Testing Abuse

Email us at roglucido@gmail.com

Saturday, June 30, 2007


1.) As a group we have decided that JULY 10th will be a call in day to Congressman George Miller and Senator Kennedy’s offices. We need to all let them know that NCLB is damaging and that it is not working. I have attached a quick sheet (PDF file) that you can pass out to parents by making copies, AND use for your phone call. Their numbers are as follows:

Miller: (925) 602-1880 or (510) 262-6500 or (707) 645-1888 or (202) 225-2095
Kennedy: (202)224- 4543 or (617) 565-3170 or (877) 472-9014

I will try to contact other national groups so maybe we can make this a national day of action! WE NEED ALL OF YOU.

2.) We have also decided to do presentations to community and parent groups. They will be given a power point presentation along with action steps, such as writing and signing our petition. The following will be contacted in the near
a.) League of Women Voters
b.) First Five
c.) Hope Lutheran Church
d.) Unitarian Church

These are only a start. We can contact many others to get them educated and moving on stopping NCLB. If you know any more SEND ME THE INFO!

3.) It was decided that we would contact supportive private businesses and have a booth out in front with our members meeting with the public. At the location, we would have our quick handout, Elizabeth Jaeger’s NCLB booklet for parents who
want more, and our petition for them to sign. YOU can print out her booklet too at :
We would love to have volunteers email and either sit at a booth OR send the name of a business that would support this action.

4.)Saturday, July 14, 11:00 AM ­ 12:00 Noon

There will be a Town Hall Meeting with Congressman George Miller.
Location:IBEW Hall, 1875 Arnold Drive, Martinez, CA

Congressman Miller will discuss Iraq War, Energy Independence and No ChildLeft Behind for 30 mins., and then take questions for 30 mins. or so.
For further information, call Congressman Miller¹s office at (925) 602-1880. I am VERY interested in going. Who would like to car pool? Emaill me back!

5.) Some members will be meeting with Californians for Justice to connect on NCLB and hopefully, with their support, we will have more man power to improve communicating with parents.

6.) We have not decided on our next meeting date, as we are into an “action” mode right now, but a date will be chosen after July, more than likely. Continue to visit WWW.TESTINGABUSE.BLOGSPOT.COM and WWW.EDUCATORROUNTABLE.ORG for
information. Below is a letter to us from Monty Neil of Fairtest.


Joseph Lucido
Educator Roundtable

Ensure U.S. House Really Overhauls NCLB

The House Education Committee is about to adopt language for the next version of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It could approve a bill in early July, with the full House voting later in July!

Now is the time for assessment reformers like you to act. The next steps include:

1) Keep pressure on the leadership, especially Chairman George Miller.

Demand they make needed major improvements (as outlined below) and allow substantial time for discussion and
amendments. Tell your Rep. to deliver this message to Mr. Miller. (See contact info at the bottom.)

2) If your Representative is on the Education Committee, ask her or him to vote “No” to any bill or parts of the bill that do not make sufficient changes in the law. Ask them to propose amendments to advance the key changes and to take leadership on these issues.

3) Focus on key changes needed in the law:

• End unrealistic "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) requirements. Expect schools to make reasonable progress based on real-world rates of student improvement.

• Require testing once each in elementary, middle and high school, scrapping requirement to test in grades 3-8. Over-testing takes time away from real teaching and learning.

• Assess academic progress using multiple sources of evidence, not just standardized test scores. Provide funding to help states and districts develop locally-based, performance and classroom assessments to improve teaching and learning as well as accountability.

• Replace the test-and-punish approach with support for improving educational quality. Expect all schools to take reasonable steps to improve, including use of high-quality professional development and strong parental involvement. Replace current sanctions-based system with a focus on targeted assistance.

4) Get other people and organizations to fax, call, or write Congress. Tell your Representatives and Senators to rely on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB and the legislative recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability to guide their votes on reauthorization of NLCB.


Friday, June 22, 2007

A Collection of "Us" Needed for Hope

This is our response to the latest article on the "restructuring" of 2,300 schools.
SEE IT HERE: http://www.cnn.com/2007/EDUCATION/06/20/failing.schools.ap/index.html

Last night me and my wife were watching “Lord of the Rings”. Two hobbits were forced into a forest of trees, which they realized were intelligent beings, but under the threat of being burned by nearby enemies. There was a point in the story where the Ents (tree like creatures who protected the forest) did not want to battle these dark forces because they hadn’t yet affected the forest directly. They told the little hobbits to return to the Shire and enjoy the good life. One hobbit gave in and started to turn back home, located hundreds of miles away. The other explained to him in exasperation that if they went home and did not withstand the ensuing battle that, “There won’t be a Shire to go home to.” He realized that the insanity of destruction that lie ahead would swallow their entire world whole if they did not meet its challenge. The story focuses on hope in the most perilous of times, when all hope is gone, except for the narrowest sliver of light.

The AP story from yesterday only magnifies a struggle similar to this one that many find hard to deal with, yet has a glimmer of hope. Teachers need to educate parents about what is happening to their schools, but many are tired and fearful. The future of public education hangs in the balance, as those who would profit from destroying it wait in the wings. 2,300. That’s the number of schools, with more to come, that will be up for “restructuring”. It is always curious to me how people in government and administration want to reconfigure these schools based on test scores that give no specific indices of how students came to their answers. Superintendent Joseph Ferraina stated, "There are people working with data every day now," he said. "They're sitting down with people and saying, 'You know what, your class seems to not be doing well in whole numbers. We need to add a lesson in whole numbers.'" How does he know EXACTLY what to focus on in that area? How does he know the teaching methods that were used originally? Was there an original observation of this teacher and student reactions to the lessons? Would there be any continuing focus on the metacognition of those students at all? His remark shows complete ignorance of the value of multiple methods of assessment and proof that standardized testing tells you nothing of the student context or mindset when answering. It is a hodgepodge experiment that asks teachers to keep manipulating their teaching methods such that they FINALLY get the reproduced answers that the test asks for. This is not good teaching and learning, and limits the creativity and uniqueness that exists in all students to examine and respond to math and other problems from divergent points of view.

I find it quite interesting that a principal mentioned, "Instruction wasn't happening...Schools have failed them.", as the explanation for gang violence and dropouts. This statement is outrageous. Teachers are not responsible for creating or solving the social ills that affect students! It is irresponsible to ignore the deprived lifestyle, lack of parent support, little motivation, and severely limited vocabulary exposure of these students as possible culprits for dropping out or joining gangs. What was the first thing she did (beside firing 3/4 of the staff and hiring younger, easier to manipulate teachers) ? She painted the school bright colors and bought brand new books, while getting rid of the "moldy" ones. Now, why did she do this? Because she knew that the environment that the students were in AFFECTED THEIR LEARNING. In general, the students were still struggling a year later. So, I guess it wasn't 75% of the staff that was the problem. We have to start addressing the surrounding poverty of the neighborhoods as a whole and heal the entire thing. It takes vision and will of all citizens to do this.

Poverty absolutely does NOT mean that those afflicted in it can’t learn. However, it DOES mean that the methods that are used to teach those children have to be rich, even richer, in hands on experience and vocabulary than their wealthier counterparts. Superintendent Deasy stated, “...testing goals have to be very targeted”, and, “ there often isn't time for electives and free play like at other schools.” By “other schools”, does he mean the well-off, “higher-scoring”, and thus free-to-teach-as-they see-fit-for-their-community-schools? The horrific part is, electives and physical play are just what those poorer students need. Structured P.E. lessons are valuable in making a balance with the mind and body. These children need varying courses to give them the real life experiences that they have sorely missed in their early childhood. Science experiments, field trips, and presentations of self-created models can show their knowledge of standards. At Arrowhead Elementary “math worksheets were on the desks, and kids were sounding out vowels...” in the afternoons instead of something that could teach depth and meaning. This is NCLB’s vision of a “restructuring” plan. It does not meet the needs of those kids, is forced upon them by this law’s punitive make-up, and is thus creating more inequity than before.

The truth is that while NCLB’s intent was to balance the playing field for all children, the effects have been disastrous for many children and teachers. The statement, “The most obvious sign of the pressure is in a public hallway near the school's main entrance where graphs hang in full view of passing students and teachers.” This practice is morally wrong, should be considered harassment, and probably is illegal since it divulges private student data.

Scripted programs, the punishment for most “restructured” schools, suck the soul and life from children and creative teachers. These have been challenged by many scholars to have invalid research and only continue to hold the poorest children hostage with transmissive teaching techniques that don’t allow them to think critically. A teacher from Portland, Oregon wrote in the Nation periodical, “Teachers soon begin to pass that message along to students: Don't think; just do what's in front of you. There are two choices for educators like myself: Teach public school and teach the poor how to follow orders, or teach private school and teach the rich how to think for themselves. I can't say this publicly because I would lose my job. We all have to watch what we say.”

This idea of squashing professional judgement is definitely clarified in the AP article when it states, "The administration also wants the federal law to override provisions in collective bargaining agreements to ensure failing schools have complete control over who works there." And so the attacks are mounting. But, as in Lord of the Rings, there is hope. We absolutely need a collective “us” to speak up for our profession and say that these things are wrong. Teachers are leaving the profession in alarming numbers and at a huge expense, from experience to monetary cost. Upon the many letters I have read on this matter, the joy of teaching is being lost. It is the kids who will lose in the end. If a return to the “status quo” and doing “what’s comfortable” means to allow the freedom of learning and exploration, then I’m all for it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Study: Testing firms 'buckling' under NCLB's weight

by Staff

To motivate juniors on last year's assessment exams, central Illinois' Springfield High School offered coveted lockers, parking spaces near the door, and free prom tickets as incentives for good scores. But the incentives went unclaimed until this March, when Illinois finally published its 2006 test scores--more than four months after they were due. Critics pounced on Harcourt Assessment Inc., which lost most of its $44.5 million state contract over delays that made Illinois the last state in the nation to release scores used to judge schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But experts say the problems are more widespread and are likely to get worse. A handful of companies create, print, and score most of the tests in the U.S.--and they're struggling with a workload that has exploded since President Bush signed the education reform package in 2002.

"The testing industry in the U.S. is buckling under the weight of NCLB demands," said Thomas Toch, co-director of Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank.

When Education Sector surveyed 23 states in 2006, it found 35 percent of testing offices in those states had experienced "significant" errors with scoring, and 20 percent didn't get results "in a timely fashion."

Illinois saw more problems in March, when students took achievement tests that contained as many as 13 errors, officials said. But Illinois isn't the only state that has experienced difficulties:

•Oregon's Education Department complained that a computerized test was plagued by system problems. Test company Vantage Learning later terminated its contract with the state, claiming it was owed money, and the state sued the company for breach of contract. Now, thousands of students who haven't completed online exams will take them in May the old-fashioned way, using paper and pencil. •Connecticut last year fined Harcourt $80,000 after a processing error caused wrong scores for 355 students in 2005. While that's a fraction of the state's 41,000 kids who took the test, state officials had to notify 51, or nearly a third, of all districts that some of their students got the wrong scores. The problem came a year after the state canceled its contract with another firm, CTB/McGraw-Hill, after scoring problems caused a five-month delay in reporting scores. •The Texas Education Agency passed 4,160 10th-graders who initially failed the math section of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in 2003 after officials discovered a test question had more than one correct answer.

•Pearson Educational Measurement apologized last year after it reported more than 900,000 Michigan results weeks late. In 2003, previous vendor Measurement Inc. delivered 3,400 MEAP scores months late and nearly 1,000 results went missing. The number of students tested has risen sharply since NCLB took effect. Illinois, for example, used to test only third, fifth, and eight graders but now tests students in third through eighth grades.

To meet NCLB requirements, states administered 45 million reading and math exams last spring. At the end of the 2007-08 school year, they will give about 56 million tests because they must add a science exam at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

What's more, each state has its own test, and many want them customized, said Michael Hansen, chief executive officer of Harcourt Assessment, which no longer administers Illinois' tests but still is involved in developing and grading them.

"Not only [have] states wanted different content in terms of the tests, but they also have very many different requirements as to logistics, delivery, look and feel, color, how the questions are organized, horizontal, vertical ... you name it, it was on the table," Hansen said.

On top of that, experts say, are rigid, NCLB-driven deadlines.

"That means March and April we are completely ... at peak capacity, and so is every one of our competitors," Hansen said. "But also then when the test results come in, [schools] need the test results back as soon as possible ... so the turnaround from the time that the test is taken, to [when] we need to report the results is extremely tight--and it's getting tighter and tighter."

Others say the problems are exacerbated by little competition or regulation.

The NCLB testing industry is dominated by four companies: Harcourt of San Antonio, Texas; CTB/McGraw-Hill, based in Monterey, Calif.; Pearson Educational Measurement of Iowa City, Iowa, and Riverside Publishing of Itasca, Ill.

"It's not entirely a monopoly, but it is an oligopoly, with very little regulation," said Walter Haney, professor at the Center for the Study of Testing Evaluation and Educational Policy at Boston College.

Both state education departments and testing companies are "overtaxed and bursting at the seams," said Becky Watts, former chief of staff at the Illinois State Board of Education.

From 2002 to 2008, states will spend between $1.9 billion and $5.3 billion to develop, score, and report NCLB-required tests, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. However, states spend less than a quarter of 1 percent of school revenue--or $10 to $30 a student--on testing programs, even though federal, state, and local spending per pupil adds up to more than $8,000 a year, Toch said, adding: "That's not enough to produce high-quality tests in the tight timelines that NCLB requires. It's ludicrous."

The U.S. Department of Education must be more active, Toch said; instead, "Secretary [Margaret] Spellings has largely washed her hands of this problem, said it's a state problem, which is a peculiar ... response because it's the federal government that has required the states to take these actions."
— Staff
eSchool News

A Call for the Protection of the Innocents

A war is coming. This battle is currently silent to the general public, and yet it will rage with the intensity of a mass forest fire. Except this inferno will be poised to consume public education, a cornerstone to our democracy. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), with testing as its oppressive tool, has left the door open to those that would abuse the school system: corporate America. Privatizing education would mean billions in tax dollars for them and a nonstop business training ground. The cost for U.S. citizens? Our children.
The current fear based message by big business is that schools are not being productive enough for their tastes. It is the frightening notice sent by CEO’s such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad that as a nation we are competitively and economically falling behind the rest of the world. Yet in an interview on National Public Radio, Vivek Wadwha from Duke University, addresses a study that was done there that refutes Gates’ claims that there are not enough highly skilled engineers to support the high-tech industry. He stated,” We researched exactly what was going on in India and China and the USA. We looked at the graduation rates of all three countries. What we found was that India and China have no real advantage in the quantity or the quality of the graduates they produce. In fact, the USA is far ahead by almost any milestone. We also asked companies why they’re going overseas and the number 1 reason was cost, cost, cost. It’s not about a deficiency in the U.S. worker or shortag e over here. It’s about the economic benefit that they get in India and China.”

The report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, “Tough Choices or Tough Times”, is supported by many CEO’s. The report suggests that public schools could be overseen by private companies and that students, when reaching tenth grade, will be directionalized using a standardized test to see if they can stay in school, or pushed to move to the private sector to work. If they pass, they can go to a university. There will be very little choice in the matter. Researcher Dr. Gerald Bracey has stated, ”There is a cottage industry in this country that generates reports devoted to keeping Americans anxious about the future and laying the responsibility for that future on the schools which are never working as they should be.”Public schools have been taken over in many parts of the country already, such as in Oakland and New Orleans. An EdWeek report states that Cristal-Rey schools in Chicago, another Gates supported operation, has already crossed a dangerous line. A proposal to the labor department has 14 to 15 year old students working up to eight hours a day week at banks or law firms contracted with the schools, while still going to class. This scheme would currently violate child labor laws.

The focus of where education is heading is clear: Children are being setup to be trained to enter the work force younger and younger--and at a dear price. The pressures and nonsense thinking of standardized tests are preparing many for thoughtless tasks that fit in perfectly with the corporate mold. If one isn’t taught to think critically, one can’t challenge. If one can’t challenge effectively, then one can be controlled easily. It is about power and the silencing of the innocent. A report from the Alliance for Childhood’s 300 physicians and educators out of Maryland, suggests that children have become more and more violent at younger ages due to, among other things, the “culture of high-stakes testing, standardization, and scripted ‘teaching’ that has overtaken so many schools.”

What is good for the health of our children? Is it acceptable for them to be put in a high-stress exam environment and “measured” against others--a mirror of the vicious, profiteering, dog-eat-dog corporate world? A child’s heart and humanity cannot be measured, and their creativity should not be ignored. Think about who really has children’s interests at the center. Many citizens are asleep, but Paul Revere is riding and he’s screaming,”The corporates are coming! The corporates are coming!”

Educators and Parents Against Test Abuse
Educator Roundtable
Fresno, CA

Teacher Letters on Testing Abuses

Letters: Second-graders
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, June 18, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B5

Standardized tests gone too far
Re "A test worth keeping," editorial, June 12: The Bee asserts that without a state test, we won't know if students can read until fourth grade. Actually, informative, classroom-based assessments can meet the educational and emotional needs of young children and enable teachers to communicate more effectively with parents.

Most psychologists and educators agree that children in kindergarten and first and second grade should not be subjected to rigid standardized testing. Potential benefits are few because of the unreliability of the test data.

The National Academy of Sciences warns against overreliance on standardized testing, concluding, "Problems of test validity are greatest among young children, and there is a greater risk of error when such tests are employed to make significant educational decisions about children who are less than 8 years old or below grade 3 ... or about their schools."

STAR testing of second-graders wastes hundreds of thousands of hours of instructional time for test preparation and administration in classrooms throughout the state.

Because of the unreliability of standardized testing at this grade level, and because of the wasted instructional time, wasted dollars and harmful effect on children caused by these tests, 42 other states have rejected state testing of second-graders.

- George Sheridan, Garden Valley

Making reading enjoyable
Preparing for technical, lengthy test format questions takes time away from the proactive process of creating an interest in reading. Second-graders do not need to be subjected to this kind of intimidating, grueling task that they will associate with reading.

Many second-graders are in what educators refer to as the "learning to read" stage. They haven't reached the "reading to learn" stage. Teachers in my school keep a close look at these students by checking their fluency (speed of recognizing words) monthly and giving them a variety of comprehension tests related to the current state reading series. The children are moving from stories with lots of pictures to the ultimately prestigious chapter books without pictures. This requires a big change in their reading instruction.

Beginning readers need a literature diet rich in phonics, teacher read-alouds, pleasure and shared reading to nourish their appetite for reading. This requires lots of enjoyable reading experiences. The best way to learn how to read is to love reading.

- Cindy Sage, Orangevale

A 'black eye' for teachers
Sometimes The Bee just doesn't get it! The second-grade test only shows how a particular student fills in bubbles, which is not a math or reading skill. The test asks second-graders to sit and focus for long periods of time, which is not a math or reading skill.

The Bee gives all teachers a black eye by citing one instance where a teacher said one thing while a test said another. Teachers see the students over long periods of time. They know what the students are capable of better than a developmentally inappropriate test.

As a third-grade teacher I know from experience the second-grade tests are of little value.

Give teachers credit for the great and difficult job they do. Don't blame them and decide a one-time test is better than daily observation and ongoing assessment. No Child Left Behind (as wrong as it has proven to be) doesn't require a second-grade test. Why should California?

Oh, by the way, did you mention how much money those stupid tests cost? Remember the constant budget woes?

Get it right next time!

- Thomas J. Carroll, Sacramento

George Will's whacked logic
Re "Newark's lesson about schools," commentary, June 7: Comparing the New Jersey state teachers union to a gang of thugs and murderers is not the most inane part of George Will's column, just the vilest. What really whacks logic is Will's reasoning for likening teachers to the mob made famous by "On the Waterfront."

After holding up Newark as proof that greater spending on education does mean greater results, Will then slams teachers for objecting to the mayor's plan to spend even more money on education. Will approves of this spending plan because it would be funded by businesses in exchange for tax breaks, and it would go to scholarships for private and public schools. Scholarships to free public schools? I need Will to explain that logic.

- Michael Mahoney, Sacramento