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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams - Network For Public Education

The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams - Network For Public Education:

The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams

 By Leonie Haimson, co-chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and a member of the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education

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 The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams - Network For Public Education:

New Orleans' Katrina school takeover to end, Legislature decides |

New Orleans' Katrina school takeover to end, Legislature decides |
New Orleans' Katrina school takeover to end, Legislature decides

The Louisiana Legislature is ready to close a chapter in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina history. Both the Senate and House have voted to reverse the 2005 state takeover of most of the city's public schools.
By July 1, 2018 -- or 2019, at the latest -- 52Recovery School District charters will move back to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board, unifying the school system once more, emptying out the Recovery system in New Orleans and symbolically healing a wound torn open after the hurricane.
The measure, Senate Bill 432, squeaked out of the House Thursday (May 5) on a 55-16 vote. It needed at least 53 votes to pass. It's now headed back to the Senate briefly because of a technical change made on the House side, but that alterations is expected to be little more than a speed bump in the process.  
The Senate unanimously approved essentially the same bill as the House, minus one small technical change, on April 20. Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he will sign the legislation once the Senate approves it again. 
But the re-unified school system won't be the same as the old days. In the past decade, the Recovery system has become a realm of independent charter schools, mini-kingdoms run by non-profit, non-elected boards. Those boards will continue to reign after the transition, making their own decisions but to meet the Orleans Parish School Board's benchmarks. Currently they report to the Recovery district, which is a unit of the state Education Department, and to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The School Board won't be allowed to meddle in charters' affairs. The bill says the board may not impede charters' control of calendars, personnel, collective bargaining, contracts and curriculum, among other areas.
"For all intents and purposes, the schools will continue to function exactly as they do now," state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, told the House. 
Why now?
Exciting to some, the post-Katrina takeover was painful to others. Everyone agreed New Orleans schools were in deep trouble – academically, financially and politically -- even before the deep waters unleashed by the storm and the levee failures. The School Board hurt its cause after the storm by refusing to reopen schools immediately, even as some private schools and public ones in the suburbs were managing despite their losses.
As a result, the Recovery system seized four fifths of New Orleans public schools. That was all the schools that had been officially deemed failures and many that were simply scoring below the state average.
But the state seizure came from Baton Rouge, without community discussion, at New Orleans' Katrina school takeover to end, Legislature decides |

How to Appreciate Teachers | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

How to Appreciate Teachers | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.:

How to Appreciate Teachers

It is the national PTA Teacher Appreciation Week 2016, and there are a number of ideas hosted on the PTA’s website for how you can #thankateacher.  If you are a teacher, you can start a GoFundMe campaign for classroom supplies or, if you are a parent, to personally thank your children’s teachers. The PTA offers a toolkit so you can plan events to honor teachers in your schools as part of a celebration that has taken place in the first week of May since 1984.
(The National Alliance for “Public” Charter Schools also decided to schedule their “National Charter Schools Week” for the same week this year in what I am sure was not a deliberate effort to steal some free publicity at all.)
Teacher Appreciation Week is, of course, a lovely idea, and when it was launched in 1984, I doubt any of its founders could envision the issues facing teachers and teaching today.  Teachers across the country are getting cards, flowers, baked good, and some very well deserved naches.  Historically, teachers always have been highly motivated by the affective rewards of teaching – seeing children learn, gaining affirmation from their successes, building relationships with children and colleagues – but who can say no a nicely concentrated dose of positivity?
Gift baskets and flowers, however, don’t address the other 175 days of the school year, and those remain, as they have for some time now, unnecessarily stressfuland subject to policies and incentives that diminish teachers’ autonomy and satisfaction in their work.  Teachers remain with policies that reduce their ability to plan their own classrooms, subjected to evaluations based upon invalid statistical methods using standardized test scores, and blamed for everythingfrom being lazy to putting the future of the nation in jeopardy.  No wonder thatenrollments in teacher preparation programs have fallen steeply from a high of over 700,000 in 2009 to barely above 450,000 in 2014 – high school students have ears and eyes, after all.  If we keep appreciating teachers like this, we may not have very many of them left to appreciate.
How should we really appreciate our teachers all year long?  A few suggestions:
Actually Treat Teachers as Professionals.  Education reform has an unfortunate tendency to treat teachers as if they are hopelessly outdated, the equivalent of a quill pen and parchment in the digital age.  In that view, teacherHow to Appreciate Teachers | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.:

