Will the SAT become Rhode Island’s high school “exit exam”?

Check out the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) website and you’ll see that they proudly declare that;

Rhode Island has implemented a statewide diploma system to ensure access for all middle and high school students to rigorous, high quality, personalized learning opportunities and pathways.

An announcement about the details surrounding the “new diploma system” is expected later this fall, now that the public comment process on the proposed regulations has concluded (Rhode Islanders had until September 15, 2016 to weigh in on the propose changes).

Earlier this month, pro-education reform governor Gina Raimondo, whose husband is part of the education reform and charter school industry, announced that she was “open” to using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SAT testing scheme as a graduate requirement in Rhode Island.

As numerous academic studies have revealed, grade point averages, not standardized test scores are the best predictors of college success.

In fact, these studies show that the SAT correlates with the income of the student’s parents and does not predict how a student will do in College.

Over the last few years, more than 850 colleges and universities have decided not to require applicants to even provide SAT scores and this list includes well over 180 “top-tier” universities and colleges.

But defending her indefensible position, Governor Raimondo claimed that the NEW SAT was better because it was aligned to the Common Core, a statement that indicates how little the governor understands about the shortcomings associated with the Common Core and its Common Core testing scheme.

Rhode Island state officials had already announced plans to drop the requirement that students pass the Common Core PARCC tests in order to graduate, a decision they reached based on the evidence that the PARCC test is not an appropriate indicator of what the child has been taught or whether they are college ready.

Why Governor Raimondo is “open” to the use of the SAT is a sad reminder about the level of ignorance on the part of some elected officials in this country.  It is also an indicator that far too many officials see students are little more than profit centers for the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

For-profit K12 Inc. virtual charter school giant claims Common Core testing could hurt its profitability???

Education Reform Speak is hard enough to understand, but when K12 Inc., the large online virtual school vendor, sought to warn investors about the dangers of the Common Core — a concept proposed and driven by the corporate education reform industry —the resulting explanation was nothing short of bizarre.

Here, K12 Inc. uses it 2015 Annual Report to explain how the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme puts the company’s profits at risk.

A big kudos to any reader who can figure out what K12 means in the following paragraph, which is taken directly from the company’s most recent annual report. Note the wording that the problem apparently lies in that many states are implementing the common core but failing to use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and PARCC testing programs.

FROM K12 INC. 2015 ANNUAL SHARHOLDER REPORT;

The transition to Common Core State Standards and Common Core Assessments could result in a decline in state test scores that might adversely affect our enrollment and financial condition

“Many states have adopted the CCSS, also known as the College and Career Readiness Standards, but are not choosing to use the assessments developed by two national testing consortia that align with the CCSS Curriculum.  Instead, these states are electing to use existing or state-developed assessments to evaluate student performance.  As a result, it has been reported in many states that students learning under the CCSS but continuing to be tested under the existing state proficiency tests have experienced sharp declines in test results.  As managed public schools we serve [to] undertake this transition, and given the growing number of at-rick students enrolling in these schools, perceived academic performance could temporarily or permanently suffer such that these schools may become a less attractive alternative, enrollments could decline, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively impact.

K12, inc. 2015 Annual Report, Page 42

#Hashtag# – And education reformers want us to hand our children off to these people?

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

The colossal and disastrous effort to privatize public education in the United States is alive and well thanks to a plethora of billionaires who, although they’d never send their own children to a public school, have decided that individually and collectively, they know what is best for the nation’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

From New York City to Los Angeles and Washington State to Florida, the “billionaire boys club,” as Diane Ravitch, the country’s leading public education advocate, has dubbed them, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars via campaign contributions, Dark Money expenditures and their personal foundations to “fix” what they claim are the problems plaguing the country’s public schools.

These neo-gilded age philanthropists claim that the solution is for parents, teachers and education advocates to step aside so that the billionaires and their groupies can transform public education by creating privately owned and operated – but taxpayer funded – charter schools.

In addition, they pontificate that students learn best when schools are mandated to use the ill-conceived Common Core standards so classrooms become little more than Common Core testing factories and the teaching profession is opened up to those who haven’t been burdened by lengthy college based education programs designed to provide  educators with the comprehensive skill sets necessary to work with and teach the broad range of children who attend the country’s public schools.

The billionaire’s proclaim that the solution to creating successful schools is really rather simple.

They say that public schools run best when they are run like a business…

Cut through their rhetoric and the billionaires want us to believe that by introducing competition and the concept of “profit” they can turnaround any school, no matter the challenges it or its students may face….

Privatization, they argue, will lead to greater efficiencies while opening up the public purse to those who have products that they seek to sell to our children and our public schools.

And, the billionaires would have us believe, that the best teachers are those who get five weeks of training via a high-profile Teach for America program and are then thrown into the classroom where they, like all teachers, should be evaluated based on how well their students do on those unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core standardized tests.

Like the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about more than 55 years ago, the billionaires, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies want us to believe that providing children with the skills and knowledge to succeed and prosper in the 21st Century is nothing more than an opportunity to “wage war” and make money, all at the same time.

And who are these billionaires?

They are the self-professed greatest names in the United States.

The following is a partial and growing list of the super elite who deem to dabble in remaking our public schools.

Or as they would put it, blessed are the wealthy for they shall reform our public schools, with or without our consent.

First Name Last Name Net Worth Relationship with Corporate Education Reform and Charter School Industry (Partial list) How They got their billions
John Arnold $2.5 B Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, EdVoice, New Teacher Project Hedge Fund Owner – Centaurus Advisors LLC
Louis Bacon $1.9 B StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Moore Capital Management
Steve Ballmer $23.5 B Stand for Children, Major Dark Money Donor Microsoft CEO
William Berkley $1.1 B Achievement First, Inc. WR Berkley Corporation Founder Chairman CEO – insurance sports and entertainment companies
Michael Bloomberg $40 B Leadership for Educational Equity, Teach for America, Stand for Children, New Leaders for New Schools, California Charter School Advocates, Major Dark Money Donor Co-founder, Bloomberg LP Owner, former Mayor of New York City
Eli Broad $7.3 B The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, EDVoice, California Charter School, Cuomo Donor, Malloy Donor, Major Dark Money Donor Sun Life Insurance Company of America – (Retired)
Steve Cohen $12.7 B Steve and Alexandra Cohn Foundation, Harlem Children’s Zone, Achievement First, NE Charter School Network, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – SAC Capital Advisors
Ray Dalio $15.6 B Dalio Foundation, Teach for America, Hedge Fund Owner – Bridgewater Associates Owner Founder – hedge
Elizabeth DeVos $4.7 B DeVos Family Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Federation for Children, Stand for Children, All Children Matter, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Major Dark Money Donor Amway Owner Co-Founder – Orlando Magic NBA Team Owner
John Doerr $4.1 B New Schools Venture Fund, EdVoice, Venture Capitalist – Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byera
Stanley Druckenmiller $4.4 B Children’s Scholarship Fund, Hedge Fund Owner – Duquesne Capital – Retired
David Einhorn $1.4 B Democrats for Education Reform, Hedge Fund Owner – Greenlight Capital
Doris Fisher $2.6 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Co-Founder
John Fisher $2.2 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Silicon Valley Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Heir Owner – Oakland Athletics Owner
Bill Gates $75 B Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Microsoft Chairman
Reed Hastings $1.2 B KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, California Charter School Association, Major Funder Netflix Co-Founder Facebook Board Member
H Wayne Huizenga $2.6 B National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA) for-profit charter school management organization, Stand for Children Investor, Waste Management- Blockbuster Video – AutoNation – Swisher Hygiene
Ray Lee Hunt $5.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Hunt Oil Co-Owner Heir – son of founder H L Hunt – oil
Carl Icahn $17 B Icahn Charter Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Icahn Enterprises Owner
Charles Johnson $4.6 B Charles and Ann Johnson Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Education Reform Council Chairman, Franklin Resources – Owner of San Francisco Giants
Paul Tudor Jones III 4.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, Cuomo Donor Hedge Fund Owner – Tudor Investment Corporation
Bruce Karsh $1.9 B KIPP Foundation, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – Oaktree Capital Management
Seth Klarman $1.3 B Families of Excellent Schools, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Baupost Group Investments
Charles Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
David Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore, ,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
Bruce Kovner $5.3 B Thomas T Fordham Institute (former), Bronx Preparatory Charter School, Hedge Fund Owner – Caxton Associates
Kenneth Langone $2.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Harlem Children’s Zone, Republicans for Cuomo Home Depot Co-Founder
Daniel Loeb $2.6 B Success Academy, Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Third Point LLC
Stephen Mandel Jr $2.5 B Teach for America, Excel Bridgeport, Hedge Fund Owner – Lone Pine Capital
Robert McNair $3.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Chairman, McNair Group
Rupert Murdoch $10.6 B Amplify News Corporation Founder Chairman, CEO
Laurene Powell Jobs $16.7 B NewSchools Venture Fund, Teach for America, Apple-Pixar Owner
Thomas (Margot) Pritzker $2.7 B University of Chicago Charter School, Pritzker Organization Chairman CEO – Hyatt Hotels Corp Executive Chairman
Penny Pritzker $2.3 B Noble Charter Schools, Hyatt Hotels Heir –
Larry Robbins $2 B KIPP New York, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America New York, Harlem Village Academies, Harlem Children’s Zone Hedge Fund Owner -Glenview Capital Management
Julian Robertson Jr $3.6 B Robertson Foundation, Pave Charter Schools, Families for Excellent Schools, iMentor, Teach for America, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Tiger Management Corporation
Stacy Schusterman $3.4 B Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Stand for Children, Teach for America Samson Investment Company (oil & gas)
Charles Schwab $5.4 B Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Teach for America, Aspire, KIPP Foundation, Charles Schwab Corp Founder
Paul Singer $2.2 B Paul Singer Family Foundation, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Elliott Management Corporation Founder Owner – distressed debt acquisitions
Christy Walton $5.2 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir-Widow of John-who was son Of Founder Sam Walton
Jim Walton $33.6 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Youngest Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Alice Walton $32.3 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Daughter of Founder Sam Walton
Carrie Walton Penner (S Robson) Walton $31.9 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Sam Zell $4.8 B Zell Family Foundation, Teach for America Equity Group Investments Chairman -real estate – private equity
Mark Zuckerberg $44.6 B Zuckerberg Foundation, Newark Project Facebook Chairman CEO

 

 

NEWS FLASH – Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

Despite the rhetoric, promises and hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds, a stunning assessment of the data reveals that the Common Core PARCC test DOES NOT successful predict college success.

The utter failure of the PARCC test reiterates that the same may be true for those states that have adopted the Common Coe SBAC testing scheme.

Here is the news;

The Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure (By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto)

The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”

In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.

William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “

This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the variance in first year college GPA.  SIXTEEN PERCENT!  And that was the most highly correlated aspect of PARCC.  PARCC’s ELA tests have a correlation coefficient of 0.17, which squared is .02. This number means that the variance in PARCC ELA scores can predict only 2% of the variance in freshman GPA!

Dr. Mathis notes that the PARCC test-takers in this study were college freshman, not high school students. As he observes, the correlations for high school students taking the test would no doubt be even lower. (Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)

Dr. Mathis is not an anti-testing advocate. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the state of New Jersey, Director of its Educational Assessment program, a design consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for six states.   As managing director for NEPC, Dr. Mathis produces and reviews research on a wide variety of educational policy issues. Previously, he was Vermont Superintendent of the Year and a National Superintendent of the Year finalist before being appointed to the state board of education. He brings expertise to the topic.

As Mathis points out, these invalid tests have human costs:

“With such low predictability, you have huge numbers of false positives and false negatives. When connected to consequences, these misses have a human price. This goes further than being a validity question. It misleads young adults, wastes resources and misjudges schools.  It’s not just a technical issue, it is a moral question. Until proven to be valid for the intended purpose, using these tests in a high stakes context should not be done.”

PARCC is used in  New Jersey, Maryland and other states, not Connecticut. So why write about this here, where we use the SBAC?

The SBAC has yet to be subjected to a similar validity study.  This raises several questions.  First and most important, why has the SBAC not be subjected to a similar study? Why are our children being told to take an unvalidated test?

Second, do we have any doubt that the correlations between SBAC and freshman college GPA will be similarly low?  No- it is more than likely that the SBAC is also a poor predictor of college readiness.

How do we know this? The authors of the PARCC study shrugged off the almost non-existent correlation between PARCC and college GPA by saying the literature shows that most standardized tests have low predictive validity.

This also bears repeating: it is common knowledge that most standardized tests cannot predict academic performance in college.  Why , then, is our nation spending billions developing and administering new tests, replacing curricula, buying technology, text books and test materials, retraining teachers and administrators, and misleading the public by claiming that these changes will assure us that we are preparing our children for college?

And where is the accountability of these test makers, who have been raking in billions, knowing all the while that their “product” would never deliver what they promised, because they knew ahead of time that the tests would not be able to predict college-readiness?

When then-Secretary Arne Duncan was pushing the Common Core State Standards and their tests on the American public, he maligned our public schools by declaring: “For far too long,” our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” He proclaimed that with Common Core and the accompanying standardized tests, “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable to giving our children a true college and career-ready education.”

Mr. Duncan made this accusation even though there was a mountain of evidence proving that the best predictor of college success, before the Common Core, was an American high school GPA.  In other words, high schools were already preparing kids for college quite well.

With the revelations in this PARCC study and the admissions of its authors, we know now that it was Mr. Duncan and his administration who were lying to parents, educators, children and taxpayers. Politicians shoved the Common Core down the throat of public schools with the false claim that this regime would improve education.  They forced teachers and schools to be judged and punished based on these tests.  They told millions of children they were academically unfit based on these tests. And now we have proof positive that these standardized tests are just as weak as their predecessors, and cannot in any way measure whether our children are “college-ready.”

The time is now for policymakers to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of school hours, on a useless standardized testing scheme;   and to instead invest our scarce public dollars in programs that actually ensure that public schools are have the capacity to support and prepare students to have more fulfilling and successful lives.

BREAKING NEWS – Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

Stunning assessment of the data reveals Common Core test not a successful predictor of college success.

What does this mean for Connecticut and other SBAC states?

Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure – By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto

The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”

In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.

William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “

This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the variance in first year college GPA.  SIXTEEN PERCENT!  And that was the most highly correlated aspect of PARCC.  PARCC’s ELA tests have a correlation coefficient of 0.17, which squared is .02. This number means that the variance in PARCC ELA scores can predict only 2% of the variance in freshman GPA!

Dr. Mathis notes that the PARCC test-takers in this study were college freshman, not high school students. As he observes, the correlations for high school students taking the test would no doubt be even lower. (Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)

Dr. Mathis is not an anti-testing advocate. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the state of New Jersey, Director of its Educational Assessment program, a design consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for six states.   As managing director for NEPC, Dr. Mathis produces and reviews research on a wide variety of educational policy issues. Previously, he was Vermont Superintendent of the Year and a National Superintendent of the Year finalist before being appointed to the state board of education. He brings expertise to the topic.

As Mathis points out, these invalid tests have human costs:

“With such low predictability, you have huge numbers of false positives and false negatives. When connected to consequences, these misses have a human price. This goes further than being a validity question. It misleads young adults, wastes resources and misjudges schools.  It’s not just a technical issue, it is a moral question. Until proven to be valid for the intended purpose, using these tests in a high stakes context should not be done.”

PARCC is used in  New Jersey, Maryland and other states, not Connecticut. So why write about this here, where we use the SBAC?

The SBAC has yet to be subjected to a similar validity study.  This raises several questions.  First and most important, why has the SBAC not be subjected to a similar study? Why are our children being told to take an unvalidated test?

Second, do we have any doubt that the correlations between SBAC and freshman college GPA will be similarly low?  No- it is more than likely that the SBAC is also a poor predictor of college readiness.

How do we know this? The authors of the PARCC study shrugged off the almost non-existent correlation between PARCC and college GPA by saying the literature shows that most standardized tests have low predictive validity.

This also bears repeating: it is common knowledge that most standardized tests cannot predict academic performance in college.  Why , then, is our nation spending billions developing and administering new tests, replacing curricula, buying technology, text books and test materials, retraining teachers and administrators, and misleading the public by claiming that these changes will assure us that we are preparing our children for college?

And where is the accountability of these test makers, who have been raking in billions, knowing all the while that their “product” would never deliver what they promised, because they knew ahead of time that the tests would not be able to predict college-readiness?

When then-Secretary Arne Duncan was pushing the Common Core State Standards and their tests on the American public, he maligned our public schools by declaring: “For far too long,” our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” He proclaimed that with Common Core and the accompanying standardized tests, “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable to giving our children a true college and career-ready education.”

Mr. Duncan made this accusation even though there was a mountain of evidence proving that the best predictor of college success, before the Common Core, was an American high school GPA.  In other words, high schools were already preparing kids for college quite well.

With the revelations in this PARCC study and the admissions of its authors, we know now that it was Mr. Duncan and his administration who were lying to parents, educators, children and taxpayers. Politicians shoved the Common Core down the throat of public schools with the false claim that this regime would improve education.  They forced teachers and schools to be judged and punished based on these tests.  They told millions of children they were academically unfit based on these tests. And now we have proof positive that these standardized tests are just as weak as their predecessors, and cannot in any way measure whether our children are “college-ready.”

The time is now for policymakers to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of school hours, on a useless standardized testing scheme;   and to instead invest our scarce public dollars in programs that actually ensure that public schools are have the capacity to support and prepare students to have more fulfilling and successful lives.

The fraud of computer scoring on the Common Core exams

Leonie Haimson is one of the nation’s leading public education advocates.  She leads the group Class Size Matters, is the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education.

As part of their effort to raise awareness about the problems associated with the Common Core testing schemes – PARCC and SBAC- NPE and public education advocates released the following report:

Note to Connecticut readers:  Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education has failed to respond to multiple requests for clarification about how the SBAC essays written by Connecticut students are being scored!

The fraud of computer scoring on the Common Core exams  (From Leonie Haimson)

On April 5, 2016 the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Parents Across America, Network for Public Education, FairTest and many state and local parent groups sent a letter to the Education Commissioners in the PARCC and SBAC states, asking about the scoring of these exams.

We asked them the following questions:

  • What percentage of the ELA exams in our state are being scored by machines this year, and how many of these exams will then be re-scored by a human being?
  • What happens if the machine score varies significantly from the score given by the human being?
  • Will parents have the opportunity to learn whether their children’s ELA exam was scored by a human being or a machine?
  • Will you provide the “proof of concept” or efficacy studies promised months ago by Pearson in the case of PARCC, and AIR in the case of SBAC, and cited in the contracts as attesting to the validity and reliability of the machine-scoring method being used?
  • Will you provide any independent research that provides evidence of the reliability of this method, and preferably studies published in peer-reviewed journals?

Our concerns had been prompted by seeing the standard contracts that Pearson and AIR had signed with states. The standard PARCC contract indicates that this year, Pearson would score two thirds of the students’ writing responses by computers, with only 10 percent of these rechecked by a human being. In 2017, the contract said, all of PARCC writing samples were to be scored by machine with only 10 percent rechecked by hand.

NPE1

 

 

 

 

 

This policy appears to contradict the assurances on the PARCC scoring FAQ page that says:

Writing responses and some mathematics answers that require students to explain their process or their reasoning will be scored by trained people in the first years.”

On another Pearson page, linked to from the FAQ, called “Scoring the PARCC Test”, the informational sheet goes on at great length about the training and experience levels of the individuals selected for scoring these exams (which is itself quite debatable) without even mentioning the possibility of computer scoring. In fact, we can find nowhere on the PARCC website in any page that a parent would be likely to visit that makes it clear that machine-scoring will be used for the majority of students’ writing on these exams.

In an Inside Higher Ed article from March 15, 2013, Smarter Balanced representatives said that they had retreated from their original plans to switch rapidly to computer scoring, “because artificial intelligence technology has not developed as quickly as it had once hoped.” Yet the standard AIR contract with the SBAC states calls for all the written responses to be scored by machine this year, with half of them rechecked by a human being; next year, only 25 percent of writing responses will be re-checked by a human being.

In both cases, however, for an additional charge, states can opt to have their exams scored entirely by real people.

The Pearson and AIR contracts also promised studies showing the reliability of computer scoring. After we sent our letter and a reporter inquired, Pearson finally posted a study from March 2014. The SBAC automated scoring study is here. Both are problematic in different ways.

According to Les Perelman, retired director of a writing program at MIT and an expert on computer scoring, the PARCC/Pearson study is particularly suspect because its principal authors were the lead developers for the ETS and Pearson scoring programs. Perelman observed, “it is a case of the foxes guarding the hen house. The people conducting the study have a powerful financial interest in showing that computers can grade papers.” Robert Schaeffer of FairTest observed that:

“The PARCC report relies on self-serving methodology just as the tobacco industry did to ’prove’ smoking does not cause cancer.”

In addition, the Pearson study, based on  the Spring 2014 field tests, showed that the average scores received by either a machine or human scorer were:

“Very low:, below 1 for all of the grades except grade 11, where the mean was just above 1.” This chart shows the dismal results:

NPE2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given the overwhelmingly low scores, the results of human and machine scoring would of course be closely correlated in any scenario.

Les Perelman concludes:

“The study is so flawed, in the nature of the essays analyzed and, particularly, the narrow range of scores, that it cannot be used to support any conclusion that Automated Essay Scoring is as reliable as human graders. Given that almost all the scores were 0’s or 1’s, someone could obtain to close the same reliability simply by giving a 0 to the very short essays and flipping a coin for the rest.”

As for the AIR study, it makes no particular claims as to the reliability of the computer scoring method, and omits the analysis necessary to assess this question.

As Perelman observes:

“Like previous studies, the report neglects to give the most crucial statistics: when there is a discrepancy between the machine and the human reader, when the essay is adjudicated, what percentage of instances is the machine right? What percentage of instances is the human right? What percentage of instances are both wrong? … If the human is correct, most of the time, the machine does not really increase accuracy as claimed.”

Moreover, the AIR executive summary admits that “optimal gaming strategies” raised the score of otherwise low-scoring responses a significant amount. The study then concludes because that one computer scoring program was not fooled by the most basic of gaming strategies, repeating parts of the essay over again, computers can be made immune from gaming. The Pearson study doesn’t mention gaming at all.

Indeed, research shows it is easy to game by writing nonsensical long essays with abstruse vocabulary. See for example, this gibberish-filled prose that received the highest score by the GRE computer scoring program. The essay was composed by the BABEL generator – an automatic writing machine that generates gobbled-gook, invented by Les Perelman and colleagues. [A complete pair of BABEL generated essays along with their top GRE scores from ETS’s e-rater scoring program is available here.]

In a Boston Globe opinion piece , Perelman describes how he tested another automated scoring system, IntelliMetric, that similarly was unable to distinguish coherent prose from nonsense, and awarded high scores to essays containing the following phrases:

“According to professor of theory of knowledge Leon Trotsky, privacy is the most fundamental report of humankind. Radiation on advocates to an orator transmits gamma rays of parsimony to implode.’’

Unable to analyze meaning, narrative, or argument, computer scoring instead relies on length, grammar, and arcane vocabulary to assess prose. Perelman asked Pearson if he could test its computer scoring program, but was denied access. Perelman concluded:

“If PARCC does not insist that Pearson allow researchers access to its robo-grader and release all raw numerical data on the scoring, then Massachusetts should withdraw from the consortium. No pharmaceutical company is allowed to conduct medical tests in secret or deny legitimate investigators access. The FDA and independent investigators are always involved. Indeed, even toasters have more oversight than high stakes educational tests.”

A paper dated March 2013 from the Educational Testing Service (one of the SBAC sub-contractors) concluded:

“Current automated essay-scoring systems cannot directly assess some of the more cognitively demanding aspects of writing proficiency, such as audience awareness, argumentation, critical thinking, and creativity…A related weakness of automated scoring is that these systems could potentially be manipulated by test takers seeking an unfair advantage. Examinees may, for example, use complicated words, use formulaic but logically incoherent language, or artificially increase the length of the essay to try and improve their scores.”

The inability of machine scoring to distinguish between nonsense and coherence may lead to a debasement of instruction, with teachers and test prep companies engaged in training students on how to game the system by writing verbose and pretentious prose that will receive high scores from the machines. In sum, machine scoring will encourage students to become poor writers and communicators.

Only five state officials responded to our letter after a full month.

Dr. Salam Noor, the Deputy Superintendent of Oregon, Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson of Massachusetts ,  Henry King of the Nevada Department of Education and Dr. Vaughn Rhudy from the Office of Assessment in West Virginia informed us that their states were not participating in automated scoring at this time. Wyoming Commissioner Jillian Balow also replied to our letter, saying that she shared our concerns about computer scoring, and that Wyoming state was not using the SBAC exam as we had mistakenly believed.

In contrast, Education Commissioner Richard Crandall responded to local parent activist Cheri Kiesecker that Colorado would be using computer scoring for two thirds of students’ PARCC writing responses:

Automated scoring drives effective and efficient scoring of student assessments, resulting in faster results, more consistent scoring, and significant cost savings to PARCC states. This year in Colorado, roughly two-thirds of computer-based written responses will be scored using automated scoring, while one-third will be hand-scored. Approximately 10 percent of all written responses will receive a second hand scoring for quality control.”

He added that parents would never know if their child’s writing was scored by a machine or a human being, because different items on each individual test sheet are apparently randomly assigned to machines and humans.

On April 5, 2016, the same day we sent the letter, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner spoke publicly to the state’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education  about the automated scoring issue. He claimed that:

the research indicates that the technology can score extended student responses with as much reliability – if not more reliability – than expert trained teacher scores …..” (Here’s the video, watch from about 11 minutes on)

He repeated this astonishing claim once again – that the machines outperform even most highly trained experienced teachers:

The research has … not just looked at typical teacher scores but expert trained teacher scores and then compared the automated scoring results to the expert trained teacher scores and the results are either as good or if not…better….”

This is appears on the face of it an absurd claim. How can a machine do better than an expert trained teacher in scoring a piece of writing?

Wagner went on to insist that:

“SAT GRE GMA, those kinds of programs have been doing this stuff for a very long time.”

Yet as we have seen, the GRE scoring method is unable to distinguish nonsense from meaningful prose. And to its credit, the College Board uses trained human scorers exclusively on writing samples for the SAT and AP exams.

The following 18 states and districts have failed to respond to our letter or those of other parents as to whether they are using computers to score writing samples on their PARCC and SBAC exams: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, ID, IL, LA, MD, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NM, ND, SD, VT, and WA.

The issue of computer scoring — and the reluctance of the states and companies involved in the PARCC and SBAC consortia to be open with parents about this—is further evidence that the ostensible goal of the Common Core standards to encourage the development of critical thinking and advanced skills is a mirage. Instead, the primary objective of Bill Gates and many of those promoting the Common Core and allied exams is to standardize both instruction and assessment and to outsource them to reductionist algorithms and machines, in the effort to make them more “efficient.”

Essentially, the point of this grandiose project imposed upon our nation’s schools is to eliminate the human element in education as much as possible.

As a recent piece by Pearson on Artificial Intelligence (or AI) argues:

“True progress will require the development of an AIEd infrastructure. This will not, however, be a single monolithic AIEd system. Instead, it will resemble the marketplace that has developed for smartphone apps: hundreds and then thousands of individual AIEd components, developed in collaboration with educators, conformed to uniform international data standards, and shared with researchers and developers worldwide. These standards will enable system-level data collation and analysis that help us learn much more about learning itself and how to improve it.

If we are ultimately successful, AIEd will also contribute a proportionate response to the most significant social challenge that AI has already brought – the steady replacement of jobs and occupations with clever algorithms and robots. It is our view that this phenomena provides a new innovation imperative in education, which can be expressed simply: as humans live and work alongside increasingly smart machines, our education systems will need to achieve at levels that none have managed to date.”

Here, Pearson appears to be suggesting that the robust marketplace in data-mining computer apps supplied with artificial intelligence will lead to a proliferation of jobs for ed tech entrepreneurs and computer coders, to make up for the proportional loss of jobs for teachers. This provides further evidence that their ultimate goal as well of their allies in foundation and the corporate world is to maximize the mechanization of education and minimize the personal interaction between teachers and students, as well as students with each other, in classrooms throughout the United States and abroad.

More information about the lack of evidence for machine scoring is in this issue brief here. If you are a parent from one of these states: please send in your questions, especially bullet points #1 to #3 above. The email addresses of your State Commissioners are posted here. And please let us know if you get a response by emailing us at [email protected].

Moving The Goal Post (By Ann P. Cronin)

Educator and education blogger Ann Cronin has a powerful piece on the corporate education reform industry’s fixation on measuring “student achievement.”  She takes on the education reformers’ notion that turning students into data points is the best vehicle for providing children with the comprehensive education they need to live more fulfilling lives.

You can read Ann Cronin’s great columns at http://reallearningct.com/.

In Moving The Goal Post, Cronin writes;

How do we measure student achievement?  By its standardized test scores or by something else? And what is the relationship between student achievement and the economic strength of a nation?

Arne Duncan, when he was Secretary of Education, spoke about the achievement of South Korean students, as measured by standardized tests, and advocated that the United States follow the South Korean approach to education so that our students can achieve as the South Korean students do on those standardized tests. A recent (March 15, 2016) letter to the editor inEducation Week described how the South Korean students achieve those high test scores.

Here is that letter:

South Korea’s ‘Top Performance’ Numbers Should Not Be Applauded

To the Editor:

As a student from South Korea who is now studying in the United States, I find it surprising that many people here applaud the South Korean education system. The Center on International Education Benchmarking lists South Korea as a “top performer,” and even Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education, has asked why the United States can’t be more like South Korea. As a recent Commentary argued, the United States should not blindly applaud and emulate countries that perform well on international assessments.

I want to share what South Korea’s high performance on these assessments is not telling you.

First, beyond South Korea’s impressive scores on international exams, there are unhappy, sleep-deprived, and suicidal South Korean students. South Korean students report levels of happiness that are among the lowest for youths in developed nations. High school students report sleeping an average of 5.5 hours per day in order to study. Alarmingly, slightly more than half of South Korean teenagers reported having suicidal thoughts in response to a 2014 poll conducted by the country’s Korea Health Promotion Foundation; over 40 percent of the respondents listed academic pressure and uncertainty over their futures as their greatest concern.

