied by a philosophical position paper detailing principles of a progressive education, the teachers declared their opposition to English language exams for third-to-eight graders:

We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

And there’s something to hate for everyone in these standardized tests. Students become miserable and bored with constant test-prep; parents and caregivers grow frustrated with curricula that seem to be failing their children (inspiring them to organize likeminded families to facilitate their children’s test resistance); and teachers have raged against the imposition of formulaic, stress-inducing reading and math drills on their classes. The latest batch of English tests left educators and students feeling “outraged,” “defeated” and “devalued,” according to reviews on an online teacher forum. (At several schools, including the Earth School, the majority of students refused the exams.)

Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/179214/teachers-and-students-opt-out-defy-testing-machine#

March 16, 2014

Alfie Kohn at Regina Teachers Convention 2014

Alfie Kohn speaks about the many dangers of data-driven education reform focused on standardized test results at the 2014 Regina Teachers Convention.

February 25, 2014

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

by Dean Paton | Published February 21, 2014 by Yes! Magazine

Until about 1980, America’s public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind of Norman Rockwell patina—generally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.

Since then, what a turnaround: We’re now told, relentlessly, that bad-apple schoolteachers have wrecked K-12 education; that their unions keep legions of incompetent educators in classrooms; that part of the solution is more private charter schools; and that teachers as well as entire schools lack accountability, which can best be remedied by more and more standardized “bubble” tests.

What led to such an ignoble fall for teachers and schools? Did public education really become so irreversibly terrible in three decades? Is there so little that’s redeemable in today’s schoolhouses?

Read more: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/the-myth-behind-public-school-failure

November 28, 2013

The Opt-Outers

What happens if enough New York parents say they don’t want their kids to take tests?

By Robert Kolker | Published Nov 24, 2013 by New York Magazine

More than a year before 7-year-old Oscar Mata was scheduled to take his first major standardized test, his parents received word from his school that he was failing. The Department of Education calls it a Promotion in Doubt letter—a well-intentioned, if blunt, method used to get families to take notice of gaps in a student’s skills.

The letter arrived in 2011, around the time of Oscar’s second-grade winter break. Before then, he had been happy at the Twenty-First Century Academy for Community Leadership in West ­Harlem. His parents, Andrea and Juan, had been drawn to the dual-language school, where English and Spanish learners took field trips together for innovative social-­studies projects. They say that Oscar is great at math and loved science, music, and art. He loved reading, too, until he started to get tested on it.

“There was this transformation of the whole culture—and curriculum,” Andrea says. “I could see it mostly through the homework. It really looked like test prep. There were even ­bubble sheets.” Oscar had more than a year before the third-grade test, when students start taking the New York State ­English ­Language Arts (ELA) and math tests—but the thinking goes that the sooner they learn how to take big standardized tests and the sooner any skill shortfalls can be dealt with, the better they’ll do in the long run. Oscar, however, had a paradoxical reaction. “His interest in school,” says Andrea, “took this immediate plummet.”

She felt as if her son had been caught in a vortex: The school starts teaching Oscar differently, he loses whatever spark of curiosity inspired him to want to learn, and the school punishes him for it. He made it to third grade, but by then, test prep had come to dominate his classroom. Grand plans for science experiments and hands-on interactive projects, Andrea says, “would just kind of fizzle out and disappear because there wasn’t time to do them.”

One underlying problem, she learned, was that his school had received a grade of C from the DOE’s school-evaluation system, and student test scores accounted for 85 percent of that grade. The principal was under extreme pressure to raise the school’s performance level, because a low grade could persuade families to pull students out of that school. By spring, with the third-grade state tests imminent, Andrea started to think seriously about having Oscar opt out of the ELA entirely. The potential ramifications were a mystery to her, but in a way, she thought, the worst had already happened. Her son just didn’t like school anymore.

Read more: http://nymag.com/news/features/anti-testing-2013-12/

November 14, 2013

Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out

By Owen Davis and StudentNation | Published November 5, 2013 by The Nation

Excerpt:

But while Seattle attracted the lion’s share of national media attention, schools throughout the country saw increasing numbers of students refuse standardized tests. Denver, Chicago, Portland, Providence and elsewhere witnessed opt-outs large and small.

