Posts Tagged ‘USDE’

PSAT for 8-23-11: Twitter Arne

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

From the USDE:  

The Department of Education announced today that Secretary Arne Duncan will participate in the first-ever #AskArne Twitter Town Hall on August 24, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will moderate the town hall that will also be broadcast live on ED’s ustream channel.

Twitter users can submit questions to the Secretary using the hashtag #AskArne.


For Public Schools Action Tuesday today, why not send in a question for Arne? In addition to #AskArne, you can e-mail questions directly to John Merrow at

Here are a few questions I have submitted:

Aside from a vague promise that new Common Core tests will be “better tests,” what specifically will you do to decrease the amount of and emphasis on standardized testing in the US?

You were responsible for marginalizing parent-majority elected, empowered local school councils in Chicago and replacing them with administration-appointed advisory bodies. Beyond proposing an increase in federal parent involvement funds, which will be wasted if spending is not monitored or evaluated, how will you support a stronger parent voice in school decision making, which is an essential component of any effective parent involvement program?

As a parent, it concerns me that you have required states to expand charter schools, increase standardized testing overall, tie teacher jobs to test scores, and turn around schools by firing half or more of the staff, when the overwhelming body of evidence – including that of the research arms of the federal government – is clear that these strategies do not improve academics overall and can have serious negative effects on children and their education. How do you justify promoting such irresponsible policies, and when will you begin to listen to educators and researchers, who are clearly the key experts in this field, and to parents, who are simply trying to protect our children from bad policy making?


Here are a few questions that have already been posted:


Do all American parents have the right to opt their children out of state tests per Prince V Mass, or is it a state by state issue?

What qualifies you to be Secretary of Education? You are not credentialed, you have no education degree, you never taught school.

Why can charter schools hold kids to higher behavior standards, and then boot them for failing to meet them?

Did you know Geoffrey Canada once kicked out an entire class just to raise his graduation numbers?


PURE/PAA presentation at USDE assessment hearing

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The June 10 USDE “Automated Scoring of Summative Assessments” public meeting in Chicago was eerily like a Pentagon briefing for vendors on the latest weapons technology.

USDE’s Ann Whelan, who chaired the meeting, actually wrapped up the day by saying, “We need to be bold and move the industry forward.” I wondered if we should all salute as she walked out.

The meeting was about creating computer-based and computer-scored assessments, a topic that seemed to be over the heads of many attendees (including me) but most seemed ready and willing (though not exactly able) to do whatever it takes to maintain their lucrative testing contracts.

The questions about using artificial intelligence to score tests raised many questions and evoked several assertions that multiple choice tests have “gotten a bad rap” and are still a “very good way” to test a lot of things: “Nothing is as valid or reliable as multiple choice.” And I’ll bet multiple choice will look even better to these guys as soon as we see a few examples of AI scores on student essays.

The most cogent comment,in my opinion, came from my son’s former kindergarten teacher, who happened to be there, much to my delight, and who said during public comment that she and other teachers considered  summative tests to be DOA – dead on arrival. They don’t help the student, they don’t help the teacher. She urged the USDE to focus on formative tests and forget about summative tests. Amen!

The testimony I prepared for this meeting is here. However, I was only given three minutes to present my comments, even though there were only four members of the public signed up, so I just ran over the main concerns that PURE and Parents Across America have about Obama and Duncan’s “better tests.”

I addressed the misuse and overuse of standardized tests, the false promise of better tests, how standardized tests narrow the curriculum, the way CPS and others only pretend to use multiple measures, bias in standardized tests, the failure of merit pay and other schemes to link teacher work to student scores, and the likelihood that the new national tests will be hugely expensive.

Prior to the public comment period, we were told that they would not respond or answer questions, but I asked anyway:

How will they prevent districts like Chicago from misusing tests for high-stakes purposes?

How much money will all this cost – do they have any projections?

Ann gave me a thin smile and repeated that they will not answer questions, but that I could e-mail the questions to them. I have since tried all versions of the e-mail address she mentioned, none working. Am still working on that.

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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.