Second, South Korea’s high scores are a reflection of private tutoring rather than the public education system itself. About 77 percent of South Korean students participate in an average of 10 hours of private tutoring a week. This percentage is more than double the average rate of private tutoring in countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2013, South Korean parents paid the equivalent of $18 billion for private tutoring in order to give their children a competitive advantage.

Moreover, in the education system where high performance is all that matters, struggling students as well as students with disabilities are often neglected and left behind.

Thus, no matter how high the country ranks on international tests, our seemingly impressive test scores come at too high a price.

As a South Korean, I call on the world to see what is beyond my country’s high scores on international assessments. Until South Korea addresses its pressing educational issues, such as student well-being, reliance on private tutoring, and support for students with disabilities, the country should not be considered a model system for the United States.

April B. Choi
Cambridge, Mass.

I would bet that most of us are not willing to pay the price that the South Koreans are paying for their children to get high scores on standardized tests.

The good news for the United States, which never scored at the top of the pack in the 50 years there have been international standardized tests, is that standardized are not important. Standardized tests measure only one thing: the ability to take a standardized test. And that is a skill rapidly going out of vogue because that skill does not equip students for the world of work they will enter. The world of work in our postindustrial era demands other skills. The current time in history and the decades that stretch ahead are described in the report as the Conceptual Age. That age requires skills such as designing, making meaning, creativity, problem-solving, and developing new ideas and artifacts.

The even better news for the United States is that the kind of education that our students need and which will engage their minds and touch their souls is exactly the kind of education that will make our country economically strong in this Conceptual Age. They need to learn to question and to explore those questions. They need to learn how to learn. They need to learn how to collaborate so that they deepen and broaden their individual thinking through interaction with others. They need to learn to tell the stories of their past learning and to tell the stories of what has not yet been imagined. The need to learn to tap into their own creativity and their own passion.

Arne Duncan was wrong. John King is wrong. U.S. education policy is wrong. High standardized test scores are not a worthy goal.  We will harm the minds and deplete the souls of our precious children if we stick with emulating South Korea. We will head for economic peril as a nation if we do not create a different kind of education, one that can never, ever be measured by standardized tests.

It’s time for a change. Let’s get on it.

As Malloy claims ELA Performance Task not useful his lies and deception about the Common Core SBAC test catch up to him

Earlier today, Governor Dannel Malloy held a media event at a Cromwell Connecticut elementary school to announce his new step to “REDUCE STATE TESTING.”

The press release headline proclaimed:

New Step to Limit Smarter Balanced Exam Builds on Effort  to Help Districts Spend Less Time Testing and More Time Teaching

In reality, the Malloy administration’s entire maneuver was nothing be a farce designed to, once again, mislead Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme, and the fact that the tests are wasting millions of dollars in scarce public resources and turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

You can read more about this late breaking development at Malloy’s Strategy on Common Core SBAC Test – Look busy and make sh*t up

By pulling aside the curtain or blowing away the smokescreen the truth become very clear;

Today Malloy and his administration proclaimed:

“When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers, and families.”  Governor Dannel Malloy 2/25/2016

And

“By rightsizing the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Connecticut’s needs, we are not only saving time and money, but we are improving the teaching and learning process.  “Assessments are important tools that help us deliver on our promise to our kids and ensure that we are holding all of our students to high standards.” Commissioner Dianna Wentzell 2/25/2016

So what is really going on?

The Common Core and the Common Core testing system was developed in conjunction with the federal government and a series of major foundation’s created by the country’s billionaires and super-wealthy.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds that were “contributed” by the federal government, the Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation, Broad Foundation and a variety of other similar groups “invested” hundreds of millions of dollars more to design, develop and sell the Common Core and the Common Core testing program to an unsuspecting public.

With the help of the National Governor’s Association and dozens of organizations that were paid by the Gates Foundation to sell the Common Core, the corporate education reform industry proclaimed that their new educational system would transform the nation’s schools and ensure that every child was “College and Career” ready.

With every passing day, it is becoming increasingly apparent that “education reform” isn’t about providing children with the quality education they need and deserve to live more fulfilling lives in the 21st Century, but a way for the individuals and companies associated with the education reform movement to get rich off taxpayers at the national, state and school district level.

In response, the politicians who brought the nation education reform are spinning out of control as they try to rewrite history and duck responsibility for their own actions.

Today – Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s “major announcement” – is a quintessential example of just how deceitful politicians can be.

After being one of the most outspoken governor’s in the nation in favor of the Common Core and its associated testing craze, Malloy’s announcement that he was “rightsizing” the Common Core SBAC test by eliminating the requirement that students take the English Language Arts (ELA) Performance Task section.  The move would reduce the ten to twelve hour Common Core test by as much as an hour and forty-five minutes.

To reiterate, Malloy pontificated;

“When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers, and families.”  

So according to Governor Malloy, the English Language Arts (ELA) Performance Task “won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality.”

For six years the Malloy administration, including both his first and second Commissioners of Education, have been active members of the steering committee responsible for creating and rolling out the Common Core SBAC tests.

Now they say the English Language Arts Performance Task is unnecessary.

And what has the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium saying about the English Language Arts Performance Task section of the test?

Smarter Balanced assessments will go beyond multiple-choice questions to include extended response and technology enhanced items, as well as performance tasks that allow students to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Performance tasks challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to complex real-world problems.  (Smarter Balanced Consortium Website)

[The ELA Performance Tasks] are meant to measure capacities such as depth of understanding, writing and research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with traditional assessment questions. (Smarter Balanced Consortium Website)

This approach represents a significant improvement over traditional paper-and-pencil assessments used in many states today, providing more accurate scores for all students across the full range of the achievement continuum. (Smarter Balanced Consortium Website)

Performance Tasks for English Language Arts

Measure complex assessment targets, Demonstrate ability to think and reason, Higher-order skills, Produce fully developed writing or speeches, Provide evidence of college and career readiness. (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s English Language Arts Performance Task Training Module)

Guidelines for Performance Tasks

Integrate knowledge and skills, Measure understanding, research skills, analysis, and the ability to provide relevant evidence, Require student to plan, write, revise, and edit, Reflect a real-world task, Demonstrate knowledge and skills, Allow for multiple points of view, Feasible for classroom environment. (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium PowerPoint)

So, after years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium Assessment organization claims that the ELA Performance Task is a vital, critical, and essential part of the test to determine if a child is on route to be “college and career ready.”

But today, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration announced that the English Language Arts Performance Task section of the Common Core SBAC test can be dumped because;

“When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers, and families.”

Go figure.

Again, You can read more about Malloy’s now policy at Malloy’s Strategy on Common Core SBAC Test – Look busy and make sh*t up

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

A growing number of parents (and educators) understand that the Common Core standardized testing frenzy is bad for students, teachers and public schools.

Recognizing that they have a fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests, hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have been opting their child out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State last year, nearly a quarter of a million parents opted their children out of that state’s Common Core testing farce.

While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration misleads, lies and threatens parents, teachers and school administrators in an unethical attempt to derail the opt out movement in the Constitution State; public officials in other states actually take action to respect the will of their constituents.

For example, in Montclair, New Jersey the Board of Education approved, on a vote of 6 to 0, a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the testing program and directing the “Montclair School District to provide an alternative learning plan for children whose parents have refused for them to take the [Common Core] PARCC tests.

In response to that plan, parents in Montclair received the following letter yesterday, January 14, 2016;

Dear Parents/Guardians/Caregivers:

As you know, the New Jersey Department of Education requires all students to take state assessments. There is no provision for a student to opt-out of statewide assessments. However, last year the Montclair Board of Education passed a resolution allowing the district to create a plan for students not taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) according to their parents’ request.

The district procedures for parental refusal of standardized testing are as follows:

All parents/caregivers must notify the school principal by March 1 using the attached form or this link that his/her child will not be participating in the scheduled statewide assessment. A separate form is required for each child. The electronic PARCC Opt-Out form will automatically be submitted to the district and your school principal(s).

We are also including a form for your use in opting out if you do not have access electronically.

Please fill out a separate form for each child and return to your respective school principals by March 1.

Sincerely,

Ron Bolandi

Interim Superintendent

In Montclair, New Jersey parents can opt their children out of the Common Core testing by simply providing their child’s name, school, grade and signing a statement which reads

“I attest that I am the parent of this student and by typing my initials in this box I consent to my student opting out of all PARCC assessments during the 2015-2016 school year.”

Connecticut parents can see what they are missing by clicking on Montclair, NJ Parental Opt-out form;

Imagine, public officials who actually respect and stand up for the rights of their constituents.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and their State Department of Education are not only misleading, lying and bullying Connecticut parents, but they are engaged in an orchestrated effort to punish the school districts and local taxpayers in communities in which parents refuse to allow their children to participate in the Common Core SBAC scam.

See:  Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

Malloy and Wyman’s failure to act means that the responsibility now rests with Connecticut’s legislators and local boards of education.

It is time for Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials to do the right thing and stop undermining Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and public schools.

The first step is ensuring Connecticut’s parents have the same rights as parents in Montclair, New Jersey.

A heart wrenching story from a teacher in Tennessee.  Could have been Connecticut or anywhere…

Read the story posted by a Tennessee teacher yesterday.  Then convert what will undoubtedly be your sadness and anger into action.

Election Day 2016 is just over 11 months away.

This time, use your vote to slap back the testing mania and the unprecedented attack on our students, their teachers, the teaching profession and our public schools.

Before you vote, demand that every incumbent explain what they have done to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the destructive agenda.

Before you vote, demand that every candidate outline what they will do to put the concept of “public” back into public education.

No votes until they reduce the use of inappropriate standardized testing, no votes until they ensure that teacher evaluation program don’t rely on the use of those unfair standardized test results and no votes for those who have become lackeys for the effort to privatize public education.

Voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

The Tennessee teacher’s powerful expose was re-posted by Connecticut educator and fellow bloggerPoetic Justice who is “A poetry teacher defending ALL students and their families.” You can find and comment on the original post at: A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

Yesterday, I quit.  In the middle of the school year, I quit.  After fourteen years in education, I quit.  I.  Quit.  Quitting isn’t something I do, particularly when children are involved, so this is still quite difficult to think or talk about.  It might seem an abrupt decision to some, but for those that know me well, you know this is something I have flirted with for a few years now.  I think it started about five years ago…

I was teaching in an inner-city school in Memphis.  I loved my principal.  I loved my kids.  I loved teaching.  Now, of course, there were issues.  Too much paperwork.  Not enough hours in the day.  Uninvolved parents.  Disobedient children.  District mandates that made no sense.  Still, overall, I was happy being a teacher.  I knew that I would either drop dead teaching or they would have to roll me out in a wheelchair.  It was what I wanted to do forever.  Then, the evaluation process for teachers dramatically changed.  Now, our students’ standardized test scores would become part of our evaluation. As I saw this change coming, I decided that I could help this process along by taking more of a teacher leader role.  So, I applied and became the instructional facilitator for the school where I had taught for the past 6 years.  In this role, I hoped to coach, mentor, and support teachers.  After all, that was a large part of that job description.  In reality, very little of my time was able to be spent doing that.  What did take up a large amount of my time was being my school’s test administrator.  I had experience with testing and the strict guidelines that go along with them, as all teachers do.  However, as test administrator, I was now responsible for reporting my teachers if they did not follow those guidelines.  The stress and worry of that prospect was just too much for me.  I had become an enforcer of a practice I didn’t even believe in.  I couldn’t do this to my teachers, so I left the position after two years and went back to the classroom.

I decided to try a different setting.  Middle school math.  My first year back in the classroom was blissful.  I loved my co-workers.  I loved the diversity of the school.  I loved teaching one subject all day.  Then, we started testing.  And the testing was even more frequent last year.  And now, three months into the school year, I’m certain we have tested more so far than we did all last year combined.

So, I quit.  I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test.  I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.  They can get someone else to do that.  It will kill my teaching soul to do it even one more time.  Like all teachers, I have kids that read below grade level.  I can’t help them though.  I also have students that have only been in the country a few months.  I can’t help them though.  I even have students who don’t know our alphabet because their language is different than ours.  I can’t help them though.  And bless their hearts, they do it because I ask them to.  Most of them would do absolutely anything I asked.  They trust me and believe that what I am asking them to do is what is best for them.  I mean that’s why I spent weeks building connections with them at the beginning of the year.  I want them to trust me.  I rarely have discipline issues.  We are too busy and engaged in the lesson to get off task.  However, after testing kids for two weeks straight, they were done.  You cannot expect struggling students to engage in an activity that is so above their instructional level for an extended amount of time without eventually seeing their behavior change.  It is too frustrating for them!  I could tell that those two weeks broke the bond that I had built with some of my most challenging students.  They just didn’t trust me anymore.  That goes against every single thing inside me that led me to become a teacher in the first place.  And to be quite honest, it broke my heart.  I recently saw a post where someone described teaching as an abusive relationship.  You love it, but it makes you so unhappy.  I get that.  It does feel that way.

So, I quit.  I wrote a resignation letter giving my 30-day notice and gave it to my principal on a Monday morning.  I told him, both of my assistant principals, and my instructional facilitator that day.  With each time I told my story, I cried.  They didn’t try to stop me.  They didn’t make me feel guilty.  They were kind and understanding.  They know.  I’m sure they feel like quitting sometimes, too.  They aren’t the problem.  I slowly told my co-workers, friends, and family.  Everyone that knows me well said to do it.  Every single educator said they understood and would do it too if they could.  Every.  Single.  One.  I’m not married.  I don’t have kids.  I don’t have a mortgage.  I don’t have a car note.  I have more freedom to do this than most.  Because of that, I can’t be quiet about this.  I need to speak for those that don’t have the option to bow out.

My first step was sending the following letter home to all my students’ parents:

November 24, 2015

Dear Parents,

I regret to inform you that today is my last day as your child’s math teacher at #####.

I want you to know that this decision was not easy for me.  I will fill you in on why I am leaving, but first I will tell you what absolutely did not have anything to do with me leaving.  First, your children are not why I’m leaving education.  They are, in fact, the only reason I have any apprehension about this decision.  This, of course, will be most difficult for them.  I have talked to them about this and they handled it like rock stars, but please talk to them about it when they get home.  Adult decisions are often hard for anyone to understand, especially children.

Secondly, the administration at ##### is not why I am leaving.  I have felt nothing but supported by my administrative staff this school year.  I believe they have the best interest of your children in mind.  If I was going to teach anywhere, it would absolutely be at #####.

Finally, the teachers at ##### are not why I am leaving.  I have worked with many teachers over the past 15 years.  The teachers at ##### are some of the best I have ever seen.  In a profession where you are often blamed more than revered, I admire their willingness to keep waking up each day and choosing to keep going for their students.  Please continue to support the teachers at #####.  They need it, but more importantly, they deserve it.

Now…here is why I am leaving.

For the past five years, I have seen the testing of our students become more frequent and more frustrating for all those involved.  I absolutely hate having to stand before my kids and tell them they have to take another test.  It kills a little bit of my teaching soul each time I have to do it.

I spend so much time having to test them that I have little time to teach them, much less listen and talk to them.  So far this year, I have given my students the following tests: iStation Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), iReady Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), MAP Test (given in ELA, Math and Science), and the MIST test (given in ELA, Math, and SS).

These are just the tests that are mandated by the district or state.  We also give pre- and post-Common Formative Assessments at the school level.  Why all the testing these days?  The following is a post I saw online that explains it perfectly.  I’m not sure who posted it originally, so I am unable to give credit.  “The feds require annual testing for accountability. This translates into the BIG test that every state has (In Tennessee this is what we refer to as TCAP, now TNReady…more about that later).  However, the stakes are so high for that test, that states require additional “practice” tests.  But, the results of the state tests are used to threaten districts that are “failing”.

So the districts require “benchmark” tests, to make sure the students are ready for practice tests.  Individual schools and administrators are held accountable for their scores on the benchmarks, so they also impose building-level tests.  The result is non-stop testing.”

Back to TNReady.  This is the new state test that students will be taking this year in place of TCAP.  TNReady is a computer-based test and will be given in February and April.  Because it is taken on the computer, testing schedules will disrupt our regular schedule more than just a week like we were accustomed to under TCAP.  If that isn’t bad enough, the test is just down-right confusing.  You can read a blog post about it and take some practice questions here:http://www.mommabears.org/blog/alarming-info-about-tnready-testing-bomb.  Additionally, the blog post by State Representative Andy Holt shows you exactly how this is being handled by those in power in Tennessee: http://www.andyholt4tn.com/holt-what-tn-teachers-parents-should-know-about-standardized-tests/.

I urge you to become familiar with what is going on in education and make your voice heard about what is best for your child.  You can do this by contacting your school board members, representatives and senator.  And vote every single time.  It does make a difference.

So, back to my leaving.  I have to try to fight this somehow.  I’m not sure how I will go about that yet.  I guess this is my first step.  I do know that I can no longer be the messenger of something that I believe is harmful to my students.  That is exactly the opposite of why I became a teacher in the first place.  I am meant to help, support, empower, and praise children.  Under this current testing culture, I am simply helping to hurt them and that just isn’t who I am.

In closing, I am going to miss my kids so much.  I can barely think of it without crying.  However, I hope they eventually look back at this time and realize that I stood up for something I believed in even though it was a very, very difficult choice.  When they are faced with standing up for something they believe is wrong, I hope they are strong enough to do so.  It isn’t easy, but I think we all need a little more of that in our world.

My next step?  Not sure yet.  I do know that it is a disgrace that we are allowing companies from the testing industry to make millions of dollars off the abuse of our public education system.  Not only are we killing the spirits of students who want to learn, but we are also killing the spirits of teachers that want to make a life-long career of this.  I’m not the first one to give up and I certainly won’t be the last.  In 10-20 years, we are going to look back at this time in education and be very ashamed of what we have allowed to happen.

Finally, please hope and pray that my kids get a qualified teacher quickly. One that isn’t jaded by the system, that loves them in spite of their challenges, and has the strength to withstand the foolishness that educators endure.  I couldn’t be that for them anymore and the grief that causes me is suffocating at times.  I will miss them every day.  This quote helps when the feelings become overwhelming, “Be OK with not knowing for sure what might come next, but know that whatever it is…you will be OK”.

Remember, voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.