Survey: Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job

Survey: Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job:

Survey: Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job

They may be smiling, America, but your public school teachers are a frustrated bunch.
About six in 10 are losing enthusiasm for the job, and just as many say they spend too much time prepping students for state-mandated tests. Nearly half say they’d quit teaching now if they could find a higher-paying job.
The grim findings come from a wide-ranging survey of K-12 public school teachers released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy, a centrist think tank. Maria Ferguson, executive director for the center, said the results show teachers are “constantly feeling yanked in a million different directions.”
In all, 3,328 teachers completed the 67-question online survey last fall. Among the findings:
  • 62% of teachers say they spend too much time prepping students for state-mandated tests.
  • 81% of teachers say students spend too much time taking those tests.
  • 60% of teachers say they “don’t seem to have as much enthusiasm now” as when they started teaching.
While 64% say they like their school and are part of “a satisfied group” of teachers, 49% say the stress and disappointments “aren’t really worth it.” And 49% also say they’d leave teaching “as soon as possible” if they could find a higher-paying job.
Some even share similar feelings as their students: 42% of teachers agreed with the statement “I think about staying home from school because I am just too tired to go.”
Frustration with standardized testing apparently goes all the way to the top. In herapplication to become the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, a Waterbury, Conn., high school history teacher honored Tuesday by President Obama at the White House, said keeping schools accountable through tests is important. But students “should be able to articulate what they have learned in innovative and Survey: Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job:

We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs - In These Times

We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs - In These Times:

We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs

How can you improve education by attacking educators?

This post first appeared at Common Dreams.
Does this sound like a place you’d like to work?
The work environment is “depressing” … “morale is at an all-time low.”
“It feels like a lot of busy work and hoop jumping and detracts from the work.” “Every move … needs to be documented and noted.”
“We have to respond to feedback given by an administrator who did a one-minute walk through and thought they knew what was going on … but didn’t.”
“There is no time for conversations” … “my salary has been frozen for six years” … “everyone feels like losers.”
Probably not.
But this is how classroom teachers and school principals describe what it’s like to work in public schools.
The comments come from a new survey of K-12 educators nationwide that yielded responses from 2,964 teachers and principals from 48 states. The survey was conducted by the Network for Public Education, a grassroots public school advocacy group founded by public school advocates, parents, educators, and university professors, including education historian Diane Ravitch. NPE recently released the survey findings in a report titled “Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation” at its national conference in Raleigh, N.C.
The survey findings add strong anecdotal weight to previous statistical surveys of teachers that have found their work dissatisfaction is at an all time high. A survey from 2012, found teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to 39 percent, its lowest level in 25 years, according to one review of the findings.
Findings from a more recent survey, published in 2015, revealed only 15 percent of teachers feel enthusiastic about the profession, and about three in four “often” feel stressed by their jobs.
One likely outcome of this high work dissatisfaction rate among teachers is that many states and school districts are now reporting acute teacher shortages. One major school system, Philadelphia, still struggles to fill teacher vacancies, even as the current school year nears end.
Meanwhile, other reports reveal record low numbers of college students enrolling into teacher preparation programs, foretelling even worse teacher shortages in the future.
Certainly, it doesn’t help that teacher salaries are stagnant. As an op-ed writer in a recentU.S. News and World Report noted, “Teachers haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years.” But poor teacher pay is a chronic problem that doesn’t by itself explain the shortages.
Teacher pension programs are also being chiseled away, but why would even short-timers—such as those coming from Teach for America, whose recruitment is down 35 percent over three years—be discouraged?
Indeed, the NPE survey reveals there are factors other than economics that are making teachers’ work-lives miserable.
What value added subtracts from teaching
As an article for Education Week explains, the NPE survey had a specific target in mind: to paint a qualitative, descriptive portrait of the effects of new teacher evaluation systems that are now in place in most schools.
“The new evaluation systems,” according to the EdWeek reporter, “were mostly developed as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition and NCLB-waiver projects” during the Obama administration. The evaluations combine the traditional practice of classroom observations with a heavy emphasis on student test scores. The test scores are fed into a computer-driven algorithm typically referred to as a value-added model, or VAM, which, according to the reporter, “attempts to estimate how much a teacher has contributed to student-achievement growth by factoring in the gains the student We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs - In These Times:

Reformers Aim To Shake Up the New York City Teachers Union - Working In These Times

Reformers Aim To Shake Up the New York City Teachers Union - Working In These Times:

Reformers Aim To Shake Up the New York City Teachers Union

MORE members (including Jia Lee, second from left) at this summer's Labor Notes conference. (Labor Notes / Facebook)  

Manhattan special education teacher Jia Lee just couldn’t take it anymore.
New York state Common Core testing standards, implemented in January of 2011 under the first Andrew Cuomo administration, not only tied teachers’ careers to student scores, but forced those teachers to focus solely on taking exams and diverted all educational energy toward rote memorization.
“They’re little human beings, not test scores,” she says.
Lee was frustrated. But she says her union, the United Federation of Teachers (Local 2, the largest affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers) had agreed on implementing new testing requirements in order to negotiate with the state on how that regime would go forward.
When Lee announced that she and her colleagues would protest by not administering the required test in 2014, having pulled her own son out of testing as a parent activist the year before, the union regarded it as an unsanctioned action and gave her no support, she says. Lee claims they decided not to impose the test on their students, and no disciplinary charges from the school administration ever came down, either.
Her claims do, however, fly in the face of the UFT’s official stance on testing. UFT president Michael Mulgrew said as early as 2011 that testing requirements harmed students and teachers alike. “The relentless march onward of the testing obsession represents the complete triumph of ideology over evidence,” he stated.
Nevertheless, Lee was unimpressed with the union’s stance, and as a result of her activism, was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the subject of testing, which she said shifted all resources in education away from social studies toward rote memorization, and that arts and musical education rested on outside funding from parents. Now a public face in the nationwide movement of teachers and parents resisting rigorous testing in schools, she is vying to become the president of one America’s most important teachers unions.
This month, she’ll face off against two-and-a-half term incumbent Michael Mulgrew as the lead candidate for the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, the local branch of the United Caucuses of Rank-and-File Educators that has affiliates throughout the country who are inspired by the reformers who took control of the Chicago Teachers Union and successfully led the 2012 strike.
Lee, 39, admits that the task seems insurmountable: the Unity Committee, or Unity Caucus, which Mulgrew is a member of, has held uninterrupted power in the UFT for five decades—in part through the key voting bloc of retirees. In most unions, retired members don’t vote in union elections.
But she’s hopeful despite the odds. “We see the election as an organizing tool,” Lee told me while taking a break from an all-day MORE organizing meeting earlier this year. “The real challenge is to build a rank-and-file movement.”
MORE formed a slate in 2013, and lost, with members from previous dissident caucuses. The difference with MORE is that it seems to build of the militancy in Chicago as well as the reform slate takeover of teachers unions in Los Angeles. As Lee sees it, the upcoming MORE push is the latest beachhead in a nationwide rank-and-file teacher reform movement.
Calling Mulgrew and AFT President and former UFT President Randi Weingarten “co-conspirators” in the privatization of public education, Lee cites the trend of accepting mayoral control of schools and defense of Common Core testing as a way to get a proverbial seat at the table to mitigate the impact of such proposals rather than oppose them outright. In the past, Lee says, both the UFT and the AFT received money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, compromising the unions’ ability to oppose privatization. (The foundation is one of the principal funders of free-market education reform efforts around the country.)
The union also rankled some of the city’s progressives in 2013, when it backed the most conservative and Wall Street-friendly Reformers Aim To Shake Up the New York City Teachers Union - Working In These Times:

Grand jury indicts company that led four Pinellas charter schools into financial peril | Tampa Bay Times

Grand jury indicts company that led four Pinellas charter schools into financial peril | Tampa Bay Times:

Grand jury indicts company that led four Pinellas charter schools into financial peril

A company that has been criticized for poor financial management at four Pinellas County charter schools has been indicted by a north Florida grand jury on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime.

The counts allege criminal activity at three now-closed charter schools in Pensacola.
Criminal summons have been issued to Newpoint Education Partners and three related companies that also were indicted — School Warehouse, Red Ignition and Epiphany Management Group. According to records recently obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, the related companies have sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of classroom supplies and technology services to Newpoint-managed schools in Pinellas.
All four companies could face fines, revocation of their business charters and restrictions on their activities, and could be ordered to make restitution. No individuals responsible for the companies have been charged.
Newpoint also managed Newpoint Tampa High School in Valrico until 2013, when it closed due to multiple concerns, including finances.
The indictments were handed up Wednesday by a grand jury in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida in Escambia County, but not released until Thursday. State prosecutor Russell Edgar said the jury charged the companies with laundering money and fraudulently billing schools for supplies, equipment and services with federal start-up grant funds for charter schools.
Investigators began receiving complaints about grade-tampering, teacher misconduct and misappropriation of supplies last year. In June, the Florida Department of Education visited three now-closed Newpoint-run charter schools in Escambia County and found at least 80 items that were purchased with federal grant money awarded to schools in other districts, including Pinellas.
Twelve tables found at those schools were purchased with grant money from Newpoint schools in Pinellas. The state also visited Windsor Preparatory Academy and East Windsor Middle Academy in St. Petersburg as part of its inquiry.
Edgar said prosecutors are investigating related incidents in Pinellas county, where Newpoint has recently sowed chaos using public money. Although charter schools use tax dollars, they are privately run with limited oversight from school districts.
Newpoint has run into major problems at four of the five schools it manages in Pinellas — Windsor Prep and East Windsor Middle Academy in St. Petersburg and Newpoint Pinellas Academy and Newpoint Pinellas High in Clearwater. All four are under pressure to tell the Florida Department of Education how they plan to address their "deteriorating" finances, the description used by Pinellas school officials.
Altogether, the schools enroll more than 700 students and receive $4.5 million in public funding, but have a total debt of $1.8 million according to audits.
In recent weeks as parents and volunteer board members at each of the schools have started to raise questions, Newpoint officials have disappeared from the scene. No one at the schools or the school district has been able to reach them, leaving parents and others to sort out bank accounts and legal issues.
"My overall assessment of the situation is it's not a surprise because this is what we've known all along," said Chris Wenzel, a Windsor Prep parent who joined the board overseeing Windsor Prep, East Windsor and Newpoint Pinellas Academy. "Something fishy was going on."
Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the district's legal staff is reviewing the indictments and "will take the appropriate next steps."
Newpoint, which also does business in Ohio as Cambridge Management Group, had been headquartered in Clearwater. Its most recent president was Eileen Quinlan, however the founder of the company is Marcus Nelson May, who has ties to the related companies listed in the indictments.
Neither Quinlan nor May responded to requests for comment Thursday.
The state attorney's office in Escambia County recently had subpoenaed records from Pinellas and other Florida counties where Newpoint has managed schools.
The company has opened 15 schools in six counties in Florida, including Hillsborough. Six have either Grand jury indicts company that led four Pinellas charter schools into financial peril | Tampa Bay Times: