“Math for America” teachers meet with some members Congress and apparently give them some sound advice

During the First National Math Festival here in DC (which I missed), back in April, some Math for America – DC* teachers I know were invited to speak with some Congressmen and Senators. According to the press release I was recently given, my colleagues appear to have given the elected reps** sound advice that may or may not be heeded.

{** including Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Shumer, Al Franken, Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray, Steny Hoyer, among others}

I quote from the press release, in green and my own comments in black:

“House and Senate leaders, field experts, and MfA DC teachers spent the first hour and a half engaging in dialogue on how the ESEA reauthorization would affect the classroom. Joe Herbert spoke to the adverse effects standardized tests had had on his school and his classroom. David Tansey, a[n] MfA DC Master Teacher, offered criteria that such tests should meet in order to provide instructional value to the teacher and the student.”

{notice the clear implication, which Tansey has spelled out to me in detail on several occasions, that the standardized tests that he and his school are required to administer many, many times a year are of absolutely no use to teachers in figuring out how to help their students learn more stuff, better.}

“Joe Herbert wrote, ‘I spoke of the harmful effects of standardized testing on K-12 education, and of the complete lack of statistical basis for evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores.'”

While Max Mikulec, one of the other teachers, was initially somewhat awestruck by listening to amusing anecdotes from Senator Al Franken, he …

“…went on to say, ‘As I reflected on the day, my initial reaction of pride and hope turned into a feeling of skepticism and apprehension. You cannot imagine how great I would feel if the nation spent billions more dollars developing math education and math teachers. However, I do not see this happening in an effective way. There are endless debates over what standards should be taught in our schools and what the kids should be tested on. Amid all of the debates, the ones who are losing here are the nation’s kids. In their most formative years, a time where they struggle to find any consistency in their own lives, they are being let down by an educational system that will change several times before they graduate high school. Ev en though all of these powerful and important people say that they support math education and that [they] see math teaching as a real profession, I will not believe them until something is actually done to show their support.'”

In addition, Joe Herbert wrote me the following:

“Another point I made is just how much money gets wasted on these tests. I don’t remember the exact number now, but I looked up how much is spent annually on testing before I went to the event (I remember the number was in the billions), and I made the point that we could increase spending on education by that much money without raising taxes a penny if we got rid of the annual testing mandate in NCLB.

“I know that many liberal groups have been proponents of annual testing because it sheds light on the achievement gap. I noted that NAEP provides these same types of data, but does so using statistical sampling so that we don’t have to test every kid every year.”


*Note: MfA and MfA-DC are as far from the TFA idea as it is possible to be. Unlike ‘Teach for Awhile”, MFA actually gives its members a FULL YEAR of math-content and math-pedagogy classes and student teaching experience, assigns them a mentor, and in return expects them to stay in the city, teaching, in their field for a full five years, and does not pretend to have a one-size-fits-all “no excuses” magic wand that will miraculously reproduce the irreproducible miracle that Michelle Rhree pretended to achieve at Harlem Park Elementary in Baltimore in the early 1990s, magically moving 90% of her students from below the 13th percentile to being over the 90th percentile. Right now, MfA DC teachers are some of the most senior math teachers anywhere in DC, either in the regular public schools or charter schools.

A Six-Page Graphic on How to Persuade Parents that Common Core Testing is Really Wonderful

Here is the link to the entire graphic.

I will copy part of one page so you can get the flavor of it without following it. Don’t know whom to attribute this to, since it’s apparently unsigned. It looks like it has Gates or Walton money behind it, since it’s so slick.

How would you argue against these arguments?

Thanks to Anthony Cody for uncovering this.

how to talk about testing

Bob Schaeffer’s Weekly Roundup of Actions Against the Testing Juggernaut

Demonstrating another surge of support for assessment reform as the Spring 2015 testing season nears, this week’s stories about the movement against standardized exam overuse and misuse come from more than 40% of the 50 states. The news is reinforced by several excellent analytic pieces and opinion columns (back issues of these weekly updates are archived at: http://fairtest.org/news/other)

In addition to keeping the heat on state and local policy-makers, now is the time to let your U.S. Senators and Representative know you support a significant reduction in federal testing mandates, an end to test-based consequences for students, teachers or schools and more funding for better forms of assessment. Please make those calls and send your emails today!

Recommendations for Overhauling “No Child Left Behind” From Forum on Educational Accountability
Teacher Tells Congress: Federal Testing Mandates Are Wrong
Lawmakers Propose End to Annual Standardized Exam Requirement
Listen to What Senator Whitehouse Said About Education Policy

Arizona Schools’ Chief Wants New Assessment Ditched

Standardized Testing Fixation is Destroying Education in California and Across U.S.
Experts Say New Common Core Tests Not Ready to Grade California Schools

Colorado Lawmakers Continue Introducing Bills to Limit Testing

Five Florida Counties Sponsor Legislation Allowing Them to Opt Out of State Tests

Louisiana School Expects Flood of Test Refusals

No Maine Law Requires Students to Take a Test
New Maine Tests Raises School Board Concerns; Some May Ask to Opt Out

Are Maryland Schools Giving Too Many Tests

“We Are More Than Numbers” — Massachusetts Students’ Video on Testing

Michigan Parents Upset By Schools’ Test Opt-Out Policy

New Jersey Parents and Voters Want Kids Tested Less: New Poll
Early Results of New Jersey PARCC Testing: Widespread Misery
New Jersey Commission Calls for Cutback in Time Spent on Testing

Computer Crashes Mar New Mexico PARCC Test Trial Run

Long Island, New York Teacher Refuses to Administer Common Core Test, Superintendent Backs Her
Why Parents Are Refusing New York’s Common Core Tests
New York Governor Cuomo “Obsessed” With Testing Teachers
Open Letter to NY Gov. Cuomo: My Child Is Not a Test Score

More Tests Won’t Fix North Carolina Schools
The Flaw in North Carolina’s School Performance Grades

Some Ohio Students Opt Out of State Tests

Oklahoma High-Stakes Exam Opponents Look to Legislative Session to Cut Testing Overkill

Bill Would Expand Oregon Parents’ Right to Excuse Kids From Standardized Tests

Many Students at Pennsylvania School Plan to Opt Out of Tests
Parents Back Teachers Who Explain Pennsylvania Opt-Out Process

Many Testing and Accountability Bills in 2015 Texas Legislative Hopper

Students, Activists Support Utah Teacher Fired for Refusing to Administer Test

Tacoma, Washington Parents Join Movement to Opt Kids Out of Standardized Testing

High-Poverty Wisconsin Schools More Likely to Be Labeled “Failing”

A Failing Grade for Test-Based School Report Cards

16 States Plus D.C. Require Third-Grade Retention Based on  Test Scores

The Past, Present and Future of High-Stakes Testing

U.S. Addiction to Testing is Ripping the Humanity Out of Education

Teachers Need Tests. . . Just Not Just Those Ones

Why Everybody Hates Pearson

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web-  http://www.fairtest.org


My apologies for not keeping up with this.

Just how flat ARE those 12th grade NAEP scores?

Perhaps you read or heard that the 12th grade NAEP reading and math scores, which just got reported, were “flat“.

Did you wonder what that meant?

The short answer is: those scores have essentially not changed since they began giving the tests! Not for the kids at the top of the testing heap, not for those at the bottom, not for blacks, not for whites, not for hispanics.

No change, nada, zip.

Not even after a full dozen years of Bush’s looney No Child Left Behind Act, nor its twisted Obama-style descendant, Race to the Trough. Top.

I took a look at the official reports and I’ve plotted them here you can see how little effect all those billions spent on testing;  firing veteran teachers; writing and publishing new tests and standards; and opening thousands of charter schools has had.

Here are the tables:

naep 12th grade reading by percentiles over time

This first graph shows that other than a slight widening of the gap between the kids at the top (at the 90th percentile) and those at the bottom (at the 10th percentile) back in the early 1990s, there has been essentially no change in the average scores over the past two full decades.

I think we can assume that the test makers, who are professional psychometricians and not political appointees, tried their very best to make the test of equal difficulty every year. So those flat lines mean that there has been no change, despite all the efforts of the education secretaries of Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama. And despite the wholesale replacement of an enormous fraction of the nation’s teachers, and the handing over of public education resources to charter school operators.

naep 12th grade reading by group over time


This next graph shows much the same thing, but the data is broken down into ethnic/racial groups. Again, these lines are about as flat (horizontal) as you will ever see in the social sciences,

However, I think it’s instructive to note that the gap between, say, Hispanic and Black students on the one hand, and White and Asian students on the other, is much smaller than the gap between the 10th and 90th percentiles we saw in the very first graph: about 30 points as opposed to almost 100 points.
naep 12th grade math by percentiles over time


The third graph shows the  NAEP math scores for 12th graders since 2005, since that was the first time that the test was given. The psychometricians atNAEP claim there has been a :statistically significant” change since 2005 in some of those scores, but I don’t really see it. Being “statistically significant’ and being REALLY significant are two different things.

*Note: the 12th grade Math NAEP was given for the first time in 2005, unlike the 12th grade reading test.

naep 12th grade math by group over time


And here we have the same data broken down by ethnic/racial groups. Since 2009 there has been essentially no change, and there was precious little before that, except for Asian students.

Diane Ravitch correctly dismissed all of this as a sign that everything that Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan have done, is a complete and utter failure. Her conclusion, which I agree with, is that NCLB and RTTT need to be thrown out.


80% of parents at a NYC elementary school opt out of testing!

THIS IS HUGE!!! No Testing at This School! Parents Say NO!

by dianerav

Almost everyone agrees that high-stakes testing for little children is a huge mistake. The parents not only wrote their elected officials, they took direct action.

More than 80% of the parents of the children at the Castle Bridge Elementary School in New York City refused to allow their children to be tested.

They opted out.

The tests were canceled.


The parents knew that the only purpose of the tests was to evaluate the teachers, not the children.

Most Castle Bridge School parents — representing 83 of the 97 students — refused to permit their children to be tested.

“My feeling about testing kids as young as 4 is it’s inhumane,” said PTA co-chairwoman Dao Tran, mother of first-grader Quyen Lamphere, 5. “I can only see it causing stress.”

The state now requires schools to factor test scores — in one form or another — into their teacher evaluations, which are new this year in the city.

The parents thought the testing was absurd.

As the Daily News reported earlier this month, such exams, given to kids as young as 4, require students to fill in bubbles to show their answers.

It’s like the SAT for kids barely older than toddlers. And parents resent it.

“Our principal does a good job,” said PTA co-chairwoman Elexis Pujolos, mother of kindergartner Daeja, 4, and first-grader AJ, 6. “A test could not possibly measure what she is able to.”

Principal Julie Zuckerman canceled the required tests because the scores wouldn’t provide statistically meaningful data once so many parents opted out.

She also hates judging teachers even partly on the basis of a test.

“It can’t be used as evaluation tool of teachers even if it were a valid test — which it’s not,” she said.

If all parents did this, they could stop the testing madness that is ruining education and children’s love of learning.

If it can happen at Castle Bridge, it can happen anywhere!

Without data, the giant testing machine can’t function. The children can learn stress-free. Education becomes possible.

Message: OPT OUT.

Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 7:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Wonderful Satire By Yong Zhao

His headline and first paragraph or so:


What’s Still Missing in American Education and How to Out-educate China?

10 MAY 2012

America has almost caught up with China, and actually in some areas surpassed it. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, America can now claim to have even more frequent high stakes standardized tests than China.

It can also be proud to be more serious than China about the test results because it uses test scores to break up schools, fire school leaders, and publicly humiliate teachers, while China does not have the guts to do any of that. China only gives those schools and teachers with high test scoring students some extra money.

America has also successfully reduced time on nonsense school activities such as music, arts, sports, science, social studies, lunch time, and field trips, something it has wanted to do since the 1950s when surpassing the former Soviet Union was the aspiration. And the silly Chinese are working hard to push those nonsense activities into schools.

Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Weekly Round-Up of Ed-related News from FairTest

Here is yet another list of news items about resistance to the Global Educational Deformation Movement, from Bob Schaeffer of FairTest.

NC State Super: Testing Craze Wastes Taxpayer Dollars

Top-Down Testing Programs Send Wrong Message to Students and Teachers

Pressure Builds for Texas Test System Overhaul

The Gap Between Education Research and Testing Policy
FairTest Fact Sheet: Why Teacher Evaluation Shouldn’t Rest on Student Test Scores

Hearts and Souls of American Teachers  — A School Board Leader Speaks Out

4,000 Rhode Island Teachers Sign Petition Against New Evaluation System

South Carolina Teachers Criticize Test-Based Grading Plan

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph-   (239) 395-6773    fax-  (239) 395-6779
cell-  (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Schaeffer also makes a pitch for donations:

If you find these news summaries helpful, please consider making a year-end gift to FairTest so we can continue this important work.  All donations are completely tax-deductible.

To contribute, simply click on http://tinyurl.com/SupportFairTest or mail your check to FairTest, P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Another Weekly News Roundup from Monty Neill of FairTest

Writes Monty:

Even with the holiday season well underway, the pace of assessment reform news has not slackened. In fact, important new voices, including educational leaders, business officials, and students are joining the ever-growing chorus pushing back against high-stakes testing overkill.
Montgomery County School Chief Seeks Three-Year Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing

Political Leaders, Chamber of Commerce Endorses Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

State Ed. Board Chair Questions Need for Testing This Year

Get Ready for America’s Next “Education Crisis”

Students Voice Opposition to New Testing Requirement

More Selective Colleges Drop SAT/ACT Testing Requirements — A Model for K-12 Education

Excellent ‘Toon:  “Do Any of You Want to Teach?”

The Terrible Cost of High-Stakes Testing — sponsoring a local forum on the issue is a great initial organizing tool

Student Testing Gets an “F” From Teachers

Too Much Testing Hurts Kids Who Most Need Help — a teacher speaks out

What Real School Reform Looks Like

Tests Confuse “Achievement” with “Aptitude” — Lead to Bad Education

Trying to Revive Arts Education After NCLB

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792; http://www.fairtest.org; Donate to FairTest: https://secure.entango.com/donate/MnrXjT8MQqk


Published in: on December 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Recent Articles Against Race to the Trough and other Deformations of US Public Education

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest has been compiling weekly lists of good articles that give a view from ordinary schools and households on what it’s been like under NCLB and its successor, RTTT. Here’s Schaeffer’s latest list.   — gfb


Assessment reform pressure continued to escalate even as Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore.  Best wishes to our friends and allies in the mid-Atlantic states as they recover from the storm.

Arne Duncan’s Legacy: Doubling Down on High Stakes Testing Failures

Texas Tests Breed Schools for Scandal

Testing in Kindergarten — Whatever Happened to Story Time?

Hudson Valley Parents Rip Excess Testing

Data Missing for School Improvement Grant Claims

The MLK Imperative in an Era of “No Excuses”

Researchers Urge “Caution” in Use of Value-Added Scores

Measuring the Worth of a Teacher

The Naked Emporer: What Test Scores Don’t Tell Us

Superintendent Dissects Race to the Trough’s Flaws

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph-   (239) 395-6773    fax-  (239) 395-6779
cell-  (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org
Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Signs of Backlash Against Excessive Student Testing — in Texas, of all places

Signs of change?

A number of parents, teachers, AND administrators in Texas, of all places, are beginning to pull out from, or protest against, the huge number of standardized machine-scored tests that they feel are sucking the life out of education. Or that’s what it describes in this article in the New York Times today 2/4/12.

A few excerpts:

In the Panhandle, the Hereford Independent School District superintendent may withhold her district’s test scores from the state. An Austin parent is considering a lawsuit to stop the rollout of the tests. Some legislators are mulling how to postpone some of the tests’ consequences for students.

In a high-level turnaround, Robert Scott, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, said Tuesday that student testing in the state had become a “perversion of its original intent” and that he looked forward to “reeling it back” in the future. Earning a standing ovation from an annual gathering of 4,000 educators that has given him chillier receptions in the past, Mr. Scott called for an accountability process that measured “every other day of a school’s life besides testing day.”

Many viewed the speech as a reversal for Mr. Scott, who has rarely spoken publicly against the role of standardized testing in public schools. He declined to talk about his remarks for this article.

“I think he sees that we are at a cusp of philosophical changes in the Legislature and across the state over what we’ve been doing the past few years with accountability and whether there’s been any worthwhile gain from all the testing we’ve done,” said Joe Smith, a former superintendent […]

Kelli Moulton, the superintendent of Hereford I.S.D., is considering an outright rebellion. She said that she was still exploring the repercussions of refusing to send her students’ test scores to the agency but that she was encouraged by Mr. Scott’s remarks.

“We talk a lot, but nobody’s stepped off to do anything really bold,” she said. “Clearly now as a state, at least with a leader who is willing to say testing has gone too far, when do we put a stick in a wheel and say, that’s enough, stop? Because we are going to spend the next 10 years trying to slow that wheel down, and we’ve got 10 years of kids that are suffering.”

It also may be a sign of shifting political tides. […]

What would it take to get a real public uprising against the destruction of our public school system? How do we organize a real movement in favor of having a free, publicly-funded and -run, enriching, engaging and useful education for all of our students?   


Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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