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Category Archives: Standardized Testing

A Conspiracy Theory that turned out to be Real

On July 4, 1776, The Declaration of Independence said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Read Slaying Goliath, and learn that some of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans are trying to take away our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I was a public school teacher in California from 1975 – 2005. During those thirty years, I worked 60 to 100 hours a week during the school year. I took work home seven days a week and couldn’t wait for the winter and spring breaks, not because of the time off from teaching, but because I’d have time to catch up correcting student work. After all, teachers have to sleep, too.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan released a report that was a lie. That report was called “A Nation at Risk,” and it painted the nation’s public schools as failures.  After that misleading report, teachers were called lazy and incompetent. The public schools were blamed for the prison population in the United States that was really caused by Presidents Nixon and Reagan’s war on recreational drugs like marijuana.

The critics of the public schools even came up with a misleading term that was also a lie. It was called “The school to prison pipeline.” There has never been a school to prison pipeline in the United States.

After “A Nation at Risk,” came the Self Esteem Movement that got its start in Catholic K-12 schools and from the pulpit of evangelical Christian churches. When that failed, teachers were blamed again. However, the majority of teachers, including me, did not agree with the Self Esteem Movement that put pressure on us to stop failing students that refused to learn and inflate grades so children would feel good about themselves, even if they didn’t deserve it.

That top-down failure was followed by The Whole Language Approach to teaching. English Lit Teachers like me were told to stop teaching mechanics, grammar, and spelling because it was boring. We were told that the kids could learn that boring stuff just by reading on their own, except most kids do not read on their own.

A decade later, when that Whole Language Approach that was forced on teachers also failed, teachers were blamed again.

That is why, back in the 1980s, I started to think there was a conspiracy theory to destroy the public schools. Over the years, as one top-down movement after another to improve the public schools failed, I convinced myself that it could not be right that someone was trying to destroy our public schools.

Who could be that cruel, that greedy, that monstrous, to deliberately demonize teachers and blame them for almost every problem in the United States? The critics said teachers were lazy. The critics said we were incompetent. The critics said our labor unions were corrupt and were getting in the way of improving the public schools.

I retired from teaching in 2005 and swore that if I was forced to teach again, I’d instead rejoin the U.S. Marines and fight in Afghanistan against Islamic terrorists. Since I had already served in the Marines and fought in Vietnam before I was a teacher, I knew that being a teacher was way worse because of the way teachers are treated in this country.

When I retired, I took a 40-percent pay cut and left without medical insurance, but the critics said teachers were greedy, and our retirement systems would cause the states to go bankrupt. I live in California, and about 6% of the state’s annual budget goes to support the teacher retirement system.

If you believe that retired teachers are greedy, let me sell you a vacation home on a moon orbiting Saturn. I understand the view of Saturn’s rings are incredible.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that what I suspected back in the 1980s was real. There has been a movement in the United States for decades to replace the nation’s democratic, transparent, public schools and destroy the teaching profession. That disruptive movement wants to replace the people’s public school with a profit-driven, often corrupt, secretive, autocratic, private school system that operates without rules and oversight.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that the leaders of the publicly funded, private-sector charter school industry are mostly deceivers and liars.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that the leaders of the publicly-funded private/religious voucher school industry are also mostly deceivers and liars.

When you read Slaying Goliath, you will learn who those liars are. You will learn who is behind the disruption of our public schools and how they are subverting our Constitutional Republic to strip us of our rights. Then maybe you will be angry enough to support and even join the passionate resistance of parents, grandparents, teachers, and children that are already fighting to save America’s public schools.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The Not-so-Secret War against OUR Public Schools

About eight years ago my wife heard Diane Ravitch being interviewed on NPR. When Anchee got home, she told me I’d be interested, and I’ve been following Diane’s blog since and have read a few of her books on the war being waged against our public schools.

Make no mistake about this issue; it is a greed-based war of power and corruption that mostly old, white billionaires and corporations managed by old, white CEO’s launched against the people’s public schools long before I learned about Diane Ravitch.

I was a public school teacher for thirty years working in Rowland Unified School District in Southern California from 1975 to 2005. The two schools I taught at the longest were Giano Intermediate and Nogales High School in La Puente, California. After President Ronald Reagan’s flawed and misleading “A Nation at Risk” report was released in 1983, it didn’t take long for news and opinion pieces to start appearing in the media blaming public school teachers for literally everything that was allegedly wrong in the United States, including poverty and the number of Americans in Prison.

National Public Radio reported, “The idea that American schools were worse just wasn’t true,” says James Guthrie, an education professor at Lynn University in Florida. Guthrie published a scholarly article in 2004 titled “A Nation At Risk Revisited: Did ‘Wrong’ Reasoning Result in ‘Right’ Results? At What Cost?” … “I looked at it every which way,” he says now. The authors in 1983 “were hell-bent on proving that schools were bad. They cooked the books to get what they wanted.”

Did you know that one of the leaders in this war against our public schools is Bill Gates? But, he isn’t alone. There are others like Eli Broad, the Wal-Mart Walton family, the Koch brothers, and Betsy DeVos. Taking a page from Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine, these greedy, power-hungry enemies of our public education system created a misleading phrase and have relentlessly repeated it through the years. That phrase was the school to prison pipeline.

There is the Republican-Nixon-Reagan to prison pipeline, but there has never been a school to prison pipeline.  If anyone reading this doesn’t believe me, look up President Nixon’s War on Drugs (launched June 1971. Click the previous link and scroll down to find that date). Then President Reagan doubled the War on Drugs when he became president and the prison population in the United States exploded and eventually became the largest prison population in the world with China in a distant second place. Don’t forget that China has more than four times the population but several hundred thousand fewer people in its prisons.

If you are interested, you might want to read this report out of Stanford University about Nixon’s War on Drugs. “The United States has been engaged in a “war” for nearly 25 years. …  We spend $50 billion per year trying to eradicate drugs from this country. According to DEA estimates, we capture less than 10 percent of all illicit drugs. … Does $50 billion a year for a 90% failure rate seem like a good investment to you?”

If you do the math, the total spent on that war comes to more than 1.25-trillion dollars, while individuals that think like Bill Gates blame the public schools and public school teachers for the results of Republican President Nixon and Reagan’s War on Drugs.

Anyway, back to public education, there were other false claims in this war on our public schools: too many teachers are incompetent and we can’t fire them, the teachers’ unions are corrupt, test scores are too low, et al. It didn’t take me long after 1983 to start thinking that there was a conspiracy behind all of these lies demonizing public school teachers, but I convinced myself that couldn’t be true, because if the public school system in the United States was destroyed, it would be the end of our Constitutional Republic and a return to 1900 when 40-percent of Americans lived in poverty, only 7-percent graduated from high school, and 3-percent went to college.

Who were most of these high school and college graduates in 1900?
They were the children of the wealthiest, elite, white Americans like Bill Gates and his family.

After World War II, The United States became a great nation because of our public schools that have become the foundation of our modern Republic and Democracy. Once our public schools are gone, this county will return to 1900.

Then almost ten years ago, I started reading Diane Ravitch’s blog and some of her books and discovered from all the facts and evidence I was reading, that I had not been wrong. There was a deliberate conspiracy to destroy our public schools and it started back in the 1970s and went viral after 1983 thanks to the Republican Party and their President Ronald Reagan, and that war on our public schools is getting more vicious by the year and continues to escalate. The vampire corporations and extremist autocratic billionaires like Bill Gates and their paid-for-troops are not stopping, and the lies and dirty tricks they keep pulling out of their hats-from-hell seem never-ending.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Really, the United States has to tear down its public schools and start over?

I do not know how I ended up on a list that keeps sending me e-mails from The Medium. Most of the time I delete those e-mails without opening them, but recently I noticed that The Medium was publishing a series of posts that attacked America’s public schools and teachers and it seems every day there was another assault.

This is one of those hatchet jobs: 20 Ways American Schools Fail Students.

Megan E. Holstein starts with, “Everyone knows the American school system is broken.”  A few sentences later, she says, “American Education is broken beyond repair. We need to scrap the entire thing and start over.”

Here is my response (revised for this post) that I left in a comment following Holstein’s alleged propaganda hack piece that I think was written to help destroy what’s left of the U.S. public education system. To be clear, the American school system is not broken. Public education is underfunded and teachers are being blamed for the results of too much useless testing that only benefits the corporations that profit from it.

If the American school system is broken, then some very wealthy and powerful individuals like Betsy DeVos, David Coleman, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and the Walmart Walton family are responsible.

However, the NAEP is the Nation’s Report Card, and it clearly shows improvement and progress in the nation’s public schools starting in 1969 up until NCLB in 2001. After that, the progress flattened out. The No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of high-stakes, rank-and-punish tests and abandoned what was working.

The NAEP report said, “As noted earlier, one of the national educational goals calls for increases in students’ academic achievement. A stated objective of this goal is that the performance distribution for minority students will more closely reflect that of the student population as a whole. In some of the subject areas assessed by NAEP, results indicated progress toward meeting this goal.” — Page xi

In addition, a study released by Stanford University offers more evidence that America’s public school are not failing: “Poor ranking on international test misleading about U.S. student performance, Stanford researcher finds”

“There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country; surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States than in similar post-industrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries.”

“Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared — Canada, Finland and Korea, for example — has been falling rapidly.”

It is possible that Medium.com also publishes pieces that support public education, but if those posts exist, they are not landing in my e-mail box.

The Atlantic says, “So what is Medium? Medium is a place to read articles on the Internet. Medium is a blogging platform, like WordPress or Blogger. Medium is the new project from the guys who brought you Twitter. Medium is chaotically, arrhythmically produced by a combination of top-notch editors, paid writers, PR flacks, startup bros, and hacks.”

There is always room for improvement, but if you want to see America’s public education system improve, we must turn back the clock and let teachers make most of the decisions just like teachers in Finland do … not someone like Betsy DeVos, Bill Gates or the Walmart Walton family.

Did you know that China actually learned what worked best in public education from the United States and then started rebuilding its education system in Shanghai based on what they learned?

In the 1990s, Chinese scholars visited the United States to learn what the United States was doing in its public schools.  After all, those public schools taught the generations that made the United States the most powerful and wealthiest country in the world.  In addition, the United States is one of the most educated countries in the world and is always listed in the top TEN, and there are 195 countries in the world today. No matter how great China’s 15-year-olds in Shanghai perform on the international PISA test, China hasn’t made the top TEN list yet. Canada is listed as #1, a country that does not measure success in education with high-stakes, rank-and-punish tests.

The 10 most educated countries in the world.

“What the Chinese found valuable in American education is the result of a decentralized, autonomous system that does not have standards, uses multiple criteria for judging the value of talents, and celebrates individual differences. Recognizing the negative consequences of ‘test-oriented education,’ China has launched a series of national reforms to cultivate more creative citizens.” – Reforming Chinese Education: What China is Trying to Learn from America

What happened after those Chinese scholars left the United States and went home?

With help from Bill Gates and other billionaire oligarchs that think like him, after NCLB in 2001, the Common Core standards and high stakes rank-and-punish tests were forced on the nation’s public schools literally destroying everything the country was doing right. Getting rid of those tests and that Common Core are the first steps toward fixing any damage those billionaires caused to the U.S. public schools. We do not have to tear down our public schools and start over. We only have to stop people like Bill Gates from meddling in our public education system.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The New York Times sent me a long e-mail asking me to subscribe

The NYT’s email follows my reply

If the New York Times is such a great newspaper, why does it support Corporate Charter Schools as better than community-based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools in its pages?

Test scores do NOT make a good or great school.

Honest studies based on all the facts that go beyond the hype and lies pumped out repeatedly by the billionaire supported autocratic, opaque and secretive, for-profit, often fraudulent and child abusing corporate charter school industry repeatedly prove that these for-profit (not public) schools that take public money are no better, are often worse and are riddled with fraud and corruption.

While traditional public schools are ridiculed and often closed for allegedly failing to educate ALL the students according to flawed laws and legislation, the corporate charter schools are often ignored when they fail worse than any public school has ever been accused of.

Until the New York Times reports accurately and honestly without bias about what is really happening in the United States about the county’s arguably great community-based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools, I will not subscribe to your newspaper even to support you financially.

I earned my BA in journalism from Fresno State Universty in California in 1973, and the New York Times inadequate and often biased coverage of the greed based autocratic war against the highly successful community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools. I taught both English and journalism in California public schools for thirty years so I know what I am talking about. If you have the time; if you have an open mind, read my memoir “Crazy is Normal”. This memoir was not written with best-seller status in mind. It was written to reveal what goes on in an American classroom and it was based on a daily journal that I kept for one full school year.

I know what I am talking about when I allege that America’s traditional public schools are a great success. Test scores do not measure success. The college graduation rate does (The U.S. of ranked annually as one of the most educated countries on the planet). The high school graduation rate by age 25 does. The fact that America’s publishing industry is the largest and most profitable in the world does, because, without readers, that publishing industry would be insignificant.

And without the life-long learners, critical thinkers and problem solvers who are educated in America’s traditional, community base, democratic, transparent, non-profit (REAL) public schools, there would be no democracy.  High test scores from flawed and secretive tests that profit corporations like Pearson do not educate life-long learners, critical thinkers and problem solvers that this country needs to survive as a Constitutional Republic.

Let America’s highly educated teachers that belong to labor unions teach and get corporations, state capitals, and Washington DC out of the nation’s classrooms. Those teachers’ unions are necessary to protect teachers from frauds and bullies like Donald Trump.

Leave the teaching to the teachers and remember, the teachers do not learn for the students. Children must come to school ready and willing to learn.


It’s All About the Money!

 

A note from Cliff Levy, Deputy Managing Editor
Greetings,

I’m writing from the newsroom of The New York Times, where I’m a deputy managing editor, helping to oversee more than 1,200 journalists across the globe. I’m reaching out because you’ve shown an interest in Times journalism, and I thought that you’d like to hear how we view our mission.

Our journalists pursue stories around the clock because we believe in the power of information, ideas and debate to shape the world and inspire change. Just a few examples from our coverage in recent days:

When Syria insisted that it did not carry out a horrific chemical attack on civilians, Times reporters did groundbreaking work with forensic mapping to dispute the government’s claims.
Our Washington investigative team produced a special report on the F.B.I. director’s role in shaping the 2016 presidential election. After the director was dismissed by President Trump, the investigative team then came up with a series of scoops that revealed what had really happened behind the scenes.
With deep experience in Silicon Valley, our technology reporter exposed how Uber’s founder engaged in reckless corporate practices, touching off a federal investigation.

Real reporting is vital in a media landscape full of deceptive or outright false news. And we can do it because we have the support of our subscribers.

Of course, you can also look to The Times for compelling coverage on how to live a more fulfilling life. Our Cooking section offers thousands of recipes and how-to guides. Our experts offer advice on everything from how to avoid addiction to technology to how to exercise more effectively.

We also believe in elevating our readers’ voices in order to highlight a diversity of views. In a landmark partnership with Google, we’re going to open up most of our articles to comments, creating an engaging and respectful forum for you to discuss the issues of the day.

A little about me: I’ve spent 27 years at The Times, winning two Pulitzer Prizes, one for my work in Russia and one for exposing the abuse of mentally ill people.

Like so many in our newsroom, I’ve devoted my career to The Times because I believe in the role that independent and original journalism can play in society.

I hope that you’ll consider subscribing to The Times. Here’s how.

Regards,

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The Facebook Sucker-Berg Phenomenon and the Deliberate Destruction of Community-Based Public Ed

I read “I quit Facebook and my life is better now” at Cathy O’Neil’s Mathbabe blog, and my thoughts became a wild river about Facebook and its founder who launched Facebook by cheating two brothers and hijacking their idea. To learn more about Suckerberg’s own con, read 6 People Mark Zuckerberg Burned On His Way To The Top.

After reading O’Neil’s Mathbabe post, I was glad I was never suckered into a Facebook obsession. Yes, I do have two Facebook pages: one for my books that’s part of my internet-author’s platform, and a personal Facebook page, but all I did was set up automatic feeds from my 4 blogs to Facebook and occasionally I go there to reply to a comment.  The reason I never fell into the Facebook swamp was because it was a confusing maze to me, and I didn’t want to go through the learning curve to discover how to use all those allegedly great bells-and-whistles that Facebook offers to help destroy your life in the real world.

But the stream of thoughts that flowed between my ears as I was reading O’Neil’s Mathbabe blog post had nothing to do with Facebook. It was all about Mark Suckerberg, Facebook’s founder, and how he was conned out of a $100 million dollars to save the children of Newark, New Jersey from those horrible failing public schools that really never were failing anyone as schools. If you want to learn more (put an emphases in LEARN — because there are far too many ignorant, easy-to-fool voting citizen in the U.S., or we wouldn’t be stuck with narcissistic, psycho, serial-lying, con-man, Donald Trump for our next president — I suggest reading What Happened with the $100 million that Newark schools got from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg? Not Much from The Hechinger Report.

You see, there’s this myth that America’s traditional public schools are failing and to save our children we have to replace those schools with an unproven, genetically-modified crop of allegedly perfect, (hell sent) corporate charter schools that just happen to make profits for a host of greedy frauds and liars similar to Donald Trump and his current pick to run the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos.

If you think America’s community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit public schools are failing and the choice of a corporate charter school is the answer to save our children, then I will roar as only a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Vet can angrily shout, “It’s the poverty, stupid, you ignorant, biased, deplorable, easy-to-fool ass!”

The fact is America’s traditional public school are not failing, and an often deliberately ignored report out of Stanford University proved that years ago in Poor ranking on international test misleading about U.S. student performance, Stanford researcher finds.

The conclusion of this report from one of the top-ranked universities in the world said, “A comprehensive analyses of international tests by Stanford and the Economic Policy Institute shows that U.S. Schools aren’t being outpaced by international competition.”

After reading that report, it was obvious to me that the results of the international test that Stanford referred to was rigged to make America’s traditional public school look bad.

Stanford reported that once the flawed data was corrected, the U.S. went from 14th in reading to SIXTH and went from 25th in math to 13th.

In addition, Stanford discovered “There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students (living in poverty) in every country; surprisingly, the gap is smaller in the United States … and not much larger than the very highest scoring countries.”  In fact, “Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students (living in poverty) has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students (living in poverty) in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared … had been falling rapidly.”

It’s time for most voting Americans to wake up and stop being suckered like Suckerberg was in Newark, New Jersey.  It’s obvious that before the top-down reforms forced on the United States by President G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and continued with President Obama’s flawed and fraudulent Race To The Top bullshit and its Common Core test-and-punish crap, the United States had (and hopefully still has) one of the best public education systems in the world, and it was on track to only get better.

And who is con-man President-Elect Donald Trump putting in charge to finish the destruction of America’s top-rated public schools?  The answer: labor union hating, billionaire Betsy DeVos, who never attended a public school in her life, and she sends her own children to very expensive private schools that only the wealthy can afford.

If you want to educate yourself about this one-woman billionaire wrecking crew, learn, learn, learn from: Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools, 5 Things to Know about Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump Education Choice, and What’s the worst that could happen with Betsy DeVos as education secretary? Two scenarios.

Make no mistake about this. The United States is on the verge of the total destruction of one of the best public education systems in the world, and what is waiting to replace it is the autocratic, opaque-and-secretive, often fraudulent-and-inferior, private-sector corporate charter school industry that often bullies and terrorizes children to become assembly-line drones that score high on tests or face eviction back to the cold, brutal world of underfunded and deliberately abandoned, traditional public education.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The Godzilla of Education uses Censorship and Threats

Pearson Education is a British-owned education publishing and assessment service to schools and corporations, as well as directly to students. Pearson owns educational media brands including Addison–Wesley, Peachpit, Prentice Hall, eCollege, Longman, Poptropica, and others. Though Pearson generates approximately 60% of its sales in North America, they operate in more than 70 countries. The company was founded in the UK in 1844 by Samuel Pearson as a building and engineering concern. Pearson didn’t enter the education industry until 1996 when it bought the education division of Harper Collins from News Corp.

Pearson is now organized into three main business groupings: Pearson School, Pearson Higher Education and Pearson Professional (includes Financial Times Group and Pearson English). In 2011 Pearson generated total revenues of £5.9 billion (about 8.5 billion US Dollars), of which £4,390 million were from Pearson Education, £1,045 million from Penguin Group, and £427 million from Financial Times Group. In 2011, 60% of Pearson’s revenues were generated in North America, 23% in Europe, 11% in Asia, and 6% in the rest of the world.

Fortune Magazine published Everybody Hates Pearson. “Legions of parents, teachers, and others (in the United States) see the new Pearson in a very different light. Many of them, particularly in North America, where the company does some 60% of its sales, think of it as the Godzilla of education. In their view, Pearson is bent on controlling every element of the process, from teacher qualifications to curriculums to the tests used to evaluate students to the grading of the tests to, increasingly, owning and operating its own learning institutions.”

“In the U.S., testing is the most searingly divisive issue. The business of assessing students through high school has grown 57% in just the past three years, to $2.5 billion, according to the Software & Information Industry Association. Some believe ‘high-stakes testing’ is the best way to create accountability; others think it measures little and incentivizes the wrong things.”

“Today analysts think Pearson controls some 60% of the North American testing market.”

Recently Pearson used its financial power to censor American activists protesting over testing with poorly designed for-profit tests from autocratic private sector corporations that can be used to close public schools, fire teachers, block students from graduating from high school and teachers from becoming teachers. Imagine spending four to six years in college learning to become a public school teacher, and then a for-profit test from Pearson, that many cannot pass even after several expensive attempts, keeps them from becoming a teacher.

Leonie Haimson says, “My tweet and many others linking to the piece (The PARCC Test: Exposed [excerpts deleted under legal threat from PARCC]) were deleted after PARCC complained to Twitter of copyright infringement. Diane Ravitch wrote a blog post about this last night that she insists was somehow deleted.”

Outrage on the Page said, “There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction?” … “right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.”

Using U.S. copyright laws, it is obvious that Pearson is censoring anyone who attempts to reveal the quality and validity of these profitable tests that the Economic Policy Institute reports, “A review of the technical evidence leads us to conclude that, although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation. … Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise. Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning. … there is broad agreement among statisticians, psychometricians, and economists that student test scores alone are not sufficiently reliable and valid indicators of teacher effectiveness to be used in high-stakes personnel decisions, even when the most sophisticated statistical applications such as value-added modeling are employed.”

Front Line (PBS) reported that “Pearson is the leading scorer of standardized tests. …  The National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College compiled data from The Bowker Annual, a compendium of the dollar-volume in test sales each year, and reported that while test sales in 1955 were $7 million (adjusted to 1998 dollars), that figure was $263 million in 1997, an increase of more than 3,000 percent. Today, press reports put the value of the testing market anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.” NCS Measurement Service’s (testing nearly 40 million students annually, more than any other company in the U.S.) was acquired by Pearson in September 2000 for $2.5 billion. Pearson reported $629.5 million in sales in 2000 and 32% of that came from testing services.

I find it strange that President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law on January 8, 2002 leading to huge profits for Pearson and other for-profit corporations that publish for-profit high stakes tests. If you want to learn how much Pearson spends annually in lobbying for its corporate agenda, click OpenSecrets.org. In 2001, Pearson didn’t spend any money on lobbying. In 2002, Pearson spent $400,000, $540,000 for 2003, $336,000 in 2004, $136,000 in 2005, $70,000 in 2006, $181,250 in 2007, $710,000 in 2008, $842,072 for 2009, one million dollars in 2010, the year the Common Core high stakes tests came out, $1,040,000 in 2011, $1,020,000 in 2012, $850,000 in 2013, $500,000 in 2014, and $400,000 in 2015.

In January 2015, the CEO of Pearson, John Fallon (should be Felon instead of Fallon) said, ““It doesn’t matter to us whether our customers are hundreds of thousands of individual students and their parents in China, or thousands of school districts in America,” says Fallon. “What we’re trying to do is the same thing—to help improve learning outcomes.”

But collaboration and final decision making must including all stakeholders—teachers, students and parents—because it is the best way to improve learning outcomes. Knowing this, please help explain why UK’s Pearson is so obsessed with all the secrecy, and why use copyright laws to censor critics?

As some of you may know, Celia Oyler of TC posted an anonymous teacher’s critique of the 4th grade PARCC exam a few days ago that identified a few texts and the questions asked.  Yesterday Celia received a threatening email from PARCC and removed the name of the text sources & the wording of the questions. She is now looking into challenging PARCC’s position legally.

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

Conclusion: secrecy, lies and opaqueness have been part of building the Testocracy Machine since the beginning in 2002, and Pearson has been involved every step of the way along with Bill Gates and other billionaire oligarchs that want control over the education of our children while theirs attend exclusive, expensive private schools. Watch the following video to discover more of the details about the secrecy behind this movement to profit off public dollars and mold the thinking of our children.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Does Hillary Clinton know the difference between public education in China, India and the United States?

At a recent Town Hall event in South Carolina, audience member John Loveday asked Hillary Clinton a question. He wanted to know if she would support a longer school day or school year to keep up with India and China.

Loveday introduced himself as the principal of a charter school and claimed that his charter school offered 230 instruction days versus the traditional 180 days for public schools.

But there is a BIG difference between offered and actual days children attend class as you will discover, because Karen Wolfe did her homework and learned that Loveday is the principal of a virtual charter school, and that reveals a lot. She wrote about what she learned in a February 25, 2016 post called Joe the Plumber takes on public education.

Virtual charters might be open more days but does that mean students at home on their tablet, desktop, laptop or smartphone are logged on and paying attention while doing work for several hours each day for every one of those 230 offered days?

I don’t think so, and you will find out why later in this post.

Loveday said, “If you look at countries like India and China, they offer—they require—their high school students to attend 220 days on average. That’s 40 more than our high school students.”

What Loveday didn’t say and probably doesn’t want to you or anyone else to know is that in China mandatory education ends at age 15 before senior high school begins—grades 10, 11 and 12 are not mandatory—and millions of mostly rural Chinese students have already left the academic public education system by the end of 6th grade.

In fact, to stay and attend a senior high school—that isn’t mandatory—those want-to-be high school students willing go to school more days than public school students in the U.S. must take a high-stakes, high-stress, national test and rank among the top scorers to make it into a high school.  Students who take the test and do not score high enough are offered a choice: go home or go to a vocational school and learn a trade.  And even those who do make the score and get into high school have no choice of the school they attend. The high school the winners of the high-stakes, high-stress test competition in China end up in is based on their rank on the test. Students who scored the highest are sent to the highest quality high schools, etc. The best high schools end up with the best test-taking students who usually have the most supportive parents known as autocratic tiger parents.

Compulsory education in China is grades 1 to 9 but millions of rural students who live in small villages end their education at the end of 6th grade to return to work in the fields or move to a city and work in a factory, and the government does nothing to force those young children to return to finish grades 7, 8 and 9.

There are about 121 million children in China’s K – 6 public education system, but only 11.6 million will make it to college out of the voluntary senior high schools, because there is another competitive high-stakes test in 12th grade that is used to rank students that make it to college—or not.

As for India’s longer school year allegedly making India’s educational system more competitive than public schools in the United States, a few numbers tell the fact-based truth of India’s economic and education systems.

  1. The average Indian child spends only FIVE years in school, according to the World Bank.
  2. According to India’s 2001 Census, as many as 560,687,797 persons in the country are literate.There are more than 1.2 billion Indians. To discover how many Indians are illiterate, do the math, that is if you paid attention in math and know how to subtract.
  3. According to NBC news, “India’s hunger ‘shame’: 3,000 children die every day, despite economic growth.”

Do you think starving children are in any position to learn when they are in school—what are they thinking about, their school books or their hunger?

NBC news reported that, “A government-supported survey last month (in India) said 42 percent of children under five are underweight – almost double that of sub-Saharan Africa – compared to 43 percent five years ago.

“The statistic – which means 3,000 children dying daily due to illnesses related to poor diets – led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to admit malnutrition was ‘a national shame’ and was putting the health of the nation in jeopardy.

“It is a national shame. Child nutrition is a marker of the many things that are not going right for the poor of India,” said Purnima Menon, research fellow on poverty, health and nutrition at the Institute of Food Policy Research Institute.

“India’s efforts to reduce the number of undernourished kids have been largely hampered by blighting poverty where many cannot afford the amount and types of food they need.”

Instead of comparing India and China’s public schools to public education in the United States, I suggest we compare the success of education in China and India to the virtual charter school industry where Loveday works.

Public Schools First says, “The vast majority of students who attend online schools are failing. According to a National Education Policy Center report, only 27.4 percent of virtual schools met federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards. Graduation rates are astoundingly low. K12, Inc.’s Ohio Virtual Academy reported an overall 30.4% four-year on time graduation rate with a 12.2% rate for African American students and a 24.2% rate for economically disadvantaged students (versus a statewide rate of 78%). K12, Inc.’s Colorado Virtual Academy reported a 12% four-year on time graduation rate (versus a statewide rate of 72%). There is also deep concern about the ability of these virtual charters to effectively educate at-risk or special needs students. Other concerns about virtual instruction that directly impact student achievement include.”

In conclusion, it would seem that China and India’s public education systems are much better than the for-profit—anyway you look at it—virtual charter school industry that Loveday is part of. I think Loveday was a plant and his question was scripted. The fact that Hillary Clinton did not respond with the facts in this post is enough for me to think she was in on it. I allege that Loveday’s question was planned and approved by Clinton before the event and her answer was on that same script.

Do we really want a U.S. President who doesn’t know these facts or does know them and deliberately ignored those facts during an alleged scripted question and answer session in a town hall meeting?

One thing I do know, John Loveday is a profit-mongering fraud.

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HEY, LET’S BLAME IT ON THE TEACHERS AS USUAL

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

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