An Op-Ed piece by HannaH Portner on California’s Smarter Balanced Tests—one student’s point of view

Guest Post by HannaH Portner who blogs at Project Rainbow

On Friday they told us that we were going to be having Common Core tests next week (SBAC or Smarter balanced tests in CA) .

  • “Make sure to check your room number by the counseling office.”
  • “Review the practice exam.”
  • “Get enough sleep.”
  • But, for what?
  • What even is this test?
  • Why is it so important?
  • Where is all this information going?
  • Why was I not told by any member of the staff that I could opt out?

There was a letter posted outside the office. It said that anyone could opt out of these tests with parent permission. It said that we as students have a voice. We have rights. That got me curious. I started asking questions. I asked members of my neighborhood their opinions. I asked family, friends, teachers, and searched the internet about these tests. I wanted to share what I learned. I wanted to have a voice, not just be a number from a test.

I heard stories of kids not wanting to go to school because they were so deflated, so stressed and confused. I read about how much time test prep takes. I talked with my friend Suzy who is a 7th grade English and history teacher about how useless some of this data mining seems. “ We have to do 3 [in class essays] every year. I have to grade all of these, put them in the gradebook, give feedback, then input them into a district website to collect data. One extra step for teachers is awful. Why do we do this? What is done with this data? The district has no answer. I calculated that every year, in addition to all other curriculum requirements, we have to score 450 essays per teacher.”

Schools are having precious learning time taken away to administer standardized tests. The Huffington Post states: “Teachers now devote 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring, and reviewing the results of standardized tests, the National Education Association says.” Not only is time drained, but money is being used to buy computers to administer these tests.

In Suzy’s case, she has to prep students for this one test but won’t necessarily know where the data is going or how it will be used. Last year we took practice tests and some questions were so hard I clicked random answers. I even wrote a poem about how I felt like a robot. I never got my score back. I wonder what would have happened if I wrote “ WHAT IS THE POINT” for an essay question.

Since I don’t see my results, or the specific questions I got wrong, I don’t understand what I could do better or worse on. In addition, we haven’t been provided specific test information, or easy access to reasons why we are taking this test. For example my math teacher told me that our test will be a practice for a later SBAC test. We aren’t even taking the real thing. She told me that the teachers will grade them and it will be good finals prep. I would be taking a practice exam for the test I would take that is actually a test prep for finals? That is a lot of prep.

It’s relatively easy to administer a test then judge students based on their scores. I think part of the problem is that when people fail these tests, their self esteem drops, they think they aren’t good enough, and then they cry when they get home from school. On many occasions I have come from school frustrated and broken out into tears, and I am an honor student in a really privileged area. Imagine what it’s like for our neighbors who don’t have free tutoring and get Ds and think it is all their fault. A test score is such a small part of a person’s intelligence. When these test are being taken, the institutions are saying that the test is what measures how smart a person is, or how good a school is. That is a whole lot of unnecessary pressure.

In addition if these tests are being given to school with low performance ratings and the tests are really difficult, some of these schools may not have the resources to provide test prep or extra help to their students and because they are underfunded, the students, teachers, and schools suffer the consequences.

To an extent, I agree that tests are necessary. People are certified to become nurses and plumbers and teachers by taking a test. But to test on how well a school or student is doing with one test is ridiculous. If you wanted the whole picture then someone could collect my GPA which has my average test scores. You could look at my extra curricular activities, and then asses the school based on multiple variables. But that would probably take too long.

I agree that the new common core method of teaching is pretty rad. I like having explorations in math. It makes me question and have opinions. I like that. I do not like the immense data collection and loads of testing. There is a limit to all of this stress, confusion, and frustration, and that is what we as a community have to figure out and act upon so that education can be fun, and full of wonder like it should be.

See more:
Race to Nowhere
Huffington Post
United Opt Out


Lloyd Lofthouse, the host of this blog, is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

Lloyd Lofthouse:

What Bill Gates is doing with his grants that support corporate education reform in industry wide hostile takeover of the public schools and democracy is no different than the welfare system the United States once had that paid people not to work. Someone should tell Bill Gates that welfare reform under President Clinton ended the cradle to grave welfare industry for individuals even though welfare reform never ended a similar system for corporations.

Bill Gates is creating a co-dependency for corporate education reformers that is no different than being a drug addict addicted to crack cocaine, and crack cocaine addicts have been know to sell their own bodies and children to get their next fix. But what Bill Gates is doing is enabling these addicts to sell our own children to get their next fix.

Originally posted on deutsch29:

On its website, the Gates Foundation makes it clear that it often initiates contact with organizations to apply for specific grants and that it does not fund what it does not consider a Gates Foundation “priority.”

The assertiveness of the Gates Foundation in funding its approved version of education reform takes on head-tilting meaning when one considers the organizations that Gates funds “for general operating support.”

That means that the Gates Foundation has decided to that it wants to keep such organizations in business. So, it gives them money to stay afloat, like Dad shelling out an allowance to the kids.

There is no greater opportunity for fiscal dependence on the Gates Foundation than for an organization to receive Gates money for general operating expenses– especially in the case of repeated operating support grants. Note also that the Gates Foundation pays its grants in installments, and it sure can become easy to get used…

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


Beware Grade-Level Reading and the Cult of Proficiency

Lloyd Lofthouse:

Children who grow up in homes devoid of books and magazines with parents/guardians who don’t read even if they can read will always be struggling to catch up and often falling behind no matter what the so-called foolish experts think and force the public schools and teachers to do.

This ignorant and dangerous thinking is pounding a round peg into a square hole that is smaller than the round peg to start with.

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

Few issues in education seem more important or more universally embraced (from so-called progressive educators to right-wing politicians such as Jeb Bush) than the need to have all children reading on grade level—specifically by that magical third grade:

Five years ago, communities across the country formed a network aimed at getting more of their students reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. States, cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, and foundations in 168 communities, spread across 41 states and the District of Columbia, are now a part of that initiative, theCampaign for Grade-Level Reading.

However, advocating that all students must read at grade level—often defined as reading proficiency—rarely acknowledges the foundational problems with those goals: identifying text by a formula claiming “grade level” and then identifying children as readers by association with those readability formulas.

This text, some claim, is a fifth-grade text, and thus children who can “read” that…

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


To Education Post’s Peter Cunningham on His Common-Core-Promotion Effort

Originally posted on deutsch29:

Peter Cunningham is in charge of what blogger Anthony Cody terms, “education’s only multi-million-dollar blog,” Education Post. In an interview with another blogger, corporate-reform bee charmer Jennifer Berkshire (“EduShyster”), Cunningham divulges the privatizing-reform origins of Education Post:

When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone. 

Twelve million Arnold Foundation dollars later, we have…

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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


Los Angeles School Board Race: Attack Ads and Lies Aplenty

Lloyd Lofthouse:

The lies are also flowing like a river in the Bay Area near San Francisco between Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla for a state senate seat. Glazer is the corporate school reform lobby’s candidate and the money is flooding into his campaign from special interests and oligarchs.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Over $5.5 million has been poured into races for the Los Angeles school board., according to Thomas Hines of the LA Daily News. A large portion has gone into attack ads and flat-out lies in two races that put charter supporters against supporters of public education.

“Teachers union-supported groups have spent $82,630 opposing Galatzan’s bid for re-election. A recent flier gives the two-term incumbent an “F” for failing to support students and protect tax dollars – apparently blaming her for a recession that cut revenues prompting layoffs.

“Charter school groups that support Galatzan, meanwhile, have spent $141,211 attacking her opponent, Scott Schmerelson.

“According to the mailers, the retired LAUSD principal and teacher is actually a lobbyist, responsible for trying to convince legislators they should “increase the already bloated salaries and benefits for administrators, taking money out of the classroom.”

“Schmerelson is not a lobbyist. He’s also backed by the…

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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


International Outcry Against For-Profit Schools Funded by U.S. Philanthropists

Lloyd Lofthouse:

What is the opposite of Robin Hood who took from the rich and gave to the poor?

The answer is Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidiyar, and multinational publishing company Pearson that have been revealed as parasites sucking what little money people living in extreme poverty have while offering a shoddy, questionable education in return.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Over 100 international organizations signed a statement critical of privatization of education in Kenya and Uganda. They specifically criticized the World Bank for endorsing a for-profit chain of schools called Bridge International Academies. According to the statement released today, “BIA is backed by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidiyar, and multinational publishing company Pearson, among others. It operates in Kenya and Uganda, with plans to invest in Nigeria, India and other countries. It now has close to 120,000 pupils enrolled in more than 400 schools.” The endorsers of the statement believe these countries need free public education with qualified teachers, not for-profit schools with untrained teachers.

The press release, with links, reads as follows:

Over 100 organisations around the world express deep concerns about the World Bank support for privatisation in education

Press release – 14 May 2015
(Nairobi, Kampala, Washington DC, Brussels)

Today, more than one hundred national and…

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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


The Alleged Public School Monopoly and the Fraudulent Civil Rights Movement of our Time

It is highly arguable with evidence and data that the corporate education reform movement mostly funded by a handful of billionaire oligarchs is driven by endless oxymorons. For instance, the oxymoron of a movement that claims it’s the Civil Right Movement of our time while Corporate Charters practice segregation on a grand scale (click the link to learn more), and the other major oxymoron alleges the public schools are a monopoly that must be destroyed.

For instance, in New York State, Governor Cuomo (The Crook) characterized public education as a ‘monopoly’ that he vowed to break. For the rest of this post, I will focus on Governor Cuomo’s claim that the public schools are a ‘monopoly’ that must be broken.

First, the public schools are supported by taxes paid by the public, and they are non-profit, transparent and held accountable through that transparency. In addition, they are governed by democratic values—except where reformers like Cuomo the Crook have used their executive power to hijack entire school districts and remove the democratically elected school boards. Because of the transparency and democratic nature of these schools, every public dollar spent is tracked to make sure it was spent to support the education of children.

A monopoly by definition, would be John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and his Standard Oil (with an emphasis on his) incorporated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing into one single behemoth which grew both vertically and horizontally (he bought the producers and distributors). In 1882, all of Standard Oil’s properties were merged into the Standard Oil Trust, and by the end of the decade (1890), it controlled 88% of the refined oil flows in the United States.

To be clear: John D. Rockefeller was ONE man who controlled 88% of the refined oil that flowed in the United States, and he answered to no one until President Teddy Roosevelt went after his monopoly to break it up.

How does that compare to the corporate education reform movement’s claim that public education is a monopoly that must be broken?

Even though the Obama Administration—with help from, for instance, mostly Bill Gates in addition to the Walton family, Eli Broad and a squad of other powerful private sector corporate oligarchs—did all they could to make Arne Duncan the John D. Rockefeller of the alleged public education monopoly, when we sweep away all the lies and allegations, what’s left is almost 14,000 individual public school districts. Most of these school districts are managed by their own democratically elected school boards and each district has its own CEO who often comes with the title of superintendent, who is hired and can be fired by those elected school boards. Those superintendents answer to the elected school boards and nothing can be hidden because of the transparency, and through that transparency every state and territory in the United States watches over those almost 14,000 public school districts to make sure they are not breaking any laws or legislation that applies to public education.

If you’re interested, you might want to read:

When that alleged public school monopoly is broken as Cuomo has pledged, what is already taking its place?

The answer: opaque, often fraudulent, often worse or the same as the public schools they are replacing, segregated, private sector, for-profit corporate charter schools that are not democratic and not answerable to the laws of each state that are meant for the public schools (even when a corporate charter claims to be non-profit, when we follow the money, it almost always flows like fast moving sewage to a private sector, for-profit corporation.)

For a sampling of this fraud, I suggest you read the following:

Release: “A new report released today reveals that fraudulent charter operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing or wasting over $100 million in taxpayer money.”

One last thought—while no one can buy the public schools and create a private sector monopoly like Standard Oil once was under John D. Rockefeller, one oligarch—for instance, Bill Gates, Eli Broad or the Walmart Walton family—will be in a position to do just that once the public schools are gone and have been replaced by corporate charters that can go bankrupt and close or be merged and/ or sold on a daily basis.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”


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