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.


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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
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5/3 New Information:


http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/05/02/state-officials-throw-out-another-pearson-test-question/


http://rlratto.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/396/

http://gothamschools.org/2012/04/24/fresh-off-pineapple-episode-state-identifies-math-exam-errors/


http://dianeravitch.net/2012/05/03/brave-principals/

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/05/02/pearsongate/


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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: