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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Politicians are suddenly worried we have too much testing? Hmmm.

As reported in this and many other articles, it seems President Obama & our leaders are supporting parents who know the policies of the past 15 years (including over testing) are hurting our kids. But don't get too excited, it looks like the Madison Avenue spin doctors are earning their paychecks (paid for with our tax dollars) again. Here is the new spin:

The White House said Saturday the proliferation of testing in the United States — a problem the administration acknowledged it has played a role in — has taken away too much valuable time that could be better spent on learning, teaching and fostering creativity in schools. To curb excessive testing, Obama recommended limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of a student's instructional time in the classroom.

‘‘Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,’’ Obama said in a video posted on Facebook. ‘‘So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.’’

Obama said in “moderation, smart, strategic” tests can help assess the progress of children in schools and help them learn. But he said that parents are concerned that too much time is being spent on testing, and teachers are under too much pressure to prepare students for exams.

Sadly, this is another example of politicians trying to trick us with positive sound bites. However, in most states 2% means 20 or more hours of testing, NOT including test prep.
In many cases, 2% leaves room for even MORE testing. 

What it looks like to many of us who spend our personal time fighting to save public education is that politicians are scared of the opt out movement.

Parents are smarter than our elected officials and their PR experts think. Show them that parents are in charge of our children and preview the PSSA this year & consider opting out. Our children are NOT their guinea pigs or their cash cows.

Read this post  and this post about careful reviews of the Obama administration’s “Testing Action Plan.” The conclusion is that " is phony, a duplicitous confirmation of the status quo." In other words, "It is a fraud."


Sunday, October 11, 2015

People are not "human capital"

A well funded, anti-public school organization, called Education Reform Now,
is a "think tank" that is trying to sell the public (and the legislators we elect) on ending public education in this country. They want to "open the market" in education and get as much of our tax dollars as possible into the hands of corporate CEO's. And to this end, they use the civil rights movement and the achievement gap in their own interests.

To add insult to injury, they have a training camp that perpetuates their warped ideas, and reduces education to insulting pseudo business terms. Unbelievably, they use the very same term for teachers as the slave traders used during triangle trade: human capital. In this Harvard Business School article the author states, " These account books played a role in reducing slaves to 'human capital,' Rosenthal says, allowing owners who were removed from day-to-day operations to see their slaves as assets, as interchangeable units of production in a ledger, instead of as people." 

 She continues, "If today we are using management techniques that were also used on slave plantations," she says, "how much more careful do we need to be? How much more do we need to think about our responsibility to people?"

There is not a single member of the Education Reform Now board with education training or experience. They are, however, big in venture capital, business, and apparently charity poker tournaments.

Check out their staff, too. No friends of public education in sight. This group, and many others are NOT looking out for children. They are experts in making money, not educating future generations of American children.

Be aware of groups like this & watch for the jargon. Make sure that your children's teachers are treated with appreciation & respect, and not in the dehumanizing ways of "human capital."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Is your college on this list?

Whether you have kids who are ready to look at colleges or not, I cannot urge you enough to check out this impressive list of schools that deemphasize SAT/ACT in their admissions process.

I am proud to say that my alma matters are on the list:

Are yours?

Thank you fairtest for creating these lists, guiding parents, and fighting to get the focus back on our kids and off of the money making schemes of the College Board and other profit-seeking ventures.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Wondering why SAT, ACT, and state tests are failing our kids?

It pays for test companies to set kids up for failure and artificially create demand for more testing. The questions are not developmentally appropriate, are designed to purposely confuse, and are mostly written above grade level.

Diane Ravitch concurs, "The tests are written above grade level. The cut scores (passing marks) are equivalent to 85%, more or less, probably more. Most kids will fail. The SBAC and PARCC have said so when they aligned the tests with NAEP proficient, which is not average or grade level but a high passing score."

In order for children to understand what they are reading, the content must be at the correct reading level. A lexile score is used to determine if a text is grade level. Here an Illinois teacher did the work for us. She explains how the "new and improved" standardized tests are setting our kids up to fail, as they are written beyond student frustration levels.

"Frustration reading levels include text for which a reader does not have adequate background level for a topic and/or cannot meet criteria for instructional levels of accuracy and rate. Think of frustration levels as those levels that require extensive or even moderate assistance from an educator. To get a sense of frustration level text, think about a skill or ability for which you have expertise (e.g., skiing, knitting, writing, playing a musical instrument). It is very likely that you developed this ability gradually, and with assistance. You took on more challenging levels when you had mastered your current level. Now imagine being a beginner again, and facing advanced, or even intermediate level tasks every day. Would working at "frustration level" help you to make progress? What might happen to your motivation for learning? Now, think about the fact that many children read at frustration level for most of their day. It is a tribute to the resiliency of children that they forge onward!"

Teacher, Gerri K. Songer, analyzed the English/Langugae Arts questions available on the
ACT, PARCC, SAT & Smarter Balanced websites. She reports, "...  Students should ideally independently comprehend 100% of text in order to accurately respond to assessment questions."

What did she find?  

"The Grade 4 reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1230L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students in Grade 12..."

 How about this:

"The Early High School (Grade 9) reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1250L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students above Grade 12, post-secondary education (Grades 11 and 12 – 940-1210L). The text in this passage should be in the range of 855-1165L."

It is time our legislators learn about developmental psychology or get out of education decisions. Songer knows her stuff, and explains just a bit below. 

"High school students are at varying stages of their cognitive development, and the average student should not be expected to complete the multi-step, finitely detailed, mental manipulation of text needed to process information at the level of sophistication used by PARCC. The frontal lobe of the human brain is not fully developed until after age 20.  The frontal lobe is concerned with reasoning, planning, problem-solving, parts of speech, executive functions (organization), judgment, emotions, and behavioral control.  It allows for abstract thinking, an understanding of humor (subtle witticisms and word plays), sarcasm, irony, deception, and the mental processes of others.  Other functions include: memory, sequencing of events, flexibility in thinking processes, attentiveness of focus."

 Need more reasons why "rigor" is an excuse to set our kids up for failure?
Read the entire analysis. You may be shocked and dismayed... Or perhaps you have known it all along.