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Thursday, March 5, 2015

It’s a Badass Film Festival! Closeup on Corporate School Reform! | gadflyonthewallblog

It’s a Badass Film Festival! Closeup on Corporate School Reform! | gadflyonthewallblog:

It’s a Badass Film Festival! Closeup on Corporate School Reform!

I blog.
I write.
I look at the devastation, the hopes and promise of our public school system, and I report it to the world.
It seems a futile pursuit some days. Does anyone actually read this stuff? Or am I just talking to myself?
The hit counter tells me that, yes, indeed, there are people out there clicking on my humble little gadflyonthewallblog. Comments appear under my Facebook posts. My tweets get retweeted. Followers and friends multiply.
But I wonder sometimes about all the sets of eyes that see a block of text under my name and just keep on scrolling.
Would the minds connected to those eyes have understood? Would they have been spurred to action? Might they have been just the people we need to turn the tide and take back our education system?
And I answer: maybe.
So today’s entry is an attempt to get those roving, impatient orbs to stop, look and see.
Because today I bring not just words but pictures. Movies, in fact.
But first some background.
This whole enterprise began by accident. My school district received a $360,000 donation from Apple and Bill Campbell so every student could have an iPad for use in class.
The program will be rolled out next year, but teachers have already been given devices and some minimal training.
We were encouraged to play around with the devices to find applications for our students next year. One such app we were told to explore was iMovie.
I made a brief preview trailer for S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” – one of the novels my students read. I thought it might make a good lesson on theme for next year’s kids.
However, in doing the assignment, I wondered what it might look like if I made a similar short movie about corporate education reform. After all, I spend a lot of my off hours writing about it. Why not try another medium?
Let me be clear. I did NOT use school equipment. I have my own personal iPad at home. It’s not nearly as nice as the ones the students will be using. In fact, I had to pay for a few upgrades to get it up to similar specs.
But once I did, it was a simple matter to make the “OPT OUT OF STANDARDIZED TESTING” movie you see here:It’s a Badass Film Festival! Closeup on Corporate School Reform! | gadflyonthewallblog:

Reform fatigue: How constant change demoralizes teachers.

Reform fatigue: How constant change demoralizes teachers.:

A Painful Decade of School Reform

 Reforms come and go so quickly at Intermediate School 61 in Queens. First there was the push for smaller schools that began in 2003. Then a mind-boggling data system was introduced in 2007. The implementation of Common Core began in 2012, a process on track to continue through at least 2022. A new teacher evaluation system debuted in 2013.

The experience over the last decade at this very large middle school—which enrolls nearly 2,400 students, employs close to 200 teachers, and takes up nearly an entire city block—offers a case study in how fatigue with top-down reforms can become the biggest impediment to meaningful educational change. With each reform, teachers and administrators have lost a little more trust in the city, state, and federal officials setting the agenda—not to mention a lot of their time.
The decade of ceaseless change started with one of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature initiatives: the push for smaller schools. Bloomberg (as well as the deep-pocketed Gates Foundation) was a big proponent of small schools, aggressively shutting down or breaking apart a total of 157 large, comprehensive schools. This shift, which occurred simultaneously in several districts across the United States, dramatically altered the New York City school system and helped give the charter movement a more significant foothold.
“The whole focus of the prior administration was to make everything small,” said principal Joseph Lisa, who has run I.S. 61 since 2007 and was assistant principal before that.
When Bloomberg came to power, I.S. 61, located in the largely poor and immigrant Queens neighborhood of Corona, was indeed a school in need of a turnaround: Test scores were low, and discipline problems were rampant. (One longtime assistant principal, William Voges, described the school he arrived at as “a hellhole of destruction.”) So the school adopted a twist on Bloomberg’s small-schools model, breaking the school down into five distinct academies. The move offered an opportunity to improve the school’s culture and, hopefully, pre-empt any potential reorganization by the city. Each academy was named after a prestigious school—Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, and Stanford—and staffed by its own assistant principal, dean, and faculty. The idea was that teachers would likely never be able to know more than 2,000 students, but they stood a chance at getting to know a couple hundred.
But the small-schools movement quickly became a prime example of the kind of fleeting change that comes and goes before even a class of kindergarteners makes it to middle school. Though small schools ultimately fell out of favor in cities across the country, the staff at I.S. 61 stayed committed to their reorganization. But they began to question the staying power of any change introduced from on high.
Some of these changes are much-needed and well-intended. But, almost always, they alter a teacher’s job, requiring additional work outside the classroom to fulfill new requirements or learn to teach in a different way. That consumes a lot of staff time—time that can come to be seen as wasted if the reform fades away. “Nothing hasReform fatigue: How constant change demoralizes teachers.:

NSBA Challenges a "Dear Colleague Letter" from Justice and ED | National School Boards Association

NSBA Challenges a "Dear Colleague Letter" from Justice and ED | National School Boards Association:

NSBA Challenges a "Dear Colleague Letter" from Justice and ED

DCL on Comunication Needs of IDEA-Eligible Students
March 5, 2015
Alexandria, Va. (March 5, 2015) – The National School Boards Association, the leading advocate for public education, today challenged a recent “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) on how to appropriately meet the communication needs of IDEA-eligible students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. The DCL to which the NSBA objects was jointly issued by three federal agencies and offices — the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights — on Nov. 12, 2014.
At issue is the Departments’ reliance on a single court decision reached by the Ninth Circuit, K.M. v. Tustin Unified Sch. Dist., to impose a national standard. While Tustin requires both an IDEA analysis and a Title II effective communication analysis to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities, among federal courts that have weighed this issue, the Ninth Circuit decision is widely considered to be an outlier. In its comments, NSBA presents case law that argues against the expansive view of the law that the DCL puts forward, warning that it risks:
  • Encouraging litigation by erroneously declaring a legal standard in only one of the 11 federal circuits to be the law across the country;
  • Dismantling the collaborative IEP process by replacing the educational determinations of a team of school experts and parents with parental preference, regardless of a student’s educational needs;
  • Disrupting activities, services, and programs for students by failing to assess whether aids and services are proven and effective, risk being interruptive to others, or are otherwise educationally ineffectual; and
  • Burdening schools, administratively and financially, by failing to establish clear, appropriate, and judicially recognized legal standards.
“It is time to put a stake in the ground to challenge misguided policy issued absent an open, transparent process,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “The Departments’ continued issuance of guidance absent public comment is not serving the best interests of students, parents, or schools, and it imposes greater expense and liability across school districts.”
“Well-meaning but ill-informed expressions of policy, especially without the benefit of formal public comment from affected stakeholders, confuse rather than aid the legal landscape and make the work of schools and parents in ensuring students receive appropriate education needlessly difficult,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, National School Boards Association. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Departments to inform the policy determinations they make. Considering the perspective of school boards and their counsel before guidance such as the latest DCL issues will best serve the Departments’ and NSBA’s joint interest in meeting the educational needs of students. ”
Available for interview:
  • Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association
  • Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, National School Boards Association
  • Michael C. Zola, Associate Executive Director, Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, National School Boards Association
Please arrange media interviews through Linda Embrey, NSBA Public Advocacy and Communications, sends e-mail).
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at:
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NAISON RANTS: My Memories of the Selma Protests – Written for BK Nation | The War Report on Public Education

NAISON RANTS: My Memories of the Selma Protests – Written for BK Nation | The War Report on Public Education:


