Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CJWE/WWH Ed Beat: Testing, Testing, Testing, Testing...

CJE/WWH Ed Beat: Testing, Testing, Testing, Testing...


Resistance Grows:
The folks at the invaluable resource and cite for vital, critical information,, publish weekly links to sites where teachers and students are contesting the high-stakes testing regimes of the official Accountabilists --who, interestingly, never seem to have to face the kinds of evaluations which they foist upon teachers and students. Last week's bulletin contained reports from Florica, Chicago, Georgia, DC, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, and California, and highlights efforts to de-escalate the testing madness which imposes huge costs on students and teachers alike for "failing" to successfully pass what are essentially busy-work assignments.


Do-It-Yourself Testing:
A middle-school student in DC has taken the bit in her teeth to craft a test of her own which would replace the blizzard of "officially mandated" tests that kids have flung at them by the Accountabilists.
A 13-year-old eighth grader in upstate New York woke up on Sunday and decided that it would be funny if she designed a standardized test that made fun of standardized tests. (See below) After all, Sophia Stevens was getting ready to take one of the state’s new Common Core-aligned standardized tests on Tuesday, so the subject was on her mind...She designed a mini eighth-grade reading test, complete with tips on taking the test, a complete reading passage and multiple choice questions to answer.
You may read and consider the justice of her claims in the linked article and take the 8th Grade reading test she devised. The kid's got a future...


News out of Florida underscores how bizarre are the testing and teacher-accountability standards, where teachers are being "evaluated' on the trest-scores of students' they've never taught.
And teachers' UNIONS are taking the matter to Court. Last week:
...The National Education Association and the Florida Education Association filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Florida and three local school boards. It challenges the evaluation of teachers based on standardized test scores of students they don’t teach or based on subjects they don’t teach. According to a NEA release, “teachers who are rated unsatisfactory (the lowest of the four performance ratings under the law) two consecutive years or two out of three years in a row are subject to termination or non-renewal.” In turn, teachers’ transfers, promotions, and layoffs are based on the rating. Starting July 1, 2014, salaries will be based on the assigned performance rating.
Who but teachers are "evaluated" for their "competency" on the basis of criteria over which they have absolutely NO control? Evaluating teachers' performance on the bases of test-scores of kids they don't teach, in subjects they don't teach.


Custodians, Too:
The WaPo reported last week that--until just this year--custodial staff in 'at risk' schools were evaluated in part based on the test scores of the students in their schools
Until this year, Washington D.C.’s IMPACT evaluation system, begun under former chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2009, linked student standardized test scores to the evaluations of D.C. school custodians....D.C. officials really thought linking a custodian’s performance evaluation to student test scores would “instill a sense of teamwork among all staff?” And they thought this for years?
Meanwhile, the District  continues to find new ways to link teacher evaluations to test scores.
For example, educators of really young children — who are not old enough to take the D.C. Comprehensive System exams which are the basis of the school system’s test-based accountability system — are still judged on standardized tests, just not the DC CAS.

In re, Rhee:
A well-meaning friend came upon this propaganda piece from the afor-mentioned former DC Schools commissioner Michelle Rhee which illustrates how 'reasonable' this particular brand of gibbering codswallop can sound. The Vid's over an hour long, and is so full of utter, debunked crap that only the bravest souls should probably risk exposure.Meanwhile: The evidence cvontinues to mount that Rhee's so-called "miracle" with the DC schools was a product more of public relations smoke-and-mirrors than of the result of any serious efforts to actuall;y reform the schools. "...Rhee guilty of egregious negligence..." reads the headline in this recent assessment of Rhee's DC career. Her hallmark program puts in the hands of dissident parents a trigger to cause certain "reforms" to be instituted, whether they're educationally or pedagogically warranted or effective.
Rhee continues to claim innocence regardless of the evidence piling up against her.  If she was aware of high erasure rates in her school system and didn’t call for a thorough investigation (only 60 people were interviewed), like Governor Perdue of Georgia had (Perdue hired special investigators, who interviewed 2,000 people to get to the bottom of the Atlanta cheating scandal), then she is guilty of egregious negligence.
We do know that Rhee was very aware of the meaning of high-stakes testing and the implications for advancing her agenda.  After giving a speech in Minnesota in November 2011, she stated emphatically, “I thought at the time that if we produced outsized results, people would want us to continue[.] … I was absolutely wrong. People cared more about the processes.”  Yes, processes do matter, Ms. Rhee.
If Rhee’s intention was to get “outsized results” quickly, then the cheating scandal makes sense.  Principals and teachers would be under the gun to increase scores.  Rhee did reward some principals and teachers with bonuses based on those increases.  If she knowingly paid educators for improved scores which may have come from illegally changing test answers, she would be facing the same consequences as Beverly Hall in Atlanta.

Systemic Collapse at CUNY:
The nation's fourth-largest public university system, with 272,000 students and a $2.6 billion budget, CUNY is on the rocks because so many of its student applicants require "remediation in basic scholastic subjects, mainly "reading" and math. According to the Village Voice, "...New York City officials openly admit that a high school diploma earned in our public schools today does not mean that a student is ready for college. In fact, 80 percent of New York public school graduates who enrolled in City University of New York community colleges last fall still needed high school level instruction—also known as remediation—in reading, writing, and especially math." The need for remediation imposes a huge financial and structural burden on the system, in which The Voice reported:
 Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY's Professional Staff Congress, traces a line from what is happening at the Department of Education to what is now happening at CUNY. A widening gap is opening between aspiration and reality, as both high schools and colleges pursue better-looking statistics. "Many of the agendas that we have seen driving the so-called reform movement in K-12 education are now showing up in higher ed," says Bowen. At the same time, she continues, "we see a nationwide refusal to invest in education. It's very dramatic at CUNY: a 40 percent drop in state funding per student over the last 20 years. In this context of low investment, the drive for completion is going to lead to cutting corners and offering less as one way to speed students to graduation."

More Common Corpse:
New York City apparently has fallen prey to the same idiocies which afflict other, lesser mortals, imposing standards, and testing them, before the "reforms" are even proven effective, according to a report in The Economist:
"Why has New York decided to subject students to these exams well before the standards have been fully implemented in the classrooms?"
The answer is quite simple - the powers that be have a political agenda that they want to push through all at once that has nothing to do with helping students or teachers

They want, as Rick Hess noted here, to show suburban parents that their public schools are failing as much as they say urban schools are.

They want to convince the public that this is the fault of "bad teachers" and "failing schools" and fire the former while closing the latter.

They are using the new Common Core tests with the ramped-up difficulty and the new teacher evaluation system known as APPR that ties evals to test scores as their weapons against schools and teachers.

They claim these radical changes are actually to help students and teachers, but if they really thought that, they would have piloted these changes in slowly over time in a couple of places before thrusting the new Common Core tests and the new APPR system onto the entire state all at once.

But they don't actually care about either students or teachers so they didn't pilot any of these changes at all. 
In fact, the APPR evaluation system remains half-baked at best, as Bruce Baker shows here and here and Carol Burris shows here, and will almost certainly be the target of lawsuits the way the half-baked value-added evaluation system in Florida now is. 


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