On Wednesday of this week, the Alabama State Senate’s Education Committee “delayed indefinitely” consideration of a SB190, the bill to revoke common core standards in the state. It seemed that that was the end of the discussion concerning Common Core (or as Alabama has labeled CCSS “Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards”). But the House also has a bill, HB254, that it needs to deal with, and it seems that they will be considering it on Wednesday, March 20th.
Perhaps it is still possible to bring an end to our districts insane obsession with testing after all.
Cause you see, that is what the Common Core State Standards (or Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards if you prefer) is actually all about.
Common Core Is Testing
We’ve seen it here in Huntsville, where we’ve already spent, according to Dr. Wardynski, $40 million implementing CCSS. If you don’t believe me, listen to Wardynski and take a look at the report that the district offered to the board at the last board meeting.
It seems that something weird is happening about the testing schedule these days. The report that you see above is the only publicly available report from that meeting, but as you can see in the video below, the report that they shared with the board on March 7th was far more extensive. So much so that at the end of Dr. McNeal’s presentation Mr. Birney actually had to ask for a copy of the presentation to be sent to board members.
If this data and this plan is so important to the superintendent’s plans for the district (as you’ll hear him say in a moment), why isn’t this data readily available on the board’s website?
Here’s what Wardynski had to say in defense of the Common Core Standards:
Wardynski: Cathy while you’re on this topic, you know there’s this bill that still under debate down in Montgomery about Common Core Standards. The key word in quality core is core. These assessments are fully aligned with Common Core, and there’s a great deal of rigor in them. And so, uh, if the state took a direction other than parallel with the common core, that would upend this sequence of testing we’re actually undertaking in a matter of months. So our kids have been brought to this standard this year. We’re working towards it; our teachers are working towards it. And, uh, that would be a massive step backwards for this school system. Um, what we will have learned is never get ahead in Alabama. Uh, we’re working pretty hard to get our kids launched into the future, and so, I think the state is going to take about five years to work in all these assessments. Uh, we’re prepared this year to begin working them in so our kids have that option. Uh, they’re working to that level of rigor. And so this system’s moving pretty quickly to move our, uh, kids to the national standards. And uh, a step away from this an is certainly one that will preclude us from keeping data, as that law would. Or that would preclude us from aligning with common core would undo all this work, and undoubtedly millions of dollars of investments we’ve already made in teacher development, uh, preparing for these assessments, training.
Uh, of course, the other key word in there is ACT. To get on to college in this are of the country, uh, you take the ACT. And when we go to the ACT, um components of that are 100% aligned with the common core. The minimal alignment is 66%. So if we’re off training, uh educating our children to some standard other than the common core, I just don’t understand that when we’re trying to get our kids ready to pass the ACT and get great scores to get into college. It makes no sense to head in one direction and then give us our kids a test that heads in the exact opposite direction. Um so uh none of this debate about moving away from common core makes any sense to me. It makes no sense economically, either, because whatever we do that’s unique to us, we’re going to have to pay for as a state. And right here the quality core, the ACT, common core, um, materials, those costs are spread by those who develop them across 47 states. Uh, Alabama doesn’t have enough money right now to educate our kids the way we need to, and I certainly don’t want to divert any money to creating some kind of unique Alabama curriculum that wouldn’t align with college readiness, things businessmen have told us kids need to know, assessments we know, uh, are going to incorporate a lot more rigor. Um, and, and things we’ve already made investments in to help move education forward. So, these assessments here are entirely part of that common core debate. Thanks.
In Wardynski’s own words, “So, these assessments here are entirely part of that common core debate.” (Notice that he again claims that CCSS and the tests that are aligned with them “are going to incorporate a lot more rigor,” and yet again he offers no evidence of any kind supporting this claim.)
Our elementary students will spend the final month of school taking standardized tests. Our high school students will take the end-of-course exams in April so that they will have time to take all of their other tests during the month of May. And spending a month of testing, on top of all the other testing that our students have already done, is how Wardynski believes we should “launch our kids into the future.”
Honestly, if the future is entirely testing without education, that future is a bleak one at best.
As an interesting aside, you’ll note that the material that the district is posting about testing has been purged from the district’s website of late. The link to the spreadsheet showing the testing dates for 2012-2013 that I pulled information from for the “Star Testing A District to Death” post last month is for some reason no longer working. I wonder if they’ve had a computer problem, or something. Well I wouldn’t want the district to lose files, so I’m pleased to share with them a copy of the file that I downloaded last month. I share it here (Test Dates 2012-2013 FINAL HCS Testing Dates (4).xlsx) with the district in a show of good will. I hope they’re able to fix their computer issues soon.
Why is the district being so coy about when and how often they’re testing our children?
Could it be that even they now realize that the testing they’re requiring our district to complete is excessive? Dr. McNeal’s opening comment, that this seems like a lot of testing, would certainly lead one to believe that even she thinks this test schedule is excessive.
But if that’s not enough evidence that Common Core is testing, perhaps this will convince you.
PARCC Common Core Tests Add Ten Hours
Just so you don’t think I’m reading some other conspiracy theorist here, please note that this report is based entirely on information from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. PARCC is one of two primary groups who are developing tests in math and English that are aligned to CCSS. In other words, this organization is 110% in support of CCSS and their implementation.
They are not, as some have called me and others who oppose CCSS here in Alabama, a part of the “black-helicopter” crowd. This information is coming from those who support CCSS.
Even the other primary group developing CCSS assessments (or tests), the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium estimates that their tests will take up to eight and half hours.
PARCC is also mandating that its tests will be administered during a 20 day window when school is 75% complete and then an additional 20 day window at 90% completion.
You may read these details for yourself in PARCC’s “Guidance Document.” This document calls for third graders to spend 8 hours taking the math and English tests and for twelfth graders to spend 9 hours and 55 minutes taking these tests at least twice a year.
In other words, third through eighth graders will have approximately 44 days for testing and ninth through twelfth graders will be looking at 61 days of testing if these new assessments were added to the list this year. While it is possible that some of the current tests would be removed from the test schedule (as Dr. McNeal says, the graduation exam is being phased out), there can be no denying that one of the central purposes of the Common Core State Standards is to increase the number of hours spent and the importance of standardized testing in our district.
Oh, and one other important admission can be found in article about these standards and the testing that will follow:
PARCC documents say that testing times and windows could change, in the wake of research and field-testing, but that “major changes are not anticipated.”
In other words, like the standards themselves, none of these new tests have been field-tested. We have no idea if these tests will be effective in assessing student learning at all. We have no idea if the standards themselves will increase student learning and their “college and career readiness.”
Testing isn’t education. It is a crucial component of the educational process, but it isn’t education. Every day spent evaluating what a student has learned is one less day in which they can learn something new.
Best Practices: Finland
If those responsible for pushing these standards and these tests onto our students actually cared about students and education, you would think that they would look around the globe to see what all those countries who are out performing American on those international rankings were doing. This is known as basing our educational pedagogy and curriculum on the best practices around the world. Finland regularly scores at the top of those rankings, and they do so without any standardized testing. As Partanen writes:
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.
Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.
Testing isn’t education. And anyone who claims that it is, is usually trying to sell you something.
Ask Your House Member to Support HB254
If you think that your child is being tested too much, please, please contact the Alabama House members who will be involved in a hearing to decided what to do with their version of the bill to revoke the CCSS Initiative (HB254), and tell them to support the bill. Tell them that our students are tested too much as it is, and that CCSS isn’t about a set of curriculum standards nearly as much as it is about testing.
You may contact the House members here:
Rep. Lesley Vance (R), Chair: (334) 298-0668 (office), (334) 298-4948 (home)
Rep. Elaine Beech (D): firstname.lastname@example.org, (334) 242-7702 (office), (251) 847-2604 (home)
Rep. Mac Buttram (R): email@example.com, (334) 242-7775 (office), (256) 297-2286 (home)
Rep. Ed Henry (R): (334) 242-7736 (office), (256) 260-2146 (District)
Rep. Thomas Jackson (D): (334) 242-7738 (office), (334) 636-0094 (home)
Rep. David Sessions (R): firstname.lastname@example.org, (334) 242-0947 (office), (251) 865-4275 (home)
Rep. Phil Williams (R): email@example.com, (334) 242-7704, (256) 489-5471 (home)
Common Core is testing. Even the supporters admit this. As Wardynski says the “rigor” found in Common Core is found entirely in the testing that goes along with CCSS. If “rigor” means “testing,” then I suppose that CCSS is more rigorous after all.
It certainly does increase standardized testing.