Kids Need Recess

Photo Credit: SmartSign (CC-By-2.0)

Most of my elementary school memories are of recess, time I was able to spend with my friends and take a break from the school day. I remember playing on equipment that has largely disappeared from school playgrounds. I remember a favorite teacher coming out and playing catch with the boys.

I also remember running for my life when a girl named Christie tried kissing me in third grade when I was volunteered to be “the groom” for a make-believe wedding at the merry-go-round.

I guess not every memory is a pleasant one.

The thing I remember most is getting a significant break from the montony of the school day which was very much needed.

With the standards and accountability movement in education, along with its hyper-focus on testing, recess has become a luxury instead of a necessity for elementary school students.

It’s ridiculous. Even adults need a break during their workday, and kids are not adults. They need even more time. Now some states have passed laws stating students must have at least 20 minutes of recess.

I call that a start, but in actuality it should be more.

Time in a feature addressing the “recess debate” cites some of the evidence in support of recess:

A 2009 study found that 8- and 9-year-old children who had at least one daily recess period of more than 15 minutes had better classroom behavior. The study also found that black students and students from low-income families were more likely to be given no recess or minimal recess. That report reinforced the results of a 1998 study, which found that when 43 fourth-grade students were given recess, they worked more or fidgeted less than when they were not given recess.

When recess is eliminated or reduced, it is often because a school is allocating more time to subjects covered on standardized tests, aiming to improve student achievement. But a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found positive associations between recess and academic performance. “There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores,” the report said.

Another study, from 2016, found that young boys who spent more time sitting and less time playing didn’t progress as quickly in reading and math.

Studies also show that recess can improve student nutrition when held before lunchtime. A 2014 study published in Preventive Medicine found that holding recess before lunch increased students’ fruit and vegetable consumption by 54%.

This is simply common sense, something that it seems a lot of educrats have lacked as they push their reforms not considering the unintended consequences.

What Are Gubernatorial Candidates Saying About Education?

The tan colored states represent gubernatorial elections in 2018.

There are 36 gubernatorial contests in 2018 with 269 declared candidates. What are they saying about education?

According to Rick Hess and Sofia Gallo at American Enterprise Institute, not so much.

They wrote on Wednesday at Real Clear Policy:

So, during the first half of February, we used the National Governors Association website and Ballotpedia to identify the 269 declared gubernatorial candidates and then visited the websites for each. There were 121 candidates who had no website (a tiny handful) or who offered no information regarding their education positions. For the 148 candidates who had something to say on education — including 63 Republicans and 85 Democrats — we examined their sites to see what topics addressed and what they had to say. What did this exercise reveal?

First, there’s been a marked shift from many of the concerns that predominated 4 or 8 years ago. Candidates devoted little attention to topics like school accountability (mentioned by just nine candidates), teacher evaluation (mentioned by just five), or the Common Core (mentioned by 17). When testing and standards do arise, candidates don’t have many good things to say. For instance, the mentions of academic standards and the Common Core are overwhelmingly negative — with more than 80 percent denouncing them. Similarly, just one candidate makes a positive reference to testing; the other 19 candidates who mention the topic all promise to reduce the number of tests.

Second, the only educational issue that registered support from a majority of candidates was career and technical education (CTE), which received enthusiastic bipartisan backing. More than 60 candidates — including 40 Democrats and 24 Republicans — endorsed expanding CTE.

He also noted that there was little attention paid to school choice either positive or negative. I can vouch for this in Iowa, beyond school spending, CTE was part of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address. She also mentioned school choice, but through accessing 529 savings accounts used for parents to save for college, not ESAs or vouchers. She also discussed STEM.

He did note that when gubernatorial candidates talk about CTE they all don’t mean the same thing.

By “career and technical education,” some mean vocational schools while others mean apprenticeships; some are championing more high school programs while others are thinking about community college systems.

Reynolds pointed to a new program called Future Ready Iowa that will implement pre-apprenticeships for high school students.

For the most part, it’s been pretty quiet on the education front on matters of policy (beyond spending which is always an issue). In terms of trying to find candidates who will challenge top-down reform and repeal top-down standards, it is challenging.

As you look for a candidate to support you’ll have to take the initiative to get candidates to talk about standards, assessments, and data privacy. It’s much easier to ask your questions during the primary process than it will be the general election. If there are opportunities to get to meet candidates and ask them questions, be sure to take advantage of it. Of course, talk is cheap, be sure to check out their record if they’ve been in elected office as an incumbent governor or as a legislator.

I plan to highlight those who are speaking out against Common Core and top-down standards here.

The Assessments Are Rigged

We all know that polls can be skewed and that ‘what everybody knows’ may not be so. Similarly, assessments and assessment data can be gathered, used, and presented in various ways to feed an agenda.  Just because a child is said to be proficient on a state assessment doesn’t mean he or she actually is ‘proficient’ in the way parents want him or her to be.

When I was in school, my teachers would give us tests to help figure out how much of what they were teaching we had actually learned.  Then, the state stepped in and started giving assessments to make sure teachers were teaching what the state wanted them to teach.  And now?  We’re told the assessments are great, but we are just supposed to trust.  We can’t see the assessment questions.  The algorithms (mathematical formulas) determining which questions come next or whether you have a higher or a lower score are kept secret. The State Boards of Education or the assessment vendors, themselves, can move and change the ‘proficiency’ levels at will.

We take it on faith when a student passes a math assessment it means the student is proficient.  Is it possible to rig an assessment?  Not only is it possible, but it’s also being done all the time.  I have four examples of how the assessments are and have been manipulated to provide different results than most people expect.  This is being done without oversight, without insight into what is occurring, and certainly without permission from parents.

The first example is assessing not just what a student is supposed to know but making them do the problem in a particular way. Ask yourself, does this create a disadvantage for a child who knows the math facts but hasn’t been shown a particular way of doing things?

This problem is an example of a Common Core Math Standard from First Grade:

Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).   

This question doesn’t just assess whether a student knows how to do an addition word problem, but it assesses whether a student has been trained on the Making Ten Strategy as outlined in the standard.  Could a student solve 8+6 without knowing the Making Ten Strategy?  Yes, of course.  Does using the Making Ten Strategy indicate critical thinking?  Or does it simply indicate a student has been instructed in this strategy?  Would you be able to succeed as a mathematician without learning this Making Ten Strategy in First Grade? Have you successfully used addition in your life without thinking about the Making Ten Strategy?

Many parent complaints about Common Core Math come from having to show the various methods for getting the answer or having to explain why an answer is correct.

Parent:“When I was in school, we did it this way.”

Child: “I have to do it this other way or it will be marked wrong.”

One mother asked her child’s teacher if he could simply do the standard algorithm on all his math homework because the multiple strategies were causing him stress.  The teacher said if he didn’t learn the strategies, he wouldn’t do well on the state assessment.  Once the mother indicated her child would not be taking the assessment, the teacher readily agreed to give credit for just the standard algorithms.  The reason for the multiple methods?  To do well on the assessment.

A review written in 2011 by Dr. Stephen Wilson of Johns Hopkins University states the following about the Common Core SBAC test (then under development).  He says, “It appears that the assessments will focus on communication skills and Mathematical Practices over content knowledge.”

Furthermore, “Mathematical Practices, or what was usually called ‘process’ standards in most states, do little more than describe how someone pretty good at mathematics seems to approach mathematics problems. As stand-alone standards, they are neither teachable nor testable. Mathematics is about solving problems, and anyone who can solve a complex multi-step problem using mathematics automatically demonstrates their skill with the Mathematical Practices, (whether they can communicate well or not).”

In short, we see Dr. Wilson’s concerns demonstrated in the above example: the process of getting the answer is of greater importance than the actual mathematical abilities most people think the assessment should be assessing.

A second example comes from Utah’s SAGE (end-of-year) sample assessment for Third Grade. This question is supposed to assess a deeper understanding of division than simply asking if a child knows the answer to 12 ÷ 4. Unfortunately, in creating a more convoluted problem, the assessment question can be solved without knowing anything more than how to count and how to write a division problem. Division facts, themselves, are not necessary.

There are lots of kids who can divide things equally by putting them in different boxes without knowing 12 ÷ 4 = 3.  Supposedly, by dragging the stars and dragging the numbers, you are assessing higher-order thinking.  But what you are really assessing is the child’s familiarity with the software interface, the format of the problem, and whether they can count and relate counting to division.  But they don’t have to know 12 ÷ 4 = 3.

Would a child who knows her division facts be able to do this problem anyway?  Most likely.  However, it is also true this question doesn’t distinguish the child who does know her math facts from the one who does not.

A third example has to do with reading comprehension.  It dates back to the 1980’s but illustrates that what is on an assessment and how it is asked can be used to manipulate and ‘direct’ a student’s thought processes.  I quote Dr. Peg Luksik who worked for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.  From her video :

‘A sample question said: “There’s a group called the Midnight Marauders and they went out at night and did vandalism. I (the child) would join the group IF…”

“…my best friend was in the group.”

“…my mother wouldn’t find out.”

There was no place to say they would not join the group. They had to say they would join the group.’

Dr. Luksik states that while this was listed as a citizenship assessment, the internal documents stated, “We’re not testing objective knowledge. We are testing and scoring for the child’s threshold for behavior change without protest.”

Additionally, Dr. Luksik discusses another state’s Reading Assessment question: “If you found a wallet with money in it, would you take it?”

She asked, ‘Do you read better if you say “yes”? Or do you read better if you say “no”? Or were they assessing a child’s honesty on a state assessment with their name on it…?’

Clearly, these are examples of assessment questions that were not assessing either citizenship or reading as you and I would define them.

And finally, before a single Utah student took the state’s SAGE assessment in 2014, the head of state assessments warned local school board members that student test scores were going to drop by 10 or 20 points.  He also stated there was no way to correlate the previous test results with the SAGE results.  So, how did he know this?  The point was they knew what the target proficiency rate was.  Utah was looking for a proficiency rate in the 40’s.  And as they went through the process of setting those proficiency scores, they did so after the first round of testing. Then they modified the scoring to make sure the result fell within that 40% range*.  So, in one year, did Utah kids lose 20 points of knowledge?  Or does it simply mean the Powers That Be decided only 40% of the kids got to be labeled ‘proficient’ regardless of what they actually knew?

The only sure way of knowing an assessment is truly measuring academic content and grading it appropriately requires transparency with the assessment questions, the assessment methodology, and independent verification procedures.

Instead of wondering how kids are doing on state assessments and whether a school is “good” based on the assessment scores, we need to be asking what are these assessments supposed to be measuring and how do we know they really are measuring what they claim?

*Alpine School Board Study Session Audio September 23, 2014, Additional Media->Study Session @ 45 minutes.


ACT Develops Social-Emotional Learning Assessment

Photo Credit: J. Sanna (CC-By-2.0)

ACT has developed its own social-emotional learning assessment for middle and high school students and officially jumps into the latest education fad.

Here’s the press release they sent this week:

IOWA CITY, Iowa—ACT today announced the launch of ACT Tessera, a comprehensive next-generation assessment system designed to measure social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. The new system will provide assessments for middle and high school students (grades 6-12), as well as actionable lesson plans for teachers looking to integrate SEL into their classrooms.

A growing number of research studies—including ACT’s own research—have confirmed that SEL skills, sometimes known as behavioral or noncognitive skills, are essential for success in education and career.

“ACT is committed to a holistic approach to measuring student readiness for success in college and career, and that is why we are launching ACT Tessera,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe. “SEL skills are important, are measurable and can be enhanced through evidence-based strategies. ACT Tessera will provide insights on SEL skills to students, parents and educators that will help students succeed.”

Based on the research-validated and widely adopted SEL factors, ACT Tessera measures six areas:

·       Tenacity/Grit

·       Composure/Resilience

·       Organization/Responsibility

·       Curiosity/Ingenuity

·       Teamwork/Cooperation

·       Leadership/Communication Style

“Research shows teachers believe programs in SEL are essential and investing in SEL programs can result in major long-term and economic benefits for society,” said ACT Vice President and Chief Scientist Rich Roberts. “ACT Tessera not only helps measure SEL skills, it delivers a Teacher Playbook with activities designed to help students develop and improve.”

A recently released research report from ACT confirmed the importance of SEL skills. The Importance of Behavioral Skills and Navigation Factors for Education and Work reported that both education and workforce professionals believe that these skills are critical for lifelong success.

The study examined survey responses from school teachers, college instructors and workforce supervisors across the nation regarding the importance of social and emotional learning skills.

Key findings included the following:

·       Behavioral skills are rated important in preparing students for college and workplace success by more than 80 percent of K-12 teachers, postsecondary instructors and workforce supervisors.

Behavioral skills are interpersonal, self-regulatory and task-related behaviors such as acting honestly, getting along with others, keeping an open mind, maintaining composure, socializing with others and sustaining efforts.

·       Navigation factors are viewed as important by nine in ten K-12 teachers and by around two-thirds of postsecondary instructors and workforce supervisors.

Navigation factors are defined as personal characteristics, processes and knowledge that influence people as they journey along their education and career paths, including self-knowledge, environmental factors, integration and managing career and education actions.

ACT Tessera, along with other ACT assessments solutions, align with the ACT® Holistic Framework. The Holistic Framework is a comprehensive, research-based framework that includes core academic skills, cross-cutting capabilities, behavioral skills and navigation factors across critical transitions that are considered essential for achieving education and career success.

Watch to see if your school starts using this particular assessment. As with any assessment, we encourage parents to opt your student out.

Alabamians Ask; Trump Administration Enables State Control of Assessments

Alabama State Department of Education Headquarters

Alabama Superintendent Sentance sent a letter June 1, 2017, to Acting Deputy Jason Botel of the United States Department of Education (USDE) on behalf of Alabama State Board of Education that requested to substitute other assessments for Aspire.  Superintendent Sentance also had a phone conversation with Mr. Botel and other officials from the USDE. The request was denied by USDE. Sentance then told the Alabama State Board of Education in regard to the waiver, “It was pretty clear right from the start the answer was going to be no.” The Alabama State Board of Education requested that Sentance make a more formal request from the USDE. Meanwhile, Stephanie Bell and other Board members appealed to Washington officials.

That’s when Alabamians began showing their support for the State Board’s position. On June 14, Eagle Forum in a memo to the Alabama Congressional delegation wrote:

 “….we need our Congressional delegation to intervene right away.  The State Board is facing a July 1 deadline to non-renew Aspire …Because Aspire claims to be aligned with Alabama College and Career Ready (Common Core) Standards, the continued use of Aspire will lock Alabama into the failing common core system that has resulted, for example, in our NAEP scores dropping from 25th and to dead last…”

This message went to key White House and USDE staffers as well as to influential Alabama constituents. On that same day, Congressman Brooks responded and immediately sent a letter to the USDE requesting that Alabama be granted flexibility in its choices in regards to assessments. And on June 15, Betty Peters published her article: “What Do the Feds Expect Us to Do Without ESSA Waiver?” The Alabama Congressional delegation was working toward releasing a joint letter to USDE officials the word came on June 19 that USDE would be allowing the waiver.

Subsequently, the Alabama State Board of Education voted unanimously on June 21, 2017, not to renew the contract with Aspire. No replacement assessment was confirmed by the Alabama State Board of Education.  Eagle Forum will continue at every opportunity to push for the restoration of local control and academic excellence in education.

Other states will want to follow Alabama’s example and pursue their own course under an administration that in Alabama’s case showed respect for local and state control of education.

Eunie Smith is the President of Eagle Forum and Deborah Love is the Executive Director of the Eagle Forum of Alabama.

Another Mess ESSA Made

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Jay Matthews writing at The Washington Post last week pointed out another problem the Every Student Succeeds Act caused for states and school districts.

How do you identify an ineffective teacher?

He writes:

In 2015 both parties in both houses of Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, now the primary federal statute on schools. It barred the U.S. secretary of education from telling states how to assess teachers. But in the spirit of confusing bipartisanship, the new law also insisted each state define what an ineffective teacher was and make sure there aren’t a disproportionate number of them teaching poor and minority children.

The new law embraced one of the great myths of 21st century American education: just identify the bad teachers, improve them or fire them, and all will be well.

Many people have believed versions of that, including me. But the past 10 years have shaken the faithful. Using test scores or even humans to assess teachers is too vulnerable to factors out of teachers’ control, such as poverty, curriculum, leadership or happenstance.

The assessments don’t consistently predict classroom success. Often they just drive serious educators crazy.

State governments have been fumbling, and in most cases avoiding, the federal requirement that they come up with a definition of ineffectiveness. In an incisive piece in Education Week, Daarel Burnette II pointed out that only 17 states have so far submitted plans under the law, and many of those have said little or nothing about what makes a bad teacher.

When Burnette and the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group, asked Michigan, for instance, about the lack of a definition in its plan, Michigan said, in effect, “Oops, we forgot,” and tried again.

States can’t win this game.

Any statement on ineffective teachers approved by the committees that do such things is going to be vague, unrealistic and annoying to our best educators.

Read the whole piece here.

Feds Dangle Money at States for “Enhanced Assessments”


The U.S. Department of Education has launched yet another competitive grant program, actually it is a renewal of a grant program they have had in the past called “Enhanced Assessment Grants.” Applications just became available yesterday. The deadline for states to announce to the Department their intent to apply is August 29, and the deadline for applications is September 22.

Here is the description of the program:

The purpose of the Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program, also called the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, is to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by States for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students. reports that it is to help decrease the amount of tests students take and improve the ones they do take.

New Jersey and other states will be eligible for $9 million in federal funding to study how to improve or reduce the number of standardized tests students take each year, White House officials announced Friday.

The “Enhanced Assessment Grants” competition is the second step in the Obama administration’s efforts to limit testing in public schools in response to parents and teachers who say standardized exams are taking up too much of the school year.

States will have until Sept. 22 to apply for money to help study how to improve, reduce or eliminate tests. The grants could be used to improve low-quality tests, upgrade scoring methods or eliminate redundant or unnecessary tests, federal officials said.

“We’re excited to see what states will create,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Here are the “absolute” priorities that the Department has set to be met before states are eligible for funding. States have to meet at least one or more of these priorities:

Absolute Priority 1—Collaboration.

Collaborate with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of State academic assessments beyond the requirements for these assessments described in section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB.

Absolute Priority 2—Use of Multiple Measures of Student Academic Achievement.

Measure student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.

Absolute Priority 3—Charting Student Progress Over Time.

Chart student progress over time.

Absolute Priority 4—Comprehensive Academic Assessment Instruments.

Evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments, such as performance- and technology-based academic assessments.

It seems we’ve gone down this road before. The major difference here, however, is that it does not call for states to join a consortium (mission accomplished there – well for a time at least due to Race to the Top). Here is the thing states should be doing this anyway. They shouldn’t need to mosey up to the federal feeding trough to innovate, and in doing so adopt the Fed’s priorities.

Since the federal funding is limited it’s unlikely a state will be competitive if they do not adopt all of the federal priorities when they submit their applications.


Education Voter Guide in Wisconsin 1st Congressional District Primary


Hey Wisconsin friends I just wanted to post a quick update tonight (normally don’t post on Saturday night, but this is rather timely). Stop Common Core in Wisconsin just released a voter guide comparing Speaker Paul Ryan and his challenger in the Republican Primary on Tuesday – Paul Nehlen.

Ryan doesn’t have education listed on his campaign website. He does have an education page on his congressional website. Nehlen has a comprehensive position statement on his campaign website.

The voter guide looks at government transparency, federal control of education, cementing Common Core, reducing education to workforce training, out-of-control assessment, data privacy and parental autonomy.

Be sure to check the voter guide out.

The Every Child Achieves Act Continues Test-based Accountability

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

The Senate bill to reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB), titled the Every Child Achieves Act (ECCA), was heard on the Senate floor this past week. Senator Lamar Alexander, a sponsor of the bill, argued that passage of his bill would go a long way towards ending the pain inflicted under NCLB and provide relief from the testing mania that has permeated schools. Yet, the bill does very little to change the current test-based accountability at the state level.  It retains the 17 NCLB mandated annual tests in grades 3-12 and the inclusion of student test performance on state assessments in state accountability systems.

After the last round of annual testing took over 12 hours to administer, concerns over the federally mandated tests (preserved in ECAA) have reach an all-time-high.  In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Alexander argued  that the current testing mania isn’t created by the federal requirement to take the tests, which he believes only take two hours out of the school year. The real culprit, he claimed, is NCLB’s requirement that student test scores are used as the basis of state accountability systems; it forces states and schools to over-test students in preparation for the high-stakes assessment. He continued that ECAA would end the test-driven culture caused by NCLB by allowing states to design their own accountability systems, thus relieving the pressure of a single test determining school performance.

The problem with this argument is that since the Obama Administration issued NCLB waivers in 2011, the NCLB accountability system referenced by Sen. Alexander hasn’t been used in 45 states. It is the new accountability system created under the waiver, not NCLB’s, that is currently exacerbating the amount of testing.

Under the waiver, states were allowed to develop “state-designed” accountability systems that included additional indicators, not just student test scores, in determining school performance. The hope was that this would stop the testing mania by relieving the pressure of having a single test score determine the school’s grade. Unfortunately, with these new accountability systems, the amount of instructional time lost to preparing students for state assessments has increased, not decreased, and states are experiencing the longest testing windows in history.

The “state-designed” accountability system prescribed by ECAA and touted by Sen. Alexander is very similar in structure to those required under the waivers; therefore, it is unclear why Sen. Alexander believes things will change.  Although ECAA allows states to use a variety of indicators in their overall state accountability system, such as school climate, attendance rates, etc., there is a catch — a big one.  When it comes to identifying low-performing schools — which is what schools fear the most and what drives test pressure — the state must use the same test-based indicators required under the waiver as a “substantial factor.” The additional indicators Sen. Alexander notes would be part of the state accountability system, but they wouldn’t be determining factors in identifying low-performing schools.

Below is a comparison of the high school indicators required under the waiver and the “substantial factors” required in ECAA:


  1. Student achievement on state assessments in math and English which includes a measure of student growth (based on state assessments)
  2. High school graduation rates
  3. A measure of College and Career Readiness — on track to graduate prepared for entry-level courses at the state’s public higher education institutions or the workforce with the need for remediation.


  1. Student achievement on state assessments in math and English which includes a measure of student growth (based on state assessments)
  2. High school graduation rates
  3. Progress of students on state assessments necessary “to graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for postsecondary remediation.” (based on state assessments)

Sen. Alexander doesn’t get it. His bill doesn’t offer states more flexibility where it counts, only more of the same test-driven policies enforced by the USED waivers. Regardless of the additional indicators ECAA would allow states to include in the overall accountability system, student performance on the state assessments will continue to drive how schools are identified as low-performing. 

If this bill were to be implemented, schools, teachers, parents, and students would come to unfortunate realization that nothing has changed; schools would still be tethered to the test. The only difference would be that it is the “state designed” accountability systems- not the U.S Department of Education- that are responsible.  In other words, when the inevitable complaints arise about the poorly constructed accountability systems, the U.S. Department of Education will, disingenuously, disclaim responsibility and leave the states holding the bag.

The Real Problems Federal Assessment Programs Imposed Upon Education

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

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

Once again the value of effective teaching assessments is being undercut by the problems typically created by an overbearing federal involvement defining teacher accountability.

Teachers, parents, and children want the benefits gained from quality assessment tools but they are running from tests that are being imposed upon the educational system today because they are typically unfair.

Relics like Marc Tucker who represent years of advocacy for federal control of our educational system have set the foundation for this debacle by continually supporting morphed versions of failed federal educational policies. The Tucker/federal solution is to eliminate or to transform testing materials rather than address federal overreach, the real problem facing the educational system. Tucker’s approach would remove accountability of federal policies.

The goal of using assessments to improve the educational system are reversed when the tests are too long, when the questions are too political or are irrelevant for determining mastery of a subject matter, or when testing standards are unfair. Federally created privacy issues are turning a supportive public against state and federally funded educational systems.

Tucker misses the point that each new federal program and each step away from local control of schools has historically resulted in a decline in academic progress. Citizens are furious and want federal overreach to stop. Tucker and other experts who earn their living through funding provided to support federal educational policies ignore the solutions for academic decline in America.

In an Educational Leadership article: “NEEDED: An Updated Accountability Model,” Tucker uses the growing number of teachers leaving the profession to justify eliminating accountability test. He explains that the decline in applicants to schools of education is in large part because testing fails to make education better.

As a teacher, I can assure Mr. Tucker that teachers are not leaving the profession out of fear of being held accountable. They are leaving because the federally defined accountability tools are unfair and destructive. This truth is often lost in the debate.

Teachers are leaving the profession because it is unreasonable to expect teachers to assure that every child functions at grade level when the classroom is comprised of students with many medically diagnosed disabilities which impact the speed of learning and with students whose IQs range from the 80s to well above 120.  Students with an IQ of 80 who work very hard may not make a full year of academic growth. Students with higher IQs should be expected to make more than a full year of academic growth.

No student with an IQ of 80 who has made eight months of academic growth should be considered a failure. To make that level of growth, both the student and the teacher had to work very and should feel successful. Current testing methods would define this teacher and student as failures. Federally aligned testing is not created to accomplish reasonable goals.

If the accountability expectations were individualized by student ability, the success of students and teachers would be more accurately defined. This should be the purpose of an assessment tool. When teachers feel that their efforts and successes can be fairly recognized, they will be more willing to stay in the profession and to apply to schools of education.

Teachers understand that research by Betts & Costrell in 2001 and Odden in 1995 indicates that well-structured testing tools provide students with sufficient information needed for them to set personal academic goals. Teachers are provided essential facts about the current level of understanding an individual student has about the subject being taught.  Teachers must have this level of information to know what needs a student has.

Parents need assessment results so they can accurately monitor their child’s academic progress, understand what their child needs, communicate those needs with the child’s teacher, motivate their child, and direct their home studies.

Quality testing tools are often essential to successful educational experiences for students. Federal involvement and the political and self-serving agendas of many educational experts has so thoroughly confused the debate that many teachers, parents, and students fear quality testing will be lost for many generations.

Data privacy is another issue acerbated by federally aligned testing.  Federal and state privacy laws are inadequate and cannot protect a child’s right to privacy. Their testing data will be shared with federal agencies and other educational entities. The federal government is trying to accumulate massive amounts of information on each citizen to be used for political and economic reasons. Parents and students do not want anyone to have access to early academic records. Students must have chances to make mistakes without fearing life-long consequences.

The real accountability issue is not the value of quality assessment tools. The real issue is that, once again, the federal government is interfering in local control of schools and imposing another federal program which will do more harm than good. Our children and the American educational system will suffer again. Parents can stop this federal overreach by taking back their schools at the local level.