Latest News and Comment from Education

Friday, February 6, 2015

Peg with Pen: My response to John Merrow

Peg with Pen: My response to John Merrow:

My response to John Merrow

I do hope you will respond as well. See his latest post here: What a Difference a Dash Makes! 
Big Education Ape: “Pro-Test” or “Protest”? What A Difference A Dash Makes! | Taking Note

Well John, as you know, the numbers are much greater than a few hundred. New York had easily 60,000 refuse the test last year and this fall in Colorado we had 5,000 refuse the senior CMAS test. On our general FB group page for United Opt Out we have been adding hundreds a week. On the Indiana page they added 1,000 this past week.
I appreciate your comment about a democratic society – because that is what we, the opt out movement, are attempting to preserve. There will not be a free and democratic society if the privatization of public schools continues, using high stakes tests, which promote fear-based school environments – an environment which teaches solely to the test and is completely void of practices which create a democratic school or classroom.
At my school, we have testing all year (DRA2, MAPS, CMAS, PARCC, BAS, ACCESS, PALS. TSGOLD). I believe I’ve had perhaps two weeks this year in which I wasn’t somehow involved in administering a high stakes test and/or had my schedule interrupted due to a high stakes test. I have refused to administer the PARCC, but of course there will be someone to take my place. In addition we’ve been instructed to have daily PARCC practice. And we are desperately trying to stay true to the goals of a democratic , inquiry-based public school – can you imagine how exhausting it becomes to try to do the right thing, when everyone is asking you to implement curriculum and tests that truly amount to educational malpractice?
We know how to assess. We’re teachers . We have portfolios, report cards and we actually talk to parents. And if everyone is so terribly concerned about how we are doing we also have the NAEP. All of this testing is a distraction from the true issues that plague our public schools – poverty. And of course the learning is most narrow in our high poverty schools where these mandates are used to shut down our schools. I work in a so-called “failing” school (we prefer the term abandoned school). Our children are smart and creative and there are over 40 languages represented in our school . But our children are also hungry. We attempt to fill 180 food bags weekly in the midst of all this madness of teaching to the test and testing which takes us away from the inquiry-based learning that creates engaged, problem-solving students .
So – how big is the movement? It’s big and it’s picking up speed fast. The only way I can quantify it for you is to state that I help parents opt out before work, on my way home from work, and each evening. United Opt out has approximately 70 opt out leaders who support parents in their respective states. In addition, if you ever visit our FB group page you will see immense numbers of comments, questions, and support offered as parents find out how to refuse the tests. Another facet of opt out that is most frightening to the reformers who wish to privatize our public schools is this – when a parent becomes educated around the issues of high stakes testing they find their voice and they become an advocate for public schools and for their children. It’s empowering, and it is grassroots organizing at its best. We build relationships while the reformers continue to tear them down as they destroy public school communities and create policies which fail children and fire teachers. We’ll keep fighting back and we’ll keep growing in numbers – there is something to be said for speaking with truth and heart, John. I watch those who make policy and Peg with Pen: My response to John Merrow:

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending | deutsch29

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending | deutsch29:

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

 This is a post about Bill Gates and his money, a brief audit of his Common Core (CCSS) purchases. Before I delve into Gates accounting, allow me to set the stage with a bit of CCSS background.

A Bit of CCSS Background
It is important to those promoting CCSS that the public believes the idea that CCSS is “state-led.” The CCSS website reports as much and names two organizations as “coordinating” the “state-led” CCSS: The National Governors Association (NGA), and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, the CCSS website makes no mention of CCSS “architect” David Coleman:
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.[Emphasis added.]
Nevertheless, if one reviews this 2009 NGA news release on those principally involved in CCSS development, one views a listing of 29 individuals associated with Student Achievement Partners, ACT, College Board, and Achieve. In truth, only 2 out of 29 members are not affiliated with an education company.
CCSS as “state-led” is fiction. Though NGA reports 29 individuals as involved with CCSS creation, it looks to be even fewer:
NGA first directly involved governors in nationalizing education standards in June 2008, when it co-hosted an education forum with the Hunt Institute, a project of former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. In December 2008, NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc. released a report calling for national standards. The report recommended “a strong state-federal partnership” to accomplish this goal.
Those three nonprofits answered their own call the next few months, deciding to commission Common Core. NGA and Hunt’s press releases during that time, and a paper describing NGA’s Common Core process by former NGA education director Dane Linn, provide no endorsement of such activity from more than a handful of elected officials. [Emphasis added.]
Also involved in creation of CCSS is Student Achievement Partners, the company David Coleman started in 2007 in order produce national standards. Student Achievement Partners has no work other than CCSS.
Now to Bill Gates and his money.
Gates Buys NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners
The four principal organizations associated with CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.
Prior to June 2009, NGA received $23.6 million from the Gates Foundation from 2002 through 2008. $19.7 million was for the highly-disruptive “high school redesign” (i.e.,“small schools”) project, one that Gates abandoned.
After June 2009, NGA received an additional $2.1 million from Gates, the largest payout coming in February 2011,
to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, with special attention to effective resource reallocation to ensure A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending | deutsch29:

On Tulsa’s New Superintendent | Oklahoma Observer

On Tulsa’s New Superintendent | Oklahoma Observer:




I live 90 miles from Tulsa. While I take a keen interest in Oklahoma school reform issues, I do not want to intrude into Tulsa Public Schools [TPS] business. Given all of the other recent progress by Oklahomans in moving beyond the scorched earth edu-politics of recent years, I was dismayed that the TPS would hire a Chief for Change, Deborah Gist, at a time when Oklahoma’s former Chief for Change, Janet Barresi, was leaving office. It will be up to Tulsans to determine their own school policies. So, I will merely offer some facts regarding the issues that patrons might want to consider.
When it was announced that Gist was the only remaining candidate in a closed-door process of selecting a new superintendent, it was claimed that the nationally respected NAEP data showed that Rhode Island schools had improved more under Gist than the national average. Moreover, it was implied that student performance growth for low-income children of color was greater in Rhode Island during Gist years.
These sorts of statements are known as “Mis-Naepery,” or the misuse of NAEP data.
Since Tulsa is an 80% low-income district, the key question is whether Gist addressed her state’s racial and economic achievement gaps. [After all, when claims of major gains in student performance are announced, usually they are found to be a result of economic and demographic shifts, so social scientists look at long-term patterns broken down by race and income.]
Even one of Gist’s closest allies, RI-Can, complained that 2013 NAEP data showed, “Most gaps between white and non-white and low-income and non-low-income remain unchanged or in some cases, have grown.” For instance, between 2011 and 2013, the gap separating reading proficiency between white and black 4th graders increased by 50%. They also cited, “The fourth-grade reading gap between low-income and non low-income students [which] grew from 29 points in 2011 to 36 points in 2013.”
The proper use of test score data for addressing that issue was analyzed in the most recent NAEP reports about 8th grade reading scores for black students: “This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1998.” Placing 4th grade reading scores for black students in context, NAEP concluded: “This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1992.” Placing 8th grade math scores for black students in context: “This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1990.”
I could go on with these disappointing results, but the pattern is clear. There is no evidence that the expensive and divisive “reforms” implemented by Gist improved student performance. And claims On Tulsa’s New Superintendent | Oklahoma Observer:

LAUSD spends like Billionaires while being a Tyrant about Teacher's Salaries

LAUSD spends like Billionaires while being a Tyrant about Teacher's Salaries:

Smart Voter

LAUSD spends like Billionaires while being a Tyrant about Teacher's Salaries

By Lydia A. Gutiérrez

Candidate for Board Member; Los Angeles Unified School District; District 7
This information is provided by the candidate
Cutting corners at the expense of our children's education; while, spending lavishly on ill thoughtout projects: MiSiS and iPad
Los Angeles: When charges were filled against LAUSD for not enforcing policy in protecting children from sexual predators, i.e. Mark Berndt, LAUSD School Board decided to hire 2 law firms, Sedgwick and Andrade, at $350 to $460 an hour, spending over $7 million dollars and still counting, to litigate the Miramonte Elementary School Case. LAUSD ignored its own lawyers, who bill at $150 to $175 an hour, and have had the experience of litigating cases like this.Sedgwick and Andrade law firms have spent much of their time creating roadblocks in providing evidence of Mark Berndt's misdeeds for over the last 30 years. When LAUSD Superintendent Deasy, said with all supposed sincerity that LAUSD would provide all documentation for this case to be resolved so the children involved would not have to endure this tragedy was not accurate. Lydia Gutierrez remarked, "It is painful enough knowing what these children have had to endure, while LAUSD Administration ignored all the warning signs, that LAUSD would prolong the disclosure of information that would help expedite this case for these children. The LAUSD School Board should have been at the forefront in assuring this, but are MIA (Missing In Action)."

LAUSD has given every excuse possible for why they are not able to pay standard wages for LAUSD public school teachers. And yet, the LAUSD School Board has been able to find funding for a billion dollar high school, Belmont Learning Center, about half a billion for a failed Payroll System, and now a billion for funding iPads, that Superintendent Deasy is being questioned for favoritism in purchases, while the school structures are in shambles.

Lydia commented, "Under this current LAUSD Board, fiscal accountability has been lacking. School Board members are elected to watch over the taxpayers' money to assure it is being used to educate our children, instead of lining the pockets of special interest groups." She further stated, "When I am elected, I will call for an audit of all expenditures, review all cases before the Inspector General, and request that the School Board seek out administrators who have had actual experience in the educational field and have a thorough understanding of the academic expectations. It is time to stop hiring people who come with an agenda that is self-serving and does not serve the needs of our children and does not give the support our teachers need in the classroom."

Lydia Gutierrez is running for LAUSD School Board District 7. She was born and raised in District 7, Harbor Gateway, went to school at Meyler Elementary School, Stephen M. White Middle School and Narbonne High School, and resides in San Pedro. Lydia has nearly 30 years teaching experience. She has been a neighborhood board member for 7 years. She holds 2 teaching credentials, a master's and has been a master teacher for the UCLA Mathematics projects. Before teaching, she was an administrator and acting cost estimating supervisor in the aerospace industry.
Next Page: Position Paper 3

“Pro-Test” or “Protest”? What A Difference A Dash Makes! | Taking Note

What A Difference A Dash Makes! | Taking Note:

What A Difference A Dash Makes!

“Pro-Test” or “Protest”? The dash makes all the difference, making one word into two that, taken together, describe polar opposite worlds. If you are “pro-test,” you favor the Common Core State Standards tests. Remove the dash, and you are aligned with those urging families to opt-out and refuse to take the PAARC and Smarter Balanced Common Core tests, which will be administered in March.
Are you in one of these camps?
Or are there even two camps? It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure the strength of the “protest” movement, if indeed there really is a ‘movement.’ It could be thousands and thousands of tiny, grass-roots organizations and loose gatherings, or it could be just a few hundred. If it is a national movement, it’s one that lacks a ‘command central,’ although three organizations, Save Our Schools (SOS), United Opt-Out, and Badass Teachers Association, do have modest national profiles. Every week FairTest publishes a report of anti-testing actions, but the list gets repetitive and sometimes includes newspaper stories and blogs that merely ask tough questions–hardly evidence of a full-blown revolt. Is there a genuine bandwagon, or is FairTest trying to create the illusion of a bandwagon where none exists? Hard to say.
In some places, local and state politicians are taking note. Colorado’s legislature is holding hearings, and there’sferment in Philadelphia, for example. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to stop the testing.
We know the protesters have different motivations. Some are upset about what they see as excessive testing in schools, while others are vociferously opposed to the Common Core State Standards, which they have labelled “Obamacore,” his plan to take control over public education.
Protest politics makes for strange bedfellows, with lefties and righties coming together to agree on this issue (and probably on just this one issue).
As for the other side, the “Pro-Test” camp has the appearance of substance. With unofficial “headquarters” in Washington, DC, the Common Core test defenders include the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council, the Education Trust, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education.
The basic message: “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter.” The “Pro-Test” group has an impressive roster with money and power, but perhaps it’s mostly Chiefs and very few followers. Impossible to say now, but we will find out before long.
Just last fall, the establishment was agreeing publicly that we might be subjecting our children to too many tests. The President spoke out, and his Secretary of Education noted that testing was sucking the air out of classrooms.Now, they’re saying, “OK, perhaps schools do test too much, but these tests–the Common Core tests–are What A Difference A Dash Makes! | Taking Note:

Tell Congress: Student Needs, Not Testing, Should Be The Priority! #ESEA

Tell Congress: Student Needs, Not Testing, Should Be The Priority!:

Tell Congress: Student Needs, Not Testing, Should Be The Priority!

Take ActionIn 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson, a former teacher, first signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known today as No Child Left Behind, he envisioned the law as a part of the national War of Poverty, confident that it would help more kids get access to a great education.
President Johnson probably never imagined that fifty years later schools would still be segregated by race and income or that a majority of all public school students would qualify for free-and-reduced price lunch at school. In recent years, ESEA has gotten off track. Our lawmakers have started pushing high-stakes testing and school accountability instead of focusing on how we can meet the needs all our students in an age of rising inequality.
Today, Congress is talking about reauthorizing ESEA, and our lawmakers need your help to get the discussion back on track.
Our kids don't need more standardized tests. Our educators don't want to spend more money on consultants and test vendors or waste time on test prep. Our kids deserve more instructional time, wraparound supports and up-to-date classroom materials – the kinds of things that actually help students learn.
Tell your members of Congress that student needs must be the priority in ESEA reauthorization - not more testing!
It’s time to let go of the bubble tests. Here’s what Congress should prioritize instead:
  • Fund universal access to early education
  • Require states to adopt fair school funding systems so schools can provide students with a well-rounded curriculum and a full spread of wraparound services like health clinics, college counselors, and after school enrichment programs.
  • Ensure quality teaching delivered by committed, respected and supported educators (not an intern with only five weeks of training from Teach for America)
  • Make schools places that inspire natural curiosity and imagination, not ‘bubble in the right answer’ factories
  • Support improving schools in all neighborhoods so students have a high quality school close to Tell Congress: Student Needs, Not Testing, Should Be The Priority!:


Badass Teachers Association:


New Jersey   February 6, 2015
Parents all over New Jersey demand that their voices be heard.

Dissatisfied with how high stakes standardized testing is eclipsing their children’s education, parents all over New Jersey are insisting upon their right to make decisions that impact their child's education by exercising their right to refuse their children from the harmful practice of high stakes standardized testing.

In an effort to appease the call for legislation to slow down the use of high stakes standardized testing in NJ, Governor Christie created the Study Commission on the use of Student Assessments to study the new reforms, including the PARCC assessment and the Common Core State Standards.

Recently, the study commission has held several public forum testimony sessions where parents, educators, and other taxpayers have come together to voice their concerns. At the Jersey City meeting on Wednesday, January 28th the members of the public heard from Ms. Catherine M. Lindenbaum, who introduced herself as the Parent Representative on the Commission.  Ms. Lindenbaum is one of the governor-appointed members of the Study Commission as well as a NJ Parent and Teacher Association Representative.

The parents of New Jersey's test refusal movement take issue with the fact that National PTA, which leads NJPTA, has accepted monetary contributions from the Gates Foundation.  The Gates Foundation has also invested millions of dollars in the Common Core State Standards and the parents feel that there is a definite conflict of interest.

“I am a parent and she definitely does not represent me in this discussion,” states Colleen Martinez of Montclair, NJ. Colleen has actively been advocating for maintaining local and state control of public education.

“Any organization that accepts money from the Gates Foundation cannot be trusted to not have an agenda to support his educational initiatives,” says Melissa Tomlinson, a special education teacher. “The tests are designed in a way that there will never be success for specific populations of our students. Statistically, they are invalid and of little actual use to us in classroom decisions.”

Text of the letter that was signed by nearly 500 New Jersey parents and taxpayers is attached.
Contact: Colleen Martinez 
Contact: Melissa Tomlinson 
See below for letter

From: New Jersey Parents
To: Ms. Catherine M. Lindenbaum
8 Quakerbridge Plaza, Suite F
Mercerville, NJ 08619

February 4, 2015
To Ms. Catherine M. Lindenbaum, a member of the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey:
Ms. Lindenbaum, On January 28th, at an open meeting in Jersey City, you introduced yourself as the “Parent Representative” serving on this commission.
Well Ms. Lindenbaum, I too am a parent, and if you support high-stakes standardized testing you don't represent me.
If you support hours upon hours of valuable instruction time lost in favor of teaching to a test, you don't represent me.
If you support millions of dollars being funneled away from music, arts and enrichment programs to pay for this test, you don't represent me.
If you support pushing children to developmental levels that many can't possibly reach, you don't Badass Teachers Association:

Write Congress to demand less testing, an end to high stakes. | FairTest #ESEA

Write Congress to demand less testing, an end to high stakes. | FairTest:

Write Congress to demand less testing, an end to high stakes.

Your voice can help make a difference! Use this letter to urge your Senators and Representative in the U.S. Congress to support a reduction in standardized testing to once each in elementary, middle and high schools, while ending punitive sanctions. The House and Senate education committees plan to start re-writing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as NCLB) by mid-February. You can strengthen your message by adding your own comments, such as your and your children’s personal experiences with overtesting.
Thank you.
Congress is moving swiftly.
The House plans a committee vote in the next two weeks followed by full House floor debate the last week of February. Education Committee Chairman John Kline supports testing every grade. Those of us who want grade-span testing and flexibility must over-ride Kline in committee or win a floor amendment. Rep. Gibson's grade-span testing bill provides a vehicle.
In the Senate, the HELP committee is expected to act before the end of the month with the full Senate taking it up shortly after. Chair Alexander's 'Option 1' on assessment provides a vehicle, but he also has 'Option 2' which retains every-grade testing.
In both cases, however, it will not be easy to win. Our only real chance is grassroots pressure.
Link to our latest call for people to contact their Senators and Representatives.
Send your email now!…
Monty Neill, Executive Director

Parents Can Opt Out United Opt Out National

Click Here to go to United Opt Out National: 

Click Here to go to the WebsiteUnited Opt Out Team

Big Education Ape: #ASKARNE What'sup? with SEC. 1118. PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT in the New ESEA?

Big Education Ape: Arne Duncan Urges Parents to Weigh In on NCLB Rewrite; Will It Work? - Politics K-12 - Education...

Big Education Ape: When Will Congress Hear from Parents on Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind? - #ESEA

When Will Congress Hear from Parents on Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind? - #ESEA

When Will Congress Hear from Parents on Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind? - Breitbart:


Big Education Ape: #ASKARNE What'sup? with SEC. 1118. PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT in the New ESEA?
Big Education Ape: Arne Duncan Urges Parents to Weigh In on NCLB Rewrite; Will It Work? - Politics K-12 - Education...

One of the major problems that the adoption of Common Core’s standards has led to is excessive testing—at all grade levels from kindergarten on—sometimes more than one test per grade level.

It is not yet clear if current drafts for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind or NCLB in its 2002 reauthorization) are going to let states and local school boards choose, not only how many tests to mandate for the children in the state, but also the grade levels at which schools must administer these Common Core-based tests.
Although one would think that providing options for testing would be a strong signal by Congress that it wants to give back to local and state educational agencies some of the educational authority the US Department of Education has taken away from them, arguments are now being made to Congress to keep in place the NCLB testing mandates. Who exactly would benefit from this testing regime—certainly not the teachers and the students in our classrooms, nor their parents.
Professor Martin West at the Harvard Graduate School of Education makes it clear who would benefit from the excessive testing regime mandated by NCLB and possibly continued in the reauthorization of ESEA (which, incidentally, required no tests when it was first authorized in 1965). In no case are teachers and their students benefiting. In written testimony dated January 21, 2015, provided to a Congressional hearing, he gave the following six reasons for keeping annual testing. I have commented on each of his reasons.
Eliminating annual testing is unnecessary because the annual tests in math and reading (and grade-span testing in science) currently required under NCLB typically account for less than half of the total amount of time students spend taking standardized tests.
Professor West needs to speak to teachers directly. Teachers can estimate how much time they actually are teaching to Common Core-based tests, knowing they are being evaluated by test results. The research that Professor West may be referring to did not ask teachers how much instructional time they would spend or are already spending teaching to Common Core-based tests when their annual evaluations are based, in large part, in many states on student test scores.
Measures based on the amount students learn from one year to the next can provide a more accurate gauge of schools’ contribution to student learning. These kinds of measures are only possible, however, when students are tested in adjacent grades.
Professor West needs to speak to teachers directly. Teachers quickly find out what their students learned the previous year by giving them a review quiz in the first weeks of school. At least, they used to do this. They don’t need results from a standardized test that is not directly related to the curriculum that students studied the year before.
Accountability based on grade-span testing judges schools based on the students they serve, not how well they serve them.
Common Core-based test results are not going to be used for judging schools. The US Department of Education has made it very clear that they will be used for judging teachers.
In addition to preventing the development of better and fairer measures of school performance, eliminating annual testing would have other negative consequences: First, it would all but eliminate school-level information about the learning of student subgroups…
Is it really the case that all African-American students learn in the same way? And do all Hispanic students learn in the same way and in ways that are different from the ways in which other kinds of students learn? Where is the research evidence to support these When Will Congress Hear from Parents on Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind? - Breitbart: