"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 Medley #9

Testing, Pearson, Privatization,
The Public Good, Research

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

California Monitors Students’ Social Media to Protect Test Security

Here's an important post regarding the Pearson spy-scandal. Diane Ravitch reminds us that what we put on the internet and social media is public...and subject to monitoring/spying by people like Pearson, as well as, in the case of Bob Braun's blog, DoS attacks by hackers known, suspected and unknown. Use caution when posting on social media and blogs.

An important additional point to remember is that, apparently, Pearson has done nothing illegal.
What’s the lesson? I think we must teach our children (and remember ourselves) that anything online is public information. There is no privacy on the Internet. If you have a secret, whisper it in someone’s ear. Don’t write it in an email or on social media; don’t say it on the telephone. Save it for personal conversations. Or consider it public.

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

By now everyone should be aware of the student-social-media-monitoring-spying mess that Pearson is trying to weasel its way out of...Here are a few places to go for good information.

Mercedes Schneider explains what happens and has a link to a copy of the original post by Bob Braun.

Hey, Kids: If You Tweet About Your PARCC Testing Experience, Pearson Will Call You Out
Pearson officials have even had the gall to contact the New Jersey department of education three times and push for corrective action for the students’ actions on social media.
Save our Schools NZ has links to information about the situation.

Just how shady can this Pearson story get? Very, apparently.
Pearson put out a press release saying they behaved perfectly responsibly….
Here's a link to the original story by Bob Braun. It is apparently up again, though running very slowly.

BREAKING: Pearson, NJ, spying on social media of students taking PARCC tests
”Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests.
If Braun's site is still down or unavailable, here's a pdf of his blog post.

TESTING: Hiding the Inadequate

Stealth over ISTEP comes at a steep cost

With privatization comes lack of public oversight. Not only are privatized charters running schools without public accountability, the legislature, school board, and policy makers in general have turned the test-and-punish hen house over to the foxes. Testing companies cry "security" as a way to hide the fact that their products are inadequate, invalid, and unreliable.

Caveat emptor. Indiana has dumped CTB/McGraw-Hill and is now going to go with Pearson.

It doesn't matter which company we use...it's a waste of money either way. Our assumption that so-called accountability testing is the answer to the problems of social and economic inequity is wrong.
In their attempt at imposing “rigor” on sixth-grade students, the Indiana legislature has imposed science standards too deep for the test-makers at CTB/McGraw-Hill to comprehend. There were two practice questions, and the test-makers got both wrong.

How many questions will the test-makers have incorrect answers for in this year’s ISTEP exam? We will never know. Both the questions and the answers are kept secret. So even as students’ futures are made dependent on their performance on standardized tests, even as the Indiana legislature aims to tie teachers’ salaries to how well their students perform on ISTEP, the CTB/McGraw-Hill test-makers remain free to botch and bungle as many test questions and answers as they like, knowing the public will never know.

They will remain free as ever to feed at the public trough on Indiana taxpayer money, and as far as CTB/McGraw-Hill executives and shareholders are concerned, that’s the only thing that matters.


Library supporters concerned about privatization talk

The privatizers are at work in all areas of the public good. Here we learn about a move to privatize libraries. Socialists, like Ben Franklin, don't understand that everything private is better.

Keep track of the push for privatization at Privatization Watch.
"It has come to my attention that there is a forthcoming proposal to place the Kern County library system under private nonprofit management," Ann Wiederrecht wrote in an email to supervisors. "Such an idea is outrageous. The Kern County Library is truly a public service open to people of all ages and backgrounds."

"In order for a for-profit group to make a profit, it will be necessary to cut services even more than they have been and/or in some way start charging for services," wrote Bakersfield College luminary Jerry Ludeke in another email. "Free public libraries are an American treasure and a 'hand-up' for many in the culture."


Walmart lobbyists push bill privatizing Arkansas’ public schools

Billionaires try to take away public control of public education.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will back legislation from lobbyists connected to Walmart that would open the door for private contractors to take over management of local school districts, the Arkansas Times reported.

The bill, HB 1733, was introduced by state Rep. Bruce Cozart (R), and was written by Walton Family Foundation lobbyists. Cozart is also chair of the state House Education Committee. The bill was sent to the committee for review on Friday, and needs 11 votes to advance to a vote on the floor.

According to the Times, the bill would establish an “achievement school district” that could include any school district found to be under “academic distress.”

The state education commissioner would then have the ability to “directly operate or contract with one or more not-for-profit entities” to run the district for a 3-5 year period. Individual schools would also be eligible for transitioning to a privatized system, with the rest of that school’s former district potentially responsible for paying for busing and food costs.

The Times also reported that the bill would turn teachers in any “achievement district” into “at-will” workers. Districts run under this model would not be required to have a school board or field licensed teachers.
Why are you still shopping at Walmart?


Charter schools struggling to meet academic growth

How is the privatization of public education working out? Charter operators are learning that, unless they screen out low performing students (aka students with learning challenges or students living in poverty), their test scores will not be any better than true public schools.

The political preference for privatization from both Democrats and Republicans is just a cover to suck up the billions of dollars of tax money which should be going to help students learn.
We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.


Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization

School boards elected by the public, while not perfect, are at least required to be transparent. Too much is being hidden by charter and private school operators who are using public funds.
The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools.

They ignore the well-documented evidence of pervasive corruption and the lack of regulation that makes it possible. They ignore the existence of policies that allow many charters to cherry-pick when it comes to admission and retention, thus creating an uneven field with traditional public schools. They ignore the lack of due process for employees, the high rates of teacher turnover, and the efforts at some charters to deny workers their right to organize.

They ignore the lack of transparency and real voice for parents at many charters. And, perhaps most important, they ignore the evidence that a large sector of charter schools has not moved the needle in terms of the overall performance of the School District, particularly in communities of color characterized by deep poverty.

The most fundamental question is not charter schools vs. traditional public schools. The debate should be about equity – should children in Philadelphia and other poor communities in the state be entitled to a quality education with the elements that affluent communities take for granted? Indeed, children in the poorest neighborhoods disproportionately need lower class size and services like health care and counseling that can address the deficits created by poverty.


Fountas and Pinnell Create More Rigorous Common Core Guided Reading Guidelines

Money corrupts pedagogy. The drive for higher test scores and "more rigor" has driven non-tested subjects out of public education. Here, Fountas and Pinnell, who taught me much of what I know about reading instruction and learning, have caved to the power of Pearson, the Common Core, and "rigor."
...take the Fountas and Pinnell research based guiding reading levels that have stood the test of time. They spent years creating a system that matched students with just right books. They even warned, “…through detailed coding of thousands of readings, showed that when a text is too difficult for the child the process breaks down and the child does not develop inner control of effective actions for processing texts.”

When Common Core was introduced, Fountas and Pinnell decided it was time to put research aside and go against their own advice in order create more rigorous thresholds for their guided reading levels.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





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