Boycott Common Core Assessments: Some Seattle Schools' Teachers Say Yes

The Stranger has an article (which I am in) about Common Core.   I actually didn't know that the main thrust of it was about some Seattle Schools' teachers who plan to boycott the Common Core assessments. 

It seems to me like the same wolf in different sheep's clothing. How could we not boycott that?" says one longtime high-school teacher. "We objected to the MAP test because we didn't know to what standards it was addressed," she explains, and because it took time away from classrooms and computer labs. Moreover, the teachers couldn't look at the tests before having their students take it. "Smarter Balanced has all those disadvantages, but in addition, it's teaching to standards that have never been vetted in a classroom or by teachers," she says.

This could be the first-ever teacher boycott of Obama's new standards and testing regimen, with the potential to set a precedent for the rest of the country. Critics say corporate education reform titans like the Gates Foundation developed Common Core without input from teachers.

The district says some interesting things:

The district's testing administrators told me they expect students who take the Smarter Balanced Assessments to experience a drop compared to previous tests by 20 to 25 percent (which shouldn't be cause for alarm, they say, since the bar has simply been raised). 

No cause for alarm?  Tell that to parents - is my kid doing okay or not?

The district maintains that it's communicating strongly with parents while teachers receive training to teach the new standards, which it says will better prepare students to compete on the world stage. 

Strongly communicated?  I'd have to see the evidence. 

Unfortunately the article is more about a possible boycott than the real issues of Common Core.  But I think raising awareness what's coming is always a good idea.


Eric M said…
You simply would not believe the amount of class hours (and computer resources) that are disappearing to these "Smarter" "Balanced" tests next month. We saw the schedule today. But students and families will not see the results - this year's testing is only "to calibrate". In other words, for the company's benefit.

Amazing coincidence: huge increase in testing, plus dire 10 to 15% budget reduction for SPS schools!

I will be opting my son out, for all more than one excellent reason.
Po3 said…
Hale students getting double community service hours to pilot test. (article in their newsletter in Dec, I believe.)

My students will be opted out each and every year until it is a requirement for graduation.
Enough!! said…
Three days have been set aside for high school students to "pilot" Smarter Balanced Assesments.

Why weren't these tests "piloted" before roll-out? Why are our children being used as guinea pigs? Our children need and deserve instructional time!!
Anonymous said…
Wouldn't the raw scores for ANY of these tests be essentially meaningless as they are test and year-specific. Should we expect percentile rankings to change as well?

Breann said…
Po3, that sounds wholly inappropriate! Incentivizing students to be test subjects for a corporation? The SBAC Field Test has NO benefit to the student (scores won't even go out this year) and every benefit to the testing company. That sounds like no reasons to take it and every reason not to.

You can get around the graduation requirement, too, by throwing the high school test. One "attempt" is required before accessing alternatives.

We MUST refuse to comply with this system. Our compliance in giving them the data they seek will ONLY perpetuate it.
Anonymous said…
Eric M, could you document where you have found that the Smarter Balanced assessments are a "huge increase in testing"?

This spring's Smarter Balanced assessments are "field" tests, not "pilot" tests. The Smarter Balanced pilot tests were last spring. The field tests are this spring. The purpose of a pilot test is to test the system. The purpose of a field test is to test items. In Washington state, field testing is "embedded," which means that field test items --- not factored into a student's test score --- are included on operational tests. The state then uses student performance on these items --- they are actually scored --- to determine whether items are good items or bad items. The Smarter Balanced field test this spring is a "stand alone" field test, which is self-explanatory. However, the purpose is the same --- to determine the appropriateness of items to be included on future operational tests. In Washington, these items are not developed to benefit the testing company. All field test items, all items in fact belong to the state. The testing company is prohibited from selling these items to other states or using these items in any way outside of the state of Washington. Fielding testing is a required psychometric component of any test development and is certainly required in all state testing contracts.

The Smarter Balanced assessments, like the Washington MSPs, HSPEs, and EOCs are criterion-referenced assessments, not norm-referenced assessments. Therefore, Curve, there are no percentile rankings reported. A student performs against the content expectations (criteria) rather than against their peers (norm). But you are correct that the raw scores are test- and year-specific.

Teachers boycotting the state assessments (of which the Smarter Balanced assessments will be next year) has been attempted in Seattle in the past, but not on a large scale. Administering state assessments is a required duty of public school teachers and boycotting can lead to termination (although this has never happened as far as I know, thank goodness). Boycotting MAP is one thing, boycotting federal and state assessments is quite another.

Finally, the state alternative assessments for graduation are still assessments, most are simply not standardized summative assessments. The Collection of Evidence, for example, is still an assessment --- a portfolio assessment One thing to keep in mind is that the vast, vast majority of students in Washington who pass the state graduation testing requirements do so using the HSPE and EOCs (and the WASL before those). Only a very small percentage, like 3%, of students use the Collections of Evidence to meet their graduation requirements. You should consider this before taking Breann's advice to have your children throw the high school test.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the info Swk,

I too am provisionally against Common Core (and their assessments) mainly because the standards appear to be drawn up by "policy wonk committees". In fact, it is impossible to determine from their website WHO sets the curriculum and why. Thus, more bureaucracy for teachers to wade through, getting in the way of teaching and no one is accountable for it.

Po3 said…
Read New Test to Replace HSPE, page 5

Double service hours being given to students to sit for state exams.

Wrong. So wrong!

Anonymous said…
I should add that I am generally for assessments. However, I think they need to be widely used (i.e. no one should opt out) and they need to be nationally applied. My problem is that we already have serviceable assessments that have been used for decades. They are not perfect. But constantly reinventing the wheel is a waste of time.

Anonymous said…
When is the next SEA election? Jesse Hagopian is speaking at the same conference this blog's owner Melissa is attending. He does not believe in Common Core testing and he has said he may run for SEA president. He's a real rabble-rouser - got Garfield to quit the MAP test and got national coverage for it.

If he runs for SEA and wins that will be a fine kettle of fish for this district. SEA v SPS administration, no doubt covered extensively by U.S. media. It's going to be a wild ride. The teachers won't all agree with anti-Common Core testing but enough will that there will significant labor unrest.

You heard it here first. If you are a parent, sit back and watch the coming year or two, educate yourself on Common Core standards and Common Core testing (two different subjects) and be prepared for anything: strikes, firings, concessions, cave-ins, administrative turnover, teacher turnover... Who knows at this point? But the bottom line, if Hagopian runs and wins, will be turbulent classrooms in Seattle.

Planning Ahead
Anonymous said…
The author of the Hale HS article that Po3 sent a link to got one critical piece of information incorrect. The Smarter Balanced high school assessment WILL NOT be a graduation requirement next year.

--- swk
Anonymous said…

What nationally applied assessments that have been used for decades are you speaking of??

Anonymous said…
So are these new tests being given to all kids this year? If Hale is looking for volunteers, it sounds like no.

What new tests should we be on the lookout for this year, and are there differences by grade? I'm trying to figure out what, specifically, to include in any opt-out letter to our various principals.

Anonymous said…
HIMSmom, not all students in the state are taking the Smarter Balanced field tests this spring. In fact, only about 20% of students at each grade level across the state are taking the field tests. In fact, not all districts nor all schools even within districts nor are all students within a school are field testing.

Sorry, I do not know the details regarding which schools in SPS will be field testing.

--- swk
Breann said…
Chicago teachers refuse to administer the ISAT!
lbarrios said…
To Anonymous - a Planning Ahead

Your advice for parents to "sit back and watch" illustrates one of the reasons all this corporate reform has gotten this far. Lucky for oarents in Seattle, they have teachers like Jesse willing to stand up for your kids and risk their jobs. Also fortunate that Seattle has a strong union membership unlike much of Louisiana which operates like a Kingdom under Bobby a Jindal. I would like to revisit the present in the future to see if perspective changes.
Stop CCSS said…
From the SBAC Field Test webpage:
"Most students will complete a test in one subject: either English language arts/literacy or mathematics. While the Smarter Balanced assessment is untimed, each subject area is expected to take 3-4 hours to complete. Schools may administer the Field Test over multiple days. Because the Field Test is a “test of the test,” students will not receive scores."

3-4 hours for one part of the test is longer than our current MSP.
It also is not scored and does not say if the field test will be fully adaptive, I'm assuming it will be.

YES students can OPT OUT of the SBAC and the MSP (unless you are full time ALE then you have to take the MSP or similar if your school allows.)


-WA state against common core (closed FB group)
Anonymous said…
Stop CCSS, the field test will, in fact, be scored; however, the students will not receive the scores. It is very important to score how students do on the items to be sure if they are good items or bad items.

The field test WILL NOT be fully adaptive (i.e., computer adaptive) like the operational test. Because the items are being tested rather than the students (for lack of a better way of putting it), there is no reason for the items to adapt to the test taker's performance.

--- swk
Stop CCSS said…
Thanks for clarifying that SWC
Anonymous said…
De nada.

--- swk

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