Common Core and Standardized Testing: Ignoring Evidence-based Assessment

Standardized testingOne of education reform’s ugly heads is standardized testing, and it has become even uglier with Common Core, in spite of clear research and solid evidence that it is not only useless, it is actually harmful to students, teachers and schools.  Common Core continues the trend of ignoring what works: authentic assessment.

An attachment to numbers and data has led our education system down the road of hollow data, for standardized testing does not measure what data mongrels want and claim that it does.   We are at the highest level of standardized testing our country has ever known, much higher than any other country in the world.  It’s become a data feeding frenzy.  Alfie Kohn former teacher, subject-matter expert and very vocal critic of the current system of standardized testing, lays out the best discussion of this I have unearthed so far in his book “The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools.”  He notes early in the first chapter that corporations who develop and score exams, as well as teaching materials aligned with the exams, are profiting billions of dollars each year, all at the expense of our students, our teachers, and our schools. But, while these standardized tests may be more efficient, they are less effective, and don’t test important abilities. They don’t measure creativity, true problem solving (beyond memorizing a math formula), innovation, values, effort, commitment, compassion or ethical reflection. Because teachers are stuck teaching to the test for any hope of survival, that means many important things aren’t taught either.

I’ve done quite a bit of research on this topic, and reliable resources, including Alfie Kohn, all make the same points:

  • Standardized tests measure how fast students can answer certain questions, what material they could memorize, and how well they take tests.
  • Standardized tests are not balanced, leaving important considerations outside the immediate realm of test-taking unaccounted for.  This includes disabilities, testing anxiety (which, by the way, is on the rise), lack of sleep, home life, external stressors, or mental health.
  • Standardized tests do not measure a student’s learning and understanding of the material, regardless of how many times Common Core authors throw in the sentence “explain your answer.” In fact, higher scores are notably associated with relatively shallow thinking. Kohn lays this out very well in his book.
  • Errors are not only inherent in the tests themselves, but the scoring process is deeply flawed as well.  Pearson was nailed in 2011 when it was discovered that they post ads on Craiglist for test scorers at $12 an hour, claiming that scorers needed a college degree, but hiring mostly those who not only did not have a degree, but many who had dropped out of high school.  Read Todd Farley’s book “Making the Grade” for an insider’s account.
  • Our current system of fallacious standardized testing is used as the basis for flunking kids, firing teachers, punishing parents and closing schools.

Alfie Kohn lists four red flags of flawed testing:

  1. Beware of tests that are timed. If students must complete an examination within a specified time period, this means that a premium is placed on speed as opposed to wasserman-high-stakes-testingthoughtfulness or even thoroughness.
  2. You should be worried if tests are given frequently. It is neither necessary  (in terms of collecting information) nor desirable (in terms of improving the quality of instruction) to test students year after year after year.
  3. Be prepared to protest if tests are given to young children. Students below the fourth grade simply should not be subjected to standardized examinations…because it is difficult, if  not impossible, to devise such an assessment in which they can communicate the depth of their understanding…skills develop rapidly and differentially in young children…and leads to one-size-fits-all (which is to say, poor) teaching.
  4. Look out for tests that are norm-referenced…they provide little to no information about…what the individual can do. They tell that one student is less proficient than another, but do not tell ow proficient either of them is with respect to the subject matter tasks involved.

The American Psychological Association’s Code of Fair Testing practices in Education starts out by stating “The Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education (Code) is a guide for professionals in fulfilling their obligation to provide and use tests that are fair to all test takers regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, linguistic background, or other personal characteristics. Fairness is a primary consideration in all aspects of testing.”  Common Core obliterates the fairness principle.

In addition, under Rights of Test Takers: Guidelines for Testing Professionals, you will note the emphasis on professionalism and administering tests that are reliable and relevant:

“Because test takers have the right to be tested with measures that meet professional standards that are appropriate for the test use and the test taker, given the manner in which the results will be used, testing professionals should:

  • Take steps to utilize measures that meet professional standards and are reliable, relevant, useful given the intended purpose and are fair for test takers from varying societal groups.
  • Advise test takers that they are entitled to request reasonable accommodations in test administration that are likely to increase the validity of their test scores if they have a disability recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act or other relevant legislation.”

Just as the authors of the Common Core standards have admitted that they do not have the qualifications to develop educational standards, the authors of these standardized tests don’t either.

So, what do we do then? 

We look at students’ work. We talk to the experts, the teachers. We talk to the students.  This is known as authentic assessment, the word “authentic” being used for a reason. Many other countries do this. Research projects, oral presentations, portfolios, problem solving activities and research projects tell us what we need to know, including higher order thinking skills, understanding, and deeper knowledge.

“If the goal is simply to sort, stratify, and rank, portfolios add little if you already have test data,” says Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, a Massachusetts-based organization that opposes standardized testing. “If the goal is rich feedback at individual or school level, portfolios of some sort are indispensable while tests are of minimal use as they provide far too little information.”

FairTest addresses the accountability piece with School Quality Reviews, conducted every 4-5 years, at the school, in person, by professionals.  The goal is not punitive; rather, the goal is actual improvement. I am certified as a school accreditation reviewer, and have conducted several such reviews.  This method is more thorough and more meaningful for all parties involved than everything  Common Core has foisted on us.

We don’t need more tests, harder tests, and more expensive testing systems that divert much-needed funds from our schools. We need authentic assessment and accountability, and a moratorium on standardized testing. We need to allow our students to get back to learning, and our teachers to get back to teaching.  Big corporations need to go find their markets somewhere else.

LearningTesting (1)

Additional Reading:

Portfolio Assessment: Can It Be Used to Hold Schools Accountable?

Standardized Testing and Its Victims

Authentic Assessment in Secondary Education

A Better Way to Evaluate Schools

Common Core and FAPE: On a Slippery Slope

Common Core will damage this child

Common Core will damage this child

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and it means your child has the right to a public education that is free and that emphasizes special education and related services that are “designed to meet their unique needs” and to “prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.” 20 USC 1400(d).

This means that children with IEP’s need to receive “meaningful educational benefit.” Before I go any further, I want to help clarify what that means.

On June 28, 1982, in the .S Supreme Court decision, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County et al., versus Rowley by her parents Rowley et ux., the Court held that the requirement of FAPE is met when a child is provided with personalized instruction with sufficient support services to benefit educationally from that instruction.

DB v. Sutton, 07-cv-40191-FDS (D.Mass.2009)required that at a minimum the school district must provide students with “a meaningful, beneficial educational opportunity.”  Polk v. Central Susqehanna, 3rd Ci. 1988, further defined it by stating that educational opportunities must be “meaningful not merely trivial or ‘de mimimus’.”

In Cypress-Fairbanks Indep. School District v. Michael F., the Fifth Circuit Court quoted from Rowley and concluded that “the educational

Common Core will damage this child as well.

Common Core will damage this child as well.

benefit that an IEP is designed to achieve must be meaningful.” In order to determine whether an IEP meets this standard, the Cypress-
Fairbanks court identified four factors: (1) the program is individualized; (2) the program is administered in the least restrictive environment (in the regular classroom as much as possible); (3) the services are provided in a coordinated and collaborative manner; and (4) positive academic and nonacademic benefits are demonstrated.

Hearing officers and courts also consider whether or not the child is advancing from grade to grade and/or is making passing grades regardless of whether the child is at grade level. The Rowley decision itself it states “The grading and advancement system thus constitutes an important factor in determining educational benefit.  Children who graduate from our public school systems are considered by our society to have been ‘educated’ at least to the grade level they have completed, and access to an ‘education’ for handicapped children, is precisely what Congress sought to provide in the Act.”

Why did I just explain all of that to you?

Because Common Core violates IDEA and makes it impossible to provide FAPE for students with IEP’s.

By mandating that all students meet the same standards in their respective grade levels, regardless of ability, Common Core ignores the intricacies presented by disabilities, as well as mandated provisions such as Individualized Educational Plans that are”designed to meet their unique needs.”

Further, it makes it impossible to create meaningful and measurable goals based on Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP), which means starting with baseline information about a child’s knowledge and skills and then developing appropriate goals for progress. Many students with disabilities are not able to perform at grade level, but they are able to learn and to progress.

Example of an appropriate goal: Johnny has a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to process information that he reads. He is in the fifth grade and currently reads at a second grade level. He comprehends 5% of common sight words for third grade reading levels. After identifying what reasonable progress should look like (based on historical evidence), as well as supports and services, an appropriate goal might read “Johnny will increase comprehension of third grade sight words from 5% to 45% by December, and from December to May, Johnny will increase comprehension fro 45% to 90%.

Example of an inappropriate goal (based on the same information) Johnny’s reading skills will be proficient at his grade level by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

The second example is what Common Core dictates.

I reblogged a post a few days ago entitled “Special Needs Out of Luck with Common Core” in which Jill Stine, a Trainer at The Center for College and Career Readiness, openly admits that Common Core does not address special needs students or provide for appropriate accommodations.

