Posts tagged ‘Standardized testing’

August 11, 2013

Punishing Kids for Adult Failures

By Diane Ravitch | Published August 8, 2013 by NY Daily News


The one certain result of the Common Core standards is that they cause test scores to plummet. Kentucky saw its passing rates fall by 30 percentage points using the Common Core. New York students have experienced the same blow.

So now, overnight, thanks to Common Core testing, the majority of students across the state and in the city are failures. That means that the schools are now required (by the state’s rules) to provide “academic intervention services” for them, which will take money away from the arts, physical education, foreign languages, history, civics and other essential subjects.

Who should parents and the public hold accountable for the collapse of test scores? Not the students and not the teachers, but state education officials. They make the rules that determine curriculum, standards, teacher qualifications and other factors that affect how schools function. They have changed the tests and the scoring repeatedly. They hold the reins of power.

If this year’s abysmal test scores were a genuine reflection of student achievement — and they are not — the regents would be the responsible party.

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July 27, 2013

How much time do school districts spend on standardized testing? This much.

By Valerie Strauss |Published July 25 2013 by The Answer Sheet

Exactly how much standardized testing are school districts subjecting students to these days? A nearly staggering amount, according to a new analysis.

Testing More, Teaching Less: What America’s Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time,” released by the American Federation of Teachers, looks closely at two unnamed medium-sized school districts — one in the Midwest and one in the East — through the prism of their standardized testing calendars.

Standardized testing has become the focus of modern school reform since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind law in 2002, and continuing through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative. Over the years, the time taken up by test prep and testing has risen, as have the costs and the lost instructional time.

The grade-by-grade analysis of time and money invested in standardized testing found that test prep and testing absorbed 19 full school days in one district and a month and a half in the other in heavily tested grades. The Midwestern district spent $600 or more for standardized testing per pupil in grades 3-8;  about $200 per student for grades K-2; from $400 to $600 per student for grades 9-11. The Eastern district spent more than $1,100 annually on testing per student in grades 6-11; around $400 per student in grades 1-2; between $700 and $800 per student for grades 3-5.

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July 25, 2013

Public School Teachers: New Unions, New Alliances, New Politics

By Michael D. Yates | Published 24 July 2013 by

The U.S. working class was slow to respond to the hard times it faced during and after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Finally, however, in February, 2011, workers in Wisconsin began the famous uprising that electrified the country, revolting in large numbers against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to destroy the state’s public employee labor unions.  A few months later, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which supported many working class efforts, spread from New York City to the rest of the nation and the world. Then, in September 2012, Chicago’s public school teachers struck, in defiance of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s attempt to destroy the teachers’ union and put the city’s schools firmly on the path of neoliberal austerity and privatization.

These three rebellions shared the growing awareness that economic and political power in the United States are firmly in the hands of a tiny minority of fantastically wealthy individuals whose avarice knows no bounds. These titans of finance want to eviscerate working men and women, making them as insecure as possible and wholly dependent on the dog-eat-dog logic of the marketplace, while at the same time converting any and all aspects of life into opportunities for capital accumulation.

The public sector is still, despite the effort of capital to dismantle it, the one sanctuary people have against the depredations of the 1 percent. Through struggle, working men and women have succeeded in winning a modicum of health care and retirement security, as well as some guarantee that their children will be educated, all irrespective of the ability to pay for these essential services. They have also found decent employment opportunities in government, especially women and minorities. The public sector, then, is a partial barrier to the expansion of capital in that it both denies large sums of money to capitalists (social security funds, for example) and protects the workers in it from the vagaries of the labor market.

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July 21, 2013

Video: Study Links High Stakes Testing to Higher Incarceration Rates

Published July 19 2013 by The Real News Network

July 20, 2013

How Mass Civil Disobedience at a Seattle High School Catalyzed the ‘Education Spring’

By | Published July 1 2013 by


This victory against a standardized test represents a high stakes test for corporate education reformers who have attempted to reduce the intellectual process of teaching and learning to selecting answer choices, A, B, C, or D. Their entire project of denying students graduation, firing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing education through the proliferation of charter schools rests on their ability to reduce teachers and students to a single score. Our ability in Seattle to unite students, parents, and teachers in a movement for a more meaningful and empowering education is a threat to their whole project.

In an effort to demonstrate what authentic assessment could be, educators in Seattle established a Teacher Work Group on Assessment, which engaged in months of research resulting in the “Markers of Quality Assessment” (PDF)—recommended guidelines for developing assessments. The guidelines promote assessments that reflect actual student knowledge and learning, not just test-taking skills; are educational in and of themselves; are free of gender, class and racial bias; are differentiated to meet students’ needs; allow opportunities to go back and improve; undergo regular evaluation and revision by educators.

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July 2, 2013

The solution to US public schools is not corporate America

We’re slashing K-12 funding and teachers and then turning our schools over to private operators. This is hardly good ‘reform’

By | Published 24 June 2013 by


This crisis, which has persisted as disparate local debates, may soon coalesce into a national conflict. The schools hurt the most are those that have long been underfunded, segregated institutions struggling to educate poor black and Latino students. But today’s cuts are reaching into working- and middle-class towns and suburbs, and turning schools across the country into dreary, boring, arts and creativity bereft boot camps for standardized test preparation.

In Seattle, hundreds of students and teachers refused to take or administer high-stakes standardized tests. This after Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others were indicted as part of a investigation that concluded a culture that accepted “no exceptions and no excuses for failure to meet targets” was at the root of widespread test cheating.

In New York, mayoral candidates have made the criticism of Michael Bloomberg’s school reform agenda a centerpiece of their campaign. In Philadelphia, mass student walkouts have protested the “doomsday” budget and hunger strikers are pledging to refuse food until more than 1,200 aides critical to school safety are rehired.

Most importantly, striking Chicago teachers created a new model for defending public schools in 2012. Educators received widespread public support after building strong community coalitions, and making it clear they fought not only for parochial job interests but also for fair funding, rich curricula and for schools as community institutions.

The reform movement perceives economic crisis as an opportunity to exploit for political gain. But the movement may have overplayed its hand, as increasing numbers of students, parents and teachers identify education austerity with the bipartisan prophets of “school choice”.

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June 29, 2013

Why America’s Teachers Are Going Badass and Why Canada’s Need to Consider Doing the Same

By Robert Green

This article appears in the Fall 2013 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Following in the tradition of the Arab Spring and ‘Idle No More’, the latest political movement to come to life through the internet’s social networks features a growing number of America’s teachers. Calling itself the Badass Teachers Association (or BAT for Bad Ass Teachers) this Facebook group has shot up to over 17,000 members in a little over a week. It also organized its first mass action: a phone-in campaign calling for the removal of Arne Duncan as federal secretary of education.

Created by Priscilla Sanstead, a parent activist in Oklahoma, Dr. Mark Naisson, an African American Studies professor at Fordham University in New York and Marla 1002816_4381114426306_418079495_nKilfoye, a teacher and parent activist from Long Island, BAT’s mission is:

To give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for real teaching and learning

On his blog, Dr Mark Naisson begins his description of what it means to be a badass teacher as follows:

Badass Teachers teach, love and nurture children everyone has given up on, in good times and bad, children with disabilities, children who have been kicked out of their families, children who can’t sit still, children who have seen unimaginable horrors, children who are homeless, children who are under constant stress, along with children who have happy lives, and happy families. They teach and love them all, and protect and defend them from physical threats and the threat of tests and assessments which humiliate them and destroy their love of learning.

While some may be surprised to see so many teachers speaking out in such a direct fashion, for those that have been following the horror show of corporate education reform that has transformed the US education system over the last decade, such action seems long overdue. This corporate education reform agenda was first introduced on a national scale by George Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ and has since been accelerated by Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ legislation. It has been promoted vigorously by various foundations financed by millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates and through slick high budget documentaries like ‘Waiting for Superman’. Though its particular manifestations vary from state to state it tends to feature the following three elements:

  1. attacks on the collective bargaining rights of teachers
  2. use of standardized test results (‘performance indicators’) to determine school funding and/or teacher pay (‘merit pay’)
  3. promotion of semi-private charter schools with non-unionized teachers, usually via a discourse focused on the notion of ‘school choice’

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June 15, 2013

How test scores can be deceiving

By Valerie Strauss | Published June 13, 2013 by The Answer Sheet

Consider this: On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the test that is commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” Massachusetts students performed so well that the state ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Sounds good, right? Then consider this:

Massachusetts ranks in the bottom tier of states in progress toward closing the achievement gap for black, Hispanic, and low-income students, and, in fact, has some of the widest gaps in the nation between white and Hispanic students.

This is explained in a new report called “Twenty Years After Education Reform,” just released by Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts, a 31-year-old nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. The report looks back on the effects of the 1993 Education Reform Act, passed 20 years ago this month in the state, asking this central question: “Are we closer to our goal of equitable access to a high-quality education for every student?”

The authors conclude that two of the three major reforms launched since the law was passed have “failed to deliver on their promises.” What are they? High-stakes testing and Commonwealth charter schools. The third, a school funding formula designed to further the cause of equity in education, brought in more than $2 billion in state funding to public schools, but is now outdated and needs to be revamped. (It, for example, understates special education costs by $1 billion and has not adjusted for the growth of health insurance costs, the report says.)

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June 12, 2013

Parents Present Pearson With $38 Million Invoice for Use of Child Labor for Field Tests

Published by Ed Notes Online
New York City – Concerned parents, who wonder why it should be assumed that their children would serve as uncompensated research subjects in a commercial R & D product development process, have drawn up a bill, payable to the people of New York State, for the creator of the stand-alone field tests, Pearson LLC.
To arrive at a “Balance Due” of $37,991,452, parents calculated the value of their children’s free labor, including the opportunity costs of lost instructional time and resources, and added these to the real costs to schools of administering the June tests. They unveiled the invoice at a press conference held in front of Tweed Courthouse on the morning of June 6th. At that time, they also announced that at least 37 New York City schools had parents opt their children out of the tests; on Long Island, more than 30 schools saw test refusals. Organizers were also aware of resistance at 4 schools in the Westchester and Hudson regions. [List of schools at end of this document.]
The design for the invoice, which originally enumerated only the services provided to Pearson by one child, emerged in the lead-up to 2012’s parent-coordinated campaign against the tests.  It encapsulated the resentment parents felt; their children were being inducted into a study without their parents’ informed consent, and without any direct benefit to the students or their schools. “If Pearson wants to use my daughter to ‘field test’ during the school day,” opined Brooklyn parent Johanna Henry, “they will have to pay us, and they need to get in touch with me in order to negotiate a fair price.  I will use the money to provide my child an enjoyable and relevant learning experience.’”
June 2, 2013

The debate over standardized testing in schools is as divisive as ever

By Rachel Giese and Caroline Alphonso | Published May 31 2013 by The Globe & Mail


Others remain unconvinced. Large-scale tests “are asked to assess too many things,” argues Daniel Laitsch, an associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University. He feels that, no matter what the stated purpose, they are meant to measure, along with student achievement, that of teachers, schools, curriculum and entire jurisdictions as well, which stretches their validity in appraising any of them.

In fact, Prof. Laitsch calls testing students “an atrocious way to evaluate teacher effectiveness, without any research to support the theory.”

Toronto resident Maxeen Paabo agrees and has decided that her son will not participate in this year’s Grade 3 tests. She researched the issue, and reached her conclusion even before the school year began.

“I think the way it is now and the way it’s being used politically is wrong, and it’s a misuse of resources,” she says.

“What the ministry [of education] said is that it is used on a student level, on a class level and on a school level to make improvements. But my understanding on the ground is that that isn’t really happening, that teachers’ regular classroom assessments are doing all that work.”


And does it really keep the system on track? In fact, the correlation between standardized testing and achievement appears to be fuzzy. With myriad factors affecting the education system – among them demographic and economic changes, fluctuation in education budgets, shifts in curriculum – it’s impossible to say unequivocally that where scores have gone up, it’s in any way because of standardized tests.

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May 29, 2013

Why America Needs An Education Spring

by Jeff Bryant | Published May 28, 2013 by Education Opportunity Network


Disenchantment with education policies is not limited to Chicago. At the same time protestors filled the streets of that city, signs of discontent were evident in NewarkPhiladelphia, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Neither is the discontent limited to communities of the urban poor and people of color. A recent news report filed by an outlet covering the towns and cities of Western New York state put a completely different face to the resistance – mostly white, middle-class parents.

The reporter, Rachel Kingston, spotlighted the growing movement among parents to boycott standardized tests. She wrote, “Hundreds in school districts across Western New York – from Williamsville to West Seneca to Frontier – refused to have their children take the exams this April, in what’s becoming known as the opt-out movement.” The parents “worry their children are being deprived of a well-rounded education, and suffering both academically and emotionally because of it.”

But similar to the school closings in Chicago and elsewhere, what’s also driving concerns is that education policies are risky experiments with little prospect for success.

“It’s almost like the system is setting teachers up to fail, and setting students up to fail,” one parent stated.

“The assessments include field test questions which are sometimes above-grade-level – material the students being tested haven’t even learned yet,” Kingston reported. “Students don’t get their tests back once they’ve been scored. Their teachers don’t get to grade the tests. And parents never see the test booklet with the actual questions – only a score sheet with a number ranging from 1 to 4.”

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May 15, 2013

Victory in Seattle as Teachers Win Battle in Standardized Test Boycott

By Jon Queally | Published May 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

Seattle teachers who took a strong and public stance by refusing to administer a “flawed” but mandatory standardized test earlier this school year are celebrating a victory after an announcement by the school district saying the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test will not be given to high school students next year.

“Finally, educators’ voices have been acknowledged,” said teacher Jesse Hagopian, who teaches history at Garfield High School in Seattle where the boycott movement began. “This is a great moment in the movement for quality assessment.”

“The teachers at Garfield are overwhelmed with joy,” Hagopian said. “I think this is a real vindication of the movement that was started at Garfield High School by teachers but was quickly joined by parents and students at our school, and around the city, and really around the country.”

The district’s decision was announced in a letter sent to school administrations throughout the city on Monday and followed on the recommendations of a review panel that looked at the testing regime and determined it was not “effective for high school-age students.”

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May 7, 2013

High stakes, no prep: These tests are designed to fail

By | Published April 30 by The Washington  Post

Let’s face it – nobody likes taking tests. Exams, by nature, elicit a certain amount of anxiety. Tension. Maybe even fear.

But New York’s high-stakes standardized tests, given to all public school students, have rattled way more than a few nerves. Enough students have actually thrown up on their tests that schools are reportedly circulating procedures on how to handle vomit-covered tests.

One Long Island superintendent told the Wall Street Journal that some kids did, indeed, get sick on their tests. One student went to the bathroom and wouldn’t come out. Many dissolved into tears. Others simply refused to take the test.

It’s no wonder that parents, educators and even students are spearheading a small but growing revolution to opt out of standardized tests. From Seattle to Pennsylvania, more and more students across the country are boycotting tests that many say are increasing stress, narrowing curriculum and, at worst, leading to the kind of cheating exposed in the recent Atlanta Public Schools scandal.

The opt-out movement is a symptom of a broader problem. At their best, assessments should track whether students have learned the material they’ve been taught — and give students the chance to show off what they know. Test results should provide a clear view of where students are struggling so that teachers can help them improve.

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April 29, 2013

The Coming Revolution in Public Education

Why the current wave of reforms, with its heavy emphasis on standardized tests, may actually be harming students

By | Published April 25 2013 by

It’s always hard to tell for sure exactly when a revolution starts. Is it when a few discontented people gather in a room to discuss how the ruling regime might be opposed? Is it when first shots are fired? When a critical mass forms and the opposition acquires sufficient weight to have a chance of prevailing? I’m not an expert on revolutions, but even I can see that a new one is taking shape in American K-12 public education.

The dominant regime for the past decade or more has been what is sometimes called accountability-based reform or, by many of its critics, “corporate education reform.” The reforms consist of various initiatives aimed at (among other things): improving schools and educational outcomes by using standardized tests to measure what students are learning; holding schools and teachers accountable (through school closures and teachers’ pay) when their students are “lagging” on those standardized assessments; controlling classroom instruction and increasing the rigor of school curricula by pushing all states to adopt the same challenging standards via a “Common Core;” and using market-like competitive pressures (through the spread of charter schools and educational voucher programs) to provide public schools with incentives to improve.*

Critics of the contemporary reform regime argue that these initiatives, though seemingly sensible in their original framing, are motivated by interests other than educational improvement and are causing genuine harm to American students and public schools. Here are some of the criticisms: the reforms have self-interest and profit motives, not educational improvement, as their basis; corporate interests are reaping huge benefits from these reform  initiatives and spending millions of dollars lobbying to keep those benefits flowing; three big foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton Family) are funding much of the backing for the corporate reforms and are spending billions to market and sell reforms that don’t work; ancillary goals of these reforms are to bust teacher unions, disempower educators, and reduce spending on public schools; standardized testing is enormously expensive in terms both of public expenditures and the diversion of instruction time to test prep; over a third of charter schools deliver “significantly worse” results for students than the traditional public schools from which they were diverted; and, finally, that these reforms have produced few benefits and have actually caused harm, especially to kids in disadvantaged areas and communities of color. (On that last overall point, see this scathing new report from the Economic Policy Institute.)

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April 19, 2013

CJAD Teacher Panel Discusses Grade Inflation and Bill 88

Teachers Catharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss the pressures to inflate grades that have resulted from Quebec’s Bill 88 with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher:

Click here to listen