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Monday, September 28, 2015

ACT and College Board Sued for Selling Student Information

This is one of the many reasons why parents need to pay attention to student privacy issues....  As far as I can tell, there has been no settlement or verdict yet. If you know of any updates, please comment below and leave a link.

 November 1, 2013 


A standardized test taker filed a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against ACT and the College Board for selling personal information about her and millions of American high schoolers.

The lawsuit, filed this week in a federal district court in Illinois, seeks more than $5 million in damages from the test makers for “unfair, immoral, unjust, oppressive and unscrupulous” conduct. Namely, the plaintiff, a Cook County woman about which little else is known, alleges that ACT and the College Board do not tell test takers what will be done with their personal information. She said test takers are asked if ACT and the College Board can "share" personal information with others. That is misleading, the lawsuit alleges, because the information is in fact sold and test takers -- almost entirely high school teens -- become part of a multimillion-dollar money-generating machine for ACT and the College Board.

The test makers have long sold high school students’ personal information to colleges that want to market to students. The current price is about 37 or 38 cents per name. Colleges are using increasingly sophisticated data mining techniques to recruit and shape their classes. Colleges can use such information to deny admission to students and perhaps reduce financial aid rewards.

Read more about data mining students here.

Make 2016 the year you preview the PSSA

A friend texted me that today PSSA scores were sent home. As my daughter opted out for the first time, I asked her if the state still sent us anything. Her response was, "Yes, and it is gloriously blank!" I rushed out to find my younger daughter's PSSA report. Here is what an opt out report looks like:

Aside from all of the NS (No Scores), it states, "Your student was not assessed due to a parental request." I cannot emphasize the number of hours children sit for these tests. If you take a close look at the photos above, you may ask yourself how 8, 14, 16, 18, and 20 points for EACH section can give the state, our schools, parents, or the children, themselves a real picture of their proficiency. Vocabulary was only 8 possible points - if a child scored 6/8, that is a 75% For those who are good test takers, getting these scores back reinforces their feeling of success, but what about the rest of the kids? The public has been sold a bill of goods, which has been pushed on us by a Washington DC PR firm, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson.

In Pennsylvania, Secretary of Education, Pedro A. Rivera sent home this letter with PSSA scores:

He writes, ..."a change in your student's score should not be interpreted as a decline in their learning or in their teacher's performance." Many teachers are wondering why these tests are even part of their performance measures.

Mr. Rivera also writes, "The tests' more rigorous standards included more complex, multi-part questions, and required more thoughtful reasoning by the students..." As a parent, the state requires you to preview the PSSAs before opting your child out. I read the 6th grade test last year. It is not "rigorous," unless you use the actual dictionary definition of rigor: the difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something.

Nor does the new test require more thoughtful reasoning. However, the complex, multi-part questions were present, and they were more confusing.  If test writers hired by the state wanted to stress kids out and artificially lower test scores, they created the perfect test.

Some parents I know say they want their children to get lots of practice for SAT tests, so they don't opt out. I understand that worry, but wouldn't it be even more powerful to lobby the best colleges and universities to weigh SAT scores less on applications? All it would take to disempower the College Board would be for colleges and Universities to go test optional. For the exorbitant tuition fees parents (and often times students) pay, shouldn't these schools take the time to read our kid's essays or to interview them?

Another reason some parents worry about these tests is the ethically questionable Keystone exams lurking over all of our heads - the ever present threat to the diplomas of our children.  I blogged here about the cockamamie reasons the PA legislature passed the Keystone as a graduation requirement.

"...Retired Senator, Jeff Piccola said... "It is important to note that the Keystones are the first instance that the students are held accountable for their academic achievement since Pennsylvania began developing these standards in the 1990's. Heretofore,  the PSSA's could be blown off by the individual students because it didn't count anything for them. And I recall visiting schools in various school districts and elementary school students can be cajoled, and bribed, and encourgaed to do well on the PSSA's, but by the time they get to 8th grade they've figured out they have no stake in the exam..." (Emphasis mine.)

When do parents and citizens get to VOTE on these ideas? It has been almost 15 years since No Child Left Behind was passed, and it is clear that PSSA and Keystone results are merely reflections of the state set cut scores. In this post, Diane Ravitch reports what we have known all along. "High school grades are much stronger predictors of undergraduate performance than are test scores."

Of course they are.

Parents, it is time for us to think this through. Do we want more "rigor" and fake critical thinking? In 2016, preview the test. Read it for yourself and if you still want your kids to take the PSSAs, go for it. My hunch is that you will leave wide-eyed and ready to contact your legislators demanding they put an end to these exams, especially the Keystone Exams, which are sure to leave many children behind and without a high school diploma.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why would anyone teach?

My sister, Debbie, and me. Circa: the years I tortured her.

 When I was in second grade, I used to take the extra dittos out of Mr. O'Malley's trash can and bring them home to "play school" with my sister. She would always fail her work because she is about 3 years younger than I am. I would require her to get a parent signature, and my sweet sister would drop her head and shamefully head to the kitchen to get our mom to sign her worksheet. It wasn't long before my sister would run away from me and cry out, "I don't want to play school!" Many of us in the teaching profession tortured our siblings before we became real teachers who don't torture our students!

I think that many of us were born to be teachers. We recognized at an early age that we naturally have an inclination to lead a classroom. I imagine it is the way some kids pretend they are police officers, firemen, or doctors. My youngest daughter has wanted to be a teacher since she was in pre-school (She is now twelve). I was so proud when she told me this year after year, but now I worry about her in a field that has politicians and business people making uninformed decisions that impact students and teachers. In this article, California teacher, asks, "Why would anyone teach?"

