Thursday, April 26, 2012

Opt-out movement is spreading

Here are some quick links on opting out and high-stakes testing from around New York and the nation. (updated 5/20/2012)

New York City:

Western New York:

5/20 update:

5/20 update:

Central New York:
5/20 update:  Auburn area principal says APPR is bad idea.

Washington State:

5/20 update:  More on Snohomish parent revolt to take back their schools.

Texas (birthplace of NCLB)
400+ Texas School Boards  say no more high-stakes testing.

5/20 update: "Lone STAAR Rebellion"


Florida 5/20 update

Florida's FCAT problems

More on Florida's FCAT

North Carolina 5/20 update

Questioning HST


News Articles questioning high-stakes testing:

Creativity lost because of testing.

Charter school in Buffalo closed because of test scores.

Effect of high-stakes testing on Special Education students.

5/20 update The heroes of real "ed reform"


Principals against high-stakes testing:(5/3 update)

National Resolution on high-stakes Testing: looking for  individuals and organizations support.

New York State Petition against high-stakes Testing


Commissioner Dr. John B. King's email to ask questions:


 Movement against "deformers" is growing! 


National School Boards Resolution against high-stakes testing. 

BOYCOTT PEARSON- creator of NYS Assessments


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NYSED & Pearson follies-- time for resignations.

As each day passes since the start of "testing season" here in New York, another exam error or controversy has made headlines across the state.  The many problems with the New York State Assessment program highlights why using high-stakes testing to judge the progress of our children and the quality of our educators and schools is irresponsible policy. 

As President Harry S. Truman said, "The buck stops here"Does that apply to Commissioner John B. King, Jr and his staff? The leadership at NYSED and in the governor's office preach "accountability".  Will they accept responsibility for this debacle?  From Commissioner King's press release on April 20, it looks like he wants to pass the buck.  It is time for Mr. King to resign or be fired.

Attention was brought to the many problems with the state assessments with the breaking of "Pineapplegate" on the NYC Public School Parents blog.  Soon New York City and national media outlets picked up the story.  (A great primer here on Pineapplegate) Soon New York's Commissioner King, issued a harried statement that NYSED was not going to count the reading passage questions with the "Hare and the Pineapple". NYSED also released the "Pineapple" passage and the follow up questions that eighth graders endured on Friday to the public.

Since "Pineapplegate" broke, comments on blog and news media sites have exploded with parents, students and teachers complaining about other parts of last week's ELA tests.  These criticisms seem to hit all grade levels of the ELA exams that New York students completed over three days.   At this point NYSED should release of all the tests so parents can see the quality of the exams that Pearson is getting $32 million to assess our schools.  Commissioner King and his minions, along with Governor Cuomo want to publicize teacher evaluation results, should not the public have the right to see the exams?

As this week began, more errors have been found on last week's 3rd and 6th grade ELA scoring guides, as well as this week's 4th and 8th grade math exams.  The correction issued by NYSED on the fourth grade math exam is very troubling:

"Question 58 on all test forms has two correct answers. If during this test any
student asks about Question 58, proctors may advise the student that there are
two correct answers to this question."

Students are told and conditioned to the fact that teachers cannot assist them during the test.  Would a student, especially a nine year old, even ask the teacher about the confusing answer choices?  When a educator makes a mistake on their own teacher-created tests, that teacher will either eliminate one of the two correct choices or remove the question altogether.  Why is NYSED not doing this?  Will a child get confused, frustrated or spend a great deal of time and energy on that question?  Eighth graders complained that the "pineapple" question flustered them throughout the exam. 

Pearson should not escape scrutiny as well.  Mr. King noted in his press release that the "pineapple" question had been used by Pearson in the past.  If the test questions with errors had been used in other states or "field tested", why are there so many mistakes?  The bottom line is that the privatization of our public schools is not only costing taxpayers a ton of money, but is harming the education of our children.  Pearson's priority is clearly profit over quality.  It is time to investigate the test creation process by this corporate monster that is beginning to have a significant control over what our children learn.  Parents and taxpayers should tell New York State to cancel its contract with Pearson due to its incompetence.

We need to return our public schools to the parents, educators and students.  Parents need to take back our education system from the so-called "reformers" who favor policies that harm our children.  Most of these reformers have little or no experience in education.  The lack of classroom knowledge is clearly showing with Commissioner King, his staff, and the Cuomo administration.  The time has come to "clean house" and bring in actual educators to run our public schools here in New York State.


4/27 NEW LINK : from Washington Post and Fred Smith on test design and Pearson's failings.

4/29 NEW LINK: United Opt Out details Pearson taking over our public education system.

5/20 NEW LINK:  The Pearson MONSTER
5/3 New Information:


Here are the details about each of the mistakes/errors found (so far) on NYS Exams.(4/24):

 Pineapple and the Hare (PineappleGate):

6th grade ELA scoring guide error:

4th grade math: 

8th grade math:

3rd grade scoring guide:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day two ELA - Pearson's Listening Passage is a joke.

Today was day two of the NYS ELA Assessment.  As the proctor for my 7th grade students, I had to read a listening passage twice to the students as they took notes.  After the reading, the students had to answer a graphic organizer, multiple choice questions and write an essay pertaining to the listening passage.

The listening passage was disjointed, unorganized and vague.  Since Pearson, err, I mean NYSED does not allow the public to see the tests that judge our students, teachers, and schools, I will discuss a similar topic without revealing the actual information.

The story was about a very famous foreign-born athlete in somewhat recent history.  Since I can't use this athlete's real name, lets say it was about basketball player Dirk Nowitzki instead.

The first paragraph tells about how Dirk can dribble through the entire opposition and uses some adjectives to describe his skill set.

The second paragraph very briefly talks about his early playing days.  It mentions that Dirk was so valuable that Germany(not the real country either, but Dirk's homeland) would not let Dirk play outside the country for fear of losing him.  But then the story says he played in the World Championships and then played for a team in the United States.  The story never said how or why he was eventually allowed to play in a foreign country.

It then randomly inserts other topics, such as how when Dirk travels to foreign countries he commands great respect and crowds gather to greet him.  Then the story jumps  into his later playing days.  At two different points, long statistics are thrown out that are difficult to read and follow.  For example, in the middle of the story, it said that Dirk had scored 1,246 points in 1,336 games.  Imagine trying to read that to the class.  Then later in the story, it states that Dirk came out of retirement and gives new updated stats to read.  The issue is that the story never compared Dirk's stats to other players.  Was he the highest scoring player in history? Unsure. How do those random stats compare to other players? The kids told me afterwards that they tried to write the numbers down quickly thinking that every fact could be important.

I wish I could relate the entire tale, but the story truly was jumbled, so bad, I swear a kid must have written this.  I think the author went to a wikipedia page and just copied facts without any sense of organization into his writing.

The kids were asked to write an essay about "Dirk's" accomplishments, but I can't see how they could do anything but spit the facts back out, which makes for a poor writing sample.

If this is what we in NYS get for our tax dollars from Pearson, I want a refund.  This question could not be a "field question", because it was the major portion of today's exam.  I am still stunned over this listening piece.   I asked the other teachers who proctored the test and they had similar reactions.  I can only guess as to how the students will do on this section. I guess I'll find out on April 30th when we grade the exams.   Remember these poorly written exams are used to judge our students, teachers and schools  Now you know why teachers are upset about the new evaluation system.  Now you know why the opt-out movement needs your support.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not too late to OPT-OUT

Day one of the NYS Assessments is in the books.  Ninety minutes of torture for our children in New York State.  There are five more days of this madness. You can still opt-out.

Reasons to opt-out if you have not done so already:

  • Children who are eight are taking the same length test as middle schoolers who are fourteen. (90 minutes)
  • Questions are inserted as "field questions" so the Pearson Corporation can profit by making more tests.  This increases the length of the test and causes frustration and confusion if the question is poorly constructed or inappropriate for the age level.
  • Burn out usually sets in during day two of the ELA exam, this year three days.
  • Assessments given second day after return from Spring Break for many New York districts--students usually take a few days to get back in the routine.
  • Students do not get a break from "test prep" as teachers need to cram for next week's three days of math testing.
  • Many districts will be forced by NYSED to conduct "Field Tests" in May or June.  These "fake" tests are another way that Pearson finds questions for future exams.  More time lost to testing, more burn out, more profit for Pearson.  Is this child labor? Are NYSED and Pearson violating labor law by having children do work that creates a profit for a mega-corporation?
  • Take a stand now-- next year even more testing.
  • My child is relaxed and happy today- did not take the test.  How does your child feel about today and the next several days of school?
  • 4th and 8th grades still have science state assessments coming up in May.
  • Schools will either pull teachers from your child's classroom to grade the exams or districts will schedule staff development grading days to correct the tests-  More lost instruction for your child.
Any other ideas?  Post comment or send me an email.  This is a quick list of my thoughts after the first of six days of NYS Assessments.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Buffalo News My View Article

12/20/2013 : Due to the Buffalo News website overhaul, my opt-out announcement is not available online, click here to read it.

Western New York and New York State parents who have read my opinion piece, please join me in the quest to take back public education.  Our children's education and futures are at stake.  Is your child nervous, apprehensive, or scared about the upcoming high-stakes testing period?  Are you and your child sick of the endless test preparation that has occurred over the last several weeks?  Join others around our state and nation who have said enough is enough and are boycotting the exams. 

New York does not have a clear "Opt-out" provision as some other states do.  New York mandates that all students take the standardized tests, but you can still protest this policy. I have outlined some ways to do so here.    This is a great lesson is civil disobedience for your children to fight unjust policies. 

As more parents stand up and say no to the monster testing corporations that are influencing our children's education in so many negative ways,  we can bring down this era of "reform" that is destroying public education.