NAISON RANTS: My Memories of the Selma Protests – Written for BK Nation

Here is a piece written by Notorious PhD – Dr. Mark Naison:
It was the spring of 1965. I was a junior at Columbia,  preparing for the tennis season, where I had the opportunity to play number 1 singles. But as exciting as that prospect was, because i was an activist as much as an athlete, I was deeply concerned about two high profile political issues- the bombing of North Vietnam and the failure of President Johnson to move aggressively to secure voting rights for African Americans in Southern States. I found myself wondering- would the emerging conflict in Vietnam distract the President from undertaking the most important remaining civil rights initiative still left- making sure that every American, including Blacks living in the Deep South states, could go to the polls and vote their conscience without risking their lives?
Apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King had the same concerns, because he launched a high profile, high risk effort to force President Johnson to act on voting rights. His target city was Selma Alabama, where he knew that the local sheriff, Jim Clark would use the same brutal tactics against non violent protesters that Bull Connor did in Birmingham, and so doing create a set of embarrassing images, broadcast around the world, that would force the president to act.  But to do this, King had to persuade a large number of people to take the same kind of risk of beatings, and jailings and shootings and bombings that demonstrators in Birmingham faced, at a time when more and more Black people were getting fed up with non violence and were ready to fight back. This time, fearing that he might not get enough protesters from Selma alone, he encouraged protesters from all over the country to descend on Selma, including white labor activists, and Black and white clergy.
King’s strategy turned Selma into a tinderbox, an embittered outpost of the Old South which saw itself invaded by an occupying army. The resentment was directed at white supporters from outside the city as much as local Black demonstrators and the rage spilled over not only into fierce attacks on protesters, marked by clubs and tear gas, but the murder of two white activists who came to support the protests, Rev James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo.
King’s strategy ultimately worked, as he entered into high wire negotiations with both the President and local officials which produced a peaceful march to from Selma to Montgomery. But the violence and brutality against the protests was the thing that ultimately turned the tide, forcing the President into a dramatic step he had never anticipated- putting a Voting Rights Act before Congress that would send federal registrars into the South wherever there was evidence of discrimination at the polls. What forced him to take this step, ironically,  mayNAISON RANTS: My Memories of the Selma Protests – Written for BK Nation | The War Report on Public Education: 

The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms - Living in Dialogue

The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms - Living in Dialogue:

The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms 

 By Michelle Strater Gunderson.

I recently had an epiphany while listening to Melissa Katz, a wonderful student activist from New Jersey, talk about corporate education reform on the radio. When speaking about the swift and drastic changes in education based on implementation of Common Core and aligned tests she used the word upheaval.
Upheaval. Think about it. Is this what you are experiencing in your school setting?
The roll out of Common Core standards, aligned tests such as PARCC and Smarter Balance, and new punitive evaluations has produced what I call the Triumvirate of Upheaval. The combination of all three has disrupted almost every school in our country.
The changes have been full speed ahead, and this should concern us all. This is my 28th year of teaching, and in my experience change in education happens slowly. It should. The ways in which we approach student learning should never be adjusted on a whim and teachers should hold on to what they know works with children. Yet, with the onset of Common Core standards we are being asked to practically throw everything we know aside and form completely new curricula. Concurrently, the textbook publishers saw an opportunity for profit and a boatload of poorly developed and un-piloted materials were rushed into the education marketplace.
My school is a case in point. It is a high-performing arts magnet school in Chicago. By anyone’s measure – school climate, test scores, educational level of faculty, parent/teacher relationships, and student satisfaction – we are an exceptional school community. Yet, this year my first grade team was asked to completely toss aside our teacher created curriculum and teach with “fidelity” the newly purchased Common Core aligned Math curriculum.
Now, to be honest, all of the lessons in the new Common Core Math curriculum are not universally horrid, but what I was teaching in Math before was amazingly good. There was no reason to completely overhaul my entire Math programming. And this is happening in classroom upon classroom around the country. Teachers are being asked to scrap what they know about teaching and children and start from scratch with really bad The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms - Living in Dialogue:

When children are informed about why their parents are opting them out of high stake tests | Poetic Justice

When children are informed about why their parents are opting them out of high stake tests | Poetic Justice:

When children are informed about why their parents are opting them out of high stake tests

Here is a repost with permission from Lourdes Perez Ramirez a new friend and the founder and CEO of HispanEduca – a wonderful non-profit organization “empowering Hispanics/Latinos with access to education policy and reform so they (we) can impact and shape it!”
He followed every single instruction he had been given to refuse his computer-based tests scheduled for today.
He clicked SUBMIT without having answered a single test item. He raised his hand, very politely, and his teacher knew the student had finished before his classmates because he and his mom had decided to refuse.
His wonderful, Hispanic mom, who has two jobs every single day of the week, could not pick him up and keep him away from school for more than an hour, and then come back for the rest of the school day. Missing a few hours of her job would be the difference between paying the rent or being evicted.
After HispanEduca and the mom handed the principal a test-refusal letter, the school agreed, and the mom authorized for the child to spend the rest of the testing period at the school’s office.
There he was, doing some homework, when an office employee of this Orange County middle school approached the boy and threatened him saying that “he had to take the test because it was mandatory and if he didn’t he would be affected!”
But this 8th grade boy had been instructed, kept informed for more than a year, of what was going to happen today;  what to say and do and the importance of When children are informed about why their parents are opting them out of high stake tests | Poetic Justice:

PODER para los padres hispanos

Sep 16, 2012No Commentsby 
  Bienvenidos a Padres con PODER! ¿Por qué este blog se llama iPadres con PODER!? Desde 2008 al 2012 publiqué un boletín para los padres hispanohablantes en el que compartía información acerca de asuntos relacionados con la educación, pero en particular, sobre cómo los padres hispanos podían ayudar a sus hijos a tener éxito en […]
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HispanEduca Website

How School Choice Turns "We" Into "Me"

How School Choice Turns "We" Into "Me":


John Rex Elementary Charter School
John Rex Elementary Charter School is the newest school built in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Their collection area is narrowly defined in an a part of the city where there are few children. That makes room for downtown executives to enroll their children from all parts of the metro. Photo by Brett Dickerson

 “School choice” turns the “we” of society into the “me” of taking care of my child at the expense of everyone else.

Segregation is a part of our social fabric
Acknowledging that the showcase public school systems in a suburban America had already started the process of turning “we” into “me” is the first step to recovery for public education.
Suburban developers and realtors have made billions since the early 1950s by luring white people to buy homes of marginal quality in exchange for their children moving to “good schools”, meaning schools that have no significant count of black students.
The overall message went something like this:
Here, choose this home and your child will have a better chance of success. Leave that old deep city neighborhood behind. Leave its schools and someone else’s children behind. There’s no sense in trying to reform or save them. Let it be someone else’s problem.
Choose the neighborhood and you choose the school. School choice.
So why not just another form of “school choice”? It’s a convincing argument that says that all people should be able to choose.
One more step isn’t that different, right?
So if we have been practicing de facto school choice, isn’t it just logical to go all the way and allow everyone school choice? That’s the argument, and it’s a convincing one.
It is much easier to just pick up and leave other people’s children behind than to become active, militant, and spend time reforming a school by interacting with people who aren’t necessarily like you.
And so this is a powerful argument to many people who might have been practicing “school choice” by swapping homes for years.
School choice starts with seeing someone else’s children as other. And it becomes even easier when the other-ness of a child is illustrated by the fact that they don’t look like your children or even start with the same language.
Alienation = urge to segregate
Chuck D is still my favorite rapper because he has resisted the lure of record companies’ big money to gangsterize his music instead of fighting  for the powerless, which was the true beginning of rap.
In his post-Ferguson appearance on the Tavis Smiley show last year How School Choice Turns "We" Into "Me":

Newly Unveiled Texas School 'Reform' Proposals In Step With Right-Wing Agenda

Newly Unveiled Texas School 'Reform' Proposals In Step With Right-Wing Agenda:

Newly Unveiled Texas School ‘Reform’ Proposals In Step With Right-Wing Agenda

The conservative education package proposed this week 'is a grab-bag of failed ideas cribbed from the ALEC playbook,' says Diane Ravitch.

Among the provisions laid out on Tuesday, according to Austin’s American-Statesman:
  • Giving letter grades (A-F) to public school campuses each year based on their performance to put “pressure” on districts and parents to improve low performers.
  • A stronger “parent empowerment” or “trigger law” that would allow parents to petition for new management at school districts that have been failing for two years, rather than five.
  • Creating an “opportunity” or “achievement” school district, which could be run by a private entity, that would manage the state’s low-performing schools.
  • Easing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.
  • Tying teacher compensation to performance, rather than just years of service, and other changes to the evaluation system.
six education-related bills Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, the head of the state Senate’s education committee, announced would be “fast-tracked” through the Senate, according to 
While the package does not include a controversial bill that would legalize school choice programs in Texas,the American-Statesman notes that at a press conference unveiling the proposals, Patrick “
drain money from public schools for more privately operated charter schools and online virtual learning, which offer opportunities for more enrichment in the entrepreneurial community, not opportunities for enriching the learning opportunities of thousands of Texas school children.”
The deep-pocketed organization grew out of the influential Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a conservative, ALEC-linked business group responsible for laws that have effectively prevented consumers from seeking damages from corporations.
“The Taylor-Patrick agenda is a grab-bag of failed ideas cribbed from the ALEC playbook,” Diane Ravitchdeclared in an op-ed Wednesday. “None of them has been beneficial to students or successful anywhere.”
The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), affiliated with the National Education Association, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and the Association of Texas Professional Educators all came out against the package of bills.
“None of the proposals offered by Senator Taylor and the Lieutenant Governor would give teachers and students the time and resources they need to improve teaching and learning,” said TSTA president Noel Candelaria. “The Taylor-Patrick agenda fails to meet the needs of 5 million public school students whose schools have been inadequately funded by the very legislators who are eager to declare schools a failure based on standardized test scores. Educators want legislators to demonstrate a genuine commitment to strengthening neighborhood public schools instead of handing them over to outsiders who have no direct Newly Unveiled Texas School 'Reform' Proposals In Step With Right-Wing Agenda:

Here's why so many people hate the Common Core - Business Insider

Here's why so many people hate the Common Core - Business Insider:

Here's why so many people hate the Common Core

Common Core protest
Muslim Alkurdi, 18, of Albuquerque High School, joins hundreds of classmates in Albuquerque, N.M, Monday, March 2, 2015, as students staged a walkout to protest a new standardized test they say isn't an accurate measurement of their education.
 The Common Core State Standards Initiative — a controversial set of nationwide education standards — took another hit this week when hundreds of New Mexico high school students staged a walk-out on their exams.

These demonstrations follow closely on the heels of Florida Governor Rick Scott taking a hard stance on Common Core testing last week by suspending testing for 11th graders in the state.
This latest batch of criticism is hardly new. There has been vocal opposition ever since states adopted the Common Core, an effort to raise education standards across the US.
So why do so many people hate the Common Core?
The Common Core was developed in 2009 through a joint effort between state leaders and private Washington groups with the intent to strengthen standards and improve learning outcomes of students across the US.
"State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life," the Common Core website reads.
While the goals of Common Core are laudable, many parents and teachers don't think they had a seat at the table when standards were developed. To parents and teachers who feel they were entirely left out of the process, the standards may feel heavy-handed.
In a letter on the National Education Association (NEA) website, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel recently urged policy makers to include teachers and education associations in discussions. 
"Common Core implementation plans at the state and local levels must be collaboratively developed, adequately resourced, and overseen by community advisory committees that include the voices of students, parents, and educators," he wrote.
The Common Core also gets a lot of flak over what educators and parents describe as its lack of consideration for non-traditional learners. The Washington Post recently reported on a special education teacher who loves teaching, but was quitting because of the Common Core. Staciee Star, a ninth grade intervention specialist and winner of the "Top Teacher" award by the “Live with Kelly and Michael” show, discussed her reasons for leaving 
Read more:

How Chicago’s Grassroots Movements Defeated Rahm Emanuel at the Polls - Working In These Times #‎Chuy2015‬ ‪#‎imwithchuy‬

How Chicago’s Grassroots Movements Defeated Rahm Emanuel at the Polls - Working In These Times:

How Chicago’s Grassroots Movements Defeated Rahm Emanuel at the Polls


 On Tuesday, February 24, Jesús “Chuy” García shook up Chicago, and the nation, by forcing a key pro-corporate Democratic Party figurehead and the mayor of the 1%, Rahm Emanuel, into a run-off election for mayor of Chicago. The win has unleashed incredible excitement in Chicago—and more than a few questions about how this runoff was achieved. Many observers’ first instinct might be to ask, "What changed in Chicago?” But for those looking for lessons in the grassroots-powered victory, a more instructive question would be, "What was built—and how"?

Tuesday’s success is bigger than any one organization. What Chicago’s various social movements have built did not materialize over the course of one election cycle and cannot be understood as just a set of electoral strategies, clever tactics or shrewd messaging. For years, Chicago has been an epicenter of militant, grassroots organizing that has come to deeply resonate with working class families.  A long-term transformative vision lies at the heart of this organizing, taking aim at oppressive systems and corporate interests that exploit and divide people along lines of class and race.  
From the occupation of Republic Windows and Doors by rank-and-file workers to the occupation of schools and mental health clinics closed by Emanuel in black and brown communities; from the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012 to sustained action against the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and LaSalle Street banks; from radical immigrant youth organizing against deportations and xenophobia to the #BlackLivesMatter movement; community and labor organizers have been waging a clear, escalating fight against the corporate agenda. The foundation for the February 24 election was built over four years of coalition work; popular education; big, bold fights; and a clear analysis around race and class.
Our movement is broad and deep. Here’s how we built it.
Building up electoral strength
We have greater electoral capacity than ever before. SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana (HCII) drove significant resources in 2014 to community organizations to register over 100,000 new voters in Cook County, most of whom were in Chicago. When Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis was unable to run for mayor after a brain tumor diagnosis, she and her union made a quick endorsement of García. This gave the instant credibility, palpable excitement and real boots-on-the-ground capacity that was needed to get over 60,000 petition signatures for García to get on the ballot in one month’s time—more signatures than any other candidate, including Emanuel. 
Indeed, Karen Lewis’ role in this moment cannot be underestimated.  She captured the imagination—and the support—of working and middle class families across the city, because she was such a fierce fighter for equity and justice. The clarity of her repeated message that the moment was about the movement, that the grassroots organizing had built up to such a pitch that City Hall was firmly within reach, was pivotal. When the CTU and SEIU HCII fully backed García, it gave him a base of resources to build upon. With additional support from house parties in neighborhoods across the city and small online donations, García raised enough money to credibly compete.
Coalitions have power
In December 2010, just a few months after six-term mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not run for re-election, Grassroots Collaborative organized a mayoral candidate forum attended by 2,600 people, including members of more than 30 community organizations across the city. The power and excitement of that room—a room that reflected the diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods—created a sense of political possibility. The election of Emanuel a few months later, though How Chicago’s Grassroots Movements Defeated Rahm Emanuel at the Polls - Working In These Times:

CURMUDGUCATION: PTA Believes in Unicorns

CURMUDGUCATION: PTA Believes in Unicorns:

PTA Believes in Unicorns

While local PTA's have been feisty and dedicated engines of resistance against the giant testing machine of modern education reformsterdom, the national organization has been more interested in playing ball with the Masters of Reformy Nonsense (could be the infusion of Gates-flavored moneyinto their finances).

Witness their two-page "factsheet" that borrows its title from a speech that Arne Duncan delivered at the national PTA convention in 2010-- Moving Beyond the Bubble.

This particular Sheet O'Facts celebrates that "Improved Tests Are Finally Here!" Yes, "in 2014-15, schools will replace their old tests with new assessments built to let parents and teachers know how well students are learning the skills and knowledge they need to success in today's world." Phew. That's sure a load off my mind.

So what's new about these new tests of newly renewed newosity? Well, here's what the "new tests are trying to accomplish." (Trying? So, will students be getting points on these tests for trying? Or will the have to do, instead?)

Measure real-world skills. Those skills are, apparently, critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving. How do we know that these skills are required in the real world? We just do. How do we know that the test actually measures them? I'm particularly curious about a test for analytical writing, because I'm thinking that would involve doing actual analytical writing, and that can be rather a time-consuming operation, prone to a wide, world spanning variety of responses (so wide, I'd say, that judging them would be highly resistant to any sort of standardized process).

End teaching to the test. The idea here is that the tests somehow "mirror" activities that students are learning in class. The tests are supposed to be great because students have to "show and apply" instead of picking the right answer from a multiple choice question. Except that this is simply wrong. Take a look at the sample PARCC-- it is almost entirely pick an answer activities. 
CURMUDGUCATION: PTA Believes in Unicorns: