stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘NCLB’ Category

Hedge Funds for Education? The next economic (and moral) crisis starts here…

In classism, communities, corporations, economics and economies, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids on August 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to PAGE for sending this out.

I hope to comment on this before too long – but until then, educators, families, and politicians better think seriously about whether they want our collective children and youth to be the primary victims of the education equivalent to the mortgage corruption and resulting crisis.

Remember the words prime, subprime, mortgage “products,” underwriters, hedging, hedge funds, adjustable-rates, asset-backed commercial paper, insolvency, credit default swap, derivatives, foreclosure, bankruptcy, too-big-to-fail, leveraging, negative equity, mortgage-backed security, short sales, and others? 

What lexicon will be created to describe the crisis of hundreds of millions (and billions?) of private and venture-capital dollars pouring into formerly-known-as-public education once it creates a false financial bubble and then a real meltdown?

I hope folks are paying attention – 200,000 jobs in the financial sector were cut this year alone. Those economic geniuses are now eyeing our education system for replacing those jobs and more. So where will educators be? Replaced by hedge fund managers and financial magicians keeping our eyes on the rabbit while money is shuffled under shells.

We thought NCLB was bad, greasing the hands of the publishing industry like never before? We ain’t seen nothing yet…

“KEEP YOUR INVESTMENT DOLLARS OFF OUR CHILDREN AND EDUCATORS’ LIVELIHOODS!”

 

Private firms eyeing profits from U.S. public schools

By Stephanie Simon
 
 
 
NEW YORK Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.
 
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.
 
“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”
 
Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.
 
The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.
 
Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.
 
Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.
 
The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies,” drew a full house of about 100.
 
 
OUTSOURCING BASICS
 
In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.
 
The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.
 
“It’s time,” Moe said. “Everybody’s excited about it.”
 
Not quite everyone.
 
The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.
 
Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.
 
Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as “failing” schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.
 
President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.
 
“This is a new frontier,” Ravitch said. “The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education.”
 
Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because “the bottom line is that they’re seeking profit first.”
 
Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.
 
“They’re taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we’re constantly concerned about raising quality, and they’re applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?” Ravitch said.
 
 
BUDGET PRESSURES
 
Investors retort that public school districts are compelled to use that metric anyway because of reduced funding from states and the soaring cost of teacher pensions and health benefits. Public schools struggling to balance budgets have fired teachers, slashed course offerings and imposed a long list of fees, charging students to ride the bus, to sing in the chorus, even to take honors English.
 
The time is ripe, they say, for schools to try something new — like turning to the private sector for help.
 
“Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient,” private equity investor Larry Shagrin said in the keynote address to the New York conference.
 
He credited the reform movement with forcing public schools to catch up. “There’s more receptivity to change than ever before,” said Shagrin, a partner with Brockway Moran & Partners Inc, in Boca Raton, Florida. “That creates opportunity.”
 
Speakers at the conference identified several promising arenas for privatization.
 
Education entrepreneur John Katzman urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day, driving down labor costs.
 
“How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?” asked Katzman, who founded the Princeton Review test-prep company and now focuses on online learning.
 
Such businesses already have been drawing significant interest. Venture capital firms have bet more than $9 million on Schoology, an online learning platform that promises to take over the dreary jobs of writing and grading quizzes, giving students feedback about their progress and generating report cards.
 
DreamBox Learning has received $18 million from investors to refine and promote software that drills students in math. The software is billed as “adaptive,” meaning it analyzes responses to problems and then poses follow-up questions precisely pitched to a student’s abilities.
 
The charter school chain Rocketship, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, turns kids over to DreamBox for two hours a day. The chain boasts that it pays its teachers more because it needs fewer of them, thanks to such programs. Last year, Rocketship commissioned a study that showed students who used DreamBox heavily for 16 weeks scored on average 2.3 points higher on a standardized math test than their peers.
 
 
SPECIAL ED AS A GROWTH MARKET
 
Another niche spotlighted at the private equity conference: special education.
 
Mark Claypool, president of Educational Services of America, told the crowd his company has enjoyed three straight years of 15 percent to 20 percent growth as more and more school districts have hired him to run their special-needs programs.
 
Autism in particular, he said, is a growth market, with school districts seeking better, cheaper ways to serve the growing number of students struggling with that disorder.
 
ESA, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, now serves 12,000 students with learning disabilities or behavioral problems in 250 school districts nationwide.
 
“The knee-jerk reaction [to private providers like ESA] is, ‘You’re just in this to make money. The profit motive is going to trump quality,’ ” Claypool said. “That’s crazy, because frankly, there are really a whole lot easier ways to make a living.” Claypool, a former social worker, said he got into the field out of frustration over what he saw as limited options for children with learning disabilities.
 
Claypool and others point out that private firms have always made money off public education; they have constructed the schools, provided the buses and processed the burgers served at lunch. Big publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling public school districts textbooks and standardized tests.
 
Critics see the newest rush to private vendors as more worrisome because school districts are outsourcing not just supplies but the very core of education: the daily interaction between student and teacher, the presentation of new material, the quick checks to see which kids have risen to the challenge and which are hopelessly confused.
 
At the more than 5,500 charter schools nationwide, private management companies — some of them for-profit — are in full control of running public schools with public dollars.
 
“I look around the world and I don’t see any country doing this but us,” Ravitch said. “Why is that?”
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Title IX is 40 years old…when and how do we teach about that in schools?

In anti-bias teaching, democracy, Education Policy, feminist work, gender and education, NCLB, social policy, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

(Image from the Sports and Entertainment Law Blog)

Have we come a long way baby? Given the fact that Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, was banned this week from speaking on the House floor because she said “vagina” during her compelling argument against restricting women’s reproductive rights – I think we’ve fallen a long way back in time, way before the 70’s when radical policy changes were made to improve the lives of girls and women in the United States.

One of those radical policy changes occurred forty years ago when Title IX was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon, and has faced many legal challenges over the years. Most people familiar with the phrase “Title IX” would immediately connect the law to girls’ and young women’s rights to play sports in any school receiving federal funding, but sports weren’t even mentioned in the legislation. The legislation prohibits sex discrimination in “all” of an institutions programs and activities, including sports, but extending well beyond sports. In fact, even sexual harassment of students is prohibited under Title IX, and if sex “bias” includes the way we teach and what we teach, I’m surprised that we haven’t heard about anyone using Title IX as a reason to include pro-women curriculum in schools at any level.

But a pro-women approach to education seems nearly impossible given the current war against women being waged in the U.S. (Even if it’s not just against women, but the pursuit of social control writ large). The attack on women and the persistent questioning of any attention to girls and women in education was gaining steam in 2001, just as the No Child Left Behind Act was being written and enacted. For example, The Heritage Foundation (formed in 1973, just one year after Title IX…coincidence?) describes itself as:

“Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

And within its “think tank” The Heritage Foundation determined that the Women’s Educational Equity Act was a “waste of money,” an opinion argued in this article, apparently written by a woman but written against girls and women. This article, like many others hitting newspapers and journals throughout the 2000s, highlights girls’ academic achievements in test scores relative to boys’ test scores. The article, of course, doesn’t mention that most girls and women still don’t know their basic rights, don’t know about the history of women’s rights in the U.S. or across the world, can’t recall any woman who is serving in a leadership role in the U.S. government, and have no idea that even in 2012 women still only make .77 for every one dollar earned by a man in the same job. A lot of folks may not even know that the “Paycheck Fairness Act” was voted on in 2012 and defeated. This Act would have made it easier for women to determine whether they were being paid fairly as compared to their counterparts who are men, but that right has been denied.

So where is Title IX in education? I can’t say I have ever heard about or observed any classroom at any level discussing the significance of this legislation in the daily lives and education of girls and women, and I definitely haven’t heard about or observed anyone teaching about women from an anti-discrimination perspective that would reflect the goals of Title IX. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the sex discrimination of our K-12 curriculum, and there are plenty of materials out there to help us all get started, including lots of links in the text above.

Do you teach high school? Check out this syllabus for teaching women’s rights. And NCSS standards are already included.

Don’t teach high school? Well, look over the syllabus to check your own knowledge about women’s fight for basic rights and adapt the material and activities to align with the age of your students.

And be sure to include current events in your teaching. Lucky us, the news is saturated with evidence that there is indeed a war against women being waged, and we get to teach it all, including the awesome performance of the Vagina Monologues in Lansing, Michigan on the Capitol steps , and the op-ed written by Representative Lisa Brown – two big news events this week alone.

We’ve gone a long way back in time baby – but it looks like women just might be waking up and deciding that the battles won in the 1970s, including Title IX among others eroding away, don’t guarantee anything when 40 years have passed.

**Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled has a good overview of Title IX and, as you will see, anti-women rhetoric is commonplace in the comments – a testament to today’s sexist climate.

Stay away from our schools!

In democracy, Education Policy, films for teacher education, NCLB on June 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

A cool – well, I think it’s cool – video I made using Go!Animate

“Stay Away From Our Schools!”

Georgia Parents are Searching for Clues and Answers

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB on May 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Hey folks – I have literally had hundreds of Georgia parents find this site through various internet searches in the past two weeks. This is definitely the time of year when parents are panicking, often being told (for the first time) that their child is going to be retained because their test scores were too low for them to be promoted. Most haven’t been contacted all year long about academic issues (but constant contact about fundraisers, behavior problems, and returning mountains of signed paperwork giving permission for their children to be in a “trial” run of Common Core assessments or included in photographs, or agreements to “Parent Engagement” contracts is frequent if not overkill).

Here’s a comment I sent to a parent who just reached out today.

Synopsis: her 2nd grade son has performed extremely well on AR (Accelerated Reader) which is something this school apparently values, he has received 90-100% on all of his “tests” he has taken all year (reading tests, spelling tests, etc.) and has done well in math. The 2nd grade CRCT scores came back and his scores don’t reflect 2nd grade level reading and slightly below average in math. Now they want to retain him – but the school has never contacted the mother about any concerns academically. Some calls about behavior (Of course “behavior” is “reported”!!!!! Education has become about social control – not education!) And guess what? This mother is pissed. And I am too! This is happening to hundreds if not thousands of kids right now – and it is absolutely absurd. We know the tests are about money – getting more millions of dollars into the pockets of publishing companies. The tests are not about teaching and assessing what kids know.

Here’s my quick reply to her:

Hi Lisa – You are correct, passing the 2nd grade CRCT is not mandatory for being promoted to the following grade. And actually, it’s not even “mandatory” for 3rd graders to pass the CRCT in order to be promoted. Teachers and parents can always design an alternative plan to retention.

You are correct again – it is inappropriate that you have been contacted about “behavioral” issues and yet you had no idea that retention was being considered until now. This is too late in the game and teachers/principals should be communicating with parents long before there is a possible retention being discussed. I suggest you remind your son’s teacher and administrator of their professional duties to communicate about academic progress and any potential academic concerns across the year. This is not an end-of-the-year conversation!

I also recommend that you take in this “data” you have about other tests your son has taken, ask for the teacher to provide “data” such as anecdotal records, etc. that documented his growth and development across the year in reading and math, and ask for documentation about the various ways the teacher has “differentiated” instruction to meet your son’s needs when any concern emerged.

I’m glad you found the site too. I’m pissed off right along with you as are hundreds, and maybe thousands of Georgia parents are this month as they are “informed” that their child is going to be retained. What is happening is unacceptable, unethical, and not in the best interest of our kids.

cheers,
stephanie

Listen up folks – “Valued-Added” model doesn’t work

In economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, justice, NCLB on May 18, 2012 at 2:13 am

We have heard about the “value-added” model as a way to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness. It’s strictly a mathematical formula that is designed to result in 50% of teachers demonstrating “value added” and 50% of teachers demonstrating “value subtracted” based on students’ test scores.

That, alone, is problematic.

But the way statistical models work is never as objective and certain as they are made out to be.

One of the best teachers – yes, really, one of the best – can actually land on the bottom of the “value-added” list.

Read this Washington Post essay by Aaron Pallas who describes in plain English how this is possible and how it actually happened to a teacher in New York City.

Then ask yourself some questions:

1 – Why do we keep trying to quantify education when a) the process of teaching/learning is simply not quantifiable, and b) the ways we try to quantify educational processes are completely invalid and are used in dangerous ways that impact people’s lives?

2 – Why do we act like these (seriously flawed) statistics matter and even allow newspapers to publish teachers in rank order based on them?

3 – Why would any smart person want to be part of a profession that is constantly being beaten down, scrutinized, punished, criticized, and blamed for all the ills of the world? My guesses include: 1) That person doesn’t read newspapers; 2) That person still wants to change the world for children, youth, and families and decides to put up the good fight against the machine.

4 – When will we begin calculating “value-added” statistics for Fortune 500 CEOs and CFOs, bankers, mortgage brokers, politicians, prison CEOs, and other people and groups of people who do more damage to our citizens and land than any teacher could ever do over many lifetimes?

The spotlight is pointed in the wrong direction folks – and the distraction is keeping us all focused on things that don’t matter much in the bigger picture. We live in a society focused almost entirely on social control: regimented schooling, strict reporting of “data”, mass incarceration, lower wages for folks on the bottom of the ladder and higher incomes than ever for those on the top.

Test scores? Really? We are going to continue to spend billions of dollars on designing, publishing, distributing, preparing for, taking, giving, scoring, analyzing, reporting, reporting on the reporting of test scores? And then act as if it’s not about funneling taxpayers’ money to some of the largest corporations in the country even as wage workers in schools are hit with lay-offs, furloughs, pay-cuts, and more and more fear through the use of invalid and downright false data about them? And then we’ll pretend those test scores are so important that we will ruin kids’ lives by retaining them, deflating their self-confidence and self-worth, hold the test score over their 8-year old and 13-year old heads, and fill families with constant conflict and heartbreak and frustration?

We are missing the point here, distracted by all these absurd details. This is about 1) money, and 2) fear, punishment, and social control.

The insanity just won’t quit.

Getting Back to the Basics – Social Class and Poverty vs. Accountability

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, poverty, social class, Standing up for Kids on May 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm

The State of Georgia is following the footsteps of other states (Florida being one of those) requiring potential applicants for welfare, foodstamps, etc. to pass a drug screening. If they test positive, they are denied benefits and recommended treatment – though not, of course, helped to pay for treatment. If they test negative, they may be allowed to receive meager state benefits to help feed and shelter themselves and their families.

Those struggling to make ends meet in our country are constantly subjected to much more scrutiny, and much more punitive situations than those who do not struggle economically. If this didn’t have lasting (negative) effects on people’s lives and dignities, I would call this a fascinating practice. It is fascinating – how those in a society with the least are also “given” the least and more heavily scrutinized…yes, fascinating.

And damaging.

And absolutely unethical and immoral and just plain wrong.

This is not only evident in “state benefits” such as food stamps, housing subsidies, etc., but this trend has been evident since the beginning of documenting educational practices. Working-class and poor kids are almost always perceived as coming in with “less” and then – shockingly – provided with “less” but under the conditions of greater scrutiny.

One example of this is the great piece from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective that has gone viral – there is no doubt that most of the kids “projected to fail” the state standardized test in Georgia will also coincidentally be from working-class or poor families. And will they fail? Well, everyone has projected them to do so, and if we know one thing in education it’s that the “self-fulfilling prophecy” is alive and well. Expect someone to be smart and you will see his or her smartness; expect someone to fail and you will see his or her failures.

Again – damaging, unethical, immoral, and just plain wrong.

Paul Thomas is a fabulous scholar and advocate for working-class and poor students and families – check out his latest post that can help us all point to “research” (in this era of accountability) about why we should be paying attention to social class and poverty rather than accountability measures such as “tests.”

When conversations spiral out of control – end of year Blitzes, testing bootcamps, expecting all “gifted” kids to score in the highest range of the test, etc. etc. – try to keep the conversation where it might make a difference:

How are our kids’ basic needs being met?

How is the state, county, school supporting families who are struggling to make ends meet?

What are we doing as educators to inspire creativity and deep connections with school for our most vulnerable students?

And who – based on our current practices – is always “privileged” and getting “more” out of school? And who is getting less?

Does the evidence point to an issue of classism in our school? County? State? Country?

What are we going to do to act in an anti-classist way?

Getting back to the basics can help us out of this daunting situation we find ourselves in and we can do that if we constantly work to change the conversation.

Are the Test Questions Absurd? Tell Everyone!

In high-stakes tests, NCLB on April 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Lots of fabulous news has emerged regarding the ridiculous nature of questions on tests – you know, those meaningless things that now are tied to children’s academic futures, teachers’ salaries, schools’ funding, and the morale of a country?

Here’s a great letter from a New York City principal about test questions, riding the coattails of the viral “Pineapple and Hare” question.

Tell us about the absurd test questions you found this year – let everyone know how ridiculous it is that these tests are being heralded as the foundation for “accountability” in education.

Projecting and Producing Failure – Where is Success?

In critical literacy, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, social action on April 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm

An essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

teachinggeorgia@gmailcom

 

Projecting and Producing Failure – Where is Success?

An Essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

The end of the CRCT (Georgia State Standardized Tests) marks the time of the school year that teachers look forward to most. Its the time when teachers have more freedom and flexibility to teach in student-centered, inquiry-based, and curiosity-driven ways. It’s the time of the year when tensions subside and mandates are over. Well, at least that’s what we used to look forward to. However, this year after the CRCT is over there is a new district mandate in Clarke County to which third and fifth grade teachers must adhere. It’s called the “Blitz.”

Third and fifth grade teachers across the district have been asked to compile a list of students “projected to fail” the CRCT. Teachers were forced to use previous standardized assessments to determine this list of students. And if the lists weren’t long enough, teachers were told to add more, just in case.

Students on the “projected to fail” list will be involved in a “Blitz” session immediately following the conclusion of the CRCT – before test results are even known. Students will be re-rostered – that is, the students will be grouped with new students and different teachers so all the “projected failures” will be in one class receiving “intense remediation” while the remaining students will experience “acceleration and enrichment.”

This means that while some students are investigating how tornadoes are formed, creating inventions to fix a problem they see in their community, or making informational videos using iPads, the “projected to fail” students will be sitting in a computer lab staring at a screen and listening through headphones to practice skill and drill reading assignments for an hour every day. This is on top of the hour and a half of direct reading instruction they will receive.

When does the torture end? Why aren’t all students given the opportunity to learn in creative and inspired ways? Why are students who may struggle with reading constantly given boring and uninspiring things they must read while other students have choice and learn to read through creative projects? Don’t all students need an enriching and encouraging environment surrounded by friends and teachers that know them best?

“Struggling” students are constantly on the losing end of every battle – and now they lose even before their test results are known.

If students aren’t successful on a high-stakes standardized test in reading, the blame is aimed at the student who is labeled defective and in need of fixing. But what if the student isn’t what needs fixing? What if the way school policies and mandates are created is what needs fixing? What if the budget is what’s broken? What if we stop blaming the students, their parents, and the teachers and instead look at the conditions of schooling that produce failure?

We dream of a school system where students aren’t projected to fail and schools don’t produce failure. That school system would encourage teachers to slow down and learn about a student who is struggling and design instruction to make that student successful. We teachers don’t need more textbooks, scripted curricula or software programs, we need time to teach our students in the way that is best for them. And students don’t need more textbooks, scripted curricula or software programs either. They need a less stressful and anxiety-ridden environment and more time in creative, supportive classrooms where they know they are valued and projected to succeed.  They need student-centered inquiries back in their school lives, and teachers who do engaging projects with them where they ask questions and find answers.

School systems’ fear of failure has created the conditions for more failure to emerge. We might all be surprised if we stopped making decisions out of fear of failure and started making decisions based on hope and seeing our students as possibility. Let’s change the definition of “success” to include more than one test score and project success for all our students.

 

We might begin with a different kind of “Blitz” – which is defined as an intense campaign for something, even if most definitions refer specifically to military campaigns. Let’s use the end of the school year for a “School is a place I want to be” Blitz to motivate students to make deep connections to school and inspire them to look forward to the fall. Keeping them in their classrooms with teachers and students they have come to know and trust all year is one place to start, and engaging them with challenging and creative projects is another. If we don’t, this “Blitz” for the CRCT – even after the CRCT is over – will likely backfire on us all.

 

CRCT Appeals Process – a re-posting

In democracy, Education Policy, families, high-stakes tests, NCLB on April 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi everyone – I’m getting so many blog hits from parents trying to figure out what to do with these crazy testing policies, so I wanted to re-post something from way back in 2009. As far as I know this all still holds. In addition to this, I’ve been commenting back and forth with some parent commenters – so check out this link. And get involved! Endorse the National Resolution on Testing and Google your local, state, and national organizations fighting against high-stakes testing. In Georgia, that would include EmpowerEdGeorgia and at least one national organization is the Save Our Schools group, or SOS.

 

From the 2009 post:

We all know how ridiculous it is to decide a student’s fate on one test score. It doesn’t make any sense at all from an academic, social, emotional, or policy perspective. Teachers, students, and parents know best about how a student has progressed across a year – and if a teacher doesn’t know that, then she is not doing her job. I can’t get to this issue though – because kids’ lives are being ruined by unthoughtful decision-making about whether they should be promoted or retained. Wanna know the odds that a kid will finish high school if she or he is retained one time in their educational career? Not good…check out the statistics for yourself.

I’ve heard numerous stories about students in all grades being spontaneously “retained” at the end of the school year because – and only because – of the CRCT scores. And kids are carrying home this news on the last day of school – crying on school buses. This is regardless of how well the student has done all year.

Here are some facts about the Georgia state policy on promotion/retention:

THERE IS ONLY A STATE POLICY FOR 3RD, 5TH, AND 8TH GRADE regarding CRCT scores –

THERE IS NOT A STATE POLICY FOR OTHER GRADES regarding the CRCT scores – DO NOT LET SOMEONE TELL YOU THERE IS (or ask for it in writing – I can’t find it anywhere). That means that any last minute decision to hold back a child in K,1,2,4,6 based on CRCT scores is not substantiated in state policy – and parents, teachers, students should fight this decision if it is not in the best interest of the child.

For 3rd (READING SCORES ONLY – DOES NOT REQUIRE MATH SCORES), 5th, and 8th graders (BOTH READING AND MATH):

1 – The school district should have a local policy about how the CRCT is “weighted” in decisions of promotion and retention.

2 – The school district should have a local policy about the other factors that will go into deciding whether a child is promoted or retained.

ASK ABOUT THESE TWO POLICIES. ASK FOR THEM IN WRITING.

3 – If a child in 3,5, or 8th grade does not pass the CRCT, the family must be notified BY FIRST CLASS MAIL WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE SCHOOL’S RECEIPT OF THE SCORES WITH THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

a) The below-grade level score on the CRCT

b) The specific re-tests to be given and testing dates

c) The opportunity for accelerated, differentiated, or additional instruction (this can be like summer school – but this is NOT mandatory for students to attend prior to retaking the test. It is only mandatory for the school to offer it).

d) The POSSIBILITY that the student might be retained for next year

IF THE STUDENT RE-TAKES THE TEST AND STILL DOESN’T MEET GRADE LEVEL EXPECTATIONS:

a) The principal may choose to retain the student – and if so, the student’s family must be informed BY FIRST CLASS MAIL of this decision, AND of the option of the parent/guardian or teacher to APPEAL this decision.

IF A PARENT/GUARDIAN OR TEACHER APPEALS THE DECISION:

a) A “placement committee” must be formed and convened to discuss information about the child from across the school year that one might not know from looking at the CRCT scores. This committee would be: the principal OR a designee, the family/parents/guardians/ (I would add other advocates), and the teacher or teacher(s) who know the student best in the subject of the CRCT. If a child receives special education – THE IEP COMMITTEE IS THE PLACEMENT COMMITTEE).

b) In addition to other things, the placement committee must establish ongoing assessments for the child in the next year to monitor her/his progress.

c) The decision to promote to the next grade must be unanimous.

BUT – IF IT IS NOT – THERE IS A WAY TO APPEAL THIS DECISION THROUGH THE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT. CALL THEM AND ASK FOR THE POLICY IN WRITING AND ASK FOR SOMEONE TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU IN PERSON OR OVER THE PHONE AS WELL.

Listen – the No Child Left Behind Act has created a machine that eats up children, families, teachers, and administrators. CRCT is part of the machine. Everyone is working over-time to cover their own butts – and you’ll find VERY FEW PEOPLE going out of their way to save a child who is dangling over the edge getting ready to plummet into the grinder.

If you don’t do it – no one else will.

STAND UP FOR KIDS.

