Category Archives: Testing

“Louisiana voucher students score almost 30 points below average on LEAP tests” (nola.com)

Perhaps Gov. Jindal’s education experiment needs to stop:

As Gov. Bobby Jindal tries again to fund his controversial school voucher program, new test scores indicate that many of the current students educated with public money in private schools are not thriving. Or at least they aren’t yet.

Released Wednesday, LEAP scores for third- through eighth-graders show only 40 percent of voucher students scored at or above grade level this past spring. The state average for all students was 69 percent.

For accountability purposes, students attending private schools at taxpayer expense take the same standardized tests as their peers in public schools. In 2011, when the voucher program operated only in New Orleans, students averaged 33 percent proficiency.

Now seven schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes have results so low — less than 25 percent of voucher students proficient for three years running — that they have been barred from accepting new voucher students in the fall, as per state policy. In Orleans, the schools are Life of Christ Academy, the Upperroom Bible Church Academy, Bishop McManus, Conquering Word Christian Academy Eastbank and Holy Rosary Academy. In Jefferson, they are Faith Christian Academy and Conquering Word Christian Academy.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Filed under Education Reform, Funding, Politics, Testing, Vouchers

Won’t Back Down: Myth-Making Can’t Stand Up to Real Life Education Heroes” (Beacon Press Blog)

Here’s an essay about the movie Won’t Back Down  from Nancy Schniedewind (Professor at SUNY New Paltz and co-editor with Mara Sapon-Shevin of Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education) and Julie Woestehoff  (contributor to Educational Courage):

Walden Media’s Won’t Back Down portrays the heroism of one parent and one teacher fighting harmful educational practices by taking over their school. Their victory is as mythic as it is misleading. Those who should be celebrated by such media attention are the real-life heroes at the grassroots who have been fighting for meaningful educational change day-to-day, year-to-year.

You can read the rest of the story online here.

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Cheating runs rampant (Salon.com)

Diagnostic testing in education and hammers can be useful tools … both can be effective when used properly and damaging when used improperly:

“No Child Left Behind has created a culture in which people will do anything to keep their jobs,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University and a leading critic of corporate-inspired school reform. “There are states that have gamed the systems, there are districts that have gamed the system, there are people who have gained the system.”

President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, spelling out a reform movement blueprint and unleashing an escalating set of benchmarks compelling teachers to deliver ever-better student scores. NCLB mandates high-stakes standardized testing to monitor student achievement and aggressive intervention into schools that fall short: making Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, became a matter of a school’s — and increasingly teacher’s — survival.

Test results have been used as the pretext to fire teachers and force schools into becoming privately-managed charters, even though research has shown that corruption-prone charters are not, as a whole, better, and are often much worse than traditional public schools. And the testing mandates have proven to be a bonanza for for-profit education companies like Pearson and Kaplan (the latter is owned by the Washington Post Company), which produce tests and materials to drill students in preparation.

And the pressure to raise scores continues to build. NCLB requires districts to achieve the impossible goal of demonstrating that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014. Unsurprisingly, school districts nationwide are set to fail this mandate. The Obama administration, meanwhile, isn’t offering much of a helping hand. Its Race to the Top initiative uses billions in federal dollars to encourage states to incorporate “student achievement” in evaluating teacher quality. And Obama has conditioned waivers for NCLB’s 2014 deadline on implementing more Race to the Top reforms — such as removing barriers to charter school growth and, once again, evaluating teachers based on student test scores.

This year alone, Washington, Colorado and Connecticut have passed laws requiring the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. In March, New York legislators acceded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to base 40 percent of a teacher evaluation on “student achievement.”

In Los Angeles, one-well regarded teacher at a low-income school committed suicide after the Los Angles Times posted his low “value-added” score online. The New York Times, though it faced widespread criticism and acknowledged the data’s shortcomings, followed suit in February and published individual teacher test score data online. The New York Post, for its part, did what could be expected and personally attacked one teacher, by name and photo, as “The Worst Teacher in the City.”

And perhaps we should follow the money to see who benefits from ill-considered so-called “education reforms”:

Likewise, (almost) never before have so many private interests had so much opportunity to profit. Testing has — much like privately-managed charters (and certainly cyber charters such as the one owned by Mike Milken), vouchers and myriad unproven but expensive “learning technologies” that have proliferated over the past decade — alchemized an enormous pile of taxpayer dollars into generous contracts with private education firms that produce tests and prep students.

The profiteering from the high-stakes test regime is, it seems, also tinged with corruption: corporate education behemoth Pearson, Winerip has reported, pays for public school officials nationwide to attend lavish conferences in Helsinki or Rio de Janeiro, “meeting with educators in these places” and “with top executives from the commercial side of Pearson, which is one of the biggest education companies in the world, selling standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.”

Testing companies even make money from trying to make sure that no one cheats on their tests: New York state has a $3.7 million contract with Pearson to examine test results for irregularities.

You can read the entire article online here.

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Confessions of a “Failing Teacher” (Beacon Press Blog)

The following words come from educator David Chura (author of I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup). He has worked with at-risk teenagers for the past 40 years.  For 26 of those years, he taught English and creative writing in community based alternative schools and in a county penitentiary.  David blogs at Kids in the system and Beacon Press published the following essay by David in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week on their blog (the original article can be found here).

Like most teachers I’ve gotten some praise from my high school students over my 26 years of teaching—a lesson “wasn’t bad,” or a particular class was “sorta interesting.” I’ve even been told that I was a “pretty good teacher.” High praise coming from teenagers.

But the truth is I wasn’t a “good teacher.” I was a “failure,” at least according to America’s “education reformers”—that “odd coalition of corporate-friendly Democrats, right-wing Republicans, Tea Party governors, Wall Street executives, and major foundations” as Diane Ravitch aptly defines them—because the kids I taught consistently lagged behind their peers in every measure, performing well below grade level, failing state standardized tests.

Given the present state of teacher evaluations, with a significant portion allotted to student performance on mandated tests, I’d be in big trouble if I hadn’t left teaching recently. I certainly wouldn’t get any bonus pay. If it were up to the Obama Administration I might not even have a job since I would be one of those teachers who, as the President noted in his 2012 State of the Union address, “just aren’t helping kids.” And if I still taught in New York I’d be facing the prospect of having my name and ratings published in newspapers and on the internet if the Legislature gets its way in what the New York State Union of Teachers called the “name/shame/blame game.”

But I know that I wasn’t a “failure,” and more importantly, that the hundreds of kids I’ve taught weren’t either. My students were mostly young people of color, living in neighborhoods and families destroyed by poverty and substance abuse, racism and violence, physical and sexual abuse. Overall, life—shaped by their own mistakes and by conditions they couldn’t control—left them little time for, or interest in education. Frequently that lack of time and interest led to trouble which led to repeated suspensions, expulsions and in some cases, incarceration. But sometimes trouble translated into being placed in a small community alternative high school or the jailhouse classroom in the county penitentiary, both places I taught in.

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“Citizens gather to protest education reform bill” (KTBS coverage)

Here’s some local news coverage of today’s public action in response to the education laws affecting our schools:

SHREVEPORT, La. – A grassroots movement — urging lawmakers to take a closer look at Louisiana’s new education reform– is taking shape here in Shreveport.

Protestors gathered in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse this afternoon to voice their concerns.

The Louisiana Education Action and Reform Network, or “LEARN”, is behind the movement and they say they’re calling for a new conversation about public education.

The rest of the coverage including the video segment can be found here.

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Shreveport Citizens call for a new conversation on education reform (PDF version)

A printer-ready PDF copy of our 2 May 2012 press advisory document can be found online here:

LEARN Press Advisory 2 May 2012

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Filed under Charter Schools, Funding, Independent School Districts, Testing, Vouchers

Shreveport Citizens call for a new conversation on education reform

On Wednesday (2 May 2012) at 4:30 PM, a group of concerned Shreveport citizens will gather in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse to announce the formation of a new grassroots education reform group and to call for a new conversation about public education — Louisiana Education Action and Reform Network (LEARN).

The event will highlight the serious concerns many Louisiana citizens have with the newly passed education reform laws, which serve the interest of the wealthy and powerful and which will have a detrimental effect on the poorest of Louisiana’s children.

Participants to protest Governor Jindal’s Education Reforms, support for real education reforms that are research based, and call for the voices of parents, teachers, and community members to be heard in the conversation about public education.

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Filed under Charter Schools, Funding, Independent School Districts, Testing, Vouchers