Teacher Apologizes to Her Students Over Standardized Testing

Angela Morales is a teacher in Central Florida (in Orlando I believe, but I’m not certain) who blogs at Teacher Teacher Diaries. Recently she states in a video on YouTube that she had to justify for her school principal who she did not have her students in front of a computer screen more. She then read for her students a poem she had written that apologizes to them for the cookie cutter process that education has become and for the standardized testing they are subjected to. You can read the poem here, and watch below.

She wrote in her description of the video:

This video and poem is protected by my first amendment rights. This is a general statement, and I believe I speak for many teachers. When I say students, I mean students in general who are part of a system in which teachers and students must comply. I give a quick anecdote as being “brought into the principal’s office” to show that even administration must comply with numbers. I address the others as the lawmakers who run education and don’t understand what is happening across American classrooms on a daily basis. We need change. Open your eyes, ears, and hearts…and listen to the educators.

HT: The Education Action Network

Chicago Sixth-Grader Testifies for Opting-Out of PARCC

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports that even though students can legally opt-out of PARCC, being administered this year, Chicago Public Schools and the state of Illinois has provided no guidance. In their article they highlight the testimony of a sixth-grader who says he is opting out.

This week, when state standardized testing begins at many CPS schools, at least one sixth-grader at Sumner Elementary School will be sitting out PARCC.

“I’m going to refuse PARCC next week because we haven’t had typing classes,” Diontae Chatman told the Board of Education last week, missing school for the first time all year so he could testify.

“We didn’t have a qualified math teacher from September to January,” he added. Plus last year, students taking the test online were logged on and off repeatedly, among other problems.

But skipping the test, even though state law allows it, could bring about consequences that feel unfair to children.

“My school is threatening to take away our field day to students who refuse PARCC,” Diontae explained. “I think we all should get treated the same way, if we take it or if we don’t take it.”

Once again, neither Chicago Publics Schools nor the Illinois State Board of Education have any specific directive for how schools should treat children who refuse to take the exam between now and May 15.

Meanwhile, the district is urging all parents to participate in the test, saying PARCC provides useful detailed data.

Oh yes, useful data, that’s a great reason to punish students for opting-out. This useful data showed that less than 10% of students at Proviso West High School in Chicago passed the PARCC exam.

Did they really need to switch up assessments to see their students are struggling? Classroom teachers were unable to tell from their own interactions with students in the classroom, seeing their work and from their own quizzes and tests?

Diontae makes some great points. Will they fall on deaf ears? These kids should be able to opt-out and the school district and state need to have a clear policy on how students who opt-out will be treated.

Illinois has no formal way for parents to opt their children out of the test beforehand, and state law requires schools to offer every eligible child a test. The onus falls on children to refuse it.

So once again, schools are handling PARCC refusals in different ways, depending on who’s in charge. That approach led to a wide disparity of treatment in past years, said Cassie Creswell of More Than A Score, a group that champions less testing.

“CPS continues to perpetuate chaos during state testing by once again setting no district-wide policy requiring that students and families who refuse to participate in PARCC be treated with kindness and respect,” Creswell told board members. “Students need policies that clearly say no student refusing PARCC will be treated harshly or punished.”

Last year, reactions varied from putting students who refused in a separate room, to letting them read silently in the classroom, to letting them do nothing while classmates tested — the much-maligned “sit and stare.”

We’ll have to see if Illinois will see the same number of opt-outs as last year even with a shortened test.

Cyber Attacks, Another Problem for Online Testing and Data Storage

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Some news out of Rhode Island caught my eye today. A school has to put off its PARCC testing because of a cyber attack they experienced.

WPRI Channel 12 reports:

Warwick school officials said a cyber attack has led them to postpone a standardized test for the second straight day in two city high schools.

In an email and robocall to parents, the school department said the cyber attack targeted the computer networks at both Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools.

They were also postponing testing today so they could further secure their networks.

You don’t have this issue with paper tests. Also any school or state that stores their student data online puts that data at risk.

Common Core Has Passed Its Peak?

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School (Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
(Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

Take time to read the 2016 Brown Center Report on American Education. This was prepared by Tom Loveless who a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy with the Brookings Institute. Loveless is a Common Core “agnostic” so to speak so his findings are particular interest.

He claims that the Common Core State Standards as an education reform have achieved their peak and are in decline.

He highlights the declining use of fiction.

The relative importance of fiction is clear until 2011, when it begins to slip. In fourth grade, the 25 percentage point gap favoring fiction in 2011 declines to 15 percent in 2013 and to eight percent in 2015. In eighth grade, the 34 percent emphasis favoring fiction declines to 24 percent in 2013 and to 16 percent in 2015.  Teachers in 2015 were less likely to embrace the superiority of fiction in reading instruction than in the past, and the change is evident in both fourth and eighth grades after 2011.

He notes a decline in advanced math classes.

But something happened around 2011. From 2011 to 2013, the relative growth of advanced courses stopped dead in its tracks. Then, from 2013 to 2015, enrollment in advanced math declined from 48 percent to 43 percent. Enrollment increased from 26 to 32 percent in general math.

This is the opposite of where we should be heading if we want to encourage students to consider STEM fields.

Addressing NAEP scores he writes:

Maybe CCSS has already had its best years and additional gains will be difficult to attain. Major top-down reforms can have their strongest effects when first adopted, whether it’s the NSF-funded science and math curricula of the 1960s, including New Math, or the more recent No Child Left Behind Act. Policy elites rally around a new policy, advocates trumpet the benefits that will occur, a public relations campaign is launched to garner support, and local educators respond enthusiastically to the new reforms. New Math started with a bang, but as criticism grew and teachers’ support dissipated, the materials fell out of use.

The 2015 NAEP scores were a political disaster for Common Core. Eighth grade math scores, for example, fell for the first time in NAEP’S 25 year history (down three points). Some observers were quick to point a finger at CCSS. That’s probably unfair. The analysis above indicates that, yes, nonadopters performed better than CCSS states, but only by declining less, not through improved performance. None of the states are setting the world on fire. Whatever is depressing NAEP scores appears to be more general than the impact of one set of standards or another.

In a nutshell states that have adopted may have already seen their best gains early on during their adoption of the standards. Loveless suggests that student achievement ultimately is not greatly impacted by a set of standards.

So why are advocates so hyper-focused on seeing everyone adopt common standards? Top-down initiatives appear to have a short shelf life.

Heritage Report: Common Core and the Centralization of American Education

The Heritage Foundation released a new report this month entitled Common Core and the Centralization of American Education. It is co-written by several well known names in the fight to oppose Common Core:

  • Lindsey M. Burke is the Will Skillman Fellow for Education in Domestic Policy Studies, of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.
  • Neal McCluskey is director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute.
  • Theodor Rebarber is CEO and founder of AccountabilityWorks.
  • Stanley Kurtz is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor to National Review Online.
  • William A. Estrada is director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association.
  • Williamson M. Evers is a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.

Lindsey Burke who was the editor of the paper wrote in the introduction:

Stop a federal bureaucrat, a school teacher, and a parent on the street and you will likely hear three different observations about what education can, and should, do. The federal bureaucrat may respond in terms of what education should accomplish for the nation; the teacher might filter her response through the lens of her classroom; and the parent, naturally, will think in aspirational terms of what she hopes education can do for her child.

Considering these differing perspectives on the purpose of education provides insight into why opposition to Common Core has been strongest among parents and why national organizations and governors—responding to federal incentives to stick with the national standards and tests—have been slower to reverse course or even reconsider. National standards may provide useful information to state and federal policymakers, but they have driven curriculum and pedagogy in a direction that dissatisfies parents.

Read the paper here or below:

An Alternative to ACT and SAT Could Be Available Soon

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An alternative to the Common Core-aligned college entrance exams – ACT and SAT could be available soon. Introducing Vector ARC (Assessment of Readiness for College) that will offer a beta test for students who attend the Great Homeschooling Convention being held on March 31-April 2 in Cincinnati, OH. This is initially being promoted for homeschooling students

Their description:

Vector ARC (Assessment of Readiness for College) is the antidote for Common Core-aligned college entrance exams. Once, homeschooling virtually guaranteed freedom from government overreach and offensive standards. Because the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests are now aligned with Common Core, this freedom is under attack. As education reforms cause the number of homeschooling families to skyrocket, those same changes convince many—including some curriculum providers—that without a Common Core education, college will be an unattainable goal. Thankfully, there is a solution.

Vector ARC is more than another test. It is an opportunity to preserve and restore academic freedom. Reminiscent of exams seen generations ago, ARC is free from subjective content and political bias. One student describes ARC as, “Much more challenging, but better because it tests how much we actually know.” Growing numbers of political leaders are advocating on behalf of the assessment. Statisticians are prepared to evaluate ARC. Colleges are anticipating the results. Still, Vector needs the most important component of all: students, not simply to take a test, but to ensure educational liberty remains a reality. Sign up and spread the word. Come find safety in the ARC.

HT: Bluegrass Institute

Mississippi Hits Snag With Common Core Practice Tests

mississippi-state-flag

Mississippi left PARCC after last school year when the Mississippi State Board of Education voted the state out. The Common Core bill that passed out of the legislature activists believed would just lead to a rebrand was vetoed by Governor Phil Bryant so the state was in the position to have to develop a new assessment that was aligned to the Common Core.

It hasn’t gone very well.

WMC Action News 5  reports:

This is the first year schools are supposed to use the tests that were produced by Questar Assessment Inc. after Mississippi PARCC consortium last year….

This year, a teacher noticed the graph on the first question of the Algebra I test she provided to the students did not match the equation. This ruled out all the answer choices. The teacher alerted the Mississippi Department of Education regarding her concerns about problems with the tests. She was provided with another version of the tests, but there were still problems with the new version.

This is also the first year students’ scores will count towards the districts’ accountability grades.

The MDE removed all practice tests from the department’s website on Wednesday.

Oops. With the practice tests pulled gone is the opportunity parents have to have an idea what the assessments will look like.

The Kansas House Education Committee Did NOT Give Common Core the Boot

Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, KS. Photo credit: Doug Kerr (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, KS.
Photo credit: Doug Kerr (CC-By-SA 2.0)

If you were to read the Topeka Capital-Journal you would think the Kansas House Education Committee booted the Common Core. “It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water,” the education establishment says.

They report:

The House Education Committee passed Friday a bill voiding statewide academic standards for public schools known as Common Core and requiring the Kansas State Board of Education to present a new set to the Legislature before implementation in 2017.

The vote followed four years of debate in the Capitol about standards for English and math implemented in 2010 by the state school board. The guidelines, renewed on a seven-year cycle, identify what the state board expects children to learn in each grade.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode, R-Lenexa, said the intention of pushing ahead with a revised version of House Bill 2292 was to offer a simplified approach for bringing to a close Kansas’ use of Common Core standards to influence instruction in fundamental subjects. In February, the same committee adopted a far more complex bill intended to derail Common Core.

“We want the current Common Core standards to end in 2017,” said Grosserode, a leading critic of the standards.

Rep. Nancy Lusk, R-Overland Park, expressed frustration with colleagues intent on producing the “ultimate throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water legislation.”

The “far more complex bill” actually repealed the standards. This bill was already passed out of the Kansas House Education Committee. It was sent back to committee by the Speaker of the House, State Representative Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell).

Kansans Against Common Core who were present at the committee meeting when the vote took place outlined what happened, and it’s depressing.

On Friday, March 18th, 2016, the House Education Committee gutted a five-page bill and action that you have supported and elected people to vote for for multiple years, and substituted it with a PARAGRAPH that was not seen prior to Friday’s committee meeting, was written within an hour, and passed favorably based on an oral reading. It is clear that legislators are not serious about removing Washington D.C. education from Kansas. It was clear that the members were going to vote favorably for whatever motion Amanda Grosserode brought.

The Education Establishment (lobbyists, teacher union members and administrators being paid by YOUR tax dollars) has been putting in overtime, flooding your legislators with calls, cards, and emails. Even the PTA is promoting Common Core! We know you have been calling, as well. But, as you will see below, your legislators—especially the Republicans you elected to bring conservative principles—are only responding to the Establishment. Take note of the legislators’ actions from Friday, and unless they act to reverse their mis-informed actions, remember it this coming November. Make sure your dissatisfaction is heard at the voting booth.

Briefly, the new bill language does not address Kansas College and Career Ready Standards and all its alignments and entanglements, including assessments and data. THE NEW BILL LANGUAGE IN NO WAY AFFIRMS PARENTAL RIGHTS TO DIRECT THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION.

I’ve been unable to find the current language to the bill which reinforces Kansans Against Common Core’s objection to what was done in committee last Friday.  Be sure to check out their action alert and act accordingly.

Alaskan Parents Opting Kids Out of Assessments Are Not a Threat

Alaska State Flag by Ed Keith (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: Ed Keith (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

The Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development prepared a packet for the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development’s meeting held this week in Juneau. Included in the packet were notes from a power point presentation. Whoever was doing the presenting would point to the results of a SWOT session that was held. SWOT is a strategic planning method that allows a group to consider their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

This is a process I have taken groups through as a moderator in several non-profit organizations, and have also participated as a participant in numerous sessions. In this case I’m not sure what group completed the process – whether it was their advisory council, the state board of education or a group of bureaucrats within the Department.

Notice what they list as the top “key threat.” – “Parents can opt out of testing and schools will bear the brunt of that decision without change to AK law.” Twenty people in their group saw that as a “threat.”

Screenshot 2016-03-21 14.56.05

This document and the group involved in doing the SWOT are completely tone deaf.

Alaskan parents are not the threat. They are the ones who are the chief stakeholder in their child’s education. If they want to list a “threat” then instead of complaining about parents opting-out they should complain about the federal testing threshold that puts this burden on them to begin with.

HT: Alaskans Against the Common Core

Oklahoma State Board of Ed Member Lee Baxter Has Foot in Mouth Disease

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The amount of hubris that comes from the education educracy never ceases to amaze me. The latest example comes from Major General Lee Baxter (USA, Retired) who represents Congressional District 4 on Oklahoma’s State Board of Education.

Oklahoma Education Truths reported (gleefully) Baxter on Facebook complained that some state legislators had problems with the new Oklahoma standards.

I am a member of the State Board of Education. I am not known to be reluctant to express my opinion. So I shall.

1. The legislature rejected Common Core in 2014 and directed that we needed OKLAHOMA standards written by OKLAHOMANS for OKLAHOMA children and their parents, and that the OKLAHOMA State Regents for Higher Education certify those standards as preparing our children for college and career.

2. A standards committee was formed naming the very best OKLAHOMA mathematicians and English teachers, the best OKLAHOMA professors, the best OKLAHOMA parents we could find (among scads of applicants). They were rural and urban, from around the entire State. Over a years period of time these OKLAHOMANS wrote the standards in a totally transparent way, with tons of opportunity for public comment. The standards were approved and the OKLAHOMA Regents for Higher Education certified them.

3. Now we have 2 Senators, Brecheen and Sykes, who declare these OKLAHOMA educators are not smart enough, not capable enough nor talented enough to do the job. Instead they want the inputs of a Massachussets/ Arkansas arrogant miscreant who admires only her own standards, and the radicalized splinter group called ROPE who have just declared “public education is not worth restroring.” Every teacher in the state should be completely insulted by the actions of these two. Like me, they are Republicans. I am not proud of them. None participated in public comment forums…..

4. If I need a plumber, I do not hire an electrician. I hire a plumber. And when I want standards written, I would hire a teacher, an educator…..NOT a lawyer or a horse trainer (with apologies to Sykes and Brecheen.). What do they know about math and English standards????? Nothing

5. I am sure I know the agenda here. These two Senators simply do not want these standards. And why not? Because they both drink from the trough of the former State Superintendent, whose fingerprints are all over their actions.

6. Rep Jason Nelson also wants these delayed, yet seems much more reasonable and is asking for “tweaks and edits” Well, Jason, pass these now and I promise the SDE and the Board will take up your concerns PROMPTLY.

7.OKLAHOMA School adminstrators and teachers and parents want these standards NOW. NO more delays. We have produced what we were asked for . “Standards for Oklahmans by Oklahomans.” Does not the legislature have real problems to solve???????

All….please contact your leaders and members in the legislature. MUST BE NOW. This will all be done as early as Monday…..

First – the standards shouldn’t be passed with the expectation they are fixed. That’s backwards. Second, legislators and citizens can and should be able to weigh in on the standards, it is arrogant to think otherwise. There are problems with the standards that only require some tweaks. The bill isn’t calling for a complete rewrite, just further revision. Third, Sandra Stotsky, the miscreant he loathes, has experience reviewing and writing standards. Yes she’s partial to the standards she wrote FOR GOOD REASON – they helped Massachusetts go from the middle of the pack to number one in K-12 education. Those standards were the gold standard in English-Language Arts. Why he wouldn’t want to listen to her is beyond me. Fourth, ROPE is a parent advocacy group. They are not trying to destroy public education. The level of disdain this man shows toward them is appalling. Fifth, the General complains that two Senators are not smart or capable enough to critique the standards themselves. I’m curious if the General didn’t seek the advice and consultation with those under his command? If he didn’t he was and is a poor leader.

The General doesn’t want to be bothered with the democratic process. He just wants the Legislature as a rubber stamp which is not how the state legislature should work.