Present Danger In Testing And Data Mining Of Our Children

This is a follow up to my previous article http://www.newswithviews.com/Clark/neil101SO.htm , and even though there is some duplication, my desire is to reinforce some important points. Very little is known about the Smarter Balanced testing that is mandated in Oregon schools and 10 other states. Portions of this writing are from a variety of sources. You will find loads of facts in the links provided. If the links aren’t available by left clicking on your mouse or pressing on ctrl and left clicking at the same time, copy and paste the links into your address bar. To cover all the information in this article and especially the links, would fill several books. My prayer is that every parent will take time to become informed and do what is best for their children.

To avoid the penalties of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states jumped at the chance to get a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.  Among the provisions of this waiver, states were required to adopt the new approved standards (Common Core), new testing measures (Smarter Balanced in Oregon), teacher evaluation systems that were tied to student performance, and that the testing data generated would be available to third parties for research or curriculum development.  There was also an opportunity for states to get extra funding, if they applied and were a winner in the Race To The Top.  As a part of applying for the grant, Oregon had to promise to adopt either the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or a comparable set of standards.  Oregon chose the Common Core Standards, even though at the time the standards were not yet completed and released for public review. This was a very unlawful coercive act on the part of the federal government, essentially manipulating states to accept funds because of their financial needs.

The Smarter Balance Achievement Corporation (SBAC) was formed in 2010 and received about $175 million from the US Department of Education (USDOE). They would develop the tests that they could and then charge the states,  The cost per student would be $22.50 per student, an estimated total to Oregon of about $12 million.  The previous OAKS test that had been in Oregon had cost about $5 million.  http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/education/2014/10/14/new-common-core-test-cost-oregon-million/17280087/  The SBAC, like OAKS, is a computer adaptive test, These are not just multiple choice tests. They will have to be scored in part by individuals because they also involved composition writing to explain how the student got his/her answers. This link offers information about some valid problems related to standardized tests: http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Test_Problems_Seven/

It may appear to some that the new system would be a more intensive and in additon to being a more expensive version of the former OAKS tests. However, there are some major differences.   When a student logs in to take an online test, at the minimum their SSID (Secure Student Identification) number is used.  This attaches the test results to the electronic student records that the state and schools maintain on each of their students.  This is nothing new, but who is handling the data is.  OAKS was supposedly an Oregon-only system in which all the data was the property of the state.  Under SBAC, though, we have a much different scenario in play.

SBAC and the USDOE have a cooperative agreement. Notice that this is at the federal level, not just Oregon. Details include objectives, management of the project, and financial information.   The last part of Expected Results on page 2, says Finally, the assessment systems will produce data (including student  achievement data and student growth data) that can be used to inform (a) determinations of school effectiveness; (b) determinations of individual principal and teacher effectiveness for purposes of evaluation; (c) determinations of principal and teacher professional development and support needs; and (d) teaching, learning, and program improvement. ” Particularly note that there is no mention of any direct value to the student. This is what testing should be about.

Some states that were in a testing agreement have chosen to develop their own tests, and some have opted out of Common Core or are pushing for changes in the Standards.  Notice that the test to be designed by SBAC would need to be able to produce data that could be used to determine whether a school (not the student) is effective or not.  One probable outcome of a “Not Effective” determination would be for the federal government to put that school on a plan of corrective action until their test scores meet the level the USDOE determines. In Oregon, a school or district would be considered to be in default.

This is a response from Grants Pass District 7. It correctly states Oregon statutes. “All school districts are presumed to maintain a standard school district until the district is found to be deficient by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, pursuant to standards and rules of the State Board of Education.  See ORS 327.103(1).  If a District fails to correct deficiencies in its standards, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may withhold portions of the State School Fund moneys otherwise allocated to the school district for operating expenses until such deficiencies are corrected, unless the withholding would create an undue hardship, as determined pursuant to rules of the State Board of Education.  See ORS 327.103(2).  If the District fails to implement common core standards are required by the Oregon Board of Education, it will be determined deficient and will be required to create a plan to bring the District into compliance with the standards.  If the District fails to comply with the standards within 90 days, then state school funds can be withheld.” I  am prepared to offer such a plan, but that is a major presentation for a later date.

Another major concern is that the data can be used for teacher and administrator evaluations.  This can have long-term implications.  Test results from the 2014-15 school year will not be used to evaluate Oregon teachers per requests from teacher’s unions, but SB 290, which passed a couple of years ago, does require the use of state tests in evaluation of teachers and it will become a part of the process next year.    SBAC offers formative (end of year standardized test) and interim assessments (tests during the school year) to districts.  .  A teacher, knowing that they are going to be evaluated based on how students do on the summative test, will teach to the contents of the test, so that the results will better the teacher, school, and district’s evaluation. Teachers will have their curriculum line up to the testing, which means that rather than a school and it’s teachers making curriculum decisions based on what they think best educates students, they choose to increase a test score.  This is the ultimate in “teaching to the test”. Of course this is a financial benefit to the textbook corporations, such as Pearson. The Pearson corporation has been buying up major book companies. The result is that the Common Core slant on contents, ends up in our classrooms. The contents are often controversial and unproven in their application, especially in math.

 FERPA (the federal privacy law) was quietly changed in 2011 to allow student data to be released to third parties.. This was done in anticipation of the federal government getting more involved and having access to student level data which should not be done.  Under the old FERPA law this would not have been allowed. I offer these links to present the facts related to your children’s privacy being threatened, more than I could in an article on data mining. Some states have been more involved than Oregon, so their experiences are best for consideration. Actually read and hear key players in this game, including Oregon’s Superintendent of Instruction, Rob Saxton: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/10/13/parent-alert-nsf-awards-grant-for-data-mining-children/

Take time to view these resources for some really convincing evidence about data mining of our children and families. http://www.occupy.com/article/exposed-how-murdoch-bill-gates-and-big-corporations-are-data-mining-our-schools More evidence shows how children are becoming guinea pigs for testing: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/10/13/parent-alert-nsf-awards-grant-for-data-mining-children/ Within this link are many factually based comments and videos. http://stopcommoncoreillinois.org/privacy-issues-data-collection-from-cradle-to-adulthood/

	Even though I don't believe that districts are locked into Common Core and its testing as they choose to believe, the following video is worth looking at.  A portion is related to our teachers, the primary key to success in the classroom.  As I circulate petitions related to Common Core, I run into teachers who openly express their frustrations, etc.  We need to listen to them and their associations wanting to opt out of the Smarter Balanced testing and Common Core. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/punishing-kids-adult-failures-article-1.1420622#ixzz2bPEhFNU2 .  Please take the time to view this video to consider what is happening in math, for example, and the ability of the young to work with the challenges they face.    Http://vimeo.com/108856538  It is dated October 13, 2014.   

Here is an excellent video to view on the lack of need to have federal funding for testing and Title I funds: http://wn.com/department_of_education_organization_act . The next article tells us of myths and facts related to testing: http://fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet . Here are good resources on how to get out of testing and more:  http://saynotocommoncore.com/   and http://fairtest.org/time-real-testing-moratorium Another is http://freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/files/pdfs/WWNC_Action_Plan.pdf

Oregon can leave the SBAC but would be required by the USDOE to have an assessment of equal quality, as determined by the federal government.  Here again, the control is at the federal level instead of local control. From my perspective there is almost no value to any standardized test -especially for the student’s benefit. More and more, our local communities are losing control over how we educate our students and even how we evaluate our teachers and administrators. My hope and efforts – and I wish for you also – is to do all we can to restore control to our schools and parents. I welcome your thoughts or adding you to our Parent Led Education efforts. Email me at ur4solutions@gmail.com .

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