Why Would Catholic Educators Listen to Chester Finn?

Blanchet Catholic School - Salem, OR Photo credit: Tedder (CC-By-3.0)

Blanchet Catholic School – Salem, OR
Photo credit: Tedder (CC-By-3.0)

I’m not Catholic so I’ll need some of my readers to explain why Catholic educators and education leaders would listen to Fordham Institute’s Chester Finn?  Last week Flypaper published an excerpt of his talk to “a private group of Catholic education leaders and philanthropists.”

Here is where he would have lost me entirely.

First, families now have myriad choices, many different kinds of schools and ways of getting educated, so we no longer take for granted that our child will go to your neighborhood or parish school. Second, we now judge schools by their results, not by their inputs, intentions, or reputations, and we’re increasingly hard-nosed about those results, looking—probably too much—at test scores and graduation rates and such.

Both of these changes have tended to leave Catholic schools behind. With some worthy exceptions, their leaders haven’t tried very hard to take advantage of them. They haven’t been nimble or enterprising in making use of the opportunities presented by new forms of publicly supported choice. Nor have they—or private schools generally—done well in accommodating the shift to judging schools by quantifiable and comparable outcomes.

Integral to both big shifts has been the creation of uniform, statewide, grade-by-grade academic standards. Accompanying those standards are statewide assessments, followed by complicated reporting and accountability schemes. In some places, Catholic schools must participate in these, usually as a condition of receiving students with vouchers; in a handful of places, diocesan authorities have willingly joined in, but nobody would say there’s been a great rush by Catholic schools to be compared—with charter schools, with district schools, with other private schools, even with each other—on the basis of academic achievement.

Granted yes there are a variety of choices out there now with a growing number of private schools, online schools, charter schools, home schooling, etc.  So in that sense they do need find ways to be more competitive as their enrollment has shrunk.

Catholic schools (as well as other private schools) have always stacked up well against public schools.  Why in the world would they want to shift as a result of the education reform fad foisted on public schools?  If you want to provide an alternative you can’t emulate what is happening in the public school system.

Embracing Common Core and the over-testing culture, for instance, would probably exasperate the problem of declining enrollment not help it.  I won’t say that every single one of Finn’s suggestions is bad (like putting more effort into starting new schools than reviving dying ones) but he starts on a shaky foundation.

"The PARCC test is neither valid nor reliable as a measure."

I wrote yesterday that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has decided (for now) not to take sides in a dispute between Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois Department of Education over PARCC.  CPS says they want to delay taking PARCC for a year due to concerns they have.  Illinois says let’s pull the trigger this spring and phase out the Prairie State Achievement Examination and Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

Valarie Strauss reports at The Washington Post that a school administrator in Evanston, IL gave a “damning account” of Illinois’ initiative.

Damning is right.  This is an absolute disaster in the making.

Peter Bavis, who is the associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Evanston Township High School District 202, said in part during school board meeting focused on PARCC.

The PARCC test is neither valid nor reliable as a measure. And the reason for that is that it has never been given to a large population. So we’re paying to have a private testing company norm their instrument on the backs of Illinois students. That’s a big problem.

I’d say that’s a big problem.  He also sent a memo detailing other concerns which you can read below.

Memo

To: Dr. Eric Witherspoon, District 202 Superintendent

Dr. Paul Goren, District 65 Superintendent

From: Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

Date: November 3, 2014

RE: PARCC Implementation Concerns

There are several educational and logistical concerns regarding PARCC implementation. The purpose of this memo is to enumerate those concerns. Administrators will be available to discuss these concerns with the school boards at the joint board meeting.

Students taking both PARCC mathematics and reading language arts tests will spend more time taking PARCC tests than aspiring lawyers will spend sitting for the Bar Exam with no payoff. This is true in elementary, middle school and high school.

PARCC testing trades off with instruction at a critical time of year. ETHS has allotted 5 days to PARCC testing within a compressed timeframe in the spring. We do not know if that will be sufficient to complete required testing. We plan on testing 738 students enrolled in 2 Algebra and 687 students enrolled in 3 English. Our 2 Algebra enrollment is comprised of students in grades 9-12. Our 3 English enrollment is comprised of juniors. This cross grade level testing means that all instruction during the 5 days of PARCC testing will be significantly disrupted and will impact nearly all of our classes.

PARCC testing occurs between the state sponsored ACT (March 3) and continues through May 22. PARCC requires 2 test administrations for math and English Language Arts. AT ETHS we chose to test the second administration of PARCC before AP exams. However, the state window for PARCC testing conflicts with AP exam administration. Last year ETHS had over 400 juniors take AP exams. Many of them took more than one exam. This means that a junior taking multiple AP classes stands to miss more than a week of instruction (5 days to PARCC, 1 day to ACT) in addition to their AP testing dates. Testing fatigue and student wellbeing are major concerns for our juniors. Compressing ACT, PARCC, and AP within a 44 school day window has the potential to result in lower test scores on ACT and AP exams. If ACT counts for college admission, and AP counts for college placement/credit, then what is the value of PARCC beyond 5 days of additional testing in the spring?

As a result of PARCC testing requirements, ISBE has moved the statewide ACT a month and a half earlier to March 3. Early administration of the ACT results in lower scores for our students. Lower test scores have the potential to negatively impact college admissions for some of our students. Despite claims made by PARCC, PARCC is not being used for college admissions. Unlike the ACT and SAT, PARCC is not a national standardized test. In fact, only 11 states are administering PARCC. This is down from the initial commitment of 23 states. The advantage of ACT is that potentially college-bound students must take it seriously. For PARCC to command similar respect from test-takers, it must earn the respect of colleges to the extent that they will use it in place of an ACT or SAT. Colleges cannot do that without first validating the tests. This will take years. The same holds true for the “talk” about having PARCC used for placement.

There are several logistical concerns regarding rollout from ISBE. For example, information regarding PARCC testing has not been provided in a timely manner. Each spring schools are required by ISBE to submit their school calendars for approval. High schools did not know what courses were being tested until this summer. This is disruptive to planning the school year and planning instruction. It takes about a year lead time to thoughtfully plan for standardized testing. ISBE has not issued guidelines on attendance during ACT or PARCC testing. However, ISBE is clear about not allowing students or districts to opt out of testing (APPENDIX).

ETHS’ top students will not test in math. ETHS has a number of 9th graders enrolled in math course work beyond 2 Algebra. Since so many of our high achieving math students have been eliminated from PARCC assessments we will not be able to make reliable school-to-school comparisons. We have been told that scores will be “banked.” This means that the scores for students who take algebra, geometry, and 2 Algebra in middle school will belong to ETHS. In contrast, these students took the PSAE ACT as juniors in the past.

High schools do not know what PARCC tests will be administered in future years. We know that PARCC has developed tests for 2 English Language Arts, Geometry, 1 English Language Arts, and 1 Algebra. PARCC is not being thought of as a means to demonstrate student growth if there is no intention to measure students longitudinally in high school. In fact, it appears that we are going in the opposite direction by starting with 3 English Language Arts and 2 Algebra.

There are hidden costs associated with PARCC. ISBE will spend $57 million on testing this year. This price tag does not include technology costs associated with testing (computers, headphones and other infrastructure requirements). These test administrative costs are passed on to districts.

Finally, there is the matter of trust. When PARCC officials spoke to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) they stated that high schools were on board with PARCC testing. This is simply untrue. At that meeting IBHE was also told that state funding for ACT would cease in 2017. Clearly there is a lack of transparency in this process.

We have been told that the state is bound by federal regulations. But this does not explain how other states were able to opt out of PARCC. This issue deserves more than a bureaucratic shrug of the shoulders.

It is helpful to look at the impact PARCC testing will have on a student. Let’s take Angie, an African American female student as an example. She is taking 2 Algebra, English Language and Comp AP, and US History AP. She will take the ACT plus writing on March 3, PARCC testing in 2 Algebra and 3 English Language Arts (PBA and EOY), AP testing in English Language and Comp and AP US History.

ACT Plus Writing (3 hours 25 minutes)

PARCC PBA and EOY in 2 Algebra and 3 English Language Arts (15 hours 45 minutes)

AP Language and Composition (3 hours 15 minutes)

AP US History (3 hours 15 minutes)

TOTAL TIME testing: 25 hours 40 minutes.

