Posts Tagged ‘standardized testing’

Please help student with high-stakes testing documentary

Monday, September 24th, 2012

I just received this e-mail and am posting it here with permission:

My name is Ankur Singh and I am a recent high school graduate from Bloomington-Normal, IL about 3 hours south of Chicago. I’m making a feature length documentary film about how standardized testing affects students. This film is deeply personal for me since I had a really negative experience with standardized testing and desperately need to find out how other students handle it and show the world’s students that they are not alone. I solely want to focus on the students’ perspective. This film will not include interviews with education experts or teachers, this film is about the students.

I was just wondering if there were any parents who were a part of PURE who have children in Chicago that had a bad experience with standardized testing who I could film. Specifically I’m looking for a student whose true capabilities and persona can’t be measured by a standardized test.

I’m just a regular student, not a journalist, who is absolutely frustrated with the way our education system revolves around standardized testing. I just want to make this film to capture the emotional impact testing has on us, which often gets hidden in the media by a large cloud of politics.

You can view some of my previous work here:

If you’re interested just let me know and I can provide more details and we can get the ball rolling. And if you have any questions or need more information don’t hesitate to ask!

Thank you,
Ankur Singh

Guess what? Parents see through the hype

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

With all of the millions being spent on charter school, anti-teacher and parent trigger propaganda these days, it’s a wonder we poor parents can keep our heads on straight!

But we seem to be doing it.

Check out this quote from the Sun-Times this morning:

Blanca Hernandez, whose son Octavio is a fourth-grader at Greeley Elementary in Lake View, said she wanted him back in school but felt the teachers needed to take a stand against what she sees as the dangerous encroachment of charter schools.

“All of this is about the future of the kids,” she said. “Education is the most important thing for our country. I feel like charter schools are going toward privatized schools. I don’t like that.”

And how about our kids?

Amundsen senior Maame Atta-Krah, 17, said she closely followed the news coverage of the strike and supported the walkout.

“I felt what the teachers needed for them was for us as well,” she said. “I feel there is too much emphasis on” standardized testing.

and this student…

Danielle Geronimo, 16, an Amundsen junior, greeted the school day with “mixed emotions.”

“It’s nice that we get to continue junior year but it’s really hard to wake up in the morning,” she said. She said the teachers on the picket line were right to be concerned about large class sizes.

“They’re saying classes are really big and they are,” she said.

I have a newsflash for Stand for Children, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, DFER and the rest of the  corporate reform crowd – you can’t buy this kind of support (try as you might).

Parent: “I think there was some frustration but at least in my family, we understood this had to get resolved,” Heltzer said. “We love Waters (school).”

Student: “I really missed all of my old classmates. Plus we have the best teacher in school.”

It’s pretty obvious who doesn’t get it and who does.

PSAT for 5-15-12: Let’s expose some more testing idiocies

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

It seems that there are crazy, stupid, disturbing testing stories cropping up every day or so these days, and I have another one in the hopper right now (stay tuned…).

School officials and policy makers give the test companies so much power over judging our students, teachers, and schools, yet these companies are allowed to operate in secret, even after so many bad questions are exposed.

Well, it’s all about profit, they say. We have to make money. We can’t let you see the questions because then we would have to pay people to write even more of them.

Not that I would encourage them to do more of what they already do so badly. But still… that is just not a good enough excuse for us to allow them to operate in secret, and to have no right to monitor what kinds of questions they are putting on the tests.

Lots of Chicago folks  and advocates around the US will remember what CPS did to George Schmidt when he published a set of Chicago Public Schools end-of-course exams, the CASE exams, back in 1999. CPS sued George for $1.4 million. After long litigation, CPS “settled” for 0 dollars and never allowed George to teach in CPS again. Oh, and they also dropped the CASE exam. Because it was a lousy test.

We have ways of exposing the tests even without publication of all the questions (though that is the only sure way to hold the test publishers and testing officials accountable). The public needs to scrutinize these tests now, and share what we know. Anonymity can be maintained. No one else should lose their job over the test companies’ failures.

So for Public Schools Action Tuesday today, I am asking you to share your stories. Students, write to me about your weird or stupid test question experiences. Parents, ask your children if they ever felt that there was a strange or silly question on a test. Teachers, ask the question as part of a teacher-made test. You know what to do. You see this stuff all the time.

Share what you find with me. I will not disclose any information without your permission. You can also send them to Susan Ohanion who has a web site filled with stupid test questions and other atrocities.

Let’s keep exposing the truth behind those testing secrets.

A battle won in the testing wars

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Some good news in the fight against standardized testing from Charlotte, North Carolina! Parents Across America founding member Pam Grundy writes that the city’s children will no longer be the most tested in the nation.

She writes: “This time last year…. students, teachers and parents endured the outbreak of what we soon called ‘testing madness.’ On top of the regular state tests, teachers across Mecklenburg County were required to administer 52 new high-stakes standardized tests, part of superintendent Peter Gorman’s goal of testing every child in every subject every year. The tests were tied to a pay-for-performance scheme that was slated for rapid approval by the state legislature.

We were racing down a fast track to nowhere.

This year, however, the rush has slowed. The pay-for-performance legislation has stalled. Last week, interim superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh announced that CMS was scrapping the 52 extra tests. For the moment, students and teachers can focus more on learning, and breathe a little easier.

How did they do it? They got organized and spoke out. Read more about it here.

“A huge mistake” – Chicago increases drop outs, kills successful programs

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

We have persistently urged Chicago school leaders to stop flunking students because flunking doesn’t work, costs too much, and raises the drop out rate.

A report coming out today puts a dollar cost on the human tragedy of school drop outs. It’s a lot, as Greg Hinz points out in Crain’s:

“The study, based on U.S. Census data, suggests that dropouts nationally will be a net drain on the government, collecting an average of $70,850 more in benefits like food stamps in their lifetimes than they’ll pay in taxes. In comparison, the typical high school grad will make a net positive contribution of $236,060.”

Compare this drain on the economy with the huge benefit of programs like Chicago’s Child Parent Centers, which, according to University of Minnesota professor Arthur C Reynolds, returned an estimated $11 for every $1 spent. Until CPS shut the programs down as “too costly.”

“A huge mistake”
In a 2009 Early Ed Watch blog article, Lisa Guernsey wrote,

Consider an education program so effective that its impact can be measured 19 years later, so well-studied that it can be backed up with decades of scientific evidence on children’s improved skills in math and reading, and so impressive to policymakers that it continues to be championed around the country 40 years after its launch. These are the superlatives that come with Chicago’s Child Parent Centers. So you might figure they’re flourishing as part of the Chicago Public Schools’ early childhood programs, right? Not so. Their numbers are dwindling. In the mid-1980s, there were at least 25 CPCs serving more than 1,500 children. By 2006, there were 13. Today, 11 are still open, according to the Promising Practices Network. Enrollment in 2009, as reported by the Chicago Public Schools, is down to 670, less than half of what it once was. It now represents just 2 percent of the system’s total preschool enrollment.

Update to Guernsey’s numbers: Looks as though another CPC has closed since her article. CPS now only lists 10 CPCs.

According to Guernsey, Dr. Reynolds believes that Chicago’s misguided focus on flunking students was a major factor in the demise of the CPCs:
Reynolds lays much of the blame on the push to end “social promotion” – the practice of advancing children to the next grade despite failing grades – that marked the Chicago Public Schools in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was when Paul Vallas and then Arne Duncan were leading the schools. “It was a decision made by Vallas and continued by Duncan,” Reynolds said. “It ended up being a huge mistake.” The school district spent “hundreds of millions” on remedial efforts that had little effect on students’ progress, he said, siphoning money away from early education.
Another culprit may be the No Child Left Behind Act and its over-emphasis on reading and math. Barbara Bowman, head of CPS Early Childhood Programs, told Guernsey about the department’s focus shift due to “the newfound emphasis on literacy instruction that came in the early part of this decade before she came on board. As officials looked at how to allocate the schools’ money, Bowman said, ‘The Title I funds for literacy grew, and the Title I funds for early childhood shrank.’ “
It’s not just the corruption on view today at the Federal building that we all need to keep our eyes on. It’s the day-to-day mismanagement and misdirection of precious taxpayer dollars which somehow always end sup hurting our most vulnerable people.

Arne answers @pureparents – gets an incomplete

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Just noticed that one of my questions is the first mentioned in today’s report on yesterday’s #Ask Arne Twitter Town Hall:

Many Twitter users asked Arne about testing, and whether students are taking too many tests at school.

@pureparents: #AskArne: What specifically will you do to decrease the amount of and emphasis on standardized testing in the US?

Secretary Duncan answered:

@usedgov: Where you have too many tests, or are spending too much time on test prep, that doesn’t lead to good results. #AskArne

@usedgov: Fill-in-the-bubble tests should be a tiny % of what we’re doing. I’m a big fan of formative assessments–more helpful to teachers. #AskArne

Too bad these are just more Arne twitterdumb comments, like the ones I picked on yesterday.

When he says “formative assessment,” he simply means regular practice exams – interim standardized tests using exactly the same kinds of questions related to a small set of narrow skills.

And isn’t it disturbing that he essentially answers “none of the above” to what was a higher-order thinking essay question? He doesn’t seem to understand accountability. He acknowledges the problem but not his own role in making the problem worse, and he simply dodges the question about what he will do to fix the problem.

You can watch the full town hall program here.

Duncan on testing: twitterdum?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I had to leave in the middle of the Arne Duncan Twitter Town Hall to do an interview about Rahm’s Trojan Horse (watch it on CBS-2 this evening and read more here) but I did hear our Fed Ed Head talk out of both sides of his mouth (as usual) about testing.

Here’s a brief report from about Fed Ed Head Duncan’s interchange with host John Merrow on the subject:

While Duncan was adamant that testing is critical to measure reading levels and annual improvements, he did admit that “the law is too punitive” and schools need to be granted “more flexibility and autonomy.”

“Students shouldn’t even be tested 10 days out of the year. It is too much,” Duncan said.

“Growth and gain need to be evaluated,” Duncan continued,” but that doesn’t mean excessive testing.”

Duncan noted that good teachers need to be rewarded for their hard work and bad teachers need to improve. He even suggested implementing a reward system with higher pay for schools with higher performance. He maintained, however, that the only way to measure this is through testing.


Duncan’s rhetoric about testing is a slippery as his charter school dodge (“I only support good charter schools”).

Duncan’s “growth and gain” only mean one thing – year-to-year changes in scores on one-shot standardized tests. Duncan’s ‘better tests” are simply expanded, computerized standardized tests.

In other words, more of the same.

Just because you call a pig “better” or “more flexible” or “value-added” doesn’t mean it isn’t still a pig.

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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.