Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing? | deutsch29

Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing? | deutsch29:

Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing?





As I write this post, I have in front of me my permanent education record from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is by way of an unusual set of circumstances that I have this file. The short of it is that the records clerk at the first high school I taught at gave it to me in 1992.
It includes my standardized test scores for grades K, 1, and 4-8.
Yes. I took standardized tests beginning in kindergarten. My first was the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Form B (1973). It assessed my readiness for first grade, in six areas: word meaning, listening, matching, alphabet, numbers, and copying.
My teacher used it to help determine whether I should advance to first grade.
The test was not misused to grade my teacher or school.
None of the other six tests were used to grade my teachers or my school. They were used for diagnostic purposes related to my education.
My tests were not used to make me feel bad about myself by way of expected failure rates publicized in the media. My test results were not manipulated by those who possessed the political power to set any cut scores. There were no cut scores. There was no media hype surrounding my testing. There was no need for my parents to be concerned about my emotional well being due to any punitive consequences that might befall me. I was not worried that my scores could be used to fire my teachers or close my school.
There was no need for my parents to consider opting me out of testing.
Those days do not reflect the testing-pressure-cooker reality of 2015.
The resistance to standardized testing overuse and abuse is alive and well– and growing. One indication of the growing power of the anti-testing movement is the inclusion of an amendment to address the issue of opting out as part of the Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). That amendment basically states that the federal government does not want to be blamed for any state law concerning parental rights to opt their children out of standardized tests.
The Senate ESEA draft keeps the annual testing that was in place in the previous reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, in the Senate ESEA draft, the federal government wants states to offer the testing while steering clear of any state-Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing? | deutsch29:

What the PUC Is Going on Here? - Ref Rodriguez:

Ref Rodriguez:

What the PUC Is Going on Here?






 Following the money in local politics is an important way of seeing which people, companies, and organized interests are investing in particular candidates. Closely examining contribution reports often provides insights into who may want to pull the strings of officials who make policy and spending decisions or influence those seeking to win an elected position in which they will make such decisions.

So it’s surprising to look at a contribution report that indicates a campaign may be playing the game of donor influence in reverse. In the contest for L.A. school board, in District 5, charter-school treasurer Ref Rodriguez is challenging former teacher and board member Bennett Kayser for the seat Kayser holds representing Eagle Rock, Highland Park, and several Eastside neighborhoods.
Rodriguez’ campaign disclosure filings with the City of Los Angeles show that several staffers of his charter school, Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC), gave small donations in December 2014, before a filing deadline at the end of the year. What is odd and striking about several of the donations is that they come from PUC staffers who first made a very small donation early in the month and then, in the last 3 days of the year, suddenly ponied up the largest donation allowed by campaign ethics laws. Six donated the maximum $1,100. One paid $850.
Did candidate Rodriguez, who serves as treasurer of PUC, exert any influence over who and how much employees of his charter school donated? Or did anyone else at PUC have a hand in this pattern of 7 donations that looks very unusual on its face?
It’s common for workers to give money to a boss who is running for office. Year-end contributions from PUC staffers to Rodriguez are not surprising as gestures of good will.
What is highly irregular about this pattern of donations to Rodriguez, however, is the job category of the PUC employees and the timing of their donations.
A janitor, a tutor, a parent organizer, two maintenance workers, a kitchen manager, and an office manager would not raise eyebrows for donating $25, $50, or even $100 to a candidate, as these seven PUC workers did within days of each other in mid-December 2014.

Rodriguez’ name and PUC financial management practices have come under scrutiny by the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees local charter schools.

But for those same workers then to shell out amounts of $1,075, $1,000, $975, and $800 almost immediately thereafter, and so uniformly, during the holiday season, at a time when the costs of gifts or family travel often hit middle-class families in the wallet, is certainly an unusual pattern.
What makes the pattern even more unusual is the fact that Rodriguez’ name and PUC financial management practices have come under scrutiny by the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees local charter schools.
An audit of PUC finances and procedures released last week by the district found “numerous fiscal oversight deficiencies” and “budgetary problems” at PUC. The problems were serious enough to risk “creating an environment where the potential for errors, improprieties, or other undesirable outcomes occurring is increased.” The audit determined that PUC was “not in compliance” with “its charter agreement.”
A separate audit involving PUC made headlines in the L.A. Times this past weekend, finding an “apparent conflict of interest” in how the charter-school group awarded a contract for millions of dollars in food service. For the past 5 years, according to the Times, a director at PUC benefited from a deal between PUC and Better 4 You Meals, a company described in PUC’s own documents as “one hundred percent owned” by her.
A little digging by The Times shows that the food-service company made the maximum contributions to Rodriguez’ primary and runoff campaigns, totaling $2,200. The Times report also notes that Rodriguez sits on PUC’s board of directors and “works part-time as its treasurer.”
Is the pattern of unusual end-of-year donations by PUC employees tied to financial “improprieties” at PUC? Were these end-of-year windfalls for Rodriguez’ campaign the earnest and very generous donations of loyal underlings touched by the holiday spirit and digging very deep, all at the same time? Or might PUC have used the names of its employees to mask company resources, or those of other large donors to Rodriguez, to bolster his contribution totals in the end-of-year 2014 report?
Rodriguez is competing in a May 19 runoff. Several of his supporters hope to secure a pro-charter-school majority on L.A.’s school board. When it comes to the unusual pattern of donations to Rodriguez’ campaign, local voters may not get any answers before the election. But in the interest of public integrity, at least the questions should be on the record.Ref Rodriguez:
Hans Johnson and Hector Huezo

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Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts – The Network For Public Education

Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts – The Network For Public Education:

Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts





Authored by Jesse Hagopian and the NPE Board of Directors
Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of high stakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe high stakes tests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.
The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attempted to dismiss this uprising by saying that opposition to the Common Core tests has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Secretary Duncan’s comment is offensive for many reasons. To begin, suburban white moms have a right not to have their child over tested and the curriculum narrowed to what’s on the test without being ridiculed. But the truth is his comment serves to hide the fact that increasing numbers of people from communities of color are leading this movement around the nation, including:

You would expect the multi-billion dollar testing industry not to celebrate this resistance. Conglomerates such as Pearson, the over 9 billion dollar per year corporation that produces the PARCC test, could stand to lose market share and profits if the protests continue to intensify. But it is unfortunate that more civil rights groups have not come to the aid of communities resisting the test-and-punish model of education. In a recent statement issued by the national leadership of some of the nation’s most prominent civil rights organizations, they wrote:
Data obtained through some standardized tests are particularly important to the civil rights community because they are the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes even while vigilance is always required to ensure tests are not misused.
We agree that it is vital to understand the disparities that exist in education and to detail the opportunity gap that exists between students of color and white students, between lower income students and students from more affluent families. There is a long and troubling history of schools serving children of color not receiving equitable access to resources and not providing these students with culturally competent empowering curriculum. Moreover, the schools are more segregated today than they were in the 1960s—a fact that must be particular troubling to the NAACP that fought and won the Brown vs Board of Education desegregation decision. For these reasons, we understand why national civil rights organizations are committed to exposing the neglect of students of color.
Yet we know that high-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish students of color.  This fact has been amply demonstrated through the experience of the past thirteen years of NCLB’s mandate of national testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school. The outcomes of the NCLB policy shows that test score achievement gaps between African American and white students have only increased, not decreased. If the point of the testing is to highlight inequality and fix it, so far it has only increased inequality. Further, the focus on test score data has allowed policy makers to rationalize the demonization of schools and educators, while simultaneously avoiding the more critically necessary structural changes that need to be made in our education system and the broader society.
We also know that standardized testing is not the only, or the most important, method to know that students of color are being underserved; student graduation rates, college attendants rates, studies showing that wealthier and predominantly white schools receiving a disproportionate amount of funding are all important measures of the opportunity gap that don’t require the use of high-stakes standardized tests.
The civil rights organizations go on to write in their recent statement on assessment,
That’s why we’re troubled by the rhetoric that some opponents of testing have appropriated from our movement. The anti-testing effort has called assessments anti-Black and compared them to the discriminatory tests used to suppress African-American voters during Jim Crow segregation. They’ve raised the specter of White supremacists who employed biased tests to ‘prove’ that people of color were inferior to Whites.
There are some legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed. But instead of stimulating worthy discussions about over-testing, cultural bias in tests, and the misuse of test data, these activists would rather claim a false mantle of civil rights activism.
To begin, we agree with these civil rights organizations when they write that over-testing, cultural bias in tests, and misuse of test data are “legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed”—and in fact we hope to hear more from these civil rights organizations about these very real and destructive aspects of high-stakes standardized testing.  Moreover, we believe that when these civil rights organizations fully confront just how pervasive over-testing, cultural bias and misuse of data is in the public education system, these facts alone will be enough to convince them join the mass civil rights opt out uprising that is happening around the nation. Let us take each one of these points in turn.
  • Over testing
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT, the second largest teacher’s union in the nation) conducted a 2013 study based on a analysis of two mid-size urban school districts that found the time students spent taking tests claimed up to 50 hours per year. In addition, the study found that students spent from between 60 to more than 110 hours per year directly engaged in test preparation activities. The immense amount of time devoted to testing has resulted in students in a constant state of preparation for the next high-stakes exam rather than learning the many skills that aren’t measured by standardized tests such as critical thinking, collaboration, civic courage, creativity, empathy, and leadership. The new Common Core tests are only in math and language arts and thus have served to skew the curriculum away from the arts, physical education, civics, social studies, science, music, and a myriad of other subjects that students of color are too often denied access to.
  • Cultural bias
Standardized tests have repeatedly been found to contain cultural biases. The process by which test questions are “normed” tends to eliminate questions that non-white students answer correctly in higher numbers. In New York, the number of Black students rated “below standard”jumped from 15.5% to 50% with the introduction of new Common Core tests. English learners Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts – The Network For Public Education:

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