Reauthorization of ESEA Response from Network For Public Education.

The Network for Public Education led by Dr. Diane Ravitch and supported by thousands of teachers nationwide has voiced a position on the options offered so far on the two draft bills to reauthorize ESEA.

Tomorrow, January 27, is the second hearing by this committee. You can view it over here. Be sure to contact Sen. Alexander or any members of the committee with your comments.  NPE has offered their assistance to make this easier.

NPE Statement on ESEA Reauthorization and Annual Standardized Testing

Network for Public Education calls on Congress to end the federal mandate for annual standardized testing 

Network for Public Education (NPE) calls on Congress to approve Option 1 in Senator Lamar Alexander’s working draft of “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015.” NPE supports the proposal to allow states to adopt their own State-designed academic assessment system. More specifically, we are calling for the end of the federal mandate for annual testing.

NPE believes a return to grade span testing is an important first step toward restoring standardized testing to its appropriate use in education, while still giving policy makers and elected officials a valid snapshot of what is happening in schools.  We further support Option 1′s flexibility utilizing multiple measures; and that a systematic review of actual student work will provide superior evidence of academic progress while also enriching learning and allowing teachers to better diagnose student strengths and weaknesses.

No other high-performing nation tests every student every year.   The annual high-stakes testing required under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has led to an overemphasis on and misuse of increasingly time-consuming, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, and in many cases, flawed and ambiguously phrased annual tests.  This trend has been detrimental to students, teachers, schools and communities, and has only served to benefit the companies that profit from the burgeoning testing industry.

Advocates for annual testing claim that it is needed so we can more clearly track trends over time. But the federal government already has far more reliable data that can be used to track trends through the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has been administering tests to the states since 1992 and disaggregating the scores by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, and English language learners. We already know that children in Massachusetts do better than children in Mississippi; what’s needed in Mississippi is not annual testing–which will not tell us anything new–but experienced educators, smaller classes, a full curriculum, and adequate resources.

Annual tests have diverted time and resources from genuine teaching and learning in schools nationwide. We have seen curriculum narrowed across the country, but especially for our nation’s most vulnerable students –children living in poverty. These are the students we need to engage most with art, music, social studies, and foreign languages, and they are the students least likely to receive a full and robust educational experience because these areas of study are not on “the test.”

These tests have penalized caring, highly educated educators who work with children in poverty, recent immigrants to this nation, and our most vulnerable special needs students. As a result, many dedicated educators have been driven out of the profession.

But most importantly, administering these tests to children every year is of no benefit to the children themselves. As research has shown, comparing students’ test scores does not improve the instruction they receive and does not increase student achievement. Numerous studies have documented the role played by high-stakes testing in exacerbating dropout rates, the school-to-prison-pipeline, and the closing of under-resourced neighborhood public schools.

High stakes standardized tests have been the norm for the last 17 years. Research has shown that they have not improved educational outcomes, and that they have actually been harmful to students, teachers and schools. As a result, far too much time and too many resources have been spent on buying and preparing for these tests. States and districts have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for test development, test prep materials, and technology and infrastructure upgrades required to facilitate new online assessments. Such spending is crippling districts already faced with slashed budgets, loss of teachers and other critical staff, as well as crumbling infrastructure.

We continue to believe that the federal government has an important role to play in education. It is imperative that ESEA continues to support and provide additional funding for low-income students and children with disabilities, to help fund nationwide preschool and to reduce class sizes.

We at NPE believe that all children should have equal educational opportunity. Not the “opportunity” to take the same standardized tests, but the opportunity to acquire necessary skills in math and language arts while still engaging in the arts, physical education, history, sciences, foreign languages, civics, and other studies.

A return to grade span testing and elimination of accountability measures tied to standardized tests will allow the nation’s public schools to reallocate resources where they are most desperately needed, and provide students with the rich educational opportunities that have been eroded during the NCLB era. A decrease in federally mandated testing will still provide policy makers sufficient data to evaluate progress in our nation’s schools and will not hinder the federal government’s crucial role in ensuring all students receive a quality and equitable education.

Maybe Congress Should Butt Out of Education Accountability!

More Observations for my previous post:

Note: Committee on Education and the Workforce is considering legislation to revise ESEA now. Let your voice be heard before next Tuesday's hearing. 

This comment by Lofty Lofthouse was posted on Education Bloggers Network Central. This group of education activist bloggers has been discussing the importance of communicating NOW with Sen. Alexander regarding the fate of ESEA. You can read more from Lofty here http://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/about/

I'm still reading the piece---not done reading yet, but this one sentence stopped me cold:

"Who knows whether Congress can figure out how to hold schools accountable in a way that makes sense."

Congress should not be in charge of holding the public schools accountable for anything---that job belongs to elected school boards and state legislatures/governors and the only thing to hold accountable is if the teachers and schools are not breaking and laws, even Constitutional law.

If the U.S.Congress were put in charge of holding the almost 15,000 public school districts in 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia accountable for some legislated line-in-the -and, then Big Brother would be the classroom cop.

Right now, the classroom cop is Bill Gates and his minions and allies in the corporate war being waged on democratic public education.

If Congress is in charge of holding all the public schools accountable, top down decision making and leadership will remain in place. 


Lofty's  very simple clear-headed response to the discussion addresses a major problem with ESEA and its progeny NCLB - its oppressive, inappropriate use of standardized test scores for high stakes measurement of student learning, teacher effectiveness and school performance.

It reminds me of an occasion when my school district fellow teachers of gifted students were gathered and given the charge to "brainstorm a list of possible ways to reduce costs for our school system gifted program."  We broke into small groups and the first sarcastic idea was offered - "Well, we can turn off the air conditioners, eliminate pencils and paper and increase the ratio of books:students!"  That black humor made us realize we were being given the wrong charge, being tricked by the limitations inherent in the question in our overall goal for the day of improving the gifted program for our students. Our group was the first to return with our suggestion which proved to be a conversation stopper. Answer:  It Is not our job to find ways to reduce costs. It's our job to find ways to improve the quality of delivery of the program for our students."

Sen. Alexander - You are in charge of leading the direction your committee takes.  Consider how
your framing the questions and presenting the mission could serve to facilitate the future progress of public education or to contribute and extend the failures of NCLB and its testing regime.


ESEA Revisions: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Note: Committee on Education and the Workforce is considering legislation to revise ESEA now. Let your voice be heard before next Tuesday's hearing. 


United Opt Out Public Letter to Senator Alexander

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January 22, 2015

Dear Senator Alexander,
There is a great deal of discussion about where education leaders and organizations “stand” when it comes to the latest revision for ESEA titled Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015. In response, the organizers of United Opt Out (UOO) find that we stand between Scylla and Charybdis, between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
In your bill you pose the question of support for Option 1, a reduction in testing to grade span, or Option 2, which continues the current testing nightmare; we support neither.  We find many items in the 400 page document too egregious and insupportable even though we do accept the notion of “grade span testing,” preferably via random sampling, as an alternative to what is in place now. 
While we understand why many of our respected colleagues have shown support for Option 1 in your bill, we cannot endorse either. This is because both options are tucked neatly inside a larger bill that promotes the expansion of charters and other policies destructive overall to the well-being of students, public schools, and communities.  Another reason we are reluctant, no matter what enticing promises are included therein, is due to those who lobbied for this bill in 2013: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has immense ties to ALEC.
While we are inclined to support H.R. 4172 - Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act  sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, which also calls for grade span testing, we would like to see additional safeguards included against possible punitive state policies. In our assessment, it does not go far enough to protect children, educators, and communities against state policies that are damaging in nature in spite of good intent. To elaborate, this bill requires those tests be administered at least once during: (1) grades 3 through 5, (2) grades 6 through 9, and (3) grades 10 through 12. However, “under H.R. 4172, the states would retain the ability to exceed federal testing requirements if they seek to do so.” In other words, students could be tested just as much as they are now if states choose to do so. The bill is not a guaranteed protection against over-testing and its punitive consequences; it’s just a hope. We believe that hope alone is not sufficient.
Make no mistake, Senator Alexander, we understand fully that you are a supporter of the privatization of public schools.  Despite that fact, your bill and Gibson’s may be preferable to some who are against the privatization of public schools because they contain the possibility of being better than the existing federal and state policies.  However, they are not appealing to many, in particular states that have suffered the negative impact of high stakes testing.  Furthermore, we can’t see how either of the current bills proposed are the “solution” to problems such as equity in funding, re-segregation, compromised pedagogy, data mining, or the intrusion of corporate interests – to cite from a list of many –  that continue to fester in public education.
We agree that  education decisions should be decided in state legislative and local district bodies, but safeguards should be in place to ensure horrific policies such as over testing and attaching results to student, teacher, school, and community worthiness are not pushed through state and district legislative bodies.  Your bill and Gibson’s include no such safeguards for polices that have been detrimental to the non-white, special needs, immigrant, and impoverished communities.
UOO and most other human rights organizations will vigorously oppose ANY state level measures that sanction the following:
  •  Increase standardized testing even if it’s under “state control”
  • Support using high stakes to make decisions about students, educators, school buildings, or communities
  • Use of sanctions such as “shuts downs” or “turn overs” based on test data of any kind
  • Display favoritism toward increased charters and state voucher programs
  • Facilitate data mining and collection of private student information
  • Engage in sweet insider deals between state policy makers and corporations or testing companies using tax-payer dollars and at the expense of safety, quality and equity in public education
Therefore, we demand greater safety, equity and quality for ALL schools and that includes the elimination of ALL standardized -paper based or computer adaptive testing – that redirects tax-based funding for public education to corporations and is punitive or damaging to children, teachers, schools, and communities.
We will not accept ANY bill until the following criteria are included:
  •  Increased resources for the inclusion of local, quality curricular adoptions devoid of “teaching to the test”
  • Quality, creative, authentic, and appropriate assessment measures for general students, special needs, and English language learners that are sustainable and classroom teacher-created
  • Smaller teacher/student ratios
  • Wrap-around social programs, arts,  physical education programs, and creative play recess
  • Career-focused magnet programs
Additionally, we demand legislation that supports a broad and deep system-wide examination of the power structures that perpetuate poverty-level existence for millions of Americans.
To conclude, we find ourselves having to choose between being shot in the head and being shot in the foot. For now, we choose neither. Instead we call for continued revisions of current legislation to include the items and protections outlined in this letter. We thank you for this opportunity to share our sentiments and our voice.
Sincerely,
United Opt Out Administrators:
Rosemarie Jensen
Denisha Jones
Morna McDermott
Peggy Robertson
Ruth Rodriquez
Tim Slekar
Ceresta Smith

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Accountability is the Soup Du Jour

The following is a statement made by Education and the Worforce Committee Chairman John Kline preceded by my commentary. 

Many words but how about substance? NOTE: Accountability is always the operative word, but WHAT IS accountability? 

In Louisiana, our top policymaker and his compliant BESE fall in line with Sec. Duncan in believing that accountability can only be achieved by threats and punishment using standardized test scores as the measure of accountability. High stakes standardized testing along with its punitive consequences are NOT improving the delivery of quality instruction in the classroom where learning takes place. Tying accountability to student test scores has simply been a vehicle for takeover and privatization of our public schools. 

Every teacher knows that one can't accurately measure individual student learning with a one-size-fits-all standardized test.  You can only measure how many questions on a single test that a student answered correctly as per the test creator's answer key. Doesn't matter how much the student has learned or how much potential the student has for learning unless he knows the prescribed answers to the limited number of questions on the test.

 For those readers not familiar with education pedagogy, you can compare using a standardized test to measure learning with an attempt to measure the circumference of a ball with a yardstick. Its inflexibility and poor design for the task make it inadequate. Maybe John White would spin this analogy and support his use of the yardstick using the fact that you can measure the circumference of a ball with that yardstick if you use it to measure the diameter, which is a straight line measurement, and then apply a mathematical formula to produce the answer. But to do that you have to manipulate that yardstick and ball using some method of visual guesstimation - because the yardstick is the only measuring tool you have. Then when you produce the close but inaccurate measurement for the circumference, you reproduce the ball and simply make whatever adjustments necessary till your new ball appears to be the same size as the first. It's a crude analogy but illustrates what JW is doing with student test scores and SPS. And with this, students, teachers and schools are held accountable.

But ACCOUNTABILITY is the soup du jour that has been served up to the public and we MUST find a recipe that will make it palatable and nutritious at the same time. There is a recipe, but educators must be able to simplify and demystify the term for public consumption. We will not escape the limitations put on students and teachers via high stakes standardized testing until we do! 

Chairman Kline:

Kline Speaks on Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute 

Last fall the American people sent a clear message: They want to move our country in a new direction, one that will lead to prosperity and opportunity for every man and woman willing to work for it. 
That’s no small task when you consider the problems we face: a persistently weak economy, stagnant household incomes, a broken education system, and a social safety net stretched thin – to name just a few.
As I meet with people from Minnesota and across the country, they often share their concerns and frustrations. They are concerned about the future and frustrated with a federal government that just doesn’t get it. But they also share a sense of enduring optimism.
Despite our challenges, we still live in the greatest nation on Earth. There is nothing we can’t accomplish once we set our minds to it. The same country that won the race to the moon and invented the iPhone can continue to lead the world and remain a shining city on a hill, but to do so will require a lot of hard work, some tough choices, the courage to fight for our principles, and a willingness to accept compromise. 
More than 50 years ago, President Kennedy looked to the future with confidence and a healthy dose of realism. He knew we couldn’t achieve peace and prosperity within 100 days or 1,000 days or even during his administration. But President Kennedy rallied a nation with three simple words, “Let us begin.” I believe that is our charge today as well. 
Let us begin building a stronger economy and better America. Let us begin that great effort for the moms and dads living paycheck to paycheck and wondering how they will send their kids to college and plan for retirement. Let us begin for the entrepreneurs and small business owners struggling to succeed under a cloud of uncertainty and mountain of red tape. Let us begin for the millions of Americans who are being left behind because they can’t find full-time jobs. Let us begin for each and every child filled with hopes and dreams and trapped in failing schools.
For the next few minutes, I would like to discuss how the Education and the Workforce Committee will play a leading role in that effort, and more specifically, what the committee plans to do to improve education for America’s children.
At an event hosted by AEI three years ago, I spoke about the failure of U.S. schools to teach our children what they need to know to thrive in the 21st century economy. I described the state of the American education system as “sobering.” As I look back, those words described the situation rather mildly. I wish I could say things have started to turn around, but they have not.
It’s estimated that one out of every five students will drop out of high school, which means every day thousands of children walk away from one of the best shots they have to earn success in their lifetimes. These young men and women will face fewer job prospects and lower wages, and be more dependent on government assistance to help pay the bills and put food on the table.  
But don’t get me wrong. Just because a student receives a diploma doesn’t mean he or she is guaranteed success. Far too many high school graduates are entering the workforce with a sub-par education. According to the National Assessment for Educational Progress, only 38 percent of high school seniors can read at grade level and just 26 percent are proficient in math.  
Each year countless parents have no choice but to send their kids to broken schools. Meanwhile, Washington talks about reform yet nothing changes. Something has to change.
I know you are all familiar with a little law known as No Child Left Behind. Signed by President Bush 13 years ago, enacting the law was the last time federal policymakers reformed our K-12 education system. Despite its best intentions, the law is failing to meet the needs of students. 
For example, a one-size-fits-all federal accountability system hampers innovation and limits the ability of states and school districts to address their students’ needs. Outdated teacher quality measures fail to adequately capture how well teachers teach, and a massive investment of taxpayer resources has done little – if anything – to change the trajectory of student achievement levels.
Instead of working with Congress to replace the law, the Obama administration has spent the last several years offering states temporary waivers from the law’s most onerous requirements if states agree to new mandates dictated by the Secretary of Education. Congress wanted to provide relief, yet the administration said, “You can have relief, but only with strings attached.” Now states and schools are tied up in knots. 

Allowing the Secretary of Education to act like the nation’s superintendent only creates confusion, uncertainty, and frustration. Another example is the ongoing debate around Common Core. What began as a voluntary effort at the state level to improve education standards has led to a broader revolt against federal overreach into our classrooms.
I support a state’s right to determine what its education standards will be. And I understand how important parental involvement at the local level is in determining how these standards are met. The Department of Education doesn’t have a role in this process. Secretary Duncan doesn’t have a role in this process – nor do any of his predecessors or successors.
Success in school should be determined by those who teach inside our classrooms; by state and local leaders who understand the challenges facing their communities; by parents who know better than anyone the needs of their children.

Unfortunately, we have reached the point where too many decisions are made in Washington. While there are heroic efforts taking place in classrooms across the country, the federal government has more control over schools than ever before. It is making it difficult for educators to provide a quality education and countless children are paying the price. We need to do better. We have a moral obligation to do better.
That is why more than a year ago the Republican-led House passed the Student Success Act. The Student Success Act would have restored the balance between the federal government’s limited role and the responsibilities of states and local governments to deliver an excellent education to all students. The bill moved away from one-size-fits-all accountability requirements and eliminated the onerous “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirement that tells us nothing about teacher effectiveness. 
The legislation also consolidated more than 70 ineffective and duplicative education programs into a Local Academic Flexible grant, giving districts maximum funding flexibility to support local efforts to increase student achievement. 
The Student Success Act was the first comprehensive bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to be considered in Congress in more than 11 years. It was an important step to replace a flawed law, but unfortunately, it was the last step taken in the 113th Congress. Our Democrat colleagues in the Senate refused to consider the bill or any legislation addressing K-12 education, forcing schools to continue wrestling with a convoluted waiver scheme and broken law.  Fortunately, there are new allies in the Senate who share our sense of urgency.

Chairman Alexander has already begun the reauthorization process in the Senate and I look forward to partnering with him. He and I both agree that Congress needs to act because the status quo is failing our students. The stakes are too high to let this opportunity slip by. It’s time to reform the law so every child can receive the quality education they deserve.
Replacing No Child Left Behind would be a significant achievement for any Congress, but we need to do more. There are other windows of opportunity to improve education we must pursue.
As you may know, the Perkins Act provides federal funding to states to support career and technical education or CTE programs. The law helps high school and community college students access valuable training programs and hands-on experience necessary to gain an edge in the local workforce.
The best CTE  programs are known for their rigorous coursework and hands-on training in fields ranging from computer science and information technology to law enforcement and nursing.  
However, like so many federal laws, this one needs to be reformed as well. We need to do a better job connecting coursework with industry demands and local labor market needs. We also need to help students as they leave high school and prepare to enroll in a college or university. Finally, we need to enhance accountability to help ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent. A number of my committee colleagues are passionate about this issue and eager to get to work improving the law.
Last but not least, we need to strengthen higher education so more Americans can turn the dream of an advanced degree into reality.

A college degree is a good investment, yet for many the cost is simply too great. Others struggle to fit the traditional college experience into an already hectic lifestyle that may include family, work, or both. What can we do to help address these challenges?
First, we have to empower students and families to make informed decisions. Students and families should have access to the best information that is easy to understand.
Second, we need to simplify and improve student aid. Let’s pull students and families out of the current maze of programs and help students receive a clearer picture of their financial aid in a more timely manner.
Third, we need to promote innovation, access, and completion. Innovation is the key to giving families more affordable choices in higher education.
We also need to strengthen programs that encourage access and help ensure every student who enrolls in an institution completes their education.
Fourth and finally, we must provide strong accountability and preserve a limited federal role. We need to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent, but also be mindful that federal rules and reporting requirements add administrative costs on schools – costs that are typically passed on to students in the form of higher fees and tuition.
Is there a lot of work to do? Absolutely. Am I optimistic about our chances? Yes, I am. The House of Representatives is ready to hit the ground running. We heard loud and clear the message sent by the American people, and we are ready to do the work that is necessary to move our country in a new direction. But we cannot do this alone.
Success will require presidential leadership, the kind of leadership we have not seen in recent years. We need constructive engagement from the Obama administration. Drawing lines in the sand isn’t constructive. Responding critically in the press to each new development in the legislative process isn’t constructive. Proposing ideas more fit for a political campaign than reality isn’t constructive. If we are going to succeed, the administration will need to start working with us, not against us.
# # # 

Can Louisiana Parents Refuse the PARCC Test?

Currently the leading conversation among parents, as evidenced on various Facebook pages, is regarding the opportunity for parents to refuse to allow their children to take the current state high stakes standardized assessment which is purported by Supt. John White to be PARCC.

The fact that Louisiana has not contracted with Pearson, which was contracted by the PARCC consortium, to provide the standardized test,  leads one to believe that our state will not be administering the "official" PARCC test that is touted as an essential tool to measure and compare student learning (and Common Core Standards alignment) between the other states in the consortium.   The fact that Louisiana HAS contracted with Data Recognition Corporation to provide us with our state assessment adds to the belief that students will NOT be administered the "official" PARCC test  that teachers have been using as guidance and students have been learning as a model for preparation.

In addition to numerous reasons  parents should consider when making a determination to refuse or not to refuse, a strong influence is the question of accountability.  The term accountability has floated to the top of the "reform" cesspool and has been presented as necessarily being purely punitive in nature and purpose.  "Reform" consists of methods to punish children, teachers, schools and districts if they do not meet the arbitrary and artificial  standards designed to measure FAILURE.  John White has designed and/or adopted every known method to measure failure.  At the top of the list is the high stakes standardized assessment that is inextricably attached to the Common Core Standards.

I am offering here information  relative to real or perceived "punishments" that parents, teachers and administrators should consider when making a decision about refusing the test.  I believe it is important for parents to come to their own understanding of these policies, laws, applications and interpretations. I am happy to offer guidance that I expect parents will want and need it in order to negotiate and discern all the available information.  Full disclosure - my understanding and my position is that parents can choose to refuse the test (PARCC ELA/MATH, not lEAP/iLEAP Social Studies/Science) without punitive consequences for their children and without the fear and intimidation sometimes used to dissuade them when told that refusing the test will cause their school to fail and be taken over by a charter or de-funded.

I will add to and edit this information as needed, but will make clear any changes I make. I will blog separately about my own interpretation and conclusions because it is important for parents to have a basic understanding of this information first.

From Fairtest.org:

http://www.fairtest.org/why-you-can-boycott-testing-without-fear

Louisiana 2014 recently approved NCLB Waiver extension :

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/approved-requests/laamendreq1282014.pdf

NCLB Federal Law:

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html

Real Life anecdotal evidence from Rhode Island:

http://www.providencejournal.com/news/education/20150114-no-legal-requirement-to-take-standardized-tests-r.i.-educators-say.ece

http://insidemedford.com/2014/03/24/opting-out-of-common-coreparcc/

Real Life anecdotal evidence from N.Y.:

http://www.nysape.org/if-my-child-refuses-state-tests-will-my-school-lose-funding.html

Guidance and research offered by UnitedOptOut.org:

http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out-2/rhode-island/

President's Student Privacy Model Has Gaps!

For immediate release: January 12, 2015

Contact: Leonie Haimson, leonie@classsizematters.org917-435-9329

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy on President’s Announcement of
Need for new Federal Student Privacy Protections

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy thanks the President for recognizing the need for new federal student privacy protections, but points out how the California law that the President lauded as a model cannot be used without strengthening its provisions around parental notification, consent, security protections and enforcement.

“Any effort to ban the sale of student information for targeted advertising is a good first step, but the White House's proposal appears to allow companies to sell and monetize student data for unspecified ‘educational purposes,’ including to develop products that would amass enormous personal profiles on our children. Profiling children based on their learning styles, interests and academic performance and then being able to sell this information could undermine a student's future. Parents want to ban sale of student data for any use and demand full notification and opt-out rights before their children's personal information can be disclosed to or collected by data-mining vendors," ,” said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

Leonie Haimson, Parent Coalition co-chair and Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “We also need strong enforcement and security mechanisms to prevent against breaches.  Schools and vendors are routinely collecting and sharing highly sensitive personal information that could literally ruin children’s lives if breached or used inappropriately.  This has been a year of continuous scandalous breaches; we owe it to our children to require security provisions at least as strict as in the case of personal health information.“

Here is a summary of the gaps and weaknesses in the California student privacy bill, which the President said should serve as a model for a federal law:

·         Bans vendors using personally identifiable information (PII) student data to target advertising or selling of data, but not in case of merger or acquisitions, or presumably in case of bankruptcy, as in the recent Connectedu case.  The President’s proposal would be even weaker, as it would apparently allow the sale of student data for unspecified “educational purposes”; 

·         Only regulates online vendors but not the data-sharing activities of schools, districts or states; 

·         Provides no notification requirements for parents, nor provides them with the ability to correct, delete, or opt out of their child’s participation in programs operated by data-mining vendors; 

·         Unlike HIPAA, sets no specific security or encryption standards for the storage or transmission of children’s personal information, but only that standards should be “reasonable”;

·         Allows tech companies to use children’s PII to create student profiles for “educational” purposes or even to improve products;  

·         Allows tech companies to share  PII with additional and unlimited “service” providers, without either parent or district/school knowledge or consent – as long as they abide by similarly vague “reasonable” security provisions;  

·         Allows tech companies to redisclose PII for undefined “research” purposes to unlimited third parties, without parental knowledge or consent –without requiring ANY sort of security provisions for these third parties or even that they have recognized status as actual researchers;

·         Contains no enforcement or oversight mechanisms;

·         Would not have stopped inBloom or other similar massive “big data” schemes designed to hand off PII to data-mining vendors – and like inBloom, would also be able to charge vendors or
“service providers” fees to access the data, as long as states/districts consented.


###

I am a founding member of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and find that my daily communication from this group is essential to keep on top of rapidly evolving problems with the issue.  I recommend anyone else with concerns join this valuable group. 

Is Dr. George Noell Misrepresenting Value Added?

Reposted from Dr. Mercedes Schneider's blog.



Louisiana “Father of VAM” George Noell Is Back to Peddling VAM for LDOE

January 11, 2015
In February 2011, George Noell and Beth Gleason presented the results of their Louisiana VAM pilot study to the Louisiana legislature.
A professor at Louisiana State University (LSU), Noell also held the title of executive director, Superintendent’s Delivery Unit, Strategic Research and Analysis, Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), from 2008 to 2012.
Beth Gleason assisted Noell with the 2011 VAM pilot as an educational research analyst manager for the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). In April 2013 she left LDOE and now works for a nonprofit on Hawaii.
The explanations in the Noell-Gleason report did not match the tables of numbers on just how poorly VAM actually performed in reclassifying teachers into the state’s predetermined four “performance” categories given no change in teacher “performance.” I wrote about this in my December 2012 VAM Explanation for Legislators.
Wayne Free of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) also addressed the inconsistency between Noell and Gleason’s words and their reported results:
Dr. George Noell and Dr. Beth Gleason, Strategic Research and Analysis, Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) write: “The results show moderate stability across years. Teachers who fell in the bottom 20% in 2007-2008 were likely to fall in the bottom 20% of results again (mathematics: 45.3%; ELA: 39.8. They were unlikely to move to the top of the distribution one year later. Teachers who were in the top 20% in 2008-2009 were most likely to fall in that range in 2009-2010 (mathematics: 61.6%; ELA: 55.7%). They were unlikely to move to the bottom of the distribution one year later.” 
The description of “results show moderate stability” is questionable. The data published by Noell and Gleason indicate that, “Teachers who fell in the bottom 20% in 2007-2008 were likely to fall in the bottom 20% of results again (mathematics: 45.3%; ELA: 39.8)” Perhaps I am weak in mathematical analysis but when I read data that is not consistent with the conclusions, I question the reasons.
Included in Free’s report is an appendixed email response dated May 10, 2012, from Noell to Free and copied to Gleason in which Noell confirms just how poorly VAM reclassified teachers in the 2011 pilot.
I have archived this email as a Word document. Read it here: Noell email 05-10-12
Noell is also on record in this video by Herb Bassett as saying that no decisions regarding teacher ineffectiveness should be made using a single year of VAM. In fact, in the video excerpt Bassett features of Noell’s February 2011 testimony before the Advisory Committee on Educator Evaluations, Noell states that three years of evaluations should be used to make decisions of teacher effectiveness.
Noell’s 2011 pilot study was not based on three years of student data. To date, neither Noell nor any other Louisiana VAM researcher has provided detailed data from a pilot study demonstrating VAM stability across three years of teacher data.
By September 2012, George Noell was no longer using his previous LDOE-associated, executive director title connected to work on VAM in Louisiana public schools. Noell had disappeared from the Louisiana public school VAM process.
In March 2013, LDOE produced this VAM report with no acknowledged author except the generic LDOE. In it, LDOE states that VAM is stable across several years– but the report does not include any data tables detailing VAM reclassification accuracy across multiple years.
Furthermore, if VAM truly is stable, such stability should also show across different classes of students for the same teacher within the same year. I know of no study to date (in Louisiana or elsewhere) that examines this.
But VAM is good! Just take the LDOE mystery researchers’ word for it.
As it happens, Gleason left LDOE the month following the release of the above report.
Moreover, the Noell-LDOE connection that was quiet in 2013 seemingly remained silent at least for most of 2014.
However, by 2015, George Noell has reemerged on the LDOE-VAM-promotion grid with this Power Point on behalf of LDOE to demonstrate that Louisiana VAM has improved.
In his Power Point, Noell offers an explanation of how VAM (ideally) works; of the care taken in deciding which students are included in a teacher’s VAM; of what variables are included in the prediction (such as prior student test scores); of who gets VAMed (teachers, principals, superintendents), including sample reports for these individuals; of some “strengths” and weaknesses of VAM, and of the history of VAM research in Louisiana.
No details on actual VAM data are included in the above Power Point. Fret not. Here is Noell’s “final” January 2015 VAM presentation for LDOE. It includes “evidence” of VAM classification stability– absent any documented evidence that the classifications can surely and solely be attributed to teacher control of their students’ VAM outcomes.
If teachers are to be graded on the test results of their students, it is on the heads of the “graders” to prove that their “grading” is sound.
No such proof from Noell or any other Louisiana VAMmer.
The holes in the January 2015 Noell VAM sell do not stop there.
Noell’s “final” January 2015 Power Point also includes 1) no link to a detailed research report; 2) no explanation regarding his using two years of teacher data in this presentation when he previously advocated that teacher effectiveness decisions should be made using three years of data; 3) no data tables reporting exact VAM reclassification rates by effectiveness category of 2012-13 teachers using 2013-14 data; 4) no external evidence establishing the “correctness” of either the initial, 2012-13 teacher classifications or the 2013-14 “follow up” classification, and, finally, 5) no VAM interpretation cautions regarding any of the criticisms in this paragraph.
In slide 11, Noell offers information regarding “no bias” in VAM classification for teachers of students with low or high prior achievement. Again, this test presumes that VAM works in the first place. This “no bias” test could just as well mean that VAM is faulty for teachers of both kinds of students.
The next slide, number 12, is several red flags waving. Noell compares distributions of 2012-13 and 2013-14 teachers who had 75 percent or more of their students rated at mastery or advanced to corresponding distributions of state averages. (For 2012-13, teacher ratings were based on VAM, and for 2013-14, teacher scores were based on a “VAM substitute” detailed here. Noell’s conclusion is that teachers of students with higher test scores are not being penalized with VAM (or the “VAM substitute”).
What I immediately notice in slide 12 is that all four distributions in this slide are almost exactly the same– and all four have approximately 10 percent of teachers are rated “ineffective” and 20 percent, as rated “highly effective”– a result that matches quotas set by LDOE.
Teachers are told that they are responsible for student outcomes; then, the results are forced to fit a certain distribution. What this situation unequivocally demonstrates is that cut scores can be set to create any distribution of teacher evaluation classification outcomes that the one controlling the cut scores wishes.
In all four distributions in Noell’s slide 12, the largest category is “effective: emerging.” This is true even for Noell’s group of teachers with at least 75 percent of students scoring mastery or advanced.
The public is told that American education is failing as evidenced by low test scores. The public is also told that low test scores are the fault of “ineffective” teachers.
The public is not told that teachers with high percentages of students with high test scores are still being rated as “ineffective” by design.
In 2012-13, 10 percent (and in 2013-14, 9 percent) of VAM/”VAM substitute” teachers with those high numbers of best-scoring students were rated as “ineffective.”
This defies sense and bespeaks a corrupted system.
My colleague Her Bassett offered this comment regarding Noell’s “75 percent or higher” slide 12:
I testified to the Act 240 subcommittee in November concerning VAM. I pointed to evidence in the Transitional Student Growth data that bias against teachers of high performing students still exists. My analysis indicated that teachers in schools at the 99th percentile of students at mastery and above had a much higher than expected rate of ranking ineffective in VAM (Transitonal Student Growth.) I note in Noell’s PowerPoint that he only considered teachers with 75 percent of students at mastery or above. In past, we have looked at teachers with 50 percent of students at mastery or above. (A proposed rule protecting them was withdrawn from BESE consideration by John White in January, 2013.) It would seem that he has defined a very, very small sampling of teachers to support his position on the bias. How many teachers in the state have 75 percent of students at mastery or above? What are the stats when considering teachers with 50 percent of students at mastery or above as we have considered on the past? Still, as you have suggested, should we even be concerned with measurement of student growth of these tests when the students are significantly above average?
Another problem with Noell’s presentation: He seems to consider only those teachers whose students score Mastery or Advanced at the end of the year, not those whose students scored Mastey or Advanced in the prior year but dropped to Basic or below this year. What we really need to know is what happens to teachers who started with previously high performing students, not how the teachers who ended with high performing students fared.
Noell’s VAM sell has lots of problems.
Here’s yet another sense-defying issue, a crucial piece of information apparently ignored in VAM-worshiping circles: empirical evidence establishing the teacher as The One in control of VAM outcomes.
Not the cut scores already shown as ridiculous, mind you. Just the teacher’s VAM scores for the teacher’s own students.
So, I emailed Noell about that pivotal-yet-assumed component.
Here’s my email:
VAM question
From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>                                           To: gnoell <gnoell@lsu.edu>
Date: Fri, Jan 9, 2015 6:34 pm
Dr. Noell, I just read your VAM presentation for BESE and the Act 240 advisory committee. 
I have one question: 
Do you have any research evidence to back the assumption that the teacher and the teacher alone is the single remaining catalyst for changes in student test scores from one year to the next? 
Thank you. 
–Mercedes Schneider
  teacher, St. Tammany Parish
If VAM is used to hold teachers accountable for student learning, then VAM supporters like Noell must provide solid, empirical evidence to prove without doubt that for their VAM models, the only remaining influence in moving student scores is the teacher.
Furthermore, this cut-score nonsense needs to go. Louisiana Association of Principals agrees.
If and when I receive a response from Noell, I will post it.
_____________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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