Graphics of The Bush Foundation’s Influence on State Education Laws

The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) agenda has seven “reform” priorities, and its work centers on influencing state governments to pass laws that are directly related to these reform priorities.  The seven reform categories (shown in Box 1) are elements of the corporate and foundation led privatization of public schools, as well as the accountability system based on Common Core Standards and High-Stakes testing.  The reforms shown here are embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and the Race to the Top (RT3)

Box 1. Bush Reform Categories

  • Ccr: College and Career Readiness
  • Dl: Digital Learning
  • Etl: Effective Teachers and Leaders
  • K3r: K-3 Reading
  • Obf: Outcome-Based Funding
  • Sc: School Choice
  • Sa: Standards and Accountability

These categories of reform are focal points for the Bush foundation (ExcelinEd), and they have much financial resources, and lobbying connections to influence legislation around the country that is in the interest of “their reforms.”  One of the chief areas of reform is digital learning.

In an earlier post, I described a report by Colin Woodard, on The Profit Motive Behind Maine’s Virtual Schools which implicated the Bush Foundation, ALEC, K12, Inc, and Connections Education.  Woodard’s investigation won the George Polk Award for Education Reporting.   In his research, Woodard found that the state was directly influenced by Bush himself, who saw Maine as a great place to apply his Foundation’s Digital Learning Now.  I’ll discuss the Digital Learning Now program in more detail later this week.  But for now, its important to note that Maine’s digital policy was taken directly from the Bush Foundation.  The real problem emerges when we trace the principles of digital learning directly to companies that stand to make huge profits once the flood gates are opened.

Florida blogger, and educator Bob Sikes asked me in a tweet, who is  Patricia Levesque’s husband?  It turns out her husband is George Levesque, who holds the office of Florida General Council, which is responsible for providing legal advice to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and any Member, when in doubt about the applicability and interpretation of the House Code of Conduct or ethics laws, may ask advisory opinions from the House General Counsel.  In one post he wondered How Involved are the Levesques in Protecting the Fresen’s Florida Charter School Empire?  Ms. Levesque, who now heads the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and was Bush’s education advisory, also owns a lobbyist firm that represents many companies who have an interest in any Florida education legislation that is beneficial to their business.  In this particular post, Bob Sikes shows how family relationships and their connections between government and private companies either borders on ethics violations, or is simply downright unlawful.

You can read his posts on the Foundation for Excellent in Education here, and Jeb Bush here.

Graphics

In the first graphic we have a display of how each state is affected by the Foundation for Excellence.  The seven reform categories are plotted against each state.  For instance, in Wyoming, one bill was passed in the Effective Teachers and Leaders (ETL) category.  However, if you drop down to Virginia, five of the reform categories are represented.  In fact, a total of 19 bills were in one or more ways influence by the Foundation.  Florida, however, leads the way.  As many as 95 education bills can be traced to the Bush reform categories.

Figure 1. Analysis of the Bush Foundation's Influence on Education Bills in the States.  Data obtained from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Figure 1. Analysis of the Bush Foundation’s Influence on Education Bills in the States. Data obtained from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The graphic in Figure 2 is an interactive map of the states and the District of Columbia.  Here you will find how each state is influenced by the Foundation.

I’ll report later this week on Digital Learning Now (DLN), a Bush initiative that rates each state’s digital education against ten priorities developed by the Bush Foundation. Be in for an awakening.

Will the Atlanta Schools Be Run by an Authoritarian Regime?

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Atlanta Public Schools (APS) hired a new superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, who formerly was superintendent of the Austin Independent School District (AISD).

Dr. Carstarphen is bringing five administrators who worked for her in Austin.  These people will form the nucleus of her cabinet or central staff.  With outside private funding, she and her staff have set up shop and begun the transition to take over the APS in July.

What kind of administration will emerge from the Austin group?  There are many who are very optimistic about the new superintendent.  Over the past few days, Dr. Carstarphen has made a number of public appearances talking to various constituencies in Atlanta about her vision for the APS.

Dr. Carstarphen inherits a district which was mired in one of the worst cheating scandals in memory.  According the state’s investigation into the scandal, a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation spread through the APS, and this culture was directly connected to financial incentives for Atlanta’s schools to score at high levels (based on student scores on the state CRCT).  The financial incentives (~$500k) were paid from the top, down to the school administrative level, sometimes reached teachers. Pressure from above was put on administrators and teachers to do what ever it would take to improve standardized test scores.  The cheating scandal was collateral damage (Berliner & Noddings, 2007), of state and federal policies mandating high-stakes testing.  It got out of hand in Atlanta.

Dr. Beverly Hall and her administration worked in Atlanta from 1999 – 2010.   How did test scores for the city during her administration vary compared to the test scores before and after her tenure?  Well, surprise, surprise.   There was very little variation.

Atlanta Math Scores

Figure 1 shows National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th Grade math scores for Atlanta from 2003 – 2013.  The Atlanta cheating scandal happened from 2008 – 2010, and as you can see there is a slight gain for math achievement during these years.  But notice that the NAEP scores actually were higher after the scandal.  But here’s the thing.  These variations, at any point along this time line, are meager and insignificant.  They fall within limits that we would expect.

Figure 1. Atlanta NAEP 8th Grade Mathematics Scores for Selected Percentiles 2003 - 2013.
Figure 1. Atlanta NAEP 8th Grade Mathematics Scores for Selected Percentiles 2003 – 2013.

 

Math Scores in Atlanta, Austin and other Urban Cities

Figure 2 is an even more informative graph, and one that the new APS administration should take seriously.  This is a control chart that shows statistical upper and lower limits of achievement scores that would be within statistical control.  The graph was produced from NAEP data from its Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA) study.  The graph was created by Mr. Ed Johnson, a Deming scholar and advocate for quality education in Atlanta.  These are the same math scores that are shown in Figure 1, but the TUDA study included 20 other urban districts, including the Austin Independent School District.  APS is highlighted in green; AISD in red.  You can see that over time Atlanta’s scores were converging with Austin math scores.  Follow this link to see more graphs and charts produced by Ed Johnson.

Any Variation?

What kind of variation in math test scores do we see here?  Is this variation exceptional?  Is the variation do to innovations, or new curricula, or putting pressure on teachers to teach better?  Is it due to a new superintendent?  Or is it due to pressure on students and their parents?

Well, the variation is not due to any of these things.  The variation is normal.  The variation is within statistical limits.  The variation is what we expect from math instruction in these urban schools. There is no specific cause related to any variation along graph  The performance is steady.  The performance is predictable.  The performance is the result of the teaching and learning in these urban districts.

Ed Johnson explains that each of these 21 districts is sailing on the same boat, with movement from one side to another, but still on the same boat.

Now here’s the thing.  This historical period is the age of Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama & Duncan’s Race to the Top.  Neither of these programs has had any effect on math scores in some of the nation’s largest school districts!  Reformers seem to think that this continuous testing will in some way “cause” student achievement to improve.

In fact, in Georgia, state officials announced that instead of using the state CRCTs, a new slew of standardized tests will be developed and used starting next year.  A headline in the AJC read, Students face harder high-stakes testing, and when you read the details, the bar (passing score) will pushed higher.  Somehow, these state officials think that by making more difficult for students to pass a standardized test it will make them smarter.  What a dumb idea.

If they would look at the chart in Figure 2 and others like it, none of these testing reforms have had any effect.  If they want to improve student performance, they need to look some place else.  And it’s not by focusing on the darn test scores, or the graduation-rates.

 

Figure 2.  Systemic Story of NAEP 8th Grade Math Scores on the TUDA Assessment for 21 Districts, including Atlanta and Austin.  This graph shows 8th grade math as a system.
Figure 2. Systemic Story of NAEP 8th Grade Math Scores on the TUDA Assessment for 21 Districts, including Atlanta and Austin. This graph shows 8th grade math as a system.

So, for a new administration to come into Atlanta and start claiming that they raise graduation rates and student achievement score, raises many questions.

Is Carstarphen claiming that her legacy will be that Atlanta’s schools were turned around by raising rates and scores?

How does she plan to this? Will she import the strategies she used in Austin? Will she use an authoritarian style of leadership (which some teachers and professor claim she used in Austin), or will she engage the key players in the system, principals and teachers? Will teachers in collaboration with principals engage their communities without interference from orders from the top? Will the administration create a culture of learning and collaboration or one based on competition, test scores, fear?

It won’t be long to find out how the Austin administrators work with educators in Atlanta.

What do you think will happen?  With this be an authoritarian or receptive administration?

Why Candidates for Governor and State School Superintendent of Georgia Should Oppose High-Stakes Testing?

Latest Story

"Creative Commons Gravel Hill School 1950" by Erin Nekervis is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
“Creative Commons Gravel Hill School 1950” by Erin Nekervis is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

In an earlier post, I challenged candidates for state school superintendent to oppose the Common Core State Standards.  Today, I am writing to candidates for Governor and State School Superintendent of Georgia to oppose High-Stakes testing.  If they would, they’d open the door to a new paradigm of assessment that would improve education in Georgia beyond their wildest dreams.

Since 2001, the U.S. Department of Education has mandated the annual testing of children as young as 7 years old in mathematics and reading, and most states have added mandated high-stakes testing in writing, science, and social studies.

The American Education Research Association states that it is a violation of professional standards to make decisions about students’ life chances or educational opportunities on the basis of test scores alone.  Yet schools around the state of Georgia and indeed the rest of the country use end-of-the-year tests to make crucial decisions about whether students move on or not.  Additionally, these high-stakes tests have become an even greater burden on students because they know that the test results will be used to grade their teachers.

There is no easy answer to explain why we have an educational system that puts students in harm’s way by the continuous and unparalleled testing program.  When we read the newspapers soon after the release of international, national, or state tests, the emphasis is on who came in first, or who is at the top of the leader board.  No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top have perpetuated an educational model based on competition and winning.

In some cases, officials will do what ever it takes to make sure they either win, or make the cut so that they place high on the leader board.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed the cheating scandal in Atlanta, and revealed that cheating (erasing wrong answers and changing to the correct answers on student test forms) was taking place in most cities and states.

Am I advocating the banning of high-stakes testing because it might lead to cheating.  No.

I am advocating banning high-stakes testing because it does not improve student learning, nor does it help teachers change their instruction to improve student learning.   Most of the those who advocate high-stakes testing believe that American education is failing, and that the fundamental goal of schools is improve achievement scores, and the only way to know if that has occurred is to use high-stakes standardized tests every year, and compare the scores from one year to the next.

But, if we do compare the test results from one year to the next, the results are quite astonishing.  First, we discover that in general, academic performance has gradually increased over time.  Secondly, we do see variation in average scores from one year to the next, but the variation is within expected statistical limits.

To give evidence that you might want to use with your constituents or potential voters, I am going to use a few graphs that were prepared by Mr. Ed Johnson, which were published on this blog earlier this year.  I am also going to use charts from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, and pull together data from various state and federal agencies.

NAEP Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides some of the most reliable data on student learning.  The tests given by NAEP are low-stakes, and an individual student takes only part of the test, so they don’t spend hours sitting for the exam.  NAEP has been studying American education since 1969.

About a decade ago, NAEP launched a study of urban school districts which they refer to as TUDA.  They provide telling results that I think will help you with the case of abolishing high-stakes tests.

The four graphs shown below in Figures 1 and 2 were prepared by Mr. Ed Johnson, an expert on W. Edwards Deming’s system of profound knowledge and how to transform organizations that result in continuous improvement.  He also is an expert in using facts to generate flow charts that help us understand how a system is working.

Figure 1 plots math scores for 21 cities over a ten-year period (for a list of the cities, follow this link).  Note that the scores fall within what are called upper control limits and lower control limits.  In no case do scores fall outside these predicted levels.  Yes, there is variation in the scores.  But they are within expected limits, and the variation is small.  For example, the green and red dots follow the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and the Austin Independent School District (AISD).  If you show this graph to citizens in Georgia and ask if these graphs support the idea that our schools are failing, what is the answer? The answer is No.

Figure 1. Control Charts for NAEP TUDA Math Grades 4 & 8, 2003 - 2013
Figure 1. Control Charts for NAEP TUDA Math Grades 4 & 8, 2003 – 2013. Source Ed Johnson

Figure 2 plots reading scores for the same 21 cities over 11 years. Again, note that for the most part, the scores for each district fall within the expected limits, except for five points of measurement.  Each is labeled and as you see, only Charlotte and Hillsborough fall outside on the 4th grade reading TUDA results.  Think about this.  On only these five instances can we show significant variation from what we expect on the reading test.  The obvious thing to do, is to ask, what are these two districts doing, and how might what they are doing apply in other places.  It might be worth studying their system of education.

But, the real discovery here is to look at all math and reading TUDA results.  There are roughly 408 points of measurement shown in these four graphs, and in only five instances was the variation outside the range expected.   That is 0.012 percent. The systems of teaching math and reading in these 21 cities is predictable and consistent.

We can also see that there are no major swings in the test results.  When we send kids to school, we have a very good idea what to expect.  Another way to say this is that the system is performing as expected.

Or better yet, our teachers are doing it!

But there is always a need for improvement.  In Ed Johnson’s and W. Edwards Deming’s world of human systems, there is always the expectation for improvement.  The methods of improvement do not include the outright firing of department heads, or rank and file workers, any more than would we think that firing principals and teachers and bringing in uncertified and inexperienced teachers would help the situation.   But this is exactly what the Georgia Department of Education mandates when schools “fail” to meet the standards two years in a row.  Schools in this situation are labeled “turnaround schools.”

Here is what you need to know.  The high-stakes testing model is designed to make it very difficult for some schools, especially those schools where most of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches (a statistic used to identify the poverty level of a school).  We know that students in less affluent schools will not do as well on these tests as students attending affluent schools.  It’s an unsustainable situation because these schools and their neighborhoods are punished by either closing the school or labeling it a turnaround.  But this is a sure ticket for financial rewards for charter management companies and teacher temp agencies including Teach for America and the New Teacher Project.  Follow this link to find out a better way to help these schools.

Labeling schools as failures is not sustainable.  It will not improve instruction. It represents an inaccurate interpretation of testing, and it is perverting a system that should be helping families, rather than punishing them.

Figure 2. NAEP TUDA, Reading, 4th & 8th Grade, 2002 - 2013.  Source: Ed Johnson
Figure 2. NAEP TUDA, Reading, 4th & 8th Grade, 2002 – 2013. Source: Ed Johnson

If We Were to Ban High-Stakes Tests?

Ok.  As a candidate for governor or state school superintendent in Georgia, and you were to go around the state campaigning for the banning of high-stakes tests, the odds are you would be elected.  You will be surprised who will support you, but you will need to tell the rest of the story.

Yes, you will support the idea of banning high-stakes tests.  But you need to clear that you are not suggesting that teachers and administrators all of a sudden stop assessing students.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you have been a teacher, you know that the assessment system  you use in your classroom has a major impact on student learning and classroom behavior.  Assessment is an integral aspect of teaching.  As teachers we assess students during every class session, and interaction that we have with them.  Teachers know that assessment, used as part of instruction, does indeed help student learning.  This is not an opinion.  One of the foremost researchers on assessment is Professor Paul Black, King’s College, London and he has found that formative assessment strategies do improve learning for students.  Formative, unlike the high-stakes tests that the government mandates, are embedded in instruction.  In my view, formative assessment is assessment for learning, not of learning.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment are tools and methods that teachers use to humanize learning, and give students opportunities to apply their learning, and to engage in activities that involve communication, problem solving and team work–the kinds of skills and abilities that are important today, and will be tomorrow.

As a candidate for governor or state school superintendent you should listen to your most important constituency, and this is the professional teachers in public schools.  Last year, there were more than 111,000 teachers in Georgia teaching 1.6 million students.

So, what would happen if you said to nearly 1.6 million students (and their parents) and 111,000 teachers that the state would no longer need high-stakes tests.  Would the education system crumble?  Would students all of sudden not be motivated to learn?

It would thrive.  And it would free up a lot of money that would otherwise go to corporations.

According to a Brookings Institute report, the cost of testing in the U.S. exceeds $1.7 billion.  But according to the report, that is only for payments to testing vendors who also score the tests.  But what is the cost for lost instructional time.  In Georgia, the CRCT exams and high-school end-of-course exams take three-four weeks during the year.  So for about 4 weeks or about 12% of the school year, high-stakes exams dominate the school experience.

What’s the cost of 4 weeks of testing?  Well according to the Brookings Institute, about $600 billion is spent on education in the U.S. per year.  According to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the 2015 fiscal year budget for K-12 education is $7.95 billion.  The cost of high-stakes testing is at least $950 million.

Every school in the state already has experts on assessment, and these educators need to be supported to collaborate with colleagues to develop assessment methods that will improve student learning, and increase student’s love of learning.

We know from many research studies that the best predictor of success in college & career (college & career is the favored purpose of reformers such as Bill Gates) are grades, not test scores.   Teachers are in the best place to assess their students.  Not only are they able to create their own tests, but there are multiple resources available that teachers already use to help their students learn.

Imagine if you were a high school biology teacher, and it was announced that the state would no longer need high-stakes tests.  How would this affect your teaching, and especially your relationship with your students.  One obvious difference is that the curriculum will expand because you no longer would be forced to teach to the test.  No longer would the students in your class be required to take tests that would be used to not only to decide whether they progress to the next science course, but the tests would no longer be used to decide if you keep your job.

In the next post, I’ll go into more detail about what assessment would look like in this alternative paradigm.

In the meantime, are you willing to discuss the possibility of returning the education of students into the hands of professional teachers?

 

Why No Mention of the Effect of Poverty on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index?

Georgia released a lot of data about every school in the state which is summarized by a score attained through the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

When the results were released this week by John Barge, State Superintendent of Education, the focus was on the new calculation system used to generate a score for each school.  The second thing was to show that elementary school scores improved from 74.9 to 78.5 (+3.6), middle school increased from 73.9 to 75.0 (+1.1) and high schools decreased from 73.0 to 72.0 (-1.0).

When the media caught hold of the data, they immediately posted lists of the highest and lowest performing schools, and directed Georgians to their website to find the score of schools in their neighborhood.

There were also interviews with principals and superintendents who talked about the new system used to calculate the scores, and to explain that the system is a better way to tell citizens the degree to which students are ready for college and career.

But there were also some who questioned whether this system tells us anything about student’s readiness for college and careers.  “Who knows what they want to do in elementary school?”, one school board member in Cobb asked.

Missing from the announcement and media reports was the effect of poverty on the CCRPIs for the schools.  Six hundred and seventy-two thousand (27.3%) of children under age 18 live in poverty in Georgia, and more than one million (59.7%) of children attending school are eligible for free or reduced meals.

Poverty in Georgia has increased steadily since the provision of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 which mandated annual testing in the content areas of math and reading for all children grades one through eight.  Georgia assumes that the test they use, the Criterion Reference Competency Tests (CRCT), measures college and career readiness.  I don’t think it does.


Figure 1. Map of the Percentage of Students in Poverty by Georgia Counties.

In the graph in Figure 2, I’ve selected the five states in which I’ve lived, and graphed the percentage of children living in poverty, 2008 – 2012. Georgia leads the selected states in the percentage of children living in poverty.

Why is the state reluctant to talk about the possible effect of poverty on student scores on the state’s Criterion Reference Competency Tests? Student CRCT scores contribute 60% of the index that the state uses to rank schools.


Figure 2. Children in Poverty from 2008 – 2012 for Five States

Why no mention of poverty, when in fact, it is well-known what the effect is of poverty on academic achievement (see Figure 3). The state has its own data showing that poverty is inversely related to student achievement on the CRCT. The higher the percentage of children living in poverty, the lower the achievement scores. Take a look at Figure 3, which shows a scatter plot of all Georgia schools vs poverty measure using free and reduced lunch.

Figure 3. Relationship between CRCT scores and percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches.
Figure 3. Relationship between CRCT scores and percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches.

The state really does not want to bring poverty into the equation when it calculates the performance index of Georgia schools. Why?

The states thinks that using poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.

If you read Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) proposal or reports, you will find that the burden of helping kids who live in poverty is left to classroom teachers and their colleagues.  Most of the $400 million received from the Federal government for the RT3 is used to write and implement “rigorous” standards, develop data collection systems, develop the technology to measure teacher effectiveness using student tests, and hire inexperienced teachers to turn around “failing” schools, based on the CCRPI.

You can read more details about Georgia’s Race to the Top here, here, and here. If you do, you won’t believe it.

Diane Ravitch has explored this issue in-depth in her recent book, The Reign of Error, and what she has to say about how poverty affects academic performance is relevant here.

Georgia has a poverty rate of about 28%, and this ranks the state among the top five states in the U.S. in terms of childhood poverty. It ranks Georgia very high in international comparisons of childhood poverty. In fact, the rate is more than double the childhood poverty of any other comparable Western nation.

But Ravitch explains how school reformers (she names Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools; Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City public schools; Bill Gates, the head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Wendy Kopp, the chief executive officer of Teach for America; and Arne Duncan , the Obama administration’s secretary of education of this group) believe that effective teaching can overcome poverty.

These folks believe that schools can be fixed by tweaking with various parts of the system of schooling. The real problem is that they do not see the school as part of a larger system that includes the community around the school, and how the two interact. No. They see the school as separate. And they shun anyone who suggests that teachers alone can not make up for problems that their students bring to school.

They make the premise that if every classroom had a great teacher, and if schools were privatized and put into a free market system, then we would experience changes in learning beyond our wildest dreams.

Nonsense.

Ravitch makes it clear that doing this makes no sense. But it does make sense to recognize the effects of poverty. She says this:

Poverty matters. Poverty affects children’s health and well-being. It affects their emotional lives and their attention spans, their attendance and their academic performance. Poverty affects their motivation and their ability to concentrate on anything other than day-to-day survival. In a society of abundance, poverty is degrading and humiliating. Ravitch, Diane (2013-09-17). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Kindle Locations 1933-1935). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

We’ll explore this issue in more detail over the next few posts.

In the meantime, what do you think about the state’s reluctance to deal directly with the issue of poverty and its affects on academic performance?

Should Parents REFUSE to Allow Their Children to be Given the Georgia CRCT Test?

 

"Creative Commons Test for Dairy Farm" by Yasin Hassan is Licensed under CC By 2.0
Creative Commons Test for Dairy Farm” by Yasin Hassan is Licensed under CC By 2.0

It seems as if one Georgia couple says yes.

In Marietta, a Georgia a couple has refused to allow their children at the West Side Elementary school to take the high-stakes Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). These parents informed the school’s principal two days before the testing period that their third and fifth graders would not be taking the CRCT. When they arrived at school to meet with the principal at a prearranged meeting to discuss what activities were planned for their students in lieu of the CRCT, they were instead met by a Marietta police officer who asked them if their kids were going to take the CRCT. When they said no, the officer told them they would have to leave the school property otherwise they could be arrested for trespassing.

After the police warning, the parents went home to find an email response to their email letter in which they informed the school their children would not be taking the CRCT.

In that reply to the parents, the Associate Superintendent of Marietta Schools said, in part,

The District must deny your request that your students be exempt from participation in the CRCT or other standardized testing as well as reporting and recording of such scores. Federal and state law mandate the administration of these assessments. It is important for you to understand the potential consequences of electing not to participate in such nationally and state-required assessments. These may include but not be limited to effects on students’ on-time graduation, promotion to next grade level, placement and final subject grades.

It is true that the CRCT must be administered.  But it says nothing about what might happen if parents refuse to let their students take the test.  However, if a child were to “fail” the CRCT, they could be retained.  But the parents have the right to appeal, and when the do this, the school must set up an assessment committee.  Here is a quote from United Opt Out website which relates to any case in Georgia:

According to state law (O.C.G.A. § 20-2-282, 283, 284, and 285) if a child does not take the CRCT or fails it they can be retained. This is mandatory in grades 3,5 & 8 only. There is no specific wording in the law for refusal to take the test. IF a child is to be retained there is a procedure the school must go through, including parent notification.

This procedure also offers a procedure for parental appeal of the retention. If the parent appeals the retention a placement committee consisting of the principal, all teachers and parents is formed. The parents must be notified, by the school, in writing, about the committee meeting. Based on the student’s academic achievement the committee will decide if promotion is warranted. The decision must be unanimous. If your child is performing at or above grade level this should not be an issue. If the child is not, the committee can promote the child with the understanding that additional help will be put in place the following year.

In the West Side Elementary School case, the parents are in a place in which the school will have to form a committee to assess each of their children to make a decision about their retention, or moving on to the next grade.

Indeed, the parents made it clear what they were doing, and were not going have any threats by the district.  In a reply to the Associate Superintendent, the parents wrote:

I believe that there was a MAJOR misunderstanding in what I communicated in my email Sunday night/Monday morning.  In no way, shape, or form, did either my wife or I ask for anyone to give us permission.

What I said was that WE REFUSE to allow our children to be given the CRCT Test. I do not require permission to refuse something.  Yet the response stated that, “The District must deny your request that your students be exempt from participation in the CRCT or other standardized testing…”  

Once again… I did not “request” anything. I told you that my children would not take part.  I have read most of the Federal and State laws about this test, and there is nothing in the verbiage that states that the Rights of the Parents are declared void in the process of implementing the CRCT Testing. If I missed the point where we stop to be parents, I would like you to point those out to me. You also did not specify the direct State and Federal Laws that say that the parents are not allowed to REFUSE their child’s participation in the CRCT Testing.

The fact is that the laws do not tell us we can not refuse the testing. We actually have that right.

There is growing support around the country supporting parents who decide to either opt their children out-of-state testing, or simply refuse to allow their students to take high-stakes tests.  There is no Federal Law prohibiting or allowing opting out of tests.  In fact, schools only have to show that 95% of students took the test to comply with Federal regulations.

Not only are the tests not a very good measure of student learning, the tests are more of a punishment than anything else.  For nearly a school year, teachers have planned and carried out instruction plans with their students involving a range of activities including projects, inquiries, homework, quizzes, unit tests, class discussions, one-on-ones, collaborative activities, and more.

In its infinite wisdom the state mandates that the true measure of learning is a sit-down, solitary paper and pencil fill in the bubble test.

Why would parents allow their students to take part in an activity that does not enhance their students academic growth, but does enhance the bottom line for a few big testing companies (see ahead for the facts). For their students, the test results are not used to help them improve learning, nor do the tests give teachers any meaningful feedback on their own instruction, let alone help their students.

Is this Test Envy?

Could our obsession with testing be national envy?

When the Soviets put the first satellite into orbit in 1957, the U.S. went into orbit, too. We wondered, what happened?  How did the Soviets get into space first?  What are kids learning in school?  Why isn’t our science and technology better than the U.S.S.R?  Pressure was put on the U.S. space program directors, and they finally got it up a year later. Money poured into the National Science Foundation (NSF) for curriculum improvement projects and summer Institutes for math and science teachers.

Disclaimer: I attended and was supported an NSF summer institute in physics at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an NSF Academic Year Institute at Ohio State University).

But, NSF funding didn’t settle it.  Politicians turned on the schools.  They laid the problem on doorsteps of our schools.  How are we as a nation going to be able to go forward if we have inferior schools? Our nation is at risk, and it’s squarely on the shoulders of teachers to improve, or get fired.  Thus, the origins of test-based accountability had its beginnings with the launch of a 183.9 pound-22 inch sphere.

The assault on teachers began here, too, but has accelerated since the No Child Left Behind act mandated national testing.  This meant that masses of data were made available not only to the state, but to private companies. Outrageously, this data is being used to test not only the students, but their schools and teachers as well.  The Race to Top Fund put the nail into the coffin when it required states that wanted some of the $4.5 billion to use student test scores as a measure of teacher value or performance. In Georgia, our esteemed legislature enacted a law requiring test scores to be used for 50% of teacher evaluation.  And today, Georgia will release it new rating system (2011-2012 and 2012-2013)  of schools based on 110 points, with more than 50% of the points based on student test scores.

This double dose was like a tornado hitting the schools.  The frenzy of annual springtime testing is operating now in millions of homes around the country. It puts teachers and students at risk. And I should also mention parents.

When the results are reported, normally in the summer, comparing one another in this competition will become a game played by departments of education and especially the media.

According to a Brookings Institute report, the cost of testing in the U.S. exceeds $1.7 billion.  But according to the report, that is only for payments to testing vendors who also score the tests.  But what is the cost for lost instructional time.  In Georgia, the CRCT exams began last week for many schools, and if you include high-school end-of-course exams, the testing period runs into mid-May.  So for about 4 weeks or about 12% of the school year, high-stakes exams dominate the school experience.  What’s the cost of 4 weeks of testing?  Well according to the Brookings Institute, about $600 billion is spent on education in the U.S. per year.

Therefore, the cost of testing in the U.S. is closer to $72 billion.

We spend $72 billion on tests because we are envious of other nations.  We spend $72 billion on tests to test teachers using the unscientific VAM modeling.  We spend $72 billion on tests that do not provide meaningful feedback to students and their parents about learning.  And we spend $72 billion on tests that in an increasingly narrow curriculum.

Should parents refuse to allow their children to take high-stakes tests, such as Georgia’s CRCT?

If your answer is yes, go the United Opt Out site.  There you will find resources to support the refusal to have students take high-stakes tests.