Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Common Core Testing Needs "Assessing"

Today, KRMG released its interview with Janet Barresi about the Common Core State Standards after being inundated with questions from listeners on the issue.  Here is the full text of the article.

I have chosen to go head to head - arguing each of her points in this article, as this information is exceptionally important for parents to know.  Sadly, this interview contains the same kind of behavior we have witnessed Janet Barresi exhibiting since she became our Superintendent - waving away opposition as if those of us who pay her salary are just peons to be ignored.  It infuriates me anytime I hear this because it is so elitist - so big government Republican.  She never really seems to give credibility to any concerns emanating from the public, but continues with the rhetoric spawned by the supporters and defenders of the Standards.

Please read the article so you can follow my points, although I will paste the quotes from the article upon which I will comment.
"The old assessments were simply questions that were memory tests. That's all they tested, was a child's ability to recall. These new assessments are testing their full knowledge of foundational information, and then more importantly, they're assessing their ability to think about those items and to apply those items," she told KRMG in an exclusive interview.
She talks about the tests as though she knows what the tests say...PARCC doesn't even know what the tests say!  All they've released are sample questions.  In fact, the tests will not be fully ready for use until 2014 AND our superintendent has already gone to our legislature to ask them to approve money for INTERIM tests because our children are going to fail the PARCC tests when they are ready (SB447 - comment made by Senator Clark Jolley at a Senate Education Committee Meeting on 2/5).  So these tests are all that and a bag of chips but our kids are going to fail them and we need to cough up more money for other tests until kids can pass them?  That's comforting and, well, confusing.   

Look at the speech Secretary Arne Duncan gave at a gathering of Achieve (one of the Players in the Common Core scheme)  lauding the 'new generation' ASSESSMENTS!  See if Dr. Barresi is not simply parroting Arne Duncan nearly word for word.

How about them apples for "testing their full knowledge of foundational information"?  Yup, you got it!  Kids are supposed to show their thinking about math!  How exciting.  Very creative though.

How about the fact that numerous different studies have shown technology as more a bane than a boon to student learning and attention spans in the face of more and greater technologies that allow escapism and instant gratification?   Okay, so let's make the computer one of the biggest things in the life of a student.  Cognitive dissonance much?

How about the fact that these new tests could potentially have partial credit answers?  Where's the line in the sand?  How do you determine what a kid really knows when you're granting him partial credit answers?  But then, I guess it's important to have every point you can get when the test results go into determining the school's A-F grade and schools that get a D or an F can be taken over and run by a contractor for the State Department of Education!  Look also at that link provided for this test.  Look at the jargon written on the page.  Have you not seen these terms used over and over and over with the Common Core?  So much so in fact, that I wrote a blog about it way back in late 2011, two in 2012 (and here) and another in 2013.  Frankly, it seems to me there is more time spent 'messaging' about the Common Core than actually 'teaching' the Common Core.  Look at the number of articles I found online showing states how to "MESSAGE" about Common Core.
Messaging Toolkit - from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) - one of the two private, trade organizations responsible for the Common Core.
Common Core State Standards Communication and Outreach - Achieve
Common Core, We'd Better Get The Message Out - Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education
Realizing the Potential:  How Governor's Can Lead Effective Implementation of the Common Core State Standards - National Governor's Association (NGA) the other organization responsible for creating the Common Core
What to Tell Your Teachers To Help Them Implement The Common Core Standards; Messaging is Key To Common Core Implementation (among other choices) - from the School Improvement Network
Why in the world are these organizations so invested in this effort that they devote so much energy to selling it?  If the standards and tests are so good, why in the world do you have to work so hard to sell them?  (Answer:  Money - they are all invested in selling schools programs/books/software/etc. to support the Common Core).

Maybe there's so much 'selling' going on of the Common Core and PARCC tests because this is the way in which the state and the federal government will collect data point after data point of personal information on your child.  Since the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1964, provisions have been made in the law for collecting 'educational data' on students.  This troubled ROPE so badly that we researched this situation and produced a paper for an interim study on the topic of student privacy last October for the Oklahoma House.

Many readers have no doubt seen Glenn Beck talk more than once about the intrusive nature of the data 'mining' occurring within schools today.  This is just one page from the National Center for Education Statistics including the type of data they collect on students.

Note Blood Type and Birthmark in the 1st column 5 and 6 down!

Recently, while trolling around for information on other issues, I found something called the Tripod Project.  Of course it's founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - a serious major underwriter of all this new education 'reform' - or should I say data collection?  Just this page on their Foundation website shows that the Gates apparently have quite the interest in 'assessments' and data collection.  The Tripod 'project' provides,
"...a suite of multi-item indicators that capture students’ academic and social behaviors, goals, beliefs and feelings. Student engagement and achievement are conceptually and empirically predicted by seven multi-item measures covering key domains of teaching effectiveness referred to as the 7Cs."
What?  Feelings?  Beliefs?  What in the world does that have to do with my kids' education?  Well, in order for teachers to be effectively teaching students, schools need to know about their Grit Tenacity and Perseverance and the only way to do that is to monitor them electronically with as many gadgets as possible and then collect and store that data in a database in order to more fully evaluate the child.  Apparently, teachers are too stupid to figure out how a student is responding in their classroom, so that student must be hooked up to an electronic instrument of some kind and data collected on his 'engagement' and 'behaviors' in the classroom.  But what about feelings?  How do we measure these?  On tests apparently, where we 'assess' just these things.  After all, "to assess" means to pass judgement - something that's a subjective state, not an objective state such as a right or wrong answer to a deliberately posed and specific question.

Just recently, our friend Howard Houchen posted an exchange he had with one of his son's friends over their recent writing tests on ROPE'S Facebook page.  As Howard puts it:
He said he noticed a "transition" in the "writing tests" from others he had taken. He didn't like the "how does this make you feel" and the "how do you feel about this" questions in the "pre-tests". Now, keep in mind these "tests" are now called OCCT (Oklahoma Common Core Test) and not CRT. This kid mentioned that to me during his letting me know about the "transition" he noticed. Close to the end of our conversation, and these are the words he spoke that STICK...he said: "yeh, these pre-tests make you feel like your talking to a psychiatrist or something". A Common Core Writing Pre-Test that makes a kid uncomfortable...like they are spilling their feelings out to a psychiatrist??? This, at the very least, is NOT acceptable!
McGraw/Hill - the testing company identified by Senator Jolley during the Senate Education Committee meeting as providing interim Common Core tests, ALSO does psychometric testing.  Gosh, that's handy.

We identified a similar situation last year with the 21 Century Skills After School Program where we were able to show that Behavioral Response tests (psychological tests) were given to students without parental permission, so this is undeniably occurring, though the extent is unknown.

Having administered several state tests over the course of my teaching career, I can tell you without hesitation that test security is a HUGE issue.  Why?  Because if the test questions get out it costs the testing company more money to create additional test questions and allegations of cheating can be leveled against the school if security protocols are not followed.  What better place to put psychological test questions but on a test that has ZERO scrutiny outside the testing company and its graders and the child taking the test who has not enough life experience to know the questions he/she is answering can lead to the creation of a psychological profile of their own making?

For years Dr. Barresi has taken pride in saying that these standards are "state led" (another talking point) and that the federal government is not involved.  In fact, the Daily Oklahoma created an editorial calling us Conspiracy Theorists for our assertion that the Common Core is federally led!  Let's think....if the two consortia creating the tests were given FEDERAL dollars (Race to the Top) grants and are now saying they the consortia need to undergo a 'federal review process'  how NOT federal is that?  We won't get started on the standards themselves...

The interview goes on:
[Dr. Barresi] says those who say it will mean 40 days of testing a year are simply misstating the facts.  "It is generously timed so children can actually think and formulate an answer. So, it is not 40 days. There are two 20-day testing windows. Children are not involved in testing for the full 40 days all day. That is simply not accurate."
Okay, well no one ever said kids would be tested for 20 days.  I have no idea where that came from.  Our concern was that teachers were literally going to have to spend 40 days a semester getting their kids ready to take tests lasting 8-10 hours.  Here's the document.  Isn't that what it says?

Here she makes a concession about the fact that this Common Core stuff is all an UNFUNDED mandate, but who cares, really, because all schools will have to have all this technology anyway.
She does admit that many schools will have to make major upgrades in terms of broadband Internet access, computer equipment, and software.  But, she firmly believes that's something that would have to happen regardless of whether Oklahoma instituted the new testing system or not.  "This is something that is absolutely critical. This is not a nice to have kind of thing -- this is an essential tool. This is as important as pencil and paper."
Hmmm...so we want kids to think critically and be able to write, but only if we use the computer as a crutch to do so.  Not only does this not make sense, but I don't know how much sense it makes to taxpayers to see their property taxes (and others) increase because the school can't afford the technology necessary to administer tests for a set of standards that were never generally agreed upon, studied or even seen before put into law.  But then, I guess that doesn't really matter if we can keep the state from studying the actual costs associated with the Common Core by killing bills and holding the media at arms length with platitudes like, "We anticipate low costs".

Dr. Barresi also explains that...once people learn more about what's called "common core" education, they get on board.
"I know industry is excited about being here, I know the governor is focused on making sure we have a work force that's ready for the 21st Century, and we're doing our part at the State Department of Education and all the great educators throughout the state are working their hearts out."
Wow.  It just shocks me that she continues on the Communist Party line here.  WE DON'T EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN FOR THE WORKFORCE we educate them so they can decide what they want to do with their lives when they are able to make those decisions for themselves.  The Oklahoma and National Chambers of Commerce, however, do not believe in such folly, however.  The top two issues of the Oklahoma State Chamber (under the heading of 'workforce') are
  • Prioritize education funding for programs and reforms designed to enhance access to current and future Oklahoma workforce needs.
  • Protect Common Education reforms designed to enhance growth, learning and proficiencies needed to ensure students are career or college ready.
The National Chamber of Commerce supports "A Competitive Workforce" by:
  • Requiring a Quality, Rigorous, and Well-Rounded K–12 Educational System:
    • Promoting the use of student data for accountability.
    • Supporting college and career ready standards, including the common core, that prepare all students.
    • Providing real choices and options for students and parents.
I guess Dr. Barresi is right on this!  Industry is excited about this.  I wonder why she doesn't understand, however, that America doesn't educate its children to be members of the states' workforce - CHINA DOES!

Of course, she is correct that Governor Fallin is all behind these education 'reforms'!  Of course she is - she's Vice-Chair of the National Governor's Association and on her way to the highly touted Chair position!  It wouldn't look good for her political aspirations if her state rejected Common Core, would it?  Damn the parents/kids/voters!  Full speed ahead she cries as she forgets for whom she works and to whom she owes her position.

In closing, Dr. Barresi has this to say,
"we are going in this state from driving an old broken down 1980s car that's burning oil to a Prius."
What a metaphor!  Isn't it that broken down old 1980's car that PUT A MAN ON THE MOON?  Oh, but the Prius has been a shining example of JAPANESE engineering though most hybrid owners wouldn't own another.  Maybe she's got that backward?  Maybe she just doesn't know what the heck she's saying!