Sunday, April 06, 2014

More Things that Make You Go, Hmmm

United Opt-Out, a website that has state-by-state resources for parents on how to opt their children out of tests got hacked recently.  They say it was "maliciously hacked and destroyed in an act of political sabotage."

Odd, no? I mean, it's not Target or any money-making entity where you could get credit card info.  It's information for public school parents.  And yet it didn't just get temporarily interrupted - it got destroyed.

From Reclaim Reform:

How much money is involved for investors in the highly lucrative fields of testing, online programming, training, publishing, vendor contracts, etc.? The latest estimates from a Bill Moyers interview with Diane Ravitch is about $500 billion annually. View/read HERE

And, of course, there is the power in directing the course of public education.  I'm sure some ed reformers could not have that taken away from them. 

On Common Core and popular support (which supporters insist is huge).   There was a survey done recently, with less than 4,000 registered voters nationwide (1,000 nationwide, with additional ones in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado - no explanation how they chose these states). 

What was the question asked?

“To ensure that all students are prepared for success after graduation, the Common Core Standards establish a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level across subjects.”

Oh, and do your like mom and apple pie, too?  Of course they got 64% support with that question.

The results were 32% strongly support, 32% somewhat support, unsure 12%, oppose somewhat 9% and strongly oppose 15%.   What's interesting is supporters are saying only 24% oppose them and leave out that 15% aren't sure about them at all. 

All the questions were skewed that way.  But they asked one telling question:

Respondents were also asked if they would be more likely or less likely to support a candidate for public office that supported the use of Common Core Standards in your area?” 

They got the same results with that question as well.  And yet, ed reformers are constantly berating any pushback or discussion about Common Core, saying the other side is "politicizing the discussion."  Well, if you run a national poll about Common Core and have a question that would make CC a litmus test for candidates, then it is YOU who would be politicizing the conversation.

Not sure if you missed this but Maya Angelou and 120 other children's book authors signed a letter to President Obama about what they say is "overuse and abuse" of standardized testing.  Here's a link to the letter.

We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. 

Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.”

We offer our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.

Next, let's reflect on DFER.  It's interesting that the huge pushback on Common Core has unleashed a lot of nervousness on the ed reform side because it is coming more from parents than anyone else.  So bring on the tired old ed reform talk of (along with some new favorites) from DFER:
  • "status quo" - that one never seems to get old to them even though they probably could not bring forth a handful of public school parents or taxpayers who would say everything is fine and nothing should change.
  • "outdated pencil and paper bubble tests" - Now I'm not sure which one is worse - the dreaded paper and pencil test or the bubble test.  I can point out that much of technology today got invented by people who took...pencil and paper tests.  In fact, the people who sent the astronauts to the moon?  Took a paper and pencil test.  
  • "we need to let parents have an 'honest picture of how their students are doing"  Okay, so how come parents can't see their own child's test results?  What about teachers and the students in their class?  
  • my new favorite is "Some will use this opportunity to criticize the hard work of the educators and researchers who created the test."  I cannot say - nor can DFER - who truly created these assessments.  If you go by who "created" the CC standards, you'd have to wonder.  Hard work does not equal good test.  I thought we stopped giving grades for effort.
  • I also like that the issues around the assessments are "hiccups" and "glitches." 
And what about TFA Washington? I was browsing their website and saw a couple of fascinating facts and one striking error.
  • They "arrived" in Washington in 2011 and had 12 teachers that year.  They are now all the way up to 26 teachers.  It would appear that Washington State districts (and in particular Puget Sound districts) are not all that interested in what TFA has to offer.  
  • This region is coded on their national map as "green" which means, according to TFA, that the need for TFA is not great here for their teachers.
  • The striking error is on their homepage where they reel off these stats about Rainier Beach High School and Garfield.  I read these and thought, "wow, I didn't think those state test scores on African-American students at those schools were so low."  Well, checking OSPI data, it turns out those are stats from 2011-2012 school year.  The scores, especially at RBHS, have gone up quite a bit.  And yet TFA uses those old stats to bolster their pitch that TFA is needed here.  
Not a very nice thing to do to those two schools who ARE working hard for their students. 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you'd like to know who created the Smarter Balanced assessments? Here's a link to every contract that Smarter has awarded to develop and design their assessments: http://www.k12.wa.us/SMARTER/Jobs-Contracts.aspx. Under the column titled, "Successful Bidder," you'll see the vendor's name. However, this is the name only of the main contractor --- there will be subcontractors as part of their bid. The names of these vendors will be listed in the successful proposal.

Also, the work of these vendors was supervised by work groups made up entirely of state department of education staff.

Since Washington/OSPI is the fiscal agent for the consortium, OSPI technically awarded the contracts.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh Swk, I just knew you'd have the answers. Here's the thing; do I believe everyone who works for those vendor is an educator or researcher? I don't simply because I know that everyone who wrote the standards wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I too do not believe that everyone who works for those vendors is an educator or researcher. But many of those people are former educators and many of them have backgrounds in research. Many of the people who work for those vendors who write items/test questions are former educators. Many of the people who work for those vendors have backgrounds in psychometrics, research, and project management.

But why would you assume they would be educators? Wouldn't you want people who are skilled in test development working on developing tests. Most K-12 educators have no background in such --- it is simply not their forte. Ask all of the teachers principals that you know if they have any coursework or professional development in item writing, test construction, scoring, psychometrics, etc. --- you'll not be surprised at the answer.

Finally, as I previously mentioned, all of the work of Smarter Balanced is supervised by work groups of state department of education staff.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I guess that answers how that third grade question about divorce got put on the test.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

As far as I know, most teacher do make up their own tests. Are they all fully qualified to right test questions for a national test? Probably not.

Because Common Core has been so badly explained and the implementation so bungled, I have very little faith in it (as is apparent here).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough already - good observation (although that was a PARCC question).

Anonymous said...

I like the P. Pullman quote and do sympathize when it comes to the standardized test debate. Just wanted to point out that SPS continues to cut library services and funding for school libraries - our librarians play a key role in keeping the fire alive in all our readers!

Read on!