Monday, February 21, 2005
Sunday, February 20, 2005
It's not just kids who hate tests-Bee Article
By Doug Hoagland / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Sunday, February 19, 2006, 7:06 AM)
Rog Lucido blinked back tears of frustration as he sat outside a Fresno coffeehouse. Surrounded by a dozen strangers talking, laughing and warmed by a bright winter sun, Lucido focused on one thing: a conviction that standardized testing in public schools is destroying teaching and learning.
The Fresno physics teacher believes the tests carry too much power and should be thrown out of schools.
"When you know what it can be like in classrooms and you see what it is today, it causes you pain," Lucido says. "If I'm a rebel, I'm a rebel in pain, and I'm in pain for what I see is happening to students and teachers."
Lucido says teachers scrambling to raise test scores can be so stifled in class that their students lose interest in learning, and he's looking for allies to join his cause.
He started a fledgling group, Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse, which is sponsoring a two-day conference March 24-25 at California State University, Fresno. Educators will speak against what they call high-stakes, standardized testing.
It's high stakes because important decisions on students and schools are made from a single test, says Elaine Garan, associate professor of education at Fresno State.
For example, some students may miss out on graduation if they don't pass the California High School Exit Examination. And teachers and principals at schools getting federal money can be replaced in the fifth year their schools fail to meet goals on another standardized test, Garan says. Government accountability programs set the goals.
Garan, who opposes such testing, will speak at the conference.
Fresno County schools superintendent Pete Mehas is not a conference speaker. He believes testing, while not the only way to evaluate students, has a place in schools today.
"Testing is the one of the most efficient ways of finding out whether a large number of students have mastered a body of knowledge," says Mehas, who knows of Lucido but has never met him.
Lucido, 61, retired two years ago after teaching in the Fresno area for 18 years. He is the grandson of Sicilian immigrants, the first in his family to go to college, a father of five and grandfather to three. He remembers being a boy who wanted to learn because good teachers ignited his curiosity, and he worries that is being lost today.
"We were tested when we were kids, but there wasn't the insanity associated with it," Lucido says.
He believes the emphasis on testing teaches students something insidious: "They get the message that the reason for learning is to do well on the test."
Mehas asks, however, "What's wrong with that? If a student has mastery of something, it builds their self-confidence."
And the effect of testing on teachers? Says Lucido: "It kills their creativity, it kills their spontaneity and it kills their enthusiasm to teach. It tries to sanitize learning. Learning is very messy."
Mehas counters: "Good teachers … don't simply focus on the test. It doesn't stifle their creativity."
But, Lucido says, some teachers are being told exactly what to teach on which day: "It's the one-shoe-fits-all mentality."
Lucido started teaching at 21 in the mid-1960s. He left the Bay Area in 1986 to teach physics in Fresno, where he didn't give written tests and he asked his students to call him "Coach." He wanted kids to think of him as being on their side in learning physics, not someone they had to endure.
Lucido tried to emphasize learning, not testing, in his classes. He would divide students into teams of four to work on written assignments and class projects. Every four to six weeks, teams would meet with him to "master." He would pose questions on key concepts; teams would answer, and could go away and learn more if they didn't get the answer right or they didn't know enough. Students could try to master as often as they wanted. Final grades were based on the number of units mastered.
"In the classroom, we have to create an atmosphere where students keep trying over and over and over again until they get it right," Lucido says. It's what athletes do, and it builds "an attitude of persistence," he adds.
Bouakham Sriri of Fresno, one of Lucido's students in the early 1990s, says she valued mastering: "We took ownership of the learning process and we had a sense of responsibility. We didn't want to let our teammates down."
Sriri now uses mastering at Fresno's McLane High School, where she teaches physics. She says the system works even under the pressure of standardized tests.
Lucido works with Sriri and other Fresno Unified physics teachers as one of his part-time jobs with the district. Off the job, he tries to spread his views on testing.
Says Lucido: "My goal is not just to change things in Fresno. This is a national experience. I am one of many, many people across this country working to change the insanity."
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6354.
A Teacher, Parent and Board Member Respond-Wow !
I have been concerned with the use of simplistic, standardized tests myentire teaching career (30+ years). NCLB has made things even worse! FUSDis now totally involved in teaching to the test with little regard for itsclientele. We have the largest pockets of poverty and second languagespeakers of English in the entire nation! We are told we can't use thesethings as "excuses" and THAT is total insanity! The vast majority of teachers agree with Rog Lucido that standardized testing and scripted reading programs are destroying teaching and learning!Reading can be taught with ANY subject, so why not use science or socialstudies and other real topics that motivate students? All of this "drill andkill" didn't work 30 years ago, when scores were posted in school offices,what makes anyone think these methods and testing insanity will work nowwhen we have such a different population of students? I advise all teachersand parents to go to Lucido'website: www.testingabuse.blogspot.com andbecome involved in our children's education. We all need to have input, notjust blindly follow what the politicians tell us is right. Pete Mehas iswrong! We ARE simply teaching to the test and that is counter to ignitingcuriosity and creating students who THINK and become productive citizens.Help "change the insanity"! Hopefully with more media attention like this, parents and teachers will start speaking up beforeEVERY child is left behind!Thank you!Susan Schmale
My children were educated in the Clovis Unified District. I, however, was not the model Clovis parent. Mainly because I do not agree with the Clovis "way of learning" which incidentally, involves taking certain parental duties and rights out of the hands of parents.Although I believe my children received a better education than I did many moons ago, I saw a disturbing trend. I saw the emphasis in their education shift and critical thinking skills deemphasized as the emphasis was directed towards standardized testing performance. This school district begins weeks before the actual test by distributing letters to the home instructing the parents on "do's and don'ts" in preparation for the tests. The memos even instruct the parents on what and when to feed the child to "achieve the optimum test results." As the years went by, I noticed more and more time and attention was focused on the schools' expectations for the tests. Less and less time was spent on developing a love of learning, critical thinking skills, and "hands on" application of learning. I never pressured my children to do well on the standardized tests - in fact, I often told them, "no matter what pressure they try to place on you at school over this test, don't worry about it - a single test does not tell me what your capabilities or accomplishments are." My daughter's scores on the tests often merely reflected what I already knew - higher scores in those areas which came easier to her, and low scores in those areas which she did not enjoy.My daughter applied for and attended CART her senior year. She earned straight "A's" for the first time in her 12 years of education. But, more importantly, she displayed an interest in learning. She came home everyday excited to talk about what she had done in school that day. The "hands-on" approach at CART, and the de-emphasis on testing, was the way she learned best. How sadly ironic.I see a parallel between the environment that our children now live in within their schools, and another testing situation which has plagued adults for years here in California - the California Bar Exam. There are many quite intelligent individuals who graduate law school yet fail to pass the state bar exam. The pass rate is always less than 50%, sometimes closer to 46%. I have met and opposed many practicing attorneys who passed on their first try who coincidentally appear less than competent. And, I know many more individuals who are still taking this test, not able yet to achieve a passing score, who are quite capable and would be excellent, ethical, competent attorneys. The only difference? One achieved a certain score on a test. Does the test insure competency or ethical character? No. From my own personal experience, the first time I took the Bar Exam I knew the law more competently and completely than I did on any subsequent attempts. The time I passed the exam? I simplified my knowledge. I paid a "tutor," not to refresh my knowledge on the law, but to tell me how to write on this exam in order to receive the most points. I had to "simplify" my knowledge in order to give the examiner what he wanted, and thus in order to receive "maximum points." In other words, it wasn't what I knew, or what kind of lawyer I would make that was important. Passing the test came down to learning how to present what I knew in a different manner which would satisfy the examiner. Did I possess more knowledge when I passed compared to when I did not? No. What I did was spend my time studying testing approaches rather than the law. Certainly not what I want to see children endure in their public education.Generally, my children's performance on standardized tests reflected what I already knew from my own schooling - it does not accurately reflect what one has learned in a given subject. Nor does it accurately reflect one's capabilities in academics or life. The lowest grades I ever received on law school exams were in courses from which I gained the most knowledge. Go figure.
I am a board member with the Visalia Unifies School District and I, too, am concerned with this testing madness. Not only does it put a great deal of unfair pressure on the students, but it the system currently in use unfairly demeans the efforts of schools and districts. Like you, I am not convinced that the current system actually tells us what really is happening education wise with our students and like you I believe that it stiffles the innate curiosity that students all have making "school" a chore rather that an exciting adventure. So good luck with you rebellion. If more and more people start to say something, maybe we came start to tame this beast.
- Students in grades 2-11 take the CST and 3rd and 7th take the CAT/6 every year and must pass the CAHSEE in order to graduate.
- These tests do NOT measure a child's overall academic ability.
- They pretend to be scientific. They are not.
- These tests are filled with errors and are not standardized
- The results are not valid; multiple measures are.
- The classroom curriculum is structured to pass the tests.
- High-stakes testing is taking the genuine desire to learn and fun out of school for children.
- They lower classroom student expectations
- They make schools into test prep centers
- They emphasize rote memorization and regurgitation of disconnected bits of information.
- They reduce academic rigor and dumb down genuine learning
- They are making many children sick.
- All parents will know that their child can opt out of CST and CAT/6 testing.
- Parents and teachers will provide insight on deciding future educational policies.
- Teachers will not be discouraged from voicing their opinions about high stakes testing.
- Legislators will value the expertise and concerns of parents and teachers. Parents, teachers and students will show legislators the consequences of high stakes testing .
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Declaration of Independence from High Stakes Testing
The Declaration of Independence of Students, Parents, Teachers, Educators
The Unanimous Declaration of all those affected by High-Stakes Testing
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any law of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new laws, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that laws established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute educational malfeasance , it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such laws, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these students, parents, teachers and educators; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Obedience. The history of the present governmental supporters of High-Stakes Testing is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over all those affected by our educational system. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
- Government has refused to validate multiple imbedded assessment strategies for students, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
- Government has prevented educators from passing laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless they pretend to employ quantifiable measurements.
- The Government has taken a stance of mean spirited accountability which uses coercive measures--incentives and sanctions--to ensure that educators teach and students master specific content, namely by:
-Forcing upon schools arbitrary rating and scoring standards developed by politicians and business co-operatives rather than parents and professional educators.
-Not establishing accountability for standards of accountability. So, schools are being held accountable to standards that themselves meet no standard of accountability. The standards in the law are arbitrary and punitive.
-Penalizing schools with children from diverse backgrounds. Schools with children of both lower socioeconomic status and second language learners will be at a disadvantage in almost any rigid standard of accountability.
-Penalizing schools with children having diverse learning skills. Schools having many children with learning disabilities or other diverse learning needs.-Encouraging schools to promote dropping out. In this way, those students’ test scores will not reduce scores for the school. Student dropouts among low scorers actually have been increasing, arguably as a direct result of the legislation. -Operating on the assumption that what matters are factoids that students should know rather than having to explain how they use it. As a result, the emphasis in schools regresses to that of the drill-and-kill education instead of meaningful understanding and use of the knowledge students learn.
-Creating a system where children, more and more, are being deprived of learning in art, music, history and social sciences, physical education, special programs for the gifted, and the like. In general, anything that might enrich children’s education in a way that would make the children knowledgeable as well as wise and ready to make complex decisions in today’s complex world is largely gone. -Specifying that educational practice be guided by good, rigorous science without adhering to the tenets of real scientific investigation. The results of their definition of rigorous educational research does not meet the criteria of validity and reproducibility as standardization is impossible.-Turning our schools into test-preparation centers.
-Deluding students and parents into believing that classroom instruction that is focused on test score results is preparing them for the real world.-Dividing rather than unifying the world of education. Forcing upon students and their schools standards dreamed up by politicians never has been, and never will be, the right way to create the best education for our children.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A law whose character is thus marked by every act which may define as tyrannical, is unfit to be the guide of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our politician brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our teaching and learning here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.
We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Parents, Students, Teachers and Educators of the United States of America, in General Agreement, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of America , solemnly publish and declare, That WE are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent of these Laws; that WE are Absolved from all Allegiance to These Laws, and that all political connection between them and the US, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent Citizens, WE have full Power to ignore those elements of the law which operate under coercion and threat, use educational strategies which are not in the best interest of our students and to the detriment of our country which Independent Citizens may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The signers of this Declaration of Independence from High-Stakes Testing are as follows:
( Feel free to sign just for yourself, to give to school/district officials, join with others to distribute)
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Important Testing Abuse Links
We are a grassroots organization of educators, parents, students, and concerned citizens working together to promote high quality teaching and learning in all classrooms.
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.
The Search for the Truth:
This is a terrific PowerPoint presentation that could be used for both parents and teachers which exposes the horrors of High-Stakes testing. With some modifications of some slides it can be used in other states rather than California. If you do not have PowerPoint resididing on your machine you can go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=7C404E8E-5513-46C4-AA4F-058A84A37DF1&displaylang=EN and download the player for free.
For the The Search for the Truth Power Point first go to:
then scroll down to Feb. 8, 2005, until you find:
"The Search for the Truth: How High Stakes Testing is Ruining Your Child's Education"
Mothers Against WASL
This is a parent based group that is working to say the truth about Washington Assessment of Student Learning and how it is affecting students, teachers and parents. It has a number of good refernces focused directly at and for parents. While some of the details are only applicable to the WASL most can be related to all high-stakes testing:
Testing Satire by Peter Campbell
As part of my attempts to broaden the anti-NCLB message, I created the following scenario in Flash. It's a satirical attempt to illustrate how the best intentions of a good school can go awry and wreck what makes it a good school. It features a series of memos over the course of the academic year from a principal to the teaching staff at an elementary school as the school prepares for the state tests.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Bee Editorial to Keep Exit Exam is Flawed
1. The CAHSEE is not a valid assessment of what a student knows and is able to do. In its own testing guide the Dept. of Education ( as well as The Joint Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing ) says," A decision or characterization about a student should not be make on the basis of a single test score." National PTA & McGraw Hill and 27 other organizations call for multiple measures, not just one.
2. Parents and students are not informed by the state of the random and systematic errors in each test administration which could easily invalidate an individual score.
3. An independent study by the Educational Policy Studies Laboratory concludes by saying, " the implementation of high school graduation exams results in a decrease in academic achievement. It was found that after high-stakes graduation exams were implemented, ACT, SAT and AP scores declined."
4. States with a graduation exam requirement averaged a 64% graduation rate, 8% lower than the 72% for the states without the requirement. Lower achieving students were 25% more likely to drop out of high school than comparable peers in non-test states ( EPSL)
5. The cut off scores for graduation are not made on educational grounds ( it takes 55% on a test to pass ) but rather what is politically expedient : What should the cut off score be so that we do not have a revolt on our hands?
Friday, February 11, 2005
Be Like Mike
Be like Mike. That is the mantra for basketball wannabes. Find someone who was successful in what they do. Determine what elements of success are in their life. Modify those elements to fit your life and almost like magic , you , too, can become successful. This is a common process in weight loss with the myriad of diets which people follow trying for the same results. Just do what I did and you, too, will lose weight. Does success mean more money for you? Then follow those who have made it big. Do what they did, invest, start a business, be wise, be frugal, but in any event follow the winners. Many parents use this modeling idea with their children. If you want to be successful, do what mom and dad do. Go to school, keep your faith, have a family…whatever the formula is that we think works. It’s the same the world over- find those who did it right and follow their lead, making improvements along the way. We call this progress.
Lets apply this to an ordinary Fresno Unified student who wants to be ‘successful’ as defined by California testing results. They would have to look at other successful students in the district. Let’s be ‘scientific’ and go and get some data from the 2003 STAR testing for Fresno Unified as reported on the California Department of Ed. web site. By doing some simple averaging for grades 2-7in both Language Arts and Mathematics, here is what we find when we compare reported parents educational level and percent ( rounded off ) of students at or above the ‘proficient’ level:
The pattern is clear. If you want to be considered a ‘proficient’ student and do well on your STAR testing make sure your parents are as educated as possible. As you might guess, this relationship is not just true of Fresno Unified students but it holds true across the country. More educated parents have students who do better on these tests. English language development is a critical component. Given that about 22% of FUSD parents reportedly have no H.S. diploma ( this statistic will surely increase as more students will not graduate because of the California High School Exit Exam ) and another 20% only have a high school diploma, with only 12% of college graduates, is it any wonder that many of our students struggle on these tests? When you couple this with the fact that over 80% of our students in grades 2-7 are classified as economically disadvantaged the % differences in levels of ‘proficiency’ are even more radical.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics men and women with four years of college earn nearly 45 percent more on average than those with only a high school diploma. The more educated parents make more money, have better health care and have students who fare better on testing. A quick check of the SAT web site shows the same patterns. Why are some so willing to permit this data to judge students and schools, yet so unwilling to believe what that same data says about who scores higher?
While it is the intent of the No Child Left Behind legislation to close this test-score gap, focus first on closing the parent education gap, the economic gap, and the health care gap. Having more tests with scripted lessons that turn our schools into test prep centers is not the answer. This was quite evident last week when the Associated Press reported:
‘...The National Conference of State Legislatures wants changes in the fundamental parts of the No Child Left Behind Act: how student progress is measured, how schools are punished if they fall short and who decides when the rules are waived for struggling districts...The new report contends the law leads to unintended consequences and that the federal government is indifferent to them — the lowering of academic standards, increasing segregation in school, and the driving away of top teachers from needy schools. It claims the government is also violating the Constitution by coercing state compliance....’
This is a serious issue. Whether student, parent, educator or community member we need to raise our consciences and seek justice for those who are suffering the most in their quest to ‘Be like Mike’.