Sixty-one percent of the time Angie will spend testing does not count for college admission, credit or placement. It gets worse; Angie will lose five days of instruction between the ACT and AP exams. There is also the issue of testing fatigue. Many of our juniors find themselves in the same situation as Angie.

There is also the matter of cut scores. Last year ISBE stated that “Our high school test, the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), is aligned with the ACT and does provide a good indicator of college and career readiness.” Now we are being told that it is insufficient. We do know that ISBE intends to crosswalk PARCC to ACT because ACT is the gold standard. To be clear ISBE wants to replace a proven measure of college and career readiness with a new more expensive test that will not be used for college admission or placement anytime in the near future (5-7 years). In the interim students will be required by ISBE to sit for a series of PARCC tests that trades loff with instructional time at a critical point the school year.

Arne Duncan Stays Out of CPS-Illinois Fight Over PARCC

The Chicago Sun Times reports that U.S. Secretary of Education (and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools) Arne Duncan will stay out of the “tussle” between the state of Illinois and Chicago Public Schools are having over when the school district should start PARCC.

Illinois wants to role it out this spring, CPS says not so fast.

Illinois is set to begin the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test this spring, replacing the elementary level Illinois Standards Achievement Test and high school level Prairie State Achievement Examination with brand-new tests aligned to Common Core state standards that are supposed to be tougher and require more critical thinking skills.

But CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said she wants to delay the implementation for at least another year, telling the CPS Board last month that too many question remain about the new test.

She has also said not all schools have the necessary computers and bandwidth to support the online version of the test.

“I don’t know all the details. That’s actually something CPS has to work out with the state,” Duncan said while visiting Farragut Career Academy. “. . . Well, I think the state and CPS need to work that out together.”

So Duncan won’t put the Fed hammer down for now, how noble of him

U.S. DOE Gives Oklahoma Its NCLB Waiver Back

The U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday that they gave Oklahoma its NCLB flexibility waiver back.  It was taken from them after Oklahoma repealed Common Core.

From their press release:

In August, Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that it had college- and career-ready standards in place, a key principle in ESEA flexibility, which is why the Department did not approve the state’s request to extend its flexibility. Following a recent review of the standards by the state’s colleges and universities, the state has the certification required to continue its flexibility. Higher, more rigorous academic standards help ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in college, career and life.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle wrote in a letter to the state.

The law has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the Administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction. The one-year extension of ESEA flexibility allows states to continue moving forward on the ambitious work they began with their initial flexibility requests.

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education certified Oklahoma’s previous standards, Priority Academic Student Skills or PASS, back on October 16th, Oklahoma education leaders pushed for a quick reinstatement.  Without that stamp of approved the Feds would not deem those standards “college and career ready.”

PASS will be used until new standards can be developed and implemented in the 2016-2017 school year.  It would have been better for Oklahoma to tell the Feds to stick it.  The waiver is unconstitutional, and states cede their sovereignty in education by seeking it out.

Common Core Can Close Gender Achievement Gap?

University of Miami President Donna Shalala penned an op/ed for the Miami Herald claiming that the Common Core can close the achievement gap for girls.

She wrote:

With Common Core’s more engaging and challenging standards, we can narrow the gender achievement gap that begins early and worsens by eighth grade, particularly for black and Hispanic girls. Through better K-12 academic preparation, we can lower the number of female students and students of color taking remedial college courses. We know that even in our technology-saturated age, too many girls still don’t have enough access to rigorous coursework in science, technology, engineering and math.

That can help remedy a situation where women represent 57 percent of all four-year undergraduate degrees, but just 48 percent of majors in business, 19 percent in computer/information science, 18 percent of engineering, 43 percent in math and statistics and 40 percent in physical sciences.

We know that gender-based disparities in education lead to disparities in employment, meaning a gender pay gap that begins immediately after college leads to a situation where one year after graduation, women on average earn just 82 percent of men’s salaries.

Ok…. I won’t get into the gender pay claim as that isn’t really relevant to what we write about here.  You can read more about that here and here.  Neal McClusky points out, convincingly I might add, that this achievement gap that Shalala cites simply doesn’t exist.

Walk around a random college campus, and the odds are good the first student you’ll run into will be female. 57 percent of college students are women, versus 43 percent men, a 14 point gap. Look at Advanced Placement exams – those College Board tests that enable high-scoring takers to get college credit – and you’ll find that 56 percent of students taking the exams are girls, creating a 13 percent gap favoring women. But fear not! University of Miami president Donna Shalala assures us that the Common Core national curriculum standards will help address the “gender-based inequities” crushing female students.

Um, what?

As the data make (sic) obvious, there is no college-readiness gap unfavorable to women…

….More important, of the two areas the Core tackles, AP-taking suggests women dominate one and hold their own in the other. 62 percent of students taking the AP English exams in 2014 were female, while 48 percent of Calculus AB takers were girls. At the very least, these figures belie any accusations of systematic efforts to exclude women from college-prep courses, even if girls tend to choose different courses than boys.

It’s a myth that Common Core will help close any achievement gap (especially by itself), but it definitely won’t close a nonexistent one.  Also I’m curious how she thinks Common Core, which are math and literacy standards, will push girls into computer science, engineering, business and physical science fields?  They won’t.  The standards don’t address business, science, engineering, or physical science.  They certain don’t push students toward particular career paths. Common Core advocates themselves push STEM fields, but Common Core fails to adequately prepare students for STEM programs in college.

This is one of the weaker cases for the Common Core I’ve seen in awhile.

Jeb Bush Will Go Down Swinging on Common Core

Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush defended the Common Core State Standards in his keynote speech at the Foundation for Educational Excellence’s National Summit on Education Reform yesterday.  He’s the only prospective Republican presidential candidate to do so.  He are a few things he said about Common Core.

This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling. I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive. But let’s take a step back from this debate for a second. This morning over 213 million Chinese students went to school, and nobody debated whether academic expectations should be lowered in order to protect the students’ self-esteem. Yet in Orange County, Florida, that exact debate did occur. And so the school board voted to make it impossible for a student to receive a grade below a 50. You get 50 out of 100 just for showing up and signing your name. This was done, and I quote here from a local official, so the students “do not lose all hope.”

He respects those who have weighed in on all sides of the issue?  He and I must define respect differently.  He said in the past and doubles down again that Common Core opponents care too much about our kids self-esteem.

Then he cites an example of a local board making it impossible for a student to get less than 50% as though that is a typical response from Common Core opponents.  It is not.  I can’t think of a single activist I know who would support something like that.

We do care about standards being developmentally appropriate and that the math we teach students makes sense and will be used in the real world.

Perhaps I should ask him if he wants the U.S. education system to reflect a Communist nation’s schools since he references China.  Is this really the model he wants?   Where students are placed on career tracks early, thrown into a system that stifles creativity, and have their heads filled propaganda?  But hey they can do math really well, who cares if they are not free!

But in an international report card on education performance, students from Shanghai ranked number one. Students from the US ranked 21st in reading and 31st in math. The point is this: an over-riding concern for self-esteem instead of high expectations doesn’t help you get to number 1. It gets you to 21. So let’s get real. Only a quarter of our high school graduates who took the ACT are fully prepared for college. More than half who attend community college need to take some kind of remedial course. 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled because we haven’t trained enough people with those skills. And almost a third of high school graduates fail the military entrance exam.

Yes our education system needs work, but honestly can he tell me with a straight face that China has the same tradition of testing all of their students like the U.S. does?  How many countries do that?  Until they all do comparing nations’ PISA scores is like comparing apples to oranges.  We agree much work needs to be done, but honestly drop the rankings.  What is happening with ACT, community college and the ASVAB test is more relevant.

Given this reality, there is no question we need higher academic standards and – at the local level – diverse high-quality content and curricula. And in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher…be bolder…raise standards and ask more of our students and the system. Because I know they have the potential to deliver it. Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can.

So while I agree our public education system needs help, Common Core is not the solution.  It merely doubles down on failed educational fads from the past.  It won’t improve our math standing in the world, actually, it will put us further behind as Pioneer Institute noted in their statement about his speech today:

In his speech today, Governor Bush argued that the Common Core is a high standard and that “the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms.”  With the Core aiming to instruct and test Algebra I in grades 9 and 10, and with a substantial reduction in the high-quality literature in the standards, the Core is hardly a set of standards that will cause fear in high-performing countries or economic competitors like China, India, and Japan.

Moreover, the Core is not a “minimum” or, as Governor Bush has suggested in other venues, a “floor.”  The PARCC and SBAC tests clearly determine when content will be taught.  The establishment of teacher evaluations tied to these tests only underscores how the Core is both a floor and a ceiling on student learning.

Also what evidence does he have to back up his assertion that Common Core will work?

Aim higher doesn’t mean a Common Core rebrand.  It doesn’t mean bending over backwards to make sure your state’s standards “align” with the Common Core in order to keep that precious NCLB waiver.  Quality standards look much more like Massachusetts’ former English language arts standards and California’s past math standards.

Finally something we can agree on…

The states and local communities are where the best ideas come from. They have the capability to make reform happen, and they are ultimately accountable. So if the federal government wants to play a role in reform, it should stop tying every education dollar to a rule written in Washington D.C.  They should make more programs – IDEA, Title One, early childhood programs – into block grants that the states can deploy as they see fit, including vouchers to enhance state programs. In my view, every education dollar should depend on what the child needs, not what the federal bureaucrat wants. Where the child goes, the dollars should go as well. When that happens, we’ll see major reforms and major gains for America’s children and the federal government will go back to playing the supportive and completely secondary role it should be playing.

Here Bush does a 180.  He used to downplay Federal involvement in Common Core, and now he seems to acknowledge it.  Block funding with full state discretion is certainly preferable than the carrot and stick approach the Feds have used to push reform.

It looks like that Governor Bush will run on Common Core should he decide to run for President.  He said that he would decide before the end of the year.  He’s going to go down swinging and I assure you he will go down.  This issue will be a litmus test in Republican primary contests and he is on the wrong side of it.

New Math: Another Example of Modern Education Stupidity

Dr. Raj Shah, founder of Math Plus Academy, released a video last week entitled, “Why Math is Different” in order to defend the new math utilized by Common Core-aligned curriculum.  In the video he sought to “clear up parents’ misconceptions” about the new math.

Truth in American Education asked two math experts to offer a critique of Dr. Shah’s video.

Dr. James Milgram, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Stanford University and member of the Common Core Math Validation Committee, wasn’t impressed.  He said Dr. Shah is being naive.

The first word that come to mind are “naive,” to put it mildly.  Yes, it is very helpful to make sure that students understand why the standard algorithms work, which demands that they (and their teachers) understand the base ten place value system and the difference between the usual compressed notation and the expanded form.  But this should occur in the classroom provided only that the teachers, themselves, understand this material.  All too often they don’t.  As a result, they put forward all sorts of alternative methods that they probably don’t understand either, and end up horribly confusing everyone.

Ze’ev Wurman is visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution. Between 2007 and 2009 he served as a senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education. Wurman served as a commissioner on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that in 2010 evaluated the Common Core’s suitability for California adoption.  He told Truth in American Education that the insistence on using the expanded form of algorithm is another example of “modern education stupidity.”

Teaching the expanded form during the initial explanation of the standard algorithms is an age-old practice that every competent teacher has been doing for decades if not centuries. Insisting on the expanded — and cumbersome — form as the routine way for students to calculate is simply another example of modern education stupidity. As is the false argument that in the past the “traditional” way of teaching — including the routine and fluent use of the compressed standard notation — reached only a minority of students. Almost every parent in this country knows those “incomprehensible” standard algorithms — decades after they have been learned. Close to 100% of children in the high achieving countries seem to have no trouble with memorizing those supposedly “mindless” standard algorithms. Yet our American educators argue that American children cannot comprehend them … it gives a new meaning to American Exceptionalism.

Smarter Balanced Has Lots of Room for Improvement

239-PreTests.jpgDoug McRae is a retired educational measurement specialist who has served as an educational testing company executive in charge of design and development of K-12 tests widely used across the United States, as well as an adviser on the initial design and development of California’s STAR assessment system.  He’s knows just a little something about assessment development.

He has some concerns with Smarter Balanced he writes in EdSource.  An excerpt:

I did the online exercise for grade 3 English Language Arts, and for this grade level and content area traditional multiple-choice questions dominated. In fact, 84 % of the questions were either multiple-choice or “check-the-box” questions that could be electronically scored, and these questions were very similar or identical to traditional “bubble” tests. Only 16 percent of the questions were open-ended questions, which many observers say are needed to measure Common Core standards.

The online exercise used a set of test items with the questions arranged in sequence by order of difficulty, from easy questions to hard questions. The exercise asked the participant to identify the first item in the sequence that a Category 3 or B-minus student would have less than a 50 percent chance to answer correctly. I identified that item after reviewing about 25 percent of the items to be reviewed. If a Category 3 or proficient cut score is set at only 25 percent of the available items or score points for a test that has primarily multiple-choice questions, clearly that cut score invites a strategy of randomly marking the answer sheet. The odds are that if a student uses a random marking strategy, he or she will get a proficient score quite often. This circumstance would result in many random (or invalid and unreliable) scores from the test, and reduce the overall credibility of the entire testing program.

It troubled me greatly that many of the test questions later in the sequence appeared to be far easier than the item I identified as the item marking a Category 3 or proficient cut score, per the directions for the online exercise. I found at least a quarter of the remaining items to be easier, including a cluster of clearly easier items placed about 2/3 of the way into the entire sequence. This calls into question whether or not the sequence of test questions used by Smarter Balanced was indeed in difficulty order from easy to hard items. If the sequence used was not strictly ordered from easy to hard test questions, then the results of the entire exercise have to be called into serious question.

There were several additional concerns about the Smarter Balanced cut-score-setting exercise this October that are too technical for full discussion in this commentary. Briefly, the exercise appeared not to include any use of “consequence” data that typically is included in a robust cut-score-setting process. Consequence data is estimated information on what percent of students will fall in each performance category, given the cut scores being recommended. I also questioned whether the spring 2014 Smarter Balanced field test data were used to guide the exercise in any significant way. Indeed, since the 2014 Smarter Balanced field test was essentially an item-tryout exercise, an exercise designed to qualify test questions for use in final tests, it did not generate the type of data needed for final cut score determinations in a number of significant ways.

Read more.

Alabama Baptists Call for Common Core Repeal

Lakeside Baptist Church - Birmingham, AL

Lakeside Baptist Church – Birmingham, AL

Last year the Alabama Baptist Convention passed a resolution that stopped short of calling for the repeal of the Common Core State Standards.  At this year’s annual meeting they passed a resolution that called for a full repeal.  The convention that met last week at Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL passed the resolution without any debate or discussion.

Here is the text of the resolution:

Resolution No. 4

On Parental Authority Through Local and State Control of Education

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists hold fast their obligation before God to train up their own children; and

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists who place their children in public schools expect to be able to provide meaningful input into their children’s total education experience; and

WHEREAS, The State of Alabama has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education called Plan 2020 which is problematic in the following areas:

  • Plan 2020 requires adoption of the Common Core Standards not controlled by Alabamians;
  • Plan 2020 requires implementation of assessments not written by Alabamians and that may measure non-cognitive areas such as a student’s attitudes and beliefs;
  • Plan 2020 requires curricula aligned with these standards and assessments which contain materials offensive to Christian values and American exceptionalism;
  • Plan 2020 requires non-cognitive data collection that violates student and family privacy and allows sharing of that data with third parties;
  • Plan 2020 requires assessments that can be used to predetermine career paths rather than to equip students to choose their own future; and
  • Plan 2020 requires all students to receive a data-driven counseling program that includes “personal/social development” in its Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Model; and

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists believe that the God-ordained family is the rightful place for inculcating values and determining career choices, and

WHEREAS, The unproven methodology required by Common Core is resulting in significant frustration and dissatisfaction from many students, parents and teachers; and

WHEREAS, There is little or no evidence that the level of student achievement would be raised by the Common Core Initiative; and

WHEREAS, Any sound methods being applied in Alabama classrooms can be utilized without subservience to a federal mandate; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 11-12, 2014, stand for proven, superior education curriculum and practice chosen by state officials who will respect parental authority and respond to citizen input; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we urge the Governor along with the State Board of Education and/or the Alabama Legislature to repeal Common Core and accompanying assessments and replace them with sound, proven practices of educating and testing through local and state control of what is taught and how it is taught for the betterment of all children in the great state of Alabama.

HT: Wanda McDonald

Thousands of Colorado 12th Graders Opt-Out of New Assessment

colorado-flag.jpgMore than 5,000 Colorado 12th graders opted out of a new state-mandated science and social studies assessment last week.

Here are some excerpts of local coverage:

Chalkbeat Colorado:

Instead of taking the state’s science and social studies tests, seniors at Fairview High School (in Boulder) braved below-zero temperatures to rally against a testing system they believe is burdensome and unnecessary.

As part of the protest, they waived signs at passing cars that read “legislators listen to the educators,” ate doughnuts, and drank hot cocoa. They also collected canned goods for a local food bank, did jumping jacks to keep warm, and fired off a string of letters to lawmakers explaining why they opted-out of new tests that are supposed to measure how proficient they are in social studies and science.

Colorado Public Radio

The Colorado Department of Education’s chief test officer Joyce Zurkowski says state officials knew the first administration of 12th grade tests was going to be, “new, different and challenging.”

Despite discussion in local school board meetings and the media, “I’m not sure 12thgraders knew this was coming until it happened this fall,” she says. Zurkowski adds the department could have done a more effective job communicating to students why law requires them to take the tests.

Given that 11th graders take many tests, including the college entrance exam the SAT, districts, surveyed two years ago, decided to administer the science and social studies tests in 12th grade.

Zurkowski acknowledges this first group of 12th graders won’t get the results until after they graduate, but the information she says will help the state and their district and school.

The Denver Post:

The no-shows in some of the state’s highest-performing and wealthiest districts come amid growing anxiety about overtesting, uniting families in liberal Boulder and conservative Douglas County.

Supporters of the state’s academic standards and testing can take comfort in one thing: This is not an uprising against testing fourth-graders in math, but instead involves tired, disillusioned high school seniors thinking about college.

At nine Douglas County high schools, nearly 1,900 students did not take the tests, more than half of students, according to preliminary data.

Boulder Valley School District said more than 1,500 high school seniors did not take the tests. Only 16 percent of students district-wide did — including just two of 414 students at Boulder High.

In Cherry Creek School District, nearly 1,500 students were no-shows, or 37 percent of students, also according to preliminary data. At Cherry Creek High School, only 24 of 877 seniors took the tests.

NBC 9 News:

Students say the CMAS test is an unnecessary stressor placed on students and it does not reflect what the students have learned in school. Jun says the tests ask questions about classes some students never even took in school.

“Economics is an elective at this school and it’s not even offered at Centaurus High School and many other schools like that,” Jun said. “But, it is still on the test.”

If enough students skip the CMAS test, it can have a negative impact on a district’s accreditation rating it receives from the Colorado Department of Education, according to Zurkowski. School Districts still have through November 21 to administer the tests. She says the state overall has been on track with CMAS participation until Thursday’s protests.

“I am hoping that schools will respond in a way to get the information that they need, the information that the Colorado Department of Education needs,” Zurkowski said.

The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Parents are refusing to let their kids take the mandatory assessments for a variety of reasons.

“I felt he didn’t need the testing – it wasn’t preparing him to go to college,” said Patrick Blackburn, whose son is a senior at James Irwin Charter High School.

Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said in a statement issued Thursday that he knows it has been challenging for schools.

“I hear the concerns raised about the quantity and timing of tests. I understand the frustration,” Hammond said. “I am fully committed to evaluating how the testing goes and working with districts and policymakers to identify ways to improve.”

In the past, only third- through 11th-graders had to take state assessments.

This fall, high school seniors are required to take science and social studies tests. The window for schools to administer the new Colorado Measures of Academic Success in science and social studies opened Nov. 3 and continues through Nov. 21.

In the spring, other grades will take math, English, science and social studies tests. However, the plan has been for 11th-graders to take only two tests in the spring and the other two the following fall, when they are seniors.

As per state law, schools and districts that don’t have 
95 percent participation on standardized tests face penalties, including reductions in state accreditation ratings and possibly losing accreditation and, therefore, state funding.

It seems like the primary concern from education officials is whether the Colorado Department of Education will get the information it “needs.”

Yes this is *exactly* why we should test students who won’t even get their test results until after the graduate.  That makes perfect sense.