Parent groups in Texas succeeded in halving the number of standardized tests given there. Students donned fake gore for “zombie crawls” in two cities, highlighting the deadening effects of test-mania. Little ones participated in a “play-in” at district offices in Chicago, living the motto that tots “should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in.”

This activism comes as a reaction to the growth of a testing apparatus unmatched in US history. Bipartisan No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 laid the groundwork, requiring states to develop assessments for all students in grades 3-8, and threatening schools that fall short of yearly benchmarks. The Obama Administration’s Race to the Top heightened the stakes, encouraging states to develop test-based teacher evaluations and adopt Common Core standards.

Together they aim to capture all the complexities of a student’s learning in a few digits that sometimes add up to schools closed and teachers fired. Meanwhile three-quarters of districts facing NCLB sanctions have reported cutting the time allotted to non-tested subjects like science and music. And since Race to the Top’s passage in 2009, about two-thirds of states have ramped up their teacher evaluation systems, with thirty-eight now explicitly requiring evaluations to include test scores.

Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/176994/turn-tune-opt-out#

November 6, 2013

Corporate school deform vs. education justice

By Dana Blanchard | Published November 6, 2013 by The Socialist Worker

FROM RESISTANCE to high-stakes testing to a more assertive voice from teachers’ unions, big-money corporate education “reformers” are encountering significant new resistance. Now is the time for teachers to step up our defense of public education, both by highlighting the destructive impact of the so-called reforms and by building on the emerging alliance between our unions and the communities we serve.

This article attempts to summarize some of these important shifts and highlight places where our side can organize and push back, starting right now. The prospects for teachers unions in the struggle ahead will be the subject of the second part of this article.

It’s difficult to exaggerate the damage done by the education reformers. I’ve been a public school teacher in California for 12 years–a time that coincides with implementation of the federal government’s misnamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

NCLB unleashed the current wave of corporate school reform: the use of standardized testing to punish failing schools and evaluate every teacher’s effectiveness; the increase in privately run charter schools claiming to be an “option” for students in “failing” public schools; and a massive growth in for-profit textbook and testing enterprises that feast on funds from school district trying desperately to make yearly progress targets–goals that move further and further out of reach each year.

At the same time, I’ve seen a whole generation of new teachers who burned out early from the prospect of teaching under the gun of standardization and the lack of job security from perpetual cycles of budgets cuts in public education. Meanwhile, teacher farms like Teach for America place more and more young people in the front lines of education without adequate preparation, only for them to leave the profession for better jobs with less collateral damage.

But recent cracks in the corporate education reform monolith have given rise to new hope. New studies validate what teachers have known all along–top-down, punishment-based reforms don’t work. They don’t work for creating a profession that people want to dedicate their lives to, and they don’t work for the students who are most underserved by public education.

Read more: http://socialistworker.org/2013/11/06/corporate-reform-vs-education-justice

October 22, 2013

Forget teaching to the test — at this Washington Heights elementary school, parents canceled it!

More than 80% of parents voted to skip an exam that the state says helps evaluate teachers. Move is believed to be unprecedented.

By / Published October 21, 2013 by NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

A Washington Heights elementary school has canceled the new standardized multiple-choice tests for the youngest public school students — after more than 80% of parents opted to have their kids sit out the exam.

In an apparently unprecedented move, Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — rejected the new city requirement that affects 36 schools that serve only K through second grade.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

Students at the 36 “early education” schools are too young to take the regular state reading and math exams, so the littlest kids are sitting down for different tests.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”

October 8, 2013

Diane Ravitch: Charter Schools Are a Colossal Mistake. Here’s Why

The campaign to “reform” schools by giving public money to private corporations is a distraction from our system’s real problems: poverty and racial segregation.

By Dianne Ravitch | Published October 2, 2013 by Alternet

Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation, and it’s a very bad idea.

Billionaires like privately managed schools. Parents are lured with glittering promises of getting their kids a sure ticket to college. Politicians want to appear to be champions of “school reform” with charters.

But charters will not end the poverty at the root of low academic performance or transform our nation’s schools into a high-performing system. The world’s top-performing systems – Finland and Korea, for example – do not have charter schools. They have strong public school programs with well-prepared, experienced teachers and administrators. Charters and that other faux reform, vouchers, transform schooling into a consumer good, in which choice is the highest value.

