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 

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.”

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

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.  


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.

Colorado Teacher Opts Out of Administering PARCC

Parents and teachers must at some point recognize that the only way to regain local control of education may be to JUST SAY NO!   In Louisiana there is no special provision for parents or teachers to opt out of our high stakes standardized test.  That means that opting out would be a true test of the power of our constitution and whether or not our legislators are willing to support the concept that one high stakes standardized test is a valid and reliable measure of a student's learning.  

Peg Robertson is a teacher who recently announced she will refuse to administer the PARCC test to her students in Aurora, Colorado.  See her announcement below as printed in The Washington Post.

Peg is also the administrator for the organization United Opt Out. You can read more about the Opt Out movement in other states here: http://unitedoptout.com/

Since Peg made her announcement she heard from many teachers.  Here is a response she sent to me today. 

Peg with Pen

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 04:51 PM PDT
I am getting many requests from teachers who are privately asking me, how do we move forward to refuse to administer high stakes tests? How do support opt out? What can we do? How can we resist?

Teachers across this nation are recognizing that we are at the tipping point. It's now or never - which is why I refused to administer the PARCC. I have nothing left to lose - I believe that if we don't fight back now - and fight back hard - our profession will be gone in ten years. But please remember, refusing to administer the PARCC is only one strategy. And it could be a great strategy for retiring teachers or teachers simply willing to take that risk. However, there are many tactics - and each of us have to find what works for us. My blog on Resisting from Within might be useful to my fellow teachers in the trenches. 

Also, our (UOO's) Call for Support from the Unions at our website, www.unitedoptout.com, might be a post that teachers could pass along to their locals. Florida has already taken action - in great contrast to Colorado where CEA discouraged teachers from sharing opt out information directly. All of us here in Colorado will continue to push forward  - you can count on that :)

If you are working in a state in which your local and state are not supporting your efforts to take action to save public schools, I recommend forming a caucus. The caucus we created here in Colorado is an informal caucus, so we are not required to jump through any hoops. See here: co.rave.org. If you are interested in learning more about our caucus and how we created it, please join our FB page and we will be happy to help. 

Next, I recommend finding ways to educate teachers. Educate. Educate. Educate. My local, Aurora Education Association,  asked me to write an article for our last newsletter. Here is the article. Feel free to take it and use it however it might support your efforts: 

This year is a big year for public education.  Our students will be required to take the PARCC test, a test that is predicted to fail 70% of our students.  I have grave concerns about this test and the ultimate harm it will cause for our children, our profession, our schools and our communities. It is clear that this test will increase the speed with which our public schools are being privatized.  PARCC is not just any test – it is a test that was specifically designed to test our national Common Core standards, in order to streamline dataefficiently, while allowing profiteers to cash in on the 800 billion dollar K-12market .

When we look at the big picture - the historybehind the Common Core standards, the developmentally inappropriatenessof the Common Core standards, the fact that the standards are copyrighted, and finally, the fact that these standardswere not created using a democratic process, we must question -whose interests are being met by the implementation of these standards?  We must questionthis as we watch our schools become immersed in new CC curriculum, testing and technology for testing.

As a teacher, first, I must do no harm. I believe this test will be harmful– and especially harmful to children who live in poverty, children with exceptional needs, children who have anxiety, depression, children who are hungry, sick, and tired.  I believe that it is ethically wrong to administer this test.  As a result, I have refused to administer the PARCC and I will continue to support parents as they refuse to allow their children to take these high stakes tests.  I am thankful to have AEA standing by my side as I take this risk.  It is time to create a larger conversation – as educators  – about what we know is best for children.  We should be leading this conversation.  It is time to take action.

I hope this helps. I felt a need to post this in an effort to respond to the many teacher emails I am receiving. Solidarity to all of you. 

And onward we push,

Colorado teacher: ‘I refuse to administer the PARCC’ Common Core test to my students

Peggy Robertson is an educator in Aurora, Colo., who has been a sharp critic of high-stakes standardized testing. Robertson, a teacher and literacy coach, has taught in elementary schools in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, and spent several years training teacher leaders and administrators in educational theory and practice. She is a co-founder of United Opt Out, a national organization advocating for the rights of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests and against the privatization of public education. She blogs at pegwithpen.com as well as at www.corave.org, where a version of this post appeared.

In this post, Robertson explains why she has decided to refuse to administer what is known as the PARCC test, a Common Core-aligned test being designed by one of two multi-state consortia that are working with $360 million in federal funds to create new standardized exams. PARCC refers to the official name of the consortium, which is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Robertson is one of a small but seemingly growing number of teachers who have decided to refuse to administer standardized tests to their students and who have come out publicly explaining why. A Florida teacher recently wrote a letter posted on Facebook to the parents of her students explaining why she was refusing to give a particular test to her kindergarteners, and a few days later, the Florida Education Department suspended the test (although it didn’t mention the teacher in its announcement).

It is risky for teachers to refuse to administer a mandated test; they can lose their jobs. But some are doing it anyway as a protest against the number and importance of standardized tests in today’s education reform.
Here is Robertson’s letter  addressed to the “citizens of Colorado.”
Citizens of Colorado, I address this letter to you, because you are my community, my people. You have the power to shift the momentum in our public schools, where our students are increasingly being taught to the test under the intense high-stakes conditions created via Race to the Top.

Meanwhile, child poverty is ignored. I send this letter to you because I have made attempts to have a dialogue with the decision-makers. I have spoken with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, I have written to President Obama, and I have spoken in front of the Colorado Legislative Education Committee, all to no avail. So, I address this letter to you, in the hopes that my words and my actions will create momentum across our beautiful state for the children of  Colorado.  Thank you.
 Dear Citizens of Colorado,

I am a teacher in the Aurora Public School District. I am writing to let you know that I will be refusing to administer the PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year. I do not stand alone in my refusal of this high-stakes test. I join the ranks of educators across the country who are fighting back against policies and mandates that ultimately harm our children and destroy our children’s opportunities to become confident, active, problem solving citizens.

I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools. I have watched what it has done to my ability to meet children’s needs and to allow children the opportunities to engage in learning that is authentic – learning that furthers the purpose of these children’s lives. This year, in particular, I am watching an onslaught of Common Core curriculum infiltrate our schools, along with additional tests and test prep to add to the test load which permeates every minute of every school day.  I hear again and again that I should find the “good” in this curriculum and make the best of it. I am a literacy coach, therefore, I work with many teachers and children in our building. I believe our children deserve better than simply, my ability to find the “good” in this Common Core test prep curriculum. I believe our children deserve what President Obama’s children have at Sidwell [Friends School in Washington D.C.], where teachers have autonomy to teach without scripted Common Core curriculum and common core high stakes testing.  I take objection to the fact that our children are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment to implement standards which were never field tested, are copyrighted, were not created using a democratic process, and were not created with the serious input of classroom teachers. Furthermore, the Common Core standards have placed unrealistic expectations on our youngest learners, many who now view themselves as failures because they are unable to meet the developmentally inappropriate expectations set by the Common Core standards.

I also refuse to administer the PARCC because I believe that participation in such testing gives the test credibility – of which it has none. The PARCC test was designed to assess the Common Core standards, which are not grounded in research, nor are they internationally benchmarked. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Common Core standards, Common Core curriculum and Common Core testing, will in any way close the achievement gap. It will do the opposite. By funneling all of our tax dollars to corporations for curriculum, tests and technology to implement the test, we have ignored the elephant standing in the middle of the room – the number of homeless school children in Colorado, which has more than tripled in the last decade.  The poverty rate of black children stands at approximately 40 percent while the poverty rate of  Latino children is approximately 30 percent. Colorado also has the third fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the nation. We know quite clearly that children who have quality nutrition, healthcare, as well as access to books via libraries with certified librarians, and all the other resources provided to children in particular zip codes, actually, have done quite well on standardized tests in the past. Yet, we continue to ignore this fact, and we continue to feed our children living in poverty only tests. In order to pay for these tests, technology, and curriculum, we strip our schools of much needed resources such as books, small class size, librarians, nurses, counselors and more. Closing the achievement gap requires closing the resource gap.

As we consider closing the achievement gap, it’s important to recognize that New York has administered Common Core tests two years in a row, both years resulting in approximately a 70 percent failure rate state-wide. Our achievement gap is increasing. And we continue to funnel our money away from the schools and directly into the pockets of profiteers.

I am responsible for making pedagogical decisions to support the learning of students and adult learners on a daily basis; the state and federal mandates currently in place hamper my ability to do what is best for learners. There are better ways to assess children. Currently, the assessments being used assess only narrow learning, derived through continual test prep in our classrooms. They assess what matters least, and such learning will not create innovative thinkers or citizens who can salvage our democracy.

I believe that refusing PARCC is the first step in taking down the Common Core boondoggle … and in saving our profession, which is being hijacked in numerous ways by those who know a lot about increasing profit, but who know nothing about teaching children.

Our children are not gaining from the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing; instead, I see corporations profiting immensely, along with politicians and various other individuals who have jumped on the Common Core train. The link between the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing is inextricable…. Public education is the new cash cow; privatization is the end goal. We must begin to take down this profit machine by beginning with the data the corporations so dearly love. No data. No profit. I will not hand over Colorado’s children (and their data) to the corporations via federal mandates.

I encourage everyone who stands with me to sign in the comment section below. I also encourage everyone to share the letter with national and state leaders.  However, I do not believe that change will come from the top, which is why I have addressed this letter to you, the citizens of Colorado. We must be the change.  Sometimes change requires risk.

I must do right by the children of Colorado and the teachers of Colorado, therefore, I refuse to administer the PARCC.
Peggy Robertson
Public School Teacher
Aurora, Colorado

Message to Sen. Landrieu From Louisiana Educator

My own conversations with Sen. Landrieu - note that her responses were written by her staff assistant MB who is probably the same Teach For America grad I spoke with when I visited Sen. Landrieu's office in Washington DC.  

Senator Landrieu - 

Thank you to responding to my concerns regarding the adoption of Common Core Standards by our Republican Governor Jindal.

  Since Governor Jindal brought our highly UNqualified  Superintendent John White into Louisiana, both Democrats and Republicans have seen firsthand how so-called education reform, which is in fact a corporate elitist privatization of our public school system, has successfully removed public voice, de-professionalized the Profession of teaching, and destroyed any respect or trust parents and educators have in this top-down managerial system.

It is unfortunate that Arne Duncan, supported by President Obama, has used his powerful and well-funded position to bribe and coerce cash-strapped school districts into accepting reforms that spoke of promises to bring equity and excellence for our children.  They have had the opposite effect.  Now, due to the standardization of every aspect of education, the achievement gap is widening and our most vulnerable children are suffering under the guise of Choice.  

As the effects of the new Common Core Standardization have rolled out of the school house door and onto the kitchen tables of homes where parents are frustrated and infuriated by tmaterials with which their children are being provided, the public has become vividly aware that the rhetoric of reform does not match the reality. Republicans and Democrats alike have actually joined together to make their concerns and voices heard.  Both Republican and Democratic legislators have responded to our concerns and now realize that the warnings of educators nationwide, like me, have substance.   

Your absence and lack of participation at the local level have distanced you from the struggles we have been engaged in at the state level.  You are heavily influenced by the powerful and wealthy lobbyists for organizations like Teach For America, Gates Foundation and, most prominently, proponents hiding behind the alluring names of non-profits like Stand For Children and BAEO.  Their representatives gain access to you in Washington while those of us who wield no such financial power cannot get an audience with you either there or here in our beloved state.  

Our voices are now being heard by state legislators from both sides of the hall.  Conservative and liberal parents, educators and concerned citizens have joined together to expose the destruction that phoney Choice, competition and high stakes standardized testing have brought to our schools and our children.  I ask that you listen intently as you bring your campaign message to your constituency here in Louisiana.  None of us has the money to buy your attention but collectively we have the votes to send our message that we will not stand by and see the Democratic foundation of our public school system crumble. 

I encourage you and implore you to meet with us on your next visit to Louisiana.  We are NOT ill-informed.  My visits to Washington have proven to be fruitless and expensive. 

Sincerely -  A Democrat from St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

April 16, 2014

Dear Lee:
In the mid-2000s, there was a considerable grassroots effort led by teachers and experts from across the nation, the National Governor's Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and forty-nine states and territories to adjust high school standards aimed at making high school graduates more prepared to enter the workforce or attend college. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) developed as a result of these discussions and have been voluntarily adopted as college-and career-ready standards by forty-five states. These standards were adopted by the State of Louisiana under the Administration of Governor Jindal in 2010.
The CCSS do not prescribe a national curriculum; rather, they lay out explicit academic goals that students should meet in order to be successful in today's career and college environments. They have been supported by business leaders across Louisiana, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. In no way does the federal government require or pressure states to adopt the CCSS. All states that have chosen to adopt these standards, including the State of Louisiana, have done so freely without any directive from the federal government. Accordingly, these voluntary state-based standards have not been written into federal law.
While I had no involvement in the adoption and development of the CCSS by the state, I support a collaborative effort by Louisiana's parents, teachers, local school districts, and Louisiana's state government in setting appropriate academic goals for Louisiana's students to master. I am pleased that these individuals came together without directive from the federal government to elevate the education standards for Louisiana's public education system. Louisiana's students deserve no less than the highest standards in learning and the high quality education that they need to compete with their peers nationally and internationally. This will ensure a more promising future for our students, our workforce, and the economic health of our state.
Thank you for contacting me about this important issue. As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and does not provide me with the authority to manage the Louisiana's public education system. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related education issues. Please feel free to visit my website at http://www.landrieu.senate.gov for more information on my legislative views and actions.
With warm regards, I am
Mary Landrieu
United States Senator

Senator Landrieu says here:

As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and Louisiana's standardized testing policies fall under state jurisdiction. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related issues.  

Sen. Landrieu needs to be educated regarding the influence and funding, which fall slightly short of mandates, that Sec. Duncan has exercised and many of our congressmen and women have supported that have extended and exacerbated the failed accountability policies of NCLB courtesy of the Bush administration and now championed by Jeb Bush and his Foundation for a Education Excellence.  A long sentence for sure,  but it has been a long four years struggling to preserve a democratic system of public education that HAS BEEN virtually controlled from Washington.  

Sen. Landrieu needs to understand that because she REPRESENTS Louisiana in Congress that Louisiana's standardized testing policies ARE "under her jurisdiction" just as much as they are under the jurisdiction of every federal and state tax paying citizen and VOTER from Louisiana. 

Sen. Landrieu does not understand our concerns.  How could she when she is insulated from her constituency here and when we travel to Washington and fail to obtain and audience with her.  Sen. Landrieu needs to hear our voices as she makes her way through Louisiana asking for votes. Conservative Republicans have pulled out all the stops in trying to change Sen. Vitter's message which is in support of Common Core because they believe it will help his campaign for Governor, but Sen. Landrieu is getting a pass from Democrats in her quest to retain her seat in Congress.  CCSS is just the tip of the iceberg.   Sen. Landrieu supports privatization and is a champion for Teach For America.  She needs to understand that she is in a small boat paddling the wrong way!  

Education and politics don't mix.  Sen. Landrieu has disagreed with Obama policy in the oil industry and she needs now to understand that democracy does not belong to one party!  Pres. Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan has been a disaster. Let's ask her to make it right.

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

September 24, 2014

Dear Lee:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns for standardized testing in public schools.  Your comments help me to make a more informed decision before acting on behalf of the citizens of Louisiana.
I agree that standardized tests must not serve as the only measure of academic impact for either students or educators. Rather, standardized testing should assist in the evaluation of student progress and academic attainment, along with other metrics. Schools must use these results to address areas of weakness and tailor instruction to best fit the needs of their students.    
As a member of the United States Senate, my jurisdiction remains limited to federal legislation and Louisiana's standardized testing policies fall under state jurisdiction. However, I understand your concerns and will keep them in mind when working with the State of Louisiana on related issues.  
Once again, I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on standardized testing. I trust that you will continue to contact me about issues of mutual concern. Please feel free to visit my website at http://landrieu.senate.gov for more information on legislative issues.
With warmest regards, I am
Mary Landrieu
United States Senator


The American Independent

Landrieu touts charter school reform despite questionable results in New Orleans

Louisiana senator criticizes traditional educators at Washington event
By Mikhail Zinshteyn | 06.30.11 | 5:21 pm
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) spoke today at the Center for American Progress indicating education policymakers cannot wait for socio-economic conditions to improve for disadvantaged students, arguing instead for a public school landscape that includes charter schools.

The event discussed the ways in which funds from the School Improvement Grant, a federal program, could assist school districts in improving chronically underperforming schools. In addition to the senator, state and city public school administrators offered insight and context into school turnaround.

A longtime advocate of tapping charter operators to turn around struggling schools, the senator said her work in Louisiana included “breaking up the monopoly [of traditional school districts] and encouraging appropriate competition in public schools.”

The state, and New Orleans in particular, has emerged as a poster child for aggressive school turnaround measures, best exemplified by the Recovery School District.

In November 2005, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 35 that put most of New Orleans’ schools in the hands of RSD, a school system introduced in 2003 by a separate piece of legislation that manages troubled institutions. Prior to the passage of Act 35, RSD operated five city schools. The new law increased the minimum performance threshold schools had to meet, deeming many in the city as failing.

As a result, between 107 and 115 schools were shuffled from the city’s original district — The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) — into either RSD or Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) control. As of March 2011, there were five school classifications totaling 88 schools within the city headed by three public authorities. Only 29 are not charters. This map illustrates the extent to which the city’s schools are balkanized (PDF). New Orleans now has the largest percentage of charter schools of any city in the U.S., at roughly 70 percent.

Performance indicators for New Orleans schools are mixed. While there is marked improvement for the city’s graduation rate and a decline in the number of drop outs, state test scores remain low. On the graded scale the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOA) is adopting this coming school year,a vast majority of schools in the RSD system will receive a mark of D or F. A group of education researchers critical of the RSD, Research on Reformsdetermined (PDF) fewer than 10 percent of schools in the controversial district will score a C or better next year.

Rayne Martin, chief of innovation for LDOA, said, “we believe letter grades are right to be applied to all schools.” According to her, those ratings will be accompanied by an improvement value to show parents a school is making progress despite its low scores. “We understand there is an issue with community perception for the schools,” Martin said.

Labor groups might take pause with that explanation — a lawsuit is still pending in the Pelican State over the alleged wrongful dismissal of 8,500 employees, including 7,500 educators, shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck. Their jobs were terminated, the teachers group maintains, on the grounds “[LDOA] officials changed the definition of an acceptable School Performance Score from ‘60’ to ’88,’ which allowed the takeover of 107 NOPS schools.”

Landrieu sounded clinical at times when talking about traditional teachers, however. “Charter schools are in many ways a threat and competition to local school boards,” she said, calling publicly-operated school systems a monopoly on education. “If traditional teachers and principals can rally themselves and admit that they failed … they can be part of turnaround,” she added. “If not, they can leave.”

According to LDOE’s District-At-A-Glance website, RSD schools have a 91 percent rate of students on free and reduced lunch programs, a typical sign of low-economic status given the maximum income eligible for the program is $40,793 (185 percent of the federal poverty line) for a family of four. The state average is 66 percent.

The city’s charter schools run into other problems, according to critics. Selective admissions procedures favor higher-income families and many of the privately-managed, but publicly-funded, schools incorporate draconian expulsion policies that some say is a mechanism to protect those academies from low-performing students.

One of the reasons many school districts are mobilizing to opt-out of No Child Left Behind regulation is to avoid the 2002 federal legislation’s punitive sting. Earlier in June. U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan told reporters if reforms to NCLB aren’t pushed through by Congress, 83 percent of schools nationwide could be labeled as failing.

Under NCLB, schools that persistently underperform must allow students to enroll in other programs within the district, taking valuable state and federal funding that rides with every pupil. The penalties continue to snowball until downright school closure or charter school takeover is prescribed. Other consequences include hiring a private company to take over operations or placing the school under direct state control. All of those options were put into play in New Orleans.

The CAP event considered models for school turnaround that depart from NCLB.

Senator Landrieu - did you see this? 

A companion resolution to the House sponsored resolution sent to you yesterday.  When will this position filter down to our state where it should be initiated?  

Bill Text
113th Congress (2013-2014)

S.RES.345 -- Whereas education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials, local educational agencies, and States; (Introduced in Senate - IS)

2d Session
S. RES. 345
Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President's coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers.

February 6, 2014

Mr. GRAHAM (for himself, Mr. LEE, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mr. SCOTT, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. CRUZ, Mr. WICKER, and Mr. ENZI) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President's coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers.
Whereas education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials, local educational agencies, and States;
Whereas the development of the common education standards known as the Common Core State Standards was originally led by national organizations, but has transformed into an incentives-based mandate from the Federal Government;
Whereas in 2009, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), both of which are private trade associations, began developing common education standards for kindergarten through grade 12 (referred to in this preamble as the `Common Core State Standards');
Whereas sections 9527, 9529, 9530, and 9531 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7907, 7909, 7910, and 7911) prohibit the establishment of a national curriculum, national testing, mandatory national teacher certification, and a national student database;
Whereas Federal law makes clear that the Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of State assessments in elementary and secondary education;
Whereas President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced competitive grants through the Race to the Top program under sections 14005 and 14006 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5; 123 Stat. 282) (referred to in this preamble as the `Race to the Top program') in July 2009;
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan stated, `The $4,350,000,000 Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Federal Government to create incentives for far-reaching improvement in our Nation's schools.';
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan also stated, `But I want to be clear that Race to the Top is also a reform competition, one where States can increase or decrease their odds of winning Federal support.';
Whereas, under the Race to the Top program guidelines, States seeking funds were pressed to implement 4 core, interconnected reforms, and the first of these reforms was to adopt `internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace';
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, President Obama outlined the connection between common education standards and Race to the Top program funds, stating, `I am issuing a challenge to our [N]ation's governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools--your State can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.';
Whereas the selection criteria designed by the Department of Education for the Race to the Top program provided that for a State to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a `common set of K-12 standards';
Whereas Common Core State Standards establish a single set of education standards for kindergarten through grade 12 in English language arts and mathematics that States adopt;
Whereas Common Core State Standards were, during the initial application period for the Race to the Top program, and remain, as of the date of the adoption of this resolution, the only common set of kindergarten through grade 12 standards in the United States;
Whereas, on July 24, 2009, Secretary Duncan stated, `To speed this process, the Race to the Top program is going to set aside $350,000,000 to competitively fund the development of rigorous, common State assessments.';
Whereas, since the Race to the Top program's inception, States have been incentivized by Federal money to adopt common education standards;
Whereas States began adopting Common Core State Standards in 2010;
Whereas States that adopted Common Core State Standards before August 2, 2010, were awarded 40 additional points out of 500 points for their Race to the Top program applications;
Whereas 45 States have adopted Common Core State Standards;
Whereas 31 States, of the 45 total, adopted Common Core State Standards before August 2, 2010;
Whereas States that have adopted Common Core State Standards are given preference in the application process for the waivers issued under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861) that provide flexibility with respect to certain requirements of such Act;
Whereas States that have adopted Common Core State Standards are currently collaborating to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards and replace existing end-of-the-year State assessments;
Whereas these assessments will be available in the 2014-2015 school year;
Whereas 2 consortia of States are developing common assessments: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC);
Whereas national standards lead to national assessments and national assessments lead to a national curriculum;
Whereas education standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning;
Whereas challenging academic standards are vital to ensuring students are college and career ready;
Whereas blanket education standards should not be a prerequisite for Federal funding;
Whereas States are incentivized to adopt Common Core State Standards by the explicit correlation between the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by the State and the preference provided to such States through the Race to the Top program and the flexibility waivers issued under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861);
Whereas the Secretary of Education has created a system of grants and waivers that influence, incentivize, and coerce State educational agencies, commissions, and boards into implementing common elementary and secondary school standards and assessments endorsed by the Secretary;
Whereas when Federal funds are linked to the adoption of common education standards, the end result is increased Federal control over education and a decreased ability of schools to meet the individual needs of the students in their schools;
Whereas the implementation of Common Core State Standards will eventually impact home school and private school students when institutions of higher education are pressured to align their admission and readiness standards with curricula based on the Common Core State Standards;
Whereas the 10th amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads, `The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people'; and
Whereas, throughout the course of United States history, States have maintained the responsibility of education based on the 10th amendment because the explicit power of educating children was not delegated to the United States by the Constitution: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, that it is the sense of the Senate that--
    (1) States and local educational agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curricula, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education;
    (2) the Federal Government should not incentivize the adoption of common education standards or the creation of a national assessment to align with such standards; and
    (3) no application process for any Federal grant funds, or for waivers issued by the Secretary under the authority of section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7861), that occurs after the date of adoption of this resolution should award any additional points, or provide any preference, for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards or any other national common education standards.