New Jersey Assembly Blocks PARCC From Being Used in Teacher Evaluations

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The New Jersey Assembly voted overwhelmingly to prevent PARCC scores from being used to evaluate teachers The Press of Atlantic City reports:

The state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit the use of student standardized test results as part of teacher or principal evaluations.

The bill passed 52-11-8.

For the past two years the results of the state tests have accounted for 10 percent of teacher evaluations under state Department of Education regulations. Starting this year test results would count for 30 percent of the evaluation.

Approximately 15 percent of New Jersey educators will have PARCC results factored into their evaluations.

That bill sailed through the Assembly Education Committee 11 to 1 earlier this month. It now heads off to the New Jersey Senate.

Rhode Island Science Scores Drop After Next Generation Science Standards

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The Providence Journal reported this week that only three in 10 Rhode Island students were considered proficient in science despite adopting the Next Generation Science Standards three years ago.

Now you would think this would prompt calls for a  review of the standards, but you would think wrong. No, it’s the test’s fault.

No school district and no groups of students made significant improvements in science in 2016, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education. In fact, this year’s results continue a four-year decline in science proficiency.

Meanwhile, the achievement gaps between white and minority students, middle-class students and those from low-income families are wider today than they were in 2008, when the science portion of the New England Common Assessment Program was introduced.

“First, you can’t ignore the results,” said state education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “We have to do better. These results call for urgency.”

The disappointing test results arrive at a time when Governor Raimondo has turned computer science into the centerpiece of her K-12 education reform plans. Last year, she announced an initiative to bring computer science to every school by December 2017. On Wednesday, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Fred Humphries will join Raimondo during a coding class at Central Falls High School.

Wagner said there is a reason for the poor showing. In 2013, Rhode Island adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, developed by a consortium of 26 states and several science-education groups, which ask students to think like a scientist and call for more hands-on, investigative work. But the NECAP is much more focused on subject matter, so the test no longer reflects what students are learning in the classroom.

“There is a mismatch between our test and our new standards,” Wagner said Tuesday.

So the NECAP actually expects a mastery of the subject matter and the Next Generation Science Standards calls for kids to “think like a scientist.” Don’t they actually have to have content, knowledge and facts in order develop that kind of thinking?

The fallacy with Next Generation Science Standards, as well as, Common Core is they believe students can be taught to think critically without actually having knowledge to back this up. Learning skills doesn’t do any good if there isn’t foundational knowledge.

But yeah, go ahead and blame the assessment.

Education and the First Presidential Debate

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell

So who said what on education on Monday evening during the first presidential debate?

Crickets…. It is amazing that the topic never came up at all even in an answer for an unrelated question.

Frederick Hess had this to say at Education Next:

Outside of a five-word Clinton throwaway mention of debt-free college, education didn’t make even a token appearance in the 45 minutes the candidates spent talking about “prosperity”. Amidst heated talk about foreign trade, taxes on “the rich,” Trump’s tax returns, birther-ism, Clinton’s emails, and more, neither bothered to raise K-12, higher education, or college costs. As marginal as education has been in 2016, I was still surprised that neither chose to go there. It’s a chance to play positive and send a signal about inclusive growth.

Education was almost equally absent when moderator Lester Holt turned to racial tension, civil unrest, incarceration, and policing. Clinton’s initial response mentioned schooling, but the candidates never returned to the role of education. In purely practical terms, that struck me as peculiar on a bunch of levels. Education is a way to talk about how to reduce tensions and offer more promising avenues. It’s a chance to talk of opportunity and responsibility. It’s a way to talk about promoting civic virtues and mutual understanding. And I was surprised that, in talking about the problems related to incarceration and urban violence, neither candidate cited the importance of prison education or prisoner reentry.

He makes some predictions on what they might do… well sort of.

I know reporters are working hard to parse what a Trump or Clinton win really means for education. But I’ll tell you what I keep telling education writers—it’s damn hard to know. For Trump, as best I can tell, policy is performance art. There’s no reason to believe he means what he says. So, when he tosses out the notion of $20 billion for school choice, I don’t think it’s more than a short-lived symbolic gesture. Meanwhile, Clinton has made rafts of promises regarding new regulations, programs, and spending, and it’s hard to know which of it she’s serious about.

The safest bet is that, especially post-ESSA, she’d back-burner K-12 to focus on new spending and regulations for pre-K and higher education, which has the added benefit of uniting Democrats. The thing, of course, is that her proposals would create fierce new partisan divides on those issues, and have trouble moving through what’s likely to be a Republican House. Would’ve been nice if either of them had seen fit to offer any more clarity on any of this in the debate, but so it goes.

Trump has talked tough on Common Core, but it remains to be seen what his actual plans are beyond throwing money at school choice. At best with Clinton we can hope for is status quo with K-12 which isn’t good. At worst we’ll see her double down on Marc Tucker’s suggestions. She has laid out her platform, but we also have her record to go on as well, and it is dismal. Her plans for pre-K are frightening.

The Classic Learning Test: An Alternative College Entrance Exam

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With SAT changes that has brought it into alignment with the Common Core, and ACT’s involvement in the creation of the standards, it is important that we find an alternative college entrance exam.

The Classic Learning Test (CLT) is an alternative that is actually being used now.  The CLT came about specifically out of a need seen first-hand by its Founder, Jeremy Tate, who, while running a test-prep company, saw that homeschooled and privately educated students were being disproportionately discriminated against by being held to standards they had rejected.

The CLT provides private high school and homeschooled students with 1) a higher and more accurate standard of assessing grade-wide academic proficiency, 2) an affordable alternative to SAT/ACT exams, and 3) a way to further distinguish the high school from other academic institutions in the area whose standards have not progressed past the nationwide status quo.

Numerous colleges are already accepting the CLT for admission. The current list of colleges are: Aquinas College, Belmont Abbey College, Benedictine College, Bethlehem College, Bryan College, Christendom College, Grove City College, John Paul the Great Catholic University, John Witherspoon College, Liberty University, New College Franklin, New Saint Andrews College, Northeast Catholic College, Patrick Henry College, St. John’s College, The King’s College, Thomas Aquinas College, Thomas More College, Truett McConnell University, University of Dallas, Walsh University and Wyoming Catholic College.

Here is a video with more information.

You can also take a practice exam which consists of a reading section (40 questions), writing section (38 questions) and math section (38 questions).

You can read and download an overview of CLT here. Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute is conducting a validity and reliability review. You can read about that here.

I encourage you to spread the word about this test. We also need to encourage colleges to accept CLT, so if you are sending your child off to college soon, let those colleges know you want your child to take the CLT. If you are associated with a particular college, please let them know as well. The CLT is a better assessment for students who have been home schooled or who have attended a private or parochial school.

The Challenge of Being a Kindergarten Teacher

An NPR News education blog called Mindshift has an interesting story that illustrates concerns Kindergarten teachers have had with the Common Core State Standards.

An excerpt:

Lisa Minicozzi was an elementary school principal before she went back to school for her doctorate in early childhood education. She’s now a professor of education at Adelphi University, where she instructs teachers in-training and studies effective teaching practice in classrooms. She recently published an article in the Global Studies of Childhood journal entitled “The garden is thorny: Teaching kindergarten in the age of accountability,” in which she documents how veteran kindergarten teachers navigate more rigorous expectations for students along with their own deeply held beliefs about how young children should learn.

“I have witnessed the changes myself and have felt the frustrations as an administrator and as a parent of a young child myself,” Minicozzi said of the “academic trickle down” that has affected day-to-day kindergarten routines. In classrooms that seemed to be navigating the shift well Minicozzi saw some common themes: first, the kindergarten educators had the support of administrators to determine what was developmentally appropriate.

Second, veteran teachers saw themselves as experts and were confident dissecting the standards and designing units that met them, without giving up their beliefs about how young children learn. In exemplar classrooms Minicozzi never saw kids sitting in rows for long periods of time or doing worksheets. Rather, teachers held exploration and movement at the center of the practice, essentially designing thematic project-based learning units.

“We know from educational theory what works,” Minicozzi said. “Kids should be actively engaged. They should be outside. They should be moving, exploring. They should have multiple opportunities to explore at different times.” She worries that as schools adopt Common Core State Standards school administrators will continue to push more content and direct instruction into kindergarten. She sees veteran teachers who are successfully navigating the shift as important mentors for novice teachers who will need that same strength and skill when they get into classrooms.

“I feel that most of the programs that have come out of alignment to Common Core have academic challenges that are way above what they should be doing,” said kindergarten teacher Mojdeh Hassani. She co-teaches at a public school on Long Island. She says she believes in challenging students, but the difference is that now there are many more discrete units that have to be crammed into each day, forcing her young students to move too quickly between tasks.

Read the rest.

Foster Care Children Being Left Behind

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An interesting story out of California shows that while the state saw an improvement with their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores (if you can really get excited about less than 50% of students meeting or exceeding standards) there is a group that is lagging behind – foster care children.

Kristin DeCarr at Education News reports:

For the first time, the scores of the state’s foster youth have been separated by education officials, finding that these students are learning less than their peers.  As the scores for the 2014-15 school year show, the first year that scores of the new, harder exam were reported, 18.8% of students in the foster care system met or exceeded standards on the English exam in comparison with 44.2% of their non-foster peers across the state.  Results were similar in math, with 11.8% of foster students meeting or exceeding standards, while 33.8% of their non-foster peers did the same.

Foster students were also found to have a lower participation rate on the exams.  While 27,651 foster students, 89.8% of those enrolled, took the English exam, 96.1% of non-foster students participated.  Meanwhile, 27,475 foster students, or 89.3%, took the math exam in comparison to 96.3% of their non-foster peers, writes Joy Resmovits for The Los Angeles Times.

Experts believe the lower participation rates to be a reflection of the difficulty with which children move through the foster care system.  A study performed by the nonprofit educational research organization the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd found that just two-thirds of foster students remain in the same school each year.  In addition, it was discovered that one in ten have attended three schools over the course of just one school year.

According to the nonprofit Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, each move to a different school results in a loss of between four and six months of learning.

I worked with at-risk youth for 13 years, including children and youth who were considered CINA or Child in Need of Assistance. These kids were the ones who made up Iowa’s foster care system. From my experience what I can tell you is that there is nothing standards or assessments can do to help these kids achieve academically. That is not the answer. They need stability and they need support.

These kids also disprove the argument that having common standards will help students who change schools. Obviously that isn’t the case. Moving from school to school causes a disruption that no set of standards can address.

Does HIPAA Apply to School-Based Mental Health?

(Jan. 17, 2007) - Guidance counselor Elizabeth Prince facilitates an Anchors Away program for children at Christopher Farms Elementary, Virginia Beach, Va. The program was created 10 years ago to help children with deployed parents cope with separation anxiety. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice John K. Hamilton (RELEASED)

(Jan. 17, 2007) – Guidance counselor Elizabeth Prince facilitates an Anchors Away program for children at Christopher Farms Elementary, Virginia Beach, Va. The program was created 10 years ago to help children with deployed parents cope with separation anxiety. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice John K. Hamilton (RELEASED)

Exceptional Delaware wrote about the possibility of a state day treatment center being located in public schools which raised an interesting question – How much does HIPAA apply to school-based mental health and what falls under FERPA instead?

HIPAA, in case you are not aware, stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. When it passed it elevated privacy standards for health insurance companies, health care providers and some third parties.

FERPA most of us I’m sure are aware is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that governs privacy standards surrounding a student’s education standards. Regulations implementing FERPA has changed under the Obama administration that have caused great concern for those of us who care about student privacy, but more on that in a second.

I won’t get into the weeds on what is going on in the state because, well, I don’t completely understand it (I’m not sure they do either). Mental health treatment programs in public schools is not a foreign concept or unique to Delaware when you consider many school districts themselves employ school psychologists and school social workers. Also the idea of third parties establishing programs in schools is nothing new as well.

So how does HIPAA apply to a school?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state on their website that “most schools and school districts” do not have to follow HIPAA.

They delve further into this issue on another webpage that answers the question: “Does the HIPAA privacy rule apply to an elementary or secondary school?”

Generally, no.  In most cases, the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to an elementary or secondary school because the school either: (1) is not a HIPAA covered entity or (2) is a HIPAA covered entity but maintains health information only on students in records that are by definition “education records” under FERPA and, therefore, is not subject to the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

  • The school is not a HIPAA covered entity.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule only applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that transmit health information electronically in connection with certain administrative and financial transactions (“covered transactions”). See 45 CFR § 160.102.  Covered transactions are those for which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adopted a standard, such as health care claims submitted to a health plan.  See the definition of “transaction” at 45 CFR § 160.103 and 45 CFRPart 162, Subparts K–R.  Thus, even though a school employs school nurses, physicians, psychologists, or other health care providers, the school is not generally a HIPAA covered entity because the providers do not engage in any of the covered transactions, such as billing a health plan electronically for their services.  It is expected that most elementary and secondary schools fall into this category.

  • The school is a HIPAA covered entity but does not have “protected health information.”  Where a school does employ a health care provider that conducts one or more covered transactions electronically, such as electronically transmitting health care claims to a health plan for payment, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and must comply with the HIPAA Transactions and Code Sets and Identifier Rules with respect to such transactions.  However, even in this case, many schools would not be required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule because the school maintains health information only in student health records that are “education records” under FERPA and, thus, not “protected health information” under HIPAA.  Because student health information in education records is protected by FERPA, the HIPAA Privacy Rule excludes such information from its coverage.  See the exception at paragraph (2)(i) to the definition of “protected health information” in the HIPAA Privacy Rule at 45 CFR § 160.103.  For example, if a public high school employs a health care provider that bills Medicaid electronically for services provided to a student under the IDEA, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and would be subject to the HIPAA requirements concerning transactions.  However, if the school’s provider maintains health information only in what are education records under FERPA, the school is not required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule.  Rather, the school would have to comply with FERPA’s privacy requirements with respect to its education records, including the requirement to obtain parental consent (34 CFR § 99.30) in order to disclose to Medicaid billing information about a service provided to a student.

FERPA in 2011 changed the regulations to include additional parties to be able to receive a student’s medical records.

(6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to:

(A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests;

(B) Administer student aid programs; or

(C) Improve instruction.

This falls under several groups that can receive personally identifiable information without parental or student consent.

This should be a cause for concern for those of us who care about student privacy.

Enter “Baby Common Core” with New Head Start Performance Standards

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The federal government continues its long march to ensnare more of our children in its tentacles at an ever-younger age. “Baby Common Core” has reared its ugly head.

Head Start, the failed but lavishly funded federal pre-K program, recently released its new Program Performance Standards.  These standards are the yardstick by which Head Start programs nationwide will be evaluated. Chief among the many problems with these standards is the cementing  in section 1302.32 of the mandate occurring 11 times in the federal Head Start Act of 2007 requiring that all curriculum be  “aligned with [or “based on”] the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five” (Framework). This Framework provides federalized “Baby Common Core”– style curriculum content standards.  In fact, efforts have already been made to align both the Framework itself as well as state pre-K standards, often based on the Head Start Framework, to the Common Core national standards for Kindergarten through grade 3. So under the new Performance Standards, any Head Start program will implement Baby Common Core in order to achieve a good rating.

Addressing the 2007 reauthorization of the Head Start Act, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) grants, and the harmful  $250 million preschool grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – grants that must be used to develop programs in compliance with Head Start — we warned of the dangers of nationalized preschool content standards, assessment, and curriculum. Particularly concerning is the intense focus on subjective and indoctrinating social emotional learning (SEL) standards. Yet that is exactly what the Head Start Act and these new Performance Standards have produced.

The controversial content standards in the Framework not only exist in Head Start programs, but are intertwined with many state preschool standards that govern private preschool programs when there is a quality rating system.  According to CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), the national SEL  bully, “approximately 48% of states consulted the Head Start Framework when developing their standards, and 60% of states relied on the NAEYC [National Association for the Education of Young Children] Developmentally Appropriate Practices.”  The following examples explain why every parent should be alarmed with the Head Start and NAEYC standards and curriculum.

Gender Identity for 3-Year-Olds and the LGBT Agenda

Most concerning of the many problematic standards in the Framework is this set:

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This standard goes beyond having children identify their biological sex, an objective physical characteristic, but rather embroils them in the complex and controversial issue of gender identity.  The gender-identity issue has been central for a long time in Head Start, NAEYC, and the many state standards based on both.  The curriculum Making Room in the Circle: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Early Childhood Settings defines gender identity as follows:

… a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something other or in between. Because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others. (Emphasis added.)  [The same definition appears in The Policy Institutes of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, p. 8]

In its diversity handbook for preschool programs titled Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves (p.  91), NAEYC identifies these goals regarding gender identity and gender roles:

  • Children, regardless of gender, will participate in a wide range of activities necessary for their full cognitive and social-emotional development. (Anti-Bias Education [ABE] Goal 1)
  • Children will demonstrate positive feelings about their gender identity and develop clarity about the relationship between their anatomy and their gender role. (ABE Goal 1)
  • Children will talk about and show respect for the great diversity in appearance, emotional expressiveness, behavior, and gender roles for both boys and girls. (ABE Goal 2)
  • Children will recognize unfair or untrue messages (including invisibility) about gender roles. (ABE Goal 3)
  • Children will practice skills for supporting gender role diversity in their interactions with peers.  (ABE Goals 3 & 4)

NAEYC also foments gender confusion by encouraging cross-dressing by young children (p. 93):

Some of the favorite costumes in the center are made from women’s skirts.  Small slits cut just under the waistbands for the children’s arms let the skirts become super hero capes, princess gowns, doctors’ uniforms – anything the children want them to be.  One morning the teacher puts out some of the costume skirts. Brad puts on the red one, but Victor hesitates. He reaches for the bright turquoise satiny one. “Is this a boy’s costume?” he asks. “Are you a boy?” the teacher responds. “Yes,” he responds soberly. “Then if you wear it, it’s a boy’s costume,” she says. Victor’s face brightens and he puts it on and with arms outstretched swirls around with delight.

Without asking why childhood innocence must be breached to discuss these issues at all, NAEYC also recommends using anatomically correct dolls to guide the conversation:

Many programs use anatomically correct dolls.  Some put the dolls out for children to play with freely; others use them in persona doll stories to help children explore issues of gender identity.  These stories also provide teachers opportunities to use anatomical terms in a matter-of-fact way.  Sometimes a family may object to your using an anatomically correct doll with their child.  If this is an issue in your program, having respectful conversations with the family can lead to a third space solution (as described in chapter 4). – p. 95

Head Start also seems more concerned about making LGBT families comfortable in its programs than about families who believe in traditional marriage. In fact, Head Start created an entire webpage about the issue titled Creating a Welcoming Early Childhood Program for LGBT-Headed Families: 

head-start-lgbt-header

One of the resources on this page contains a checklist that includes these items:

❏ Do images show people who represent diverse races/ethnicities, economic status, physical ability, age, and family structure?

❏ Do posters, children’s art, children’s book displays, and photos of your real families (including staff) depict the many ways that people work, play, and live as families?

While all children and families in these programs should be treated with respect, there is no concern for the confusion and difficulties this will bring to the majority of preschoolers by portraying these minority and very alternative lifestyles as normative.  And regardless of one’s beliefs on this contentious issue, should taxpayer-funded government programs be deciding how gender identity is discussed or family structure portrayed? And what about parental rights and religious liberty?

Turning Uncle Sam into Uncle Shrink – Government-Mandated Emotional Norms

Among the other controversial Head Start standards is this set that mandates empathy in young children:

head-start-2015-empathy

Empathy can be a highly subjective and difficult trait to assess. This and many others of these social emotional standards are expecting teachers to function as psychologists, for which they have neither the time nor the training.   Even highly trained psychologists and psychiatrists and experts on preschool standards admit that there is little agreement on standards, assessment, or diagnosis based on them for young children.   Additionally, gender differences would penalize boys compared to girls, because boys by their normal emotional make-up do not tend to be empathetic at that age. So boys will be more likely to receive low assessment scores, or referrals for unnecessary evaluations and treatments, for non-existent emotional problems. And of course, this subjective data would follow them for life in their government dossiers affecting “college and careers.”

Government Takeover of State, Local, and Private Preschool and Childcare

Federal law also mandates that Head Start coordinate with other federal programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG).  This federal childcare law heavily promotes the Baby Common Core curriculum by strongly incentivizing grantees to implement state quality rating systems, many of which mandate these same Head Start Framework or state standards based on the Framework or NAEYC curriculum described above.  This is analogous to what the federal Race to the Top grants did to impose the K-12 Common Core standards on the states. The result is a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these programs outside of the state system (about 80% of childcare) are being bribed or coerced to teach the public program curriculum in order to get a good rating. Minnesota admitted this in its ELC application when it said, “….to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs [standards] and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.”(Emphasis added). Minnesota’s standards are heavily based on an earlier version of the Head Start Framework and discuss gender identity, family structure diversity, careers, and environmentalism with preschoolers. This then allows the latest Head Start Framework and curriculum to be interwoven into the state and local, public and private, preschool programs outside of Head Start.

As with the Race to the Top K-12 and Early Learning Challenge grants, the Head Start grants usurp power from states, parents, and local programs. This is federal control of academic content, designed to influence the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children.  Regardless of their positions on any particular topic, parents should be alarmed at allowing such control over their children by any government.

The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals as well, but are much less overt than the Framework. The feds were likely emboldened to directly impose national Pre-K content standards because Head Start is housed in the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Department of Education (USED). Thus, some of the constitutional and statutory objections that parents and other citizens have addressed to USED’s overreach are less applicable to HHS (although the constitutionality of HHS as well is a valid debate to have).

Conclusion

On top of all of this, Head Start just does not benefit children. Hundreds of taxpayer-funded studies about the program have produced no good evidence that it is effective beyond third grade.  That is why we support major cuts to the program this year and a major overhaul or better yet, elimination of the program in the next Congress.  As stated in our recent analysis of the federal education budget, “With $19 trillion in debt, we should not be spending $430 million more [as the House is proposing] on failed preschool programs. Nor should the federal government be spending any of our hard-earned tax dollars to mold and monitor the thoughts and emotions of our children. “

Congress is now completing its work on the budget or continuing resolution that will fund the government until after the election. The fiscal year ends on September 30th. Make your voice heard. (202-224-3121)

The Destructive Capacity of David Coleman

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

Since Common Core architect David Coleman took over as president of the College Board, the scandals or at least embarrassments have come fast and furious (see here and here). The latest is a Reuters investigation, reported by EdWeek, that discovered the College Board’s vaunted redesign of the SAT math section erects even more hurdles to students who traditionally score lower anyway (low-income and minority students). This is because the new math section focuses more on reading than actually working math problems, so a student who is good at math but less so at reading will score lower on math than he would have under the traditional SAT design.

The problem is the new SAT’s alignment with the Common Core national standards. The Common Core math standards are based on the idea that knowing math is insufficient; a student must be able to read a tome and apply math skills to the supposed “real-life” problem it presents. (The engineers who brought the Apollo 13 astronauts home on a crippled spacecraft somehow managed to apply their antiquated math education to a real-world problem, but pay no attention to that.) While the text-heavy approach may work for strong readers, turning a math test into a reading test creates unnecessary problems for students who traditionally don’t score as well on the SAT anyway.

From reviewing internal emails, Reuters discovered that College Board officials “knew of the potential problem with the word-heavy math questions because outside academics raised the issue as they reviewed items while they were being developed.” And in a confidential 2014 test run, only about half the students even finished the math section.

Maybe Coleman and Co. intended to correct the problem, but apparently they never got around to it. Or maybe they’re so invested in the Common Core ideology of “deeper conceptual understanding” that they simply don’t care.

So assume the situation of an immigrant student (call him Carlos) whose family speaks Spanish at home. Assume he’s a math whiz but still struggles with English, because he’s been in the country only five or six years. With the old SAT he might have performed poorly on the verbal portion but scored an 800 on the math. With the new test, he’ll perform poorly on both. Well done, Mr. Coleman.

Not only will Carlos suffer from this ideological redesign, but his school may as well. This is because the new fed-ed bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows states to replace their high-school achievement tests with the SAT. The ramifications of the redesign are thus troubling both for Carlos and for honest accountability for schools.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky raised a related concern years ago about Common Core math, in that case with respect to children in the early grades. Since Common Core applies the word-heavy approach across K-12, young children are also expected to read paragraphs rather than simply grasp math calculations. This means, Dr. Stotsky warned, that many little boys might struggle with math even if they have a gift for numbers – because little boys are generally less verbal than little girls. Johnny might be proud that he can work math problems more quickly than anyone in the class, but don’t worry, Common Core will beat that sense of accomplishment out of him.

Common Core theorists call this “productive struggle.” Normal people might call it academic malpractice. By all means, let’s extend it to teenagers as well.

The Common Core realignment of the SAT math section will hurt low-income students in other ways. In a Pioneer Institute report, mathematician James Milgram and testing expert Richard Phelps explained that aligning the SAT with Common Core essentially converts it from a test predicting college success to one that simply measures high-school achievement. These experts pointed out that an achievement test is less effective at identifying students with significant STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) potential who attend schools with inferior science and math programs. And the Common Core math standards – which stop with an incomplete Algebra II course – will ensure that many schools, especially those serving low-income students, will have such inferior programs.

Michael Cohen, a prominent developer of and cheerleader for Common Core, testified several years ago that we won’t know the full effects of Common Core “until an entire cohort of students, from kindergarten through high school graduation, has been effectively exposed to Common Core teaching.” Having already lowered national test scores, increased the achievement gap, driven excellent teachers out of the profession, and now wrecked the SAT, it looks like Common Core is ahead of schedule. Mr. Cohen underestimated the destructive capacity of Mr. Coleman.

New Jersey Legislators Want to Remove PARCC Scores from Teacher Evals

New-Jersey-State-Flag-Flying

Lawmakers in New Jersey would like to prevent PARCC scores from being used for teacher evaluations, and the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee voted to that end 11 to 1.

NJ 101.5FM reports:

The Christie administration originally intended for student test scores – specifically year-to-year improvements, not the scores themselves – to account for 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. The state lowered that to 10 percent when the new PARCC exams proved controversial but says the kinks have now been ironed out sufficiently to return to the original 30 percent.

Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, D-Bergen, who sponsors the bill eliminating the use of test scores in assessing teachers, disagrees.

“I have my issues with the PARCC test. It’s only three years old. There hasn’t been a year where there has not been a problem with it,” Caride said. She also opposes the use of the tests on principle: “I can’t find anything that convinces me that these standardized tests really test an ability of a child.”

Among the 11 members of the Assembly Education Committee to vote on the bill Monday, only one voted against it: Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Bergen, who portrayed it as a choice between supporting the NJEA and parents. He said the percentage should be set at 10 percent.

“This bill is a wholesale sellout of students and parents in districts with underperforming schools,” Auth said.

“To say because we had an extreme of 30 percent, that justifies now going to the extreme of absolutely no evaluation by testing, that doesn’t justify that,” he said.

This was part of tenure reform that occurred in New Jersey…. which could be a whole different article altogether – the idea of tenure offends me because it offers protections that you find in no other occupation.

That said using PARCC scores for teacher evaluations is concerning because of the temptation to continually teach to the test at the expense of other activities and priorities.

I would hope that lawmakers would be just as concerned about PARCC being used as a requirement for graduation.