The original purpose of charters, when they first opened in 1990 (and when I was a charter proponent), was to collaborate with public schools, not to compete with them or undermine them. They were supposed to recruit the weakest students, the dropouts, and identify methods to help public schools do a better job with those who had lost interest in schooling. This should be their goal now as well.

Instead, the charter industry is aggressive and entrepreneurial. Charters want high test scores, so many purposely enroll minimal numbers of English-language learners and students with disabilities. Some push out students who threaten their test averages. Last year, the federal General Accountability Office issued a report chastising charters for avoiding students with disabilities, and the ACLU is suing charters in New Orleans for that reason.

Read more: http://www.alternet.org/education/diane-ravitch-charter-schools-are-colossal-mistake-heres-why?akid=11002.1147163.ZvOSAo&rd=1&src=newsletter904692&t=17&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

August 31, 2013

Protesting Teachers Block Mexico City Airport

by JOHNNY HAZARD | Published Aug 30 2013 by Counterpunch.org

Thousands of teachers (seven thousand, according to detractors, more according to organizers), members of a dissident caucus within the dominant Mexican teachers union, blocked access to the Mexico City airport for about 11 hours on Friday July 23. The action was part of a series of escalating protests against the passage, without discussion, of an education “reform” package in the congress in the first day of the term of new president Enrique Peña Nieto, inaugurated in December amid charges of electoral fraud.

News reports have focused more on passengers’ and airline employees’ lamentations about inconvenience than about the teachers’ demands. One newspaper carried the complaints of a flight attendant who hurt her feet because she had to walk a mile or two to the airport in high heels, as if her unfortunate choice of footwear were the teachers’ fault. Teachers were about to enter and shut down the airport when some of their leaders paused, negotiated with authorities, and decided to limit the action to a blockade of all roads that lead to the airport (a highway and several major thoroughfares). This, while disappointing some of the more avid participants, still had the effect of forcing the delay or cancellation of most flights.

The week of intense protests began when the congress was to begin a special session to pass legislation that would enable the reform measures, which include more standardized testing for students and teachers and a fast-track route to fire teachers in violation of collective bargaining agreements. Media, business, and government leaders here tend to blame teachers for the low academic achievement of students who attend school only a few hours every day in schools with peeling paint, crumbling walls, no running water, soap, toilet paper, or nutritious food and a teacher shortage (not for lack of applicants) that creates class sizes of 40 or 50 in the early grades. In rural areas it is common for teachers to appear only via closed circuit television.

Read more: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/30/protesting-teachers-block-mexico-city-airport/

August 15, 2013

When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto

By Henry A. Giroux | Published 13 August 2013 by Truthout.org

Excerpt:

While pedagogies of repression come in different forms and address different audiences in various contexts, they all share a commitment to defining pedagogy as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prescribed subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. There is no talk here of connecting pedagogy with the social and political task of resistance, empowerment or democratization. Nor is there any attempt to show how knowledge, values, desire and social relations are always implicated in power.  Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must reject such definitions of teaching and their proliferating imitations even when they are claimed as part of a radical discourse or project.  In opposition to the instrumentalized reduction of pedagogy to a mere method that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship, critical pedagogy works to illuminate the relationships among knowledge, authority and power. 24 For instance, it raises questions regarding who has control over the conditions for producing knowledge such as the curricula being promoted by teachers, textbook companies, corporate interests or other forces? 

Central to any viable notion of what makes a pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that pedagogy is always a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what forms of knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. In this case, critical pedagogy draws attention to the ways in which knowledge, power, desire, and experience are produced under specific conditions of learning, and in doing so rejects the notion that teaching is just a method or is removed from matters of values, norms, and power – or, for that matter, the struggle over agency itself and the future it suggests for young people. Rather than asserting its own influence in order to wield authority over passive subjects, critical pedagogy is situated within a project that views education as central to creating students who are socially responsible and civically engaged citizens. This kind of pedagogy reinforces the notion that public schools are democratic public spheres, education is the foundation for any working democracy and teachers are the most responsible agents for fostering that education.

Read more: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto