A Parent's Vision For America's Public Education System

I have had the privilege of getting to know Sara Wood, a Louisiana parent, who today expressed her thoughts about the importance of fighting to preserve our public school system.

Sara says, "We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards."

Sara and I are very different from very different backgrounds with what would seem to be ideologically opposite beliefs, but the story she tells here is one we both relate to as beneficiaries of its legacy, and as citizens of the United States of America we are obligated to remember and to respect. 

*******


It seems that a symptom of the fear-mongering approach through PARCC test is compliance with the failing curriculum recommendations of the state regardless of the damage and harm to children.  

Such compliance because of fear greatly affects the reality of the local control bill passed this legislative session in that the reality is that it is rejected or ignored by school districts.  These harmful actions to our children out of fear leave me wondering. 

I really and honestly wonder how our nation’s story would have played out, if at the start of the American Revolution, when Paul Revere took his Midnight Ride to warn that the British were coming.

  I wonder how our nation’s history would have been written if it was fear-filled school boards, fear-filled teachers and complacent parents to whom Paul Revere was shouting.  Or what if the colonists who he was trying to warn, had as a society abandoned their faith in God; not their belief but their faith in his Almighty Power.  What if that night during the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere those to whom he was shouting had let their fears of dreadful consequences rule their decision of whether to act; not just to speak out, but to take real action to fight the tyrannical sufferings imposed by the British; and therefore in letting those fears rule, they had failed to act upon Revere’s warning and had merely followed the British in power, even to their own detriment and that of their children.

I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO WONDER HOW DO YOU THINK OUR NATION’S HISTORY WOULD LOOK, IF IT WERE THESE PEOPLE WHO PAUL REVERE WAS RIDING THROUGH THE NIGHT TO AWAKEN INTO ACTION AGAINST THE BRITISH.  HOW DIFFERENT WOULD EACH OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES BE TODAY WITHOUT THE REAL ACTIONS AND SACRIFICES OF THOSE BRAVE FEW, WHO DID FACE THE DREADFUL CONSEQUENCES UNKNOWN TO THEM BUT CERTAIN TO HAVE INCLUDED DEATH.  Those brave few who faced those dreadful consequences with only courage because of their FAITH in God’s power to protect them in facing those fears, while doing the right thing.  

This fight over Common Core tests, curriculum and the entire initiative is a very similar situation.  We are fighting for the minds of our children, like those who fought for America’s independence and were awakened to the battle by Paul Revere.  We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards. 

I am not polished and many probably view me as nothing more than a loud mouth, Don Quixote whose “windmills” embody a belief and vision for America that can never be anything more than a dream because they are just words on a crusty piece of paper written by “some dead white guys.” Nothing more than a dream because you “silly,” that America was abandoned long ago, like real faith in God, over the course of many years.  

As for me though, I will not stop because when we fall, as has fallen every nation that has historically taken this destructive path, either through deception or by force…when we fall, I so want to be able to look into the eyes of my four children and say that I did all within my power to be like Paul Revere and awaken fellow Americans or to be like George Washington and fight the good fight for a free America with tools God gave and with faith in his Almighty Power to protect me in my actions.  But that my actions were simply not enough or I was born a generation too late to lift the chains of complacency and apathy that had already taken firm root.  I so must be able to face my children and say this at the point they realize that their future was stolen by greedy and powerful people and that it was stolen because of the fear-filled, the blind and the faithless!

And that ladies and gentlemen will be the truth of it when all is said and done, if by large numbers we fail to have real faith in God and take a stand in more than way, to stop all that is destroying America, as the land of the free. I don’t know where we got the notion that our federalist system of representative government was invincible and that it was meant to be easy; an afterthought for all else in our lives; but such is not the case, if it is to be preserved.  It is our responsibility to do something meaningful for us and for our children and out of respect for all those before us that did their part to preserve it for us. 

If we continue to complain without taking consistent and constant, meaningful action, the land of the free will fall.  If we continue to trade freedom for government security, we will live in slavery.  History 
is very clear on this.   In the words of President Eisenhower, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.  

Please people, WAKE UP and take a stand and watch great things happen!!  To say we can no longer make a difference, is just a cop out and it is to ignore what a relative small number of Americans have done in this fight against Common Core in just about every state in the Union.  We have forced conversations and action to be had against the elitists and their millions, shoving this down the throat of our nation and that is nothing to ignore.  Freedom is not free but it sure is priceless.  

Do you have that courage?

Thank you for reading my thoughts and for choosing not to be fear-filled, blind or faithless,
Sara Wood

Louisiana Supe Tells Another Whopper to Board of Education



The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting October 14, 2014, Admin and Finance Committee, Agenda Item 6.4 regarding the return of McDonogh High School to OPSB.


At the August 13 BESE meeting, Lottie Beebe  requested an Attorney General's opinion as to whether or not the Recovery School District (RSD) or BESE had the authority to make a decision to allow McDonogh to return to OPSB. That letter was to be discussed at the October 14 BESE meeting. 

At the October 14 BESE meeting (see video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-B9SXEhlSk#t=8401 Lottie asked JW the disposition of that request. He said, "I believe BESE staff has formulated that request and has made that request. I don't believe it has been granted." Committee Chair  Jay Guillot asked, "So it's still in process? JW responded, "Yes."  
 

Later Lottie asked JW, "Can we expedite the process to retrieve the AG opinion?" JW said, "You can seek an expedited opinion." Lottie followed with a motion to asked for an expedited opinion.

JW clearly implied (I believe) that the previous request had been sent to the AG by BESE staff but that no opinion had been rendered at the time of this meeting. That was, in fact a lie. No request had been made. I filed a FOIA on October 14 while at the meeting when I heard his statement. I received a response finally - much later than the time allowed for a public information request. It clearly shows that Chas Roemer did not ask for the AG opinion until after the October 14 meeting. In fact the opinion request was dated October 14.

Supt. White once again misrepresented the status of the AG request which he knew had not been written or sent.   When is this BESE board going to hold Supt. White accountable?!  












John White's Bogus Textbook Evaluations

I posted this blog on 10/15/2014 about the perceived conflicts of interest in Louisiana Superintendent John White's selection of only TWO sets of instructional materials as being what he calls his TIER 1 approval for Common Core alignment. 

Those instructional materials (curricula) were Eureka Math and Core Knowledge (for ELA).

As the Common Core Initiative promises to be an economic boom for all who hope to benefit financially from the public education sector, instructional materials are, of course, no exception.  According to this August, 2014 report from EdWeek's Liana Heitin:

 
 A new group billing itself as a “Consumer Reports for school materials” will soon begin posting free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards—an effort, some say, that has the potential to shake up the market.
 

The report goes on to describe the "review" process:


The nonprofit organization, called EdReports.org, has gathered a team of 19 educators, about half of whom are classroom teachers, to conduct extensive reviews of yearlong instructional series. The team will start with 21 series for K-8 mathematics and eventually move on to secondary math and K-12 English/language arts curricula. For the first round of reviews, likely to be published early next year, the group selected some of the most commonly used materials: print products that had at least 10 percent of the market share and print and digital materials that had been recommended by at least two states’ review processes[this is where John White enters the game with his recommendation of Eureka Math and Core Knowledge both of which had ZERO market share prior to CCSS - do you get my drift?]
 
The 19-member review team for EdReports.org includes educators who have worked for or with Student Achievement Partners, a group co-founded by several lead writers of the common core; the teacher-training organization Math for America; the Illustrative Mathematics Project, led by common-core writer William McCallum; and EQuIP.
 
Each instructional series will be evaluated by at least three reviewers, and the results will be presented to the other 16 team members.
 
Funding for the project comes from [none other than -] the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—which also was a major financial backer for the development of the common core—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
 
 
What's wrong with this picture?   If the previous excerpts aren't enough evidence to convince you that the reviews are BOGUS, read the entire article - it gets worse!
 
But back to John White:
 
 Lynne Munson, the president and executive director of Common Core, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that publishes the Eureka Math curricula, said she is “extremely excited” to have her materials to be among the first reviewed by EdReports.org. “We’ve been awaiting opportunities like this and are going to do what we can to provide whatever they need” for the reviews, she said. “We’re confident in the quality of our work.” Eureka Math was the only math curriculum to be awarded the highest possible rating by the Louisiana education department.

So let's compare the Louisiana education department's meticulous review process to the one proposed by Edreports.org. 

As fate would have it, when I attended a committee meeting at the Department of Education in Baton Rouge, I sat next to a Curriculum Director from another school district.  Unlike the Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum in my district, this administrator was well informed about all he shenanigans going on at LDE.  She shared this with me and it was the catalyst for my research to write this blog:
 
In answer to the textbook evaluation process – at the Louisiana Association of Parish  Textbook Administrators (LAPTA) in December of 2013, Jackie Bobbett, Marcie Coupel, and Brenda Nevels (all three have handled textbook state adoptions for a number of years) told those present (supervisors and bookmen) at the meeting in answer to the question “Who evaluates the materials in order to determine whether they make Tier 1,2, or 3?”:
For each set of materials, a team of TWO Teacher Leaders selected from a Cadre’ of Teacher leaders decides whether the materials are Tier 1-Are completely aligned to CCSS, Tier 2-Are partially aligned to CCSS or Tier 3-Are not aligned to CCSS.
 
We questioned them about credentials of the two Teachers Leaders as to experience with the subject area or grade level.  We were told they just had to be Teacher Leaders from the Cadre’.
 
The process by which the 2,000 “Teacher Leaders” were selected In the spring and summer of 2013 was lax to say the least.  No vita or resume’ was required, just a registration to the conference (that is, if the school system didn’t take control of the process).  The same process was in place to double the numbers (4,000) in June of 2014.

First of all, what evaluation rubric did John White use in his evaluation of instructional materials which resulted in a TIER 1, 2 or 3 evaluation?

The reviewers, who were chosen from a group of White's Teacher Leader Advisors,  used rubrics that were conveniently provided by the Revised Publishers’ Criteria developed by Student Achievement Partners. If that name doesn't sound familiar, it's the organization co-founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel which developed the Common Core State Standards.

Wouldn't you, as a reasonable person, surmise that having the developers of CCSS develop the criteria for evaluation instructional materials to be used to teach CCSS is somewhat of a conflict of interest? 

More Evidence that John White is promoting Eureka Curriculum and it is costing taxpayers money. 



But with everyone claiming to be “CCSS-aligned,” how do we separate the strong from the weak — those that are truly CCSS-based and those that aren’t? Fortunately, because the stakes are so high, a number of well-regarded organizations have begun thoughtful work in this area.
Reliable tools that evaluate CCSS alignment now exist. I recommend consulting the Toolkit for Evaluating Alignment of Instructional and Assessment Materials to the Common Core State Standards, developed by Achieve, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Student Achievement Partners (the authors of the CCSS). Deeply rooted in the standards and the publishers’ criteria (seminally important resources for anyone serious about this work), the toolkit contains different instruments currently being used to evaluate materials and to showcase exemplary curriculum.
The Louisiana Department of Education is using one of these tools to review and rate curricula. Our organization’s Eureka Math curricula is fortunate to have received a Tier I rating by the state agency. And both Achieve and Student Achievement Partners have posted Eureka Math modules as exemplars on their websites, using one of the other tools making up the EQuIP Rubric tool-kit (formerly known as the Tri-State Rubric) as their guide.

But hey, let's not jump to conclusions here.  Let's look first at the rubric.  As you can see, it's so simple that one does not even need a K-12 educator, much less an educator certified in the subject area or grade level,  to use it (improperly).   The rubric stipulates the criteria and then the evaluator simply has to check MEETS or DOES NOT MEET

To be fair, the IMET (Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool) instructions do stipulate the following:
 
Who Uses the IMET?
Evaluating instructional materials requires both subject-matter and pedagogical expertise. Evaluators should be well versed in the Standards (www.corestandards.org/Math) for all grades in which materials are being evaluated. This includes understanding the Major Work of the grade (www.achievethecore/focus), the Supporting and Additional work, how the content fits into the progressions in the Standards (www.achievethecore.org/progressions), and the expectations of the Standards with respect to conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. Evaluators also should be familiar with the substantial instructional Shifts (http:// www.corestandards.org/other-resources/key-shifts-in-mathematics/) of Focus, Coherence and Rigor that are listed above.

So in the interest of transparency, I filed a public information request with the Louisiana Department of Education (because LDE is NOT transparent) asking for the names of the Teacher Leader Advisor Evaluators and any training materials used along with the fees paid to these teachers.  The response I received from LDE did not include the credentials of the Teacher Leader Advisors, so I determined to ascertain for myself using the TeachLouisiana.net website where one can verify the credentials of all Louisiana certified teachers. 

In the interest of fairness, I used the names as provided by LDE, so it is possible that the two names for which I found no certification records were not accurately provided to me.  I also do not lay blame on any of these evaluators who I will give the benefit of the doubt that they did not understand that they were being used to promote John White's BOGUS evaluation process!  If any of these evaluators have any corrections or would like to make a statement, I will be glad to publish it here.  My purpose here is to show you that these teachers were not qualified to perform these textbook evaluations for ELA and Math.    


I am next going to write about the Louisiana Textbook Adoption process, both the legal one and the one that John White used last year.  A publisher's representative called me recently and has provided me with some insight on that.  I'm also going to write about the Tier 1 ELA instructional materials that John White chose - Core Knowledge - and White's connection with its developer, Amplify, and New York's Joel Kline. 

Please excuse the empty space below.  I cannot figure out how to eliminate it.
 


 















 
 




 
TEACHER LEADER ADVISORS 
INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS REVIEW WORKGROUP
ParishFname  Lname Contract Amount 
LincolnAquanetta Archangel $2,275 MIDDLE SCHOOL: MATHEMATICS 4-8 - 6/10/2009


 
AscensionBryan              Bertucci$1,120
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006
SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 6/13/2006
VOCAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006


 
EBRBrittanyBush$1,000 ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5COMPLETED ALTERNATIVE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM, NEW TEACHER PROJECT, 2008
 
OrleansWendyDeMers$1,720No Certification Found

 
LafayetteAmyDeslattes$1,720ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/19/1998

 
OrleansKatieDunn$1,720

No Certification Found


 
CalcasieuConnieHarper$1,900

ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/8/1994

 
VernonJeromeHenson $                        


*Not under contract
PROVISIONAL PRINCIPAL - 3/23/2006
SEVERE/PROFOUND (1-12) - 3/5/2001
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/16/1996
LOWER ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-4 - 2/16/1996
OuachitaJessicaHunter                               $2,275

SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 3/3/2008
MATHEMATICS 6-12 - 2/21/2008

 
JeffersonChristinaJohnson $1,720
ACADEMICALLY GIFTED - 6/22/2012
ENGLISH 6-12 - 9/11/2008

 
LafayetteLaciManiscalco $1,720 ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 6/27/2005


 
CaddoKristinaMorris$2,275ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 3/22/2012

 
Jefferson DavisRoryMyers$1,900


(ALT2) Completed 240 hours of leadership experiences for certification., 7/29/2014
(557) READING SPECIALIST (1-12), Grade(s):1-12, 6/21/2012
(111) ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8, Grade(s):1-8, 3/23/1995
(107) LOWER ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-4, Grade(s):1-4, 12/29/1994
(165) UPPER ELEMENTARY: MATHEMATICS, Grade(s):5-8, 12/29/1994


 
West FelicianaSharonNecaise$1,120*Contract ended early
ENGLISH 6-12 - 8/28/1997
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 5/22/2000

 
St. CharlesStacyNeighbors$1,720
                   
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP-LEVEL 1 - 9/16/2009
ENGLISH 6-12 - 1/23/2004
EXTENDED FOR 5 YEARS - 8/27/2014



 
LivingstonKarenParrino$1,120NBCT
TEACHER LEADER - 9/27/2012
KINDERGARTEN - 8/1/2001
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 1/24/1990
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 9/27/2012


 
CalcasieuKaciePugh$1,900
READING SPECIALIST (1-12) - 6/18/2012
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 6/4/2009
LafourcheCherylSoley $1,720




ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/19/1992
KINDERGARTEN - 2/19/1992





 
OuachitaIreneTivet $2,275 NBCT 2007
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY FACILITATOR - 5/11/2010
TEACHER LEADER - 5/11/2010
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 3/20/2000
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 5/11/2010


 
CalcasieuMalloryWall-Padgett $1,720
(392) SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(394) SPEECH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(374) ENGLISH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011


 
TangipahoaTamaraWhittington  $1,720           
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 10/29/2001
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 4/8/2005





 
CaddoNancyYoder$2,275               No Certification Found  

What Every Parent and Teacher Should Know About High Stakes Standardized Testing

WHAT EVERY PARENT AND TEACHER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTING

1.  NO standardized test should be used for HIGH STAKES purposes (pass/fail, teacher evaluation, funding) because a HIGH STAKES test MUST BE closely aligned with the curriculum (teacher tests what she teaches).  When every school or every districtdesign their own curricula, there CANNOT BE ALIGNMENT.  http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OCR/archives/testing/introduction.html#40

2.  HIGH STAKES standardized tests are called "secure" tests which means that NOBODY can see them.  Teachers and parents are not allowed to see the test before or after grading.  This raises questions of errors and curriculum alignment.  Companies who create the tests also grade the tests.  Mistakes by Pearson, creator of PARCC, are documented and crucial to children, teacher and schools being held accountable.

3.  Parents MUST demand to see their child's graded tests.  Parents should NEVER allow their students to receive a grade on ANYTHING that they do not review.  A new state law requires teachers/schools to provide ALL instructional materials to parents upon request with only SECURE TESTS being an exception.  This is NOT acceptable! The only way to eliminate this problem and produce a meaningful assessment is to remove the high stakes value.  This must be done through legislation.http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=913599&n=HB1199%20Act%20436

3.  Teachers and students are required to sign an affidavit that they will not discuss anything on the test to anybody. Here is one of the lines of the STUDENT OATH: I understand that I may receive a zero on this test if Idiscuss the test questions at any time with anyone. Educators should NEVER tell students they must not share information with their parents!  What are the consequences? Students cannot be held legally accountable!  Parents SHOULD inform their schools that their children ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SIGN THIS AFFIDAVIT! There is little to no value in a test that is not used to inform instruction. 

4.  Not every state uses their standardized tests for HIGH STAKES accountability. HIGH STAKES are not only NOT REQUIRED by U.S.ED, they warn against it. (See above link)  Applying high stakes makes accountability PUNITIVE rather than CONSTRUCTIVE.  We need a system of constructive accountability!

5.  Did you know that our standardized test scores and School Performance Scores are controlled by Supt. John White?  He sets the CUT SCORES and the SPS formula and CHANGES THEM REGULARLY!  Doesn't this make the use of accountability for FUNDING using taxpayer dollars ILLEGAL?   http://louisianaeducator.blogspot.com/2014/08/leap-scores-manipulated.html
  
6.  Did you know that your children’s test scores are used to evaluate a teacher and determine whether she will be fired and lose her Louisiana Certification?  No Child should have that responsibility! The evaluation system is called COMPASShttp://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=793654


Follow these two St. Tammany Parish Teachers against the Common Core Initiative for more information -


Dr. Mercedes Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education 

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT  Retired 
BESE Candidate District 1, 2015 – Elect an Educator 
http://geauxteacher.net



A Horse Named Common Core



An update on the state of the Common Core Initiative (Standards, Curriculum, PARCC, high stakes, data collection, technology overload, phony school performance scores, Teacher Bleeders, standardization, educator denigrator, bogus textbook evaluation, testing, testing, testing. . . . ) -

As a former horse trainer I can tell you that there is only one thing more useless than a dead race horse and that is a lame racehorse. 

This horse named Common Core was lame when it left the gate, it has become more painful as it comes around the stretch and it will never make it to the finish line.  It is time to put it out of its misery.  

I remember my first experience watching a horse being put down.  It was a twenty-year-old 16+ hand quarter horse who, because he was being treated with steroids for his failing kidneys, strutted around like a stallion as we walked him to the back of the property.   The farm manager was leaning up against the bulldozer waiting to finish his "job."  I was holding the lead rope when the Vet warned me to stand back because the horse would drop as soon as the syringe was emptied.  

Sure enough, BOOM!, down he went.  My immediate reaction was to burst out in tears - so alive one minute but gone so quickly.  The young Vet was at a loss for words, but the farm manager's response was, "Well I just wish you could have gotten him a little closer to the hole."  

That's where I hope to see this lame horse Common Core very soon - close enough to the hole that one last swift kick will tip it over the edge.  I plan to be there with my best pair of boots on!  

Has Accountability Become a Victim of Testing or has Testing Become a Victim of Accountability?

Please read this "Washington Post"  article about Pearson Publishing Company and its tests. 
 
I am sorry to admit that the teacher use of prepared publisher tests along with easy-to-grade bubble sheets is all too prevalent and has been since NCLB and the standardization mania.  Assessments are an important tool for teaching and certainly as important as a tool for learning for students.  But testing has become a victim of accountability and accountability has become a victim of testing.   The public has been convinced that a test, even a BAD test, can measure anything.
 
Do not think that the adoption of ANY curriculum/textbook whether it received a bogus evaluation by John White or not will solve the problems of Common Core.  Our best hope is in our teachers.  QUALITY professional development by QUALIFIED educators whose butts have not become petrified by sitting in central office has always been an essential component of QUALITY education.  
 
The following anecdote is an unfortunate result of testing, testing, testing and the great white hope of standardization.  Teachers can't even look at the high stakes tests they administer much less create them? 
 
 
October 8
Sarah Blaine is a mother, former teacher and full-time practicing attorney in New Jersey who writes at her own parentingthecore blog.  Early this year, I published a post of hers under the headline, “You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong,” that was extremely popular with readers. Here’s a new post by Blaine from her blog about what happened when her fourth-grade child came home with some school work — and why it affects far more than her family.

By Sarah Blaine

Last Friday morning, my fourth grader handed me her “Thursday folder” shortly before we needed to head to the bus stop. I was glad to see a perfect spelling test, and a bunch of excellent math assignments and math tests. Time was short, however, so I flipped to the wrong answers. And sprinkled among the math tests, I came across two wrong answers that caused me concern.
The first problem was this:

Now, I looked at this problem before I’d had my morning coffee, and I wasn’t sure at first that I wasn’t just missing something. So I posted this picture to my Facebook feed, and asked my friends to confirm that I wasn’t crazy.

But my daughter was right: if Curtis walked three miles a day for 26 weeks, Curtis did in fact walk 546 miles.

3 miles/day x 7 days/week = 21 miles/week
21 miles/week x 26 weeks = 546 miles

I double, triple, and quadruple checked myself.  I pulled out a calculator.

My friends agreed: my initial reaction to this question wasn’t nuts. My daughter’s answer was correct. And they came up with some good theories for why the answer might have been marked wrong.
Perhaps the teacher was trying to teach children, especially girls, to be confident in their answers, and she’d been marked wrong due to the question mark.
Perhaps she’d been marked wrong because she failed to indicate the units.
Perhaps she’d been marked wrong because she hadn’t provided every step of her work (i.e., she’d figured out the first step (3 miles/day x 7 days/week = 21 miles/week) in her head, and therefore had paid what one of my friends memorably described as a “smart kid penalty.”
 
But they were all wrong.

My daughter is fortunate enough to attend an excellent public school and her responsive teacher both sent a note home and called me that afternoon to discuss (I’d scribbled a quick note asking what the deal was along with my required signature on the front of the paper).

It turned out that my daughter had been marked wrong for a very simple reason: the Pearson answer key was wrong.

Let me say that again: Pearson was wrong.

Pearson listed some totally different — and wrong — number as the answer. The teacher had missed it when reviewing the test with the morning class, but in the afternoon class she’d realized the problem. My daughter’s teacher apologized for forgetting to mention it again to the morning class (and for not having previously changed their grades, but to be honest, I really could not care less if my kid scored a 95 percent or 100 percent on a 4th grade in-class math test).

In the olden days, I’d have laughed it off. Once in awhile, the textbook publisher screws up. In the olden days, that screw up was no big deal: it is mildly annoying to those of us who pay the taxes to buy the books, but it’s a pretty minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.
However, these are not the olden days. The are the days of high-stakes testing. These are the days in which our kids’ high school graduations hinge on tests created by the very same company — Pearson – that messed up the answer to this question.

Tests we parents will never get to see.
Tests we parents will never get to review.
Tests we parents will never get to question.

So Pearson’s mistake on its fourth-grade answer key doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Presumably, before the enVisions curriculum was published, Pearson checked and rechecked it. Presumably, its editors were well-paid to review problems and answer keys.

After all, Pearson itself describes this math curriculum as:
Written specifically to address the Common Core State Standards, enVisionMATH Common Core is based on critical foundational research and proven classroom results.
And yet… it was still dead wrong.

It seems that all of Pearson’s critical foundational research and proven classroom results in the world couldn’t get the question 3 x 7 x 26 correct.

To the uninitiated, I bet I sound nuts.  Who cares, right?  It’s just a question on a math test.  But if we are going to trust this company to get it right on high-stakes tests (where there is no public accountability), then the company better get it right all the time when it is operating within the public eye.  So this isn’t just about a fourth grade math test.  It’s all of the other Pearson-created tests my daughter is scheduled to take: in particular, the new Common Core PARCC tests this spring, which are the ones that come with no public review, and no public accountability.

Here, the test came home in my daughter’s backpack. As a result, there was an opportunity for public review and public accountability because I could review the test and question the wrong answer. The teacher could check the question and realize that the book was wrong, and substitute her own professional judgment for that of the textbook publisher.

And most importantly, the mistake was not a big deal, because the outcome of this test would not determine my daughter’s placement into an advanced math class or a particular school or even prevent her from graduating from the fourth grade. The outcome of this test would not determine her teacher’s future salary or employment. This test was nothing more than the kind of test our nine and ten year olds should be taking: a fourth grade in-class, teacher-graded chapter test. At most, this test will determine a small portion of my daughter’s report card grade.

But what about those tests that Pearson will be administering to our students this spring? We won’t be able to review the test questions, the answer keys, or our children’s answer sheets. We won’t be able to catch Pearson’s mistakes.

This spring, even if the answer really is 546 miles, Pearson will be able to write that Curtis traveled 1024 miles, or 678 miles, or 235 miles, or any other distance it wants. And we’ll never know that our kids weren’t wrong: Pearson was. But our kids’ futures — and their teachers’ careers — will be riding on the outcomes of those tests.

There has to be a better way.

In a low-stakes world, Pearson’s screw up was a low-stakes mistake. But now we’re forcing our kids — our eight, nine, and ten year olds — to live in a high-stakes world.

And in a high-stakes world, Pearson’s screw ups are high-stakes. So shame on you, Pearson, for undermining my daughter’s hard-earned (and easily eroded) math confidence with your careless error. I will parent my kid so that she learns not to second-guess herself with question marks after her answers.

But Pearson, I will be second-guessing you. As publicly as possible.

Here is a follow-up to this post, with Pearson apologizing to Sarah Blaine.

Here’s the author’s first post on The Answer Sheet, “You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.”

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Here is a reader's comment that is quite relevant:

lindentreeislander
9:13 AM CDT
 
 
I've looked at the sample Common Core language arts and math tests for 3rd graders. The language arts test was filled with reading passages followed by questions and multiple choice answers about those passages. I found many of the so-called "right" answers to be either plain errors or arguably not the best answer. In other cases, the information given in the passage was not sufficient to know or infer any answer to the question. Frankly, the language arts test seemed to have been made up by computer (IT) specialusts or statisticians who just are not highly intelligent at using spoken/written language. They are instead pretty smart at producing collections of test questions that will yield a "normal" distribution of scores, a "hill" on a graph. I would have scored poorly, and this was the third grade test!  
 
As far as the math test, I only gave it a cursory look but it seemed to me to require conceptual thinking beyond the reach of many children in the 3rd grade (above the level of the simple arithmetic problem discussed in this column). If it additionally contains frank errors, or suffers from so-called "right" or "best" answers that really are arguable, the potential harm to the confidence of children and to their school trajectories is considerable. (Arguable answers can exist in math questions about a hypothetical real-life situation described in a reading passage if the passage is subject to more than one interpretation or if insufficient information is given.) 
 
What I looked at were only sample tests put out by the company. Not only are parents prevented from seeing the actual tests and answer keys. Teachers and principals are not allowed to see them either! They are proprietary tests owned by a corporation and do not belong to the school district. How convenient that no review of the corporation's product is permitted.
 

 

 

 

Standards vs. Standardization

From Dr. Deborah Meier (Early Childhood Specialist) on the broad picture. The question is:  And Why Can't We?  The answer is:  The current privatization agenda based on an agenda that removes democratic local control of public education.  

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2014/10/deb_meier_common_core.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=bridgingdifferences

We Need Standards Without Standardizing


Deborah Meier writes to Leo Casey of the Albert Shanker Institute again today.
Dear Leo,
When discussing local vs. national it depends, doesn't it, on whether we like the one vs. the other at any particular time.  But we can, it's true turn it into a principle or we can weigh each compromise separately.  But then, there IS the Constitution. The argument for school desegregation and the many civil rights struggles we've engaged in was, in fact, that racism was  unconstitutional.  Furthermore, as we rediscovered, legal fights only get us so far.  In the end we depend on persuading the locals.  Laws can only take us so far--obeying laws depends largely on a kind of consensus that the laws make sense, that they are morally correct.   
So, then the question is: can you persuade me that the Common Core State Standards are a tool for preparing people for living and nourishing and furthering the democratic ideal?  Mandating it certainly goes against the Constitution—as do most of the recent ed reforms—including charters and testing.  They are not merely federal suggestions. They were initiated from the top, are funded from the top, come with penalties from the top, etc.  And they are mandates in terms of both pedagogy and curriculum (hard as these are to separate).
I wrote about this in the abstract some years ago.  I think I made a good case for schools having standards—explicit and clear—without standardizing. We need, above all, to preserve the intellectual room for teachers and communities to learn from their own experience and to venture down different paths.  (See my book Will Standards Save Public Education?, with responses from Jonathon Kozol, Abigail Thernstrom, Bob Chase, Gary Nash, Linda Nathan, Richard Murnane, William Ayers, and Ted Sizer.)
Even if I was persuaded about "close textual reading," I wouldn't want to impose it.  As it happens, I don't agree.  Learning to "scan" (read fast) is probably more important to a good education in my opinion, even though there are times for close textual reading!  But not until AFTER we have caught the readers' bug.  Knowing how to do something hardly competes with the habit of doing so, which in turn rests on catching the spirit.  The capacity to open up new worlds, new possibilities, and new "what ifs" is what keeps me up late reading. Only then should we introduce the careful skeptical reading of text for its nuances, deceptions, etc
These are matters worth arguing about, but not mandating on a district, state, or national level. Ditto for one or another forms of learning to read.  Even if "systematic phonics" was useful to 60 percent (a majority), it's certainly demonstrably true that other methods work as well or better for 40 percent—and far more efficiently. This is where "majority wins" doesn't fit.  Why undermine the most natural and simple way to learn to read just because some need a more linear, step-by-step approach?  Actually, I think there's a curve—with systemic phonics at one end and "natural" whole language at the other and lots of in-between. What we need are classrooms where sensitive teachers can encourage all these differences. (Which in turn suggests the advantage of very small class sizes, of the kind rich people and schools think ordinary.)
Ditto re. the search for the one best way to teach math—grade by grade, etc.
If the "common core" were merely one of several suggested curricula I'd be quite content. Our textbooks have been giving us this for a century or more!  We needn't all reinvent the wheel.  But to decide that all 1st grades should be teaching this or that part of world history or natural science is nonsense and doesn't pick up on the special passions of teachers or their students or on work that flows from what's happening in the world or in their own backyard. We studied snails at Mission Hill for several years (Stephen Jay Gould studied them his whole life) because there happened to be a plague of snails in our yard that year. All K-12ers spent the year of presidential elections studying the federal system and following all the logic behind electoral votes, big states vs. small states, and particular campaign issues. We started this curriculum the spring before and did a lot of statistical analysis at each stage.
I'm sure, Leo, that you are not happy with the high-stakes nature of the current common-core campaign—with all the built-in racial and class bias involved in any system of ranking. So I assume you have a pro-common core, but ... approach?  I don't think anyone will ever confuse us with the Tea Party. After all, I'm for individual liberty, even though it's at the top of the conservative and Tea Party list of virtues.  I'm against stifling bureaucracies, even though so was Ayn Rand.  Our opposition to high-stakes standardized testing long precedes the Tea Party's existence.  We on the left have too often abandoned lofty slogans because they had been captured by the right. Rather, we need to contest the meaning of standards, liberty, and individualism—not abandon them.  
What we need to rest our "bottom line" on is the critical importance of elevating human judgment, providing the tools for celebrating it rather than denigrating it.  Agreeing, in short, to disagree. That surely means that teachers' and parents' judgment must be respected, but not subserviently. We need intellectually rebellious students, as well as intellectually clear-headed and knowledgeable teachers. Teaching "to" a prefabricated curriculum—whether in math or history or science or literature—and thus also to the test that comes along with it cannot lead to the kind of feistiness that a good school should be an exemplar of. Yes, there should be public exposure, both within the school and through various forms of external visitation. But aside from fiscal integrity, health, safety, and civil rights, we should be reluctant to intervene—if the school really can demonstrate that they operate on a democratic basis. (Maybe we could fund long-term local research on outcomes, designed to meet each community's goals, with maybe a half-dozen common queries?)
It's up to all of us to develop alternative options alongside criteria for what a democratic school and district or network "looks like." Let's put our heads together, roughly drafting these.  (FairTest and the NYC Coalition have some great ideas to borrow from.)  You first.
Deb