He notes the highly reported teacher shortage in our country. Why the shortage? Perhaps parents, like me, are dissuading their kids from the field. I told my daughter that if she still wants to be a teacher, she will need to have a dual major. You just can't be limited to education in these times. It breaks my heart.

Crosby notes many concerns that I also have about the teaching field, as well:

“It wasn’t that long ago that the concept of site-based management was seriously championed as a way to involve teachers in the decision-making process at a school. But that grand idea vanished."

“So, education bureaucrats continue to mandate so-called reforms such as Common Core standards and standardized testing that teachers are expected to deliver with little input…."

“Let’s face it. We all hope that selfless people join the military to protect our country. We all hope that decent people become firefighters and police officers to protect our society. And we all hope that quality people join the teaching ranks to mold our future commodity — children."

“But hoping will only get so far. If schools expect a line outside human resources of people applying for jobs, then a major overhaul of the teaching profession has to happen. And it will take teachers themselves to blast the clarion call since those in the upper echelon of education show no interest in changing the status quo."

I worry about working conditions for my daughter, because I have seen mine decline with the overwhelming increase in state mandated paperwork, which my 8th graders would surely call busy work. We used to use our prep time for grading, dreaming up new ideas for lessons, setting up projects and labs, and other details that make the learning experience better for kids. Even though my district has tried to develop ways to help teachers manage this busy work, it is copious and demoralizing. It is not only statistically invalid, but it is shameful that we know this and still have to play along.

Why would a system be designed that would create a teacher shortage? Perhaps the bureaucrats who think that Teach for America's untrained, but well-intended volunteers, who give a 2 year commitment, are good enough for public school kids (Of course their children go to private schools, no doubt.) Perhaps they think that public school kids deserve blended learning, flipped classrooms, and on-line learning, while their children get small class sizes and a passionate, well-treated teacher in every classroom.

I don't want a volunteer corps of teachers for my future grandchildren. All children deserve the best, not a two tier system, where those who can afford it are Common Core and high stakes free. Make your voice heard if you agree. Since the citizens of the United States have NEVER been asked to vote on these ideas, our loudest and most powerful voice comes from opting our children out of PSSA's (or whatever state tests your state uses).

I think my sister has forgiven me for my inexperienced teacher torture, but there is no excuse for what our government is doing to our public schools today. It will take a long time for me to forgive them, but probably not as long as it will take for them to admit their mistakes and return public schools to the people.

So, why would anyone teach? Why do so many of us stay?
It is simple, we stay for the kids.

My daughter in my classroom after school... hopefully, she will have her own public school classroom someday.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why opt out? "The test scores of 15-year-olds do not predict our future."

Don't let our kids be used.
Disrupt the standardization of America's schools.
“The United States used to lead the world educationally, but we’ve fallen to the middle of the pack. Our students are lagging behind, and the global economy is growing more competitive every day.”


"The U.S. never led the world on test scores. When the first international tests were given in the 1960s, the U.S. students came in last. Yet over the next 50 years, our nation surpassed the other 11 nations that took the same test by every measure: economic productivity, technological innovation, military might, creativity, and democratic institutions. The test scores of 15-year-olds do not predict our future. The policies of our government, the decisions of corporations to outsource jobs, our treatment of our children and communities matter more." Read more here.



Read THIS BOOK  to learn about the history of education so you can recognize the lies.

US News blacklists some of the best colleges

I often tell my kids that I want them to look at colleges and universities that are SAT optional. There is a political message I want sent – If we are going to spend all of that money, we may as well support a college that shares our values. I want my kids to be more than a number. I want the school to meet them, to interview them, to see the spark for life and learning in their eyes. If I am going into debt, it had better be worth it.

That said, as a Temple alumna, I have been researching Temple University’s confusing messages. Last summer they announced that they are going SAT optional. Yesterday Diane Ravitch reported that Teach for America and KIPP received the largest chunk of the anti-public school Walton Foundation money this year… and Temple has now announced their partnership with KIPP charter schools. They’ve taken Gates money, too. Temple seems to be selling their soul.

Clearly parents of conscience need to dig deeper before we spend our hard earned dollars for college. It is not enough to find a school that is test optional. Perhaps Fair Test can create a list of schools of conscience – schools that do not sleep with the enemy, schools that get the big picture and boldly lead in ethics, schools that consider being omitted from U.S. News & Word Report a selling point. Ravitch reports here that Hampshire College was blacklisted for going test optional (I wonder if they also ticked off some other "ed reform" power players).

Hampshire College, bravo. We will be visiting soon. No U.S. News & Word Report?
Best PR ever.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Charter Schools Ruled Unconstitutional in Washington State

Is the tipping point finally here? Will the greed grab of entrepreneurs vying for our tax dollars finally come to an end?

Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional.
(All emphasis below is mine.)

“After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional."

“The ruling overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools."

“Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year…"

“Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards."

Therefore “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” Madsen wrote."

“The ruling is a victory for the coalition that filed the suit in July 2013, asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional for “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.”

Read more here and here.

Here is the decision to read for yourself!

And a HUGE thank you to the parent run group, Parents Across America, who went up against Gates, the Walton's, the Bezo's and other billionaires and WON. Find a Parents Across America group near you here.

If you live in the suburban Philadelphia area, check out this fb page and keep up on the latest news that impact our kids and our schools! Follow it today.