Posts Tagged ‘Scantron’

Diane Ravitch calls charter test passage “a new low”

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Diane Ravitch’s blog today is about the Scantron charter school test passage PURE exposed on PURE Thoughts. She writes:

The fake charters-are-best question is an even bigger scandal than Pearson’s pineapple question. The pineapple story (which by the way was given to Illinois students in the past) was at worst idiotic, not insidious. It was in some way typical of the sanitized, vacuous reading passages that often appear on standardized tests, which explains how it got past the test review panels that approve test content.

The charter question is far worse than the pineapple question. The pineapple question wasn’t selling pineapples. It was not an advertisement for Dole or another corporation. The charter question was taking a one-sided stance on a matter of public policy. It was dishonest propaganda. It advanced a political cause and, in today’s reality, it advanced the commercial interests of for-profit charter operators.

Do these people have no shame?

Now there’s a good question.

Another scandal – charter propaganda on the test

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Today, with some help from me, Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi exposes yet another standardized testing scandal, this one on a Scantron test that was used several times in the Chicago Public Schools as part of an interim, or benchmark, reading assessment.

Scantron is a national standardized test that CPS has been using for a couple of years as a computerized replacement for the quarterly Learning First and Benchmark Assessment tests. These tests cover a narrow set of skills and are essentially practice tests for the annual Illinois Standards Assessment Tests (ISAT). This is the last year for Scantron; next year it will be replaced by the NWEA, the NorthWest Evaluation Association tests.

I acquired the screenshot of this reading passage, which makes about as much sense as a talking pineapple.

Click here for the full screenshot.

Is it supposed to be non-fiction? If so, then who the h&## is multimillionaire Charles Mendel? I’ll give a dollar to the first person who can find a real such guy on Google.

We know it’s not factual, anyway. Charter schools are NOT “open to all students.” They are NOT “showing improvement in student achievement” and they are NOT “playing an important role in reforming education across the country” unless by “reforming” you mean “destroying.”

I sent this letter to Scantron President John Lawler, which said in part:

Parents United for Responsible Education has learned that recent administrations of the Scantron Performance Series exams in the Chicago Public Schools included reading comprehension questions based on a passage titled “Reforming Education: Charter Schooling.”

This passage contains propagandistic, pro-charter school statements that are misleading and in some cases false. For such statements to be used on tests given to non-charter school students is irresponsible at best. Students taking a test should not be subjected to false claims about charter schools which could cause them to feel humiliated, second-class or dumb because they do not attend a “better” charter school. Standardized tests should not be used as an opportunity to brainwash students with propaganda about charter schools or any other strategy of the corporate school reform camp.

We demand that this passage be removed from any future Scantron tests and that an apology be issued to all Chicago Public school students whose tests included this passage.

I did not hear back from Mr. Lawler, but I received this response to a similar message I sent to Corporate Spokesperson Donna Hinkelman:

Dear Ms. Woestehoff,

Thank you for your email of May 9 (copy below). In response, I wanted to confirm that the passage you referenced was part of the Performance Series exam; its purpose was to test critical thinking skills of 7th grade level students. It was not intended to be a comprehensive statement about the state of charter schools in Chicago or the nation, nor a slight of public schools.

That said, we agree that the copy could be perceived as lacking sensitivity. We sincerely apologize for any upset it may have caused the Chicago Public Schools students who took this exam, their parents and your organization’s members. That particular copy passage is being deleted from the Performance Series bank of questions effective this date.


Donna Hinkelman
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Harland Clarke Holdings Corp.

I sent this response back:

Dear Ms. Hinkelman-

Thank you for your response.

The problem with your solution — simply removing this item from the
test — is that it is just one of many, many problematic passages and
questions that turn up on students’ tests. Because parents are generally
not allowed to review the questions after the tests, we are concerned
that there may be even more problems – that this is just the tip of the
iceberg and our children are being exposed to many other questionable
passages in testing situations which are already stressful enough.

Here are two things the Scantron Corporation can do that would actually

1) Publish all test questions so that we can see the basis on which our
children are being evaluated.

2) Publicly support our national movement to allow parents to opt their
children out of any standardized test. No test should be so important
that a child should be forced to take it against his or her parents’

I would appreciate a response to these suggestions.

Thank you for your attention.

Julie Woestehoff

I never heard back from anyone at Scantron. But I wonder if this new bad publicity was at least one reason why Scantron just pulled their membership from ALEC?


Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.