(ALL INFORMATION PULLED DIRECTLY FROM PROMOTION/RETENTION POLICY DOCUMENT “STATE BOARD RULE” 160-4-2-.11.PDF ON THE GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WEBSITE. I have paraphrased most of this given the complex language of the original document – but I have also pulled some direct quotes. I have the full pdf if someone wants to contact me about getting it)

National Testing Resolution – sign your school or organization up now!

In democracy, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, teacher education, teacher education resources on April 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm
From Bridging Differences:
Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:50 AM PDT
Dear Deborah,
The backlash against high-stakes standardized testing is growing into a genuine nationwide revolt. Nearly 400 school districts in Texas have passed a resolution opposing high-stakes testing, and the number increases every week. Nearly a third of the principals in New York state (some at risk of losing their jobs) have signed a petition against the state’s new and untried, high-stakes, test-based evaluation system.
Today, a group of organizations devoted to education, civil rights, and children issued a national resolution against high-stakes testing modeled on the Texas resolution. The National Testing Resolution urges citizens to join the rebellion against the testing that now has a choke-hold on children and their teachers. It calls on governors, legislatures, and state boards of education to re-examine their accountability systems, to reduce their reliance on standardized tests, and to increase their support for students and schools.
The National Testing Resolution calls on the Obama administration and Congress to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators”.
The organizations that have joined to oppose high-stakes testing include the Advancement Project; the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Fairtest; the Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.; the National Education Association; the New York Performance Standards Consortium; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education (Chicago); Time Out from Testing; and the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
I hope that parents and teachers everywhere endorse this important statement of principle and bring it to their local and state leaders for consideration.
By coincidence, standardized testing was exposed to national ridicule this week because of a nonsensical question about a pineapple and a hare on the New York state English language arts test for 8th graders. Complaints about the pineapple story appeared on the New York City parents’ listserv, were reported in the New York Daily News, and then went viral overnight with postings on Facebook and Twitter. The New York City parent blog has a good summary. The Wall Street Journal published a hilarious interview with the real author of the fake testing story. On Twitter, it was referred to as #pineapplegate. The pineapple story was covered by The New York Times and The Washington Post.
But the state’s high-stakes testing examinations are no joke. The principal of a high-performing school wrote a letter to the state commissioner complaining about the quality of the questions in every grade. Teachers of the deaf said their students were asked to answer questions about sounds “such as the clickety-clack of a woman’s high heels and the rustle of wind blowing on leaves.”
There is madness in tying teachers’ careers and reputations to their students’ scores on such low-quality and incoherent examinations. Our policymakers have chosen to ignore the research warning that value-added assessment is inherently fraught with error, instability, and unreliability. Children are not wheat, their growth is not utterly predictable, and the standardized tests capture only a subset of what matters most in education.
But, Deborah, as the National Testing Resolution explains, there is a far larger question at issue here than the accuracy of the test questions. Even if the tests contained no absurd questions; even if the tests were flawless, the misuse of test scores is an affront to educators and to students. There may be diagnostic value in standardized tests, but they are now being treated as scientific instruments. What Pineapplegate demonstrates is that they are not scientific instruments. They are cultural artifacts, social constructions, created by fallible people. They should be used appropriately to provide useful information to teachers, not to punish or reward them.
At present, the standardized tests are used inappropriately. There should be no stakes attached to them. Decisions about teacher evaluation should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about bonuses should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about closing schools should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about retaining students should not be tied to student scores. All of these are weighty decisions that should be made by experienced professionals, taking into consideration a variety of factors specific to the child, the teacher, and the school.
Tests are a tool, not a goal. We should use them as needed, not let them use us. Their misuse has turned them into a weapon to narrow the curriculum, incentivize cheating, promote gaming the system, and control teachers. The more we rely on high-stakes standardized tests, the more we destroy students’ creativity, ingenuity, and willingness to think differently, and the more we demoralize teachers. The important decisions that each of us will face in our lives cannot be narrowed to one of four bubbles. We must prepare students to live in the world, not to comply on command.
The National Testing Resolution calls on all those who are concerned about the future of our society and the well-being of children to stop this mad obsession with test scores.
I hope the revolt grows until it consumes the terrible cult of measurement that has now so distorted the means and ends of education.
Diane

– Diane Ravitch

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