Indiana’s Assessment Woes

Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Today’s editorial in The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette highlights the testing woes that Indiana currently faces.

An unsuccessful bidder is crying foul over the state’s award of a three-year, $43.5 million contract to the American Institutes for Research. Data Recognition Corp. claims the state’s assessment director, Charity Flores, had a conflict of interest. Between posts at the Indiana Department of Education, Flores was deputy director of content for Smarter Balanced, a partner to the winning vendor.

Chalkbeat Indiana reports that Data Recognition Corp. has protested the Indiana Department of Administration contract award, also challenging its validity on the grounds it violates the state’s prohibition on use of Common Core State Standards. Smarter Balanced is a state-led consortium created to develop the tests aligned to the Common Core standards. AIR serves as the testing platform for questions developed by the consortium.

The charges offer more evidence of a testing culture gone awry, with entanglements in the so-called “education reform” community compromising well-intentioned efforts to ensure school accountability. The time and money involved are growing along with the frustration for educators.

Data Recognition Corp brings up a good point. For a state that supposedly rejected Common Core (they rebranded it instead), it’s telling they select a vendor who will use questions from the Smarter Balanced test bank to develop Indiana’s new assessment.

So much for the repeal.

They offer a suggestion.

Indiana doesn’t have the option of eliminating testing because the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind, requires a statewide assessment. Nor would it want to eliminate testing, which serves as a check on school performance. But there’s tremendous flexibility with ESSA: States don’t have to administer a major summative test each spring – they can use smaller interim assessments and also evaluate students through portfolios or projects.

I can’t think of a state that is doing that. It would be interesting to see a state take that recommendation and put it in their ESSA accountability plan to see what kind of feedback they receive from the U.S. Department of Education.

Indiana Talk Show Host Greg Garrison Blasts Common Core

Greg Garrison was on fire during his Friday radio show on WIBC, blasting the Common Core as a federal intrusion. In his usual, colorful style he said the standards ”stunk to high heavens of federal intervention, with the kookiest people in the world making the plans.”

He took the time to read a piece by Terrence Moore, ”Will Indiana Cut and Paste its Way to Common Core,” which posted on the Library of Liberty and Law site that morning. Garrison echoed the sentiments of Moore asking:

“Are these people really in charge of our children’s education?”

His answer was yes, and they have been for awhile. He called upon Governor Pence to step up and fix what many have already reported as a rebranding of Common Core Standards into Indiana’s “new” standards. His message was to reject the Common Core and return to a quality education, it isn’t too late. He no longer buys the talking points being offered by “conservatives” claiming the benefits of uniform standards.

“I may have been asleep at the switch on Common Core, and not as harsh of a critic on academic standards as I should have been. I should have said more than I did, put my nose more into the Common Core, but better late than never.” He’s now on the warpath.

Welcome to the party, Mr. Garrison, happy to have a reputable man on board!

Comparing Indiana's "New" K-12 Math Standards with Common Core

Hoosiers Against Common Core has released the side by side comparison of the new Indiana math standards to the Indiana 2009 standards and the Common Core. (LINK PROVIDED AT BOTTOM OF POST)

The comparison was performed by Ze’ev Wurman who served on the highly acclaimed California mathematics standards committee and is a former Us Department of Education employee. His comparison shows what many in the press have reported; the majority of the standards have been imported, some word for word, from the Common Core.

The most shocking difference is the number of standards added in the draft. It is a clear move away from the practice of fewer, clearer and deeper. The new math standards have over 455 standards in grades K-8, the Common Core only had 314. The highly acclaimed Indiana math standards from 2009 only had 171 standards in these grades.

The analysis shows that most all of the Common Core standards are included in the new draft, even those which were hotly protested by parents and teachers. The inclusion of over 141 new standards masks the percent of Common Core standards that were included in the new draft. While some correctly claim the new standards are only 60% Common Core, it doesn’t mean they cut out 40% of Common Core content, the new draft has been bloated with additional standards to offset the fact that close to 90% of the Common Core is included in the new draft.

HERE ARE HIS FINDINGS: This short document will focus on the K-8 standards. Just to mention it briefly, the high school standards are extremely numerous and suffer from much of the same bloat mentioned below. They do include more advanced content than the Common Core does – specifically, more trigonometry, statistics, and calculus – yet those additions still seem insufficient for a complete calculus course, to give an example.

The first thing that jumps out is how numerous the standards in this draft are. They sometimes seem slimmer than they are because most of examples and ancillary text were omitted, yet if one counts them it is clear that they represent the return to the mile-wide and inch-deep standards. This is the result of keeping almost all Common Core standards in this draft, and piling on top of them multiple additional standards, taken mostly from the 2009 Indiana draft standards, as well as from other sources. Counting only the content standards and not the process standard, we see:

Standard Set K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Common Core 25 24 28 37 37 38 47 43 36
Ind. 2014 draft 33 35 41 59 57 62 45 54 41
Ind. 2009 draft 12 13 15 17 18 17 23 27 29

It is clear that the drafters added a lot and took out very little. Consequently this draft suffers from a large bloat.

The second thing that jumps out is the addition of a ninth “Mathematical Process” standard. The Common Core has eight of them and they are left unchanged in the draft, yet another one was added: Use technology strategically. This may seem innocuous, yet one needs to ask oneself why this was done. After all, one of the existing eight process standards already says “Use appropriate tools strategically,“ so the addition may seem unnecessary. Yet for all those who believe that students should have calculators in their hands from Kindergarten and on, the Common Core was disappointing – it essentially banished calculators from K-8 and into high school. For them, the addition of this standard probably signals that calculators are back on in K-8 Indiana schools. Otherwise it is difficult to understand why it was added.

With regard to content, the picture is more mixed. There have been some improvements, but most of the problems with Common Core were left in place, and in some cases made worse.

The draft seems to have made some improvement by filling a few major holes in Common Core such as:

Conversion among fractions, decimals, and percent was forgotten in CC and now has been restored to grade 6: “Convert between any two representations (fractions, decimals, percent) of positive rational numbers without the use of a calculator.”
CC barely touched on primes and completely forgot about prime factorization. This draft adds important content about primes and prime factorization, although very late in grade 7 rather than in grade 4-5 where it belongs.

The draft also moved a handful of content ahead of the Common Core, which is a welcome change as Common Core was unreasonably delaying it. Some examples:

That the angles in a triangle sum up to 180 degrees was moved from grade 8 to grade 6.
Studying the area of a triangle has been moved to grade 5 from grade 6.
Percent is now introduced in grade 5 instead of grade 6 in Common Core.

Yet the list of good news is relatively short. Common Core’s method of studying geometry based on transformations (moves, rotations andflips), an experimental method that was unsuccessful and quickly abandoned in the few places it had been tried, is still the preferred method of this draft in grade 8 and high school.

This draft also abandoned one of the better things in Common Core, the deferral of standards on data display and probability to later elementary grades, a path that the Indiana 2009 also took. Instead, this draft suggests adding dozen of data analysis and probability standards in elementary grades that greatly contribute to this draft’s bloat.

Common Core already delayed fluency with arithmetic by a year or more as compared to international high achievers, and expected fluency with addition and subtraction of integers in grade 4, with integer multiplication in grade 5, and with integer division and four operations with decimals in grade 6. This draft does not expect fluent addition and subtraction in grade 4 (one of the few Common Core standards it did not adopt), limits grade 5 fluent multiplication only to two-digit whole numbers, and limits the sixth-grade division and operation on decimals to positive numbers only.

In other words, this drafts dumbs further down the already low expectation of Common Core for arithmetic fluency. To make things worse, it is also not explicit about the need to learn standard arithmetic algorithms and instead confounds the expectations further by throwing “making estimates” into the arithmetic fluency capstone standards.

Not only is the fluency with arithmetic delayed, but the draft preserves the many wrong-headed Common Core standards that insist ad nauseam in early grades on students to learn arithmetic “using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationships,” which only encourages students to explore multiple approaches that are bound to confuse them, rather than focus on quickly learning one standard arithmetic set of processes to mastery and then being able to focus on learning deeper content.

In summary, this draft did not focus strongly enough on improving the glaring weaknesses of Common Core standards but instead made minor (and sometime negative) changes, and piled a whole lot of new content on top of already massive Common Core. The draft is more bloated than the Common Core, and immeasurably more bloated than the 2009 Indiana draft.
To come up with a good, focused, and coherent set of standards will take much more effort than dump a pile of additional standards on top of the Common Core with little rhyme and reason.

See the side by side comparison here:

Math K-5: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Art9aV2–zmvdFJES2x5Q1FxVzJPUzNHYUVoNGNSV1E&usp=sharing

Math 6-8: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7t9aV2–zmvb1FMS1FhNmJjUHM/edit

Math 9-12: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7t9aV2–zmvZ2p6ZkFndjdOa2s/edit?usp=sharing

Indiana Pulling Away From PARCC

indiana_flag_mapIndiana is reducing its participation with PARCC.

State Impact Indiana reports:

As a governing state in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Indiana gets a seat at the table. But no one from the Department of Education has attended a PARCC governing board meeting since Superintendent Glenda Ritz took office in January.

That tracks with what Ritz told StateImpact last week about participation in PARCC and Smarter Balanced, the other consortium writing tests for the Common Core.

“We will not be participating in consortiums that decide for us the cost of the test, the questions on the test, the cutoffs,” she says. “Indiana will be doing that on its own.”

Ritz says her office scaled back involvement in the PARCC consortium after state lawmakers voted to pause rollout of the Common Core pending a legislative review. HB 1427 also bars the State Board of Education from ceding control of standards or assessments to outside entities.

Ritz has expressed interest in Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium so Indiana could choose between the better of the two assessments as North Dakota is doing.

I don’t see how that would keep Indiana from not participating in consortium that decides cost, questions, and cutoffs.  They would just be deciding which of the consortiums would be dictating that to the state.

Indiana’s Common Core Pause Law Isn’t Complex

GlendaRitz1

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz

State Impact Indiana reports that there was a push for 2nd Graders to be under the Common Core State Standards since they were rolled out for Kindergarten and First grade last year.

This is even after the Common Core pause bill was passed and signed into law.

Elle Moxley writes:

After state lawmakers passed a complex bill pausing Common Core rollout in Indiana, Supt. Glenda Ritz says it was up to her office to decide what academic standards second grade teachers would use in the fall.

Kindergarten and first grade teachers in Indiana are already teaching the Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Second grade teachers were to make the switch during the 2013-14 school year.

But guidance from the Indiana Department of Education issued last month says teachers in every grade except K-1 should continue teaching the old Indiana academic standards in tandem with the Common Core.

“Implementation-wise, really the only decision that I made — and I did make it, and I take responsibility for it — is that Grade Two will not be implementing fully Common Core,” Ritz said Tuesday, speaking at a Indiana Youth Institute conference for postsecondary school counselors. “The reason for that is very clear because we won’t have an assessment for them when they’re third graders. I refuse to not align standards and assessments for the little ones.”

Earlier in the day a handful of teachers affiliated with the education advocacy group Stand for Children invited a half-dozen reporters to Ritz’s statehouse office, urging the state superintendent to allow implementation of the Common Core to continue.

Umm… earth to Glenda Ritz and Stand for Children.  What decision?  Glenda Ritz does not have the authority to override the legislature and Governor Pence.  The law says to pause implementation, so the implementation is paused.  What reality are these folks living in?

It isn’t “complex,”  it may seem like a pain for those who were preparing to implement it, but you can’t ignore state law because it’s inconvenient.

Pending Amendment to Indiana SB 193 Requires Public Input on Common Core

Joy Pullman writing for the Heartland Institute’s School Reform News reported that Senate Bill 193 in Indiana has “morphed” into a bipartisan bid to have Indiana reconsider the Common Core allowing more public input.

When 46 states signed the initiative in 2010, few held public hearings. Kentucky even agreed to adopt the requirements for what K-12 kids should know in English and math before they were published. Even now, nearly three years later, legislators, teachers, parents, and the general public routinely report in interviews and opinion polls they’ve never heard of the Core.

Lack of public input is a central concern of state Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), Senate Bill 193’s original author….

…A Senate Education Committee vote on SB 193 was scheduled for Jan. 23, but has been moved back several times and now is slated for Feb. 13. The delays reflect a pending amendment to the bill “to make it more acceptable to a greater number of members on the committee,” said Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn).

Once senators pin down the amendment, the bill will likely put the Common Core on hold in Indiana, Kruse said. That means it would stay in place for kindergarten and first grade, where the state has already phased it in. Between the bill becoming law and the end of 2013, it would have the state department of education hold one public hearing in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts. The bill would also require the governor’s budget office to analyze the Core’s costs to the state over the next five years. After that, the bill may require the Education Roundtable, a board under the governor’s purview, and state board of education to publicly reconsider their 2010 decision.

“More people are aware of [Common Core] now than the first time around,” Kruse told School Reform News. “So even though groups may try to approve it again, we’ll have more people involved in the decision.”

Newly elected state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat and former teachers union president, has signaled her support for SB 193 based on concerns she’s heard from teachers, administrators, and parents around the state, said Indiana Department of Education spokesman David Galvin.

Read the rest.

Glenda Ritz’ Opposition to Common Core Highlighted

Since Glenda Ritz is now the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect she’ll need to be reminded of what she wrote prior to her election on November 7th.  This is one of the primary reasons Tony Bennett lost.

Erin Tuttle at Hoosiers Against Common Core highlighted her position statement:

Common Core Standards must be re-evaluated.
Indiana had exceptional standards before Common Core. The Indiana Department of Education, and its Board, must re-evaluate Common Core Standards to determine what parts of Common Core we will accept or reject and determine which of our current Indiana standards should be retained to create the best K-12 standards for our children.

We must end our relationship with PARCC.
Dr. Bennett and Governor Daniels signed a contract that obligates Hoosier taxpayers to a consortium of twenty-three states, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. PARCC will determine the high-stakes student assessments for the Common Core and impact the accountability and performance of our educators, schools and our communities. Our students must not be forced into a regimented curriculum and assessment system that PARCC determines.

A return to local control of our schools.
Hoosiers, not a consortium of twenty-three states or the Federal government, must determine the vision for our students’ learning opportunities so that they are better able to compete in the global marketplace.

I know she holds other positions that I personally disagree with, but the three points she laid out here is the path that every state that has embraced the Common Core State Standards should take.  Re-evaluate the Common Core, and I would add let the State Legislatures do it.  End the relationship with the PARCC or SBAC depending on what state you live in.  Return to local control.

Now when Ritz takes office Hoosiers will have the opportunity to hold her accountable to take steps in the that direction.

Indiana Education Chief Admits Obama Hijacked Common Core

Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, was cornered at a Tea Party gathering in Indiana last week.  Russ Pulliam, blogging at the Indianapolis Star gives an account of the exchange:

Bennett is usually locked in debates with advocates for traditional approaches to public education. But this argument was different. Bennett played defense on behalf of a set of academic standards called the Common Core, which many tea party advocates see as yet another example of the federal government’s overreach.

The temperature in the room rose as Bennett took one question after another from the audience at the White River Yacht Club. He contended that the Common Core is a state-driven initiative, but one that was hijacked by the power-hungry Obama administration.

“I’m a strong conservative and I believe in states’ rights,” he told the gathering of about 100 tea party members.

Bennett pointed out that the Common Core’s standards originated with the National Governors Association, and were intended for voluntary adoption by states. Then, according to Bennett, Obama nationalized the standards and has tried to use federal clout to force the Common Core on the states.

“This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” he said. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”

So shouldn’t this be a reason to pull out of the Common Core?  Buck the trend, preserve federalism, show other states that Indiana can produce standards of their own without Arne Duncan breathing down their neck?

I’m reminded of a letter I was shown sent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to State Senator Mike Fair.  Senator Fair has worked diligently trying to rid South Carolina of the Common Core State Standards.  In it Governor Haley wrote:

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality, and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them.  Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states.  Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support your efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt the common core standards.

Dr. Bennett, are you saying there isn’t enough knowledge, talent and experience within the state of Indiana to develop standards for the Hoosier state that makes sense for Indiana’s kids?  Governor Haley understands that even ceding control to the consensus of other states is not practicing fidelity to federalism.  It’s time for you to understand that as well.

Pull Indiana out of the Common Core State Standards or at the very least let elected officials who are accountable to the citizens of Indiana decide whether or not it is the right course to pursue.