This decimates the ability of a student with disabilities to benefit at all from his or her educational experience. In fact, meaningful educational benefit comes to a screeching halt. Common Core puts students with disabilities at the bottom of a very steep corporate-made hill made of steel and ice–harsh, cold, slippery, unnecessary, brutal and impassable–and then tells them to climb it, blind and with no climbing tools. Alone.

When did Arne Duncan and his corporate goons decide that this was ok?

All children CAN learn!

All children CAN learn!

When did it become alright to throw out federal protections that took years to obtain, and that have been strongly upheld by courts, including the Supreme Court?

And how do they sleep at night?


Common Core Lies: Enron Revisited

Common Core Fiction

Common Core Fiction

I caught an article last night called “Opening School Data Carries Economic Value, Report Contends” on Education Week, addressing the “ubiquitous flow of data across education has caused anxiety among parents and privacy advocates, who fear that information about students will be released or shared with outside entities without permission.”

America has already proven too smart for the games that Arne and the corporate goons are playing, for, while they try to convince us otherwise, we already know that our fears are not unfounded. Private data gathered via Common Core data mining will be shared without our permission-that’s why they secretly changed FERPA, so that they can.

The article, published in a Bill Gates publication, by the way, proudly boasts of a “new report” that demonstrates that the data mining could “unlock significant economic value by applying advanced analytics to both open and proprietary knowledge.”  If you are able to weed through the jargon, what it boils down to is that they are still trying to convince Americans that the data will be used to “help” us, and that it will enable gaps to be identified and filled, and that everyone will live happily ever after.

There’s just one problem.  It’s not true. It’s more Common Core dishonesty.

The data that Common Core wants to gather has nothing to do with the economic benefit of this country.  Common Core is about  elitist profit and control, and the name of the game is lies and manipulation.

I want to take us back to the creator of the “new report,” McKinsey & Company. McKinsey and Company has a track record of falsifying data to the benefit if its clients. Remember the Enron scandal?  McKinsey and Company built Enron into a mega-corporation–of liars and thieves, and they tried to help them cover their tracks.  Duff McDonald just came out with a new book about McKinsey and Company called “The Firm,” that exposes the nastiness of the McKinsey mob. They are known for falsifying data. Lou Dobbs of Fox Business News says that he cannot find a single example of McKisney’s ability to add value. Neither can I.

When you have some spare time, here is an interesting article about McKinsey and Company’s take on data collection and profits called “How Soon Will Big Data Yield Big Profits?” The title pretty much says it all.

Oh, by the way, David Coleman is an alumnus of McKinsey and Company, and is still affiliated with them. No conflict of interest there…

And now Arne and the corporate goons are relying on them to provide reliable information to sell Common Core?

I want to point out also, that there is extensive evidence that refutes the claim in the “new report.” Christopher Tienken, assistant professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University, wrote a number of reports based on extensive

Common Core Full of Lies

Common Core Full of Lies

research and compelling evidence that refutes the claim that data mining is necessary to improve “global competitiveness.” In fact, we are already globally competitive.  Tienken sums this up nicely in his editorial “Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making“:

The U.S. already has one of the
highest percentages of people with high school
diplomas and college degrees compared to any
other country and we had the greatest number
of 15 year-old students in the world score at the
highest levels on the 2006 PISA science test
(OECD, 2008; OECD, 2009; United Nations,

We produce more researchers and
scientists and qualified engineers than our
economy can employ, have even more in the
pipeline, and we are one of the most
economically competitive nations on the globe
(Gereffi & Wadhwa, 2005; Lowell, et al., 2009;
Council on Competitiveness, 2007; World
Economic Forum, 2010).

The economic impact that Common Core and its data mining is having is foisting economic burden onto states. $300 million has already been spent on implementing the new assessments, and the cost of implementing Common Core standards themselves will exceed $15 billion.

Fake data, fake report, written to fake us out.

We’re smarter than that.

Related articles

Protect the Fight to Stop Common Core

1455108_4946256993576_575780415_nHave you heard about National Don’t Send Your Child to School Day?

I am a warrior mom fighting Common Core and willing to make a statement about the initiative.  I was on board with this effort for a while, but started having second thoughts for several reasons.

About a week ago I engaged in a discussion about possible repercussions to pulling kids out of school to make a political statement. I struggled with it for a while.  I agree that it will definitely make a statement, and statements are definitely needed; however, as someone who is starting to gain credibility in my own school district, and as someone who has seen firsthand some successes in fighting Common Core in Colorado, I am becoming increasingly conscientious of what I say and how I fight.

It is my sense that I will be viewed as irresponsible if I do pull my daughter out, and I agree with Shane Vander Hardt’s latest post in Truth in American Education “Fight Common Core and Send Your Kids to School.” Proponents of Common Core like Michael Petrilli are going to attempt to capitalize on painting those opposed to Common Core as impulsive extremists who have no sense.

Contrary to Petrilli’s statement that in his experience some of the most vocal Common Core opponents do not have their children in public schools, Common Core is being fought across the country by parents and educators, like you and me, who don’t have an extreme bone in their bodies.  Good sense, sound research and evidence, as well as disciplined responses has been a hallmark of the fight against Common Core, and we should strive to keep it that way.

There are many actions that we can take to fight the standards, and opting out of the standardized assessments is a more effective and protected choice. State-specific information and resources are available at United Opt Out National’s website. In addition, Congressmen are beginning to respond, and the foundation of support is growing.

We all have a responsibility to not damage the fight.


Common Core: “Sexuality” Education

sex-edBefore you say the National Sexuality Education Standards are not part of Common Core, let me direct you to page 6 of the publication:

“The National Sexuality Education Standards were further informed by the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool(HECAT)3; existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content; the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade; and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, recently adopted by most states.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a part, has long since partnered with the Department of Education in standardizing just about everything they possibly can.  Education opened the back door on this one and let these standards slide right in.

Remember the days when it was “sex ed,” all about the reproductive system, girls’ menstruation, and the sexes were separated for this information?  Those days are long gone.

Note the change in the name, from Sex Education to Sexuality Education. That was not an accident.

The Department of Education gave a major contributor of Common Core, Planned Parenthood, a loud voice in writing the standards, and it shows.  For instance:

Page 12 says:
“By the end of 2nd grade, students should be able to: Use proper names for body parts, including male and female anatomy.” 

Page 14 says:
“By the end of 5th grade, students should be able to: Describe male and female reproductive systems including body parts and their functions. Identify medically-accurate information about female and male reproductive anatomy.  Define sexual orientation as the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender.”

Page 9 has “Guiding Values and Principles,” and this is what you will read there:

“Instruction by qualified sexuality education teachers is essential for student achievement.”
Excuse me? Standard biological information about the reproductive system is fine, teaching values is not.

“Students need opportunities to engage in COOPERATIVE and ACTIVE learning strategies (I really wanted you to catch those two words), and sufficient time must be allocated for students to PRACTICE skills relating to sexuality education.”
Practice? What the h%&$ does that look like?  My daughter better not be practicing anything until she’s married. Just sayin’…

While these are not all of the curriculum highlights that are offensive to many, I have to end with this doozy:

“Students need multiple opportunities and a variety of assessment strategies to determine their achievement of the sexuality education standards and performance.”

I try not to curse, but WTF?!  What does “a variety of assessment strategies” to “determine their achievement of the sexuality education standards and performance” look like, exactly?

Let’s talk about the material that will be used to present the “sexuality education” to our children.

“It’s Perfectly Normal” is a book written by Robie Harris (a board member of Planned Parenthood), illustrated by Michael Emberly, endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and showing up in lower elementary classrooms across the country.

Let’s talk about what is in it.

“It’s Perfectly Normal” addresses sex, sexuality, masturbation, contraception, homosexuality, oral sex, and abortion. It is so graphic that a prison in Washington rejected it, saying that it was too pornographic in nature.  But it’s ok for our school-aged children, apparently.

The book contains graphic illustrations of adult male and female bodies, and encourages children to explore their sexuality.  It teaches them to masturbate, and describes sexual intercourse that “can involved the penis and vagina, or the mouth and the genitals, or the penis and the anus.”  Let me stop right here and say that this is not a commentary on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality.  It is a commentary on what is appropriate for the schools to approach and what needs to be strictly left to the parents.

The book does not even mention chastity or abstinence.  Further, it attacks some religious beliefs by saying “And some religions call masturbation a sin. But  masturbating cannot hurt you.”  Many believe that sexual activity should not take place outside of marriage, and this concept is never raised.

I am not making an effort to tell you what you should believe and how you should act.  I am sharing my very strong belief, shared by millions of other parents across the nation, that these issues are private family matters and should not be in the schools at all.  It is our choice to make decisions about our personal family values and to teach our children when and how WE decide, not the government.

For more information about this issue:

About “It’s Perfectly Normal”

Kindergartners and Sexuality Education

Planned Parenthood’s Site for Teens

It's Perfectly Normal

It’s Perfectly Normal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American Life League Flyer

An Introduction to the Common Core Standards



In case some of you are not aware, the new Common Core Standards for our nation’s schools has been a hot topic recently. Many, including most parents, are not clear what they are or why they were developed, or what the long-term implications of adopting these standards are for our children.  One reason is, with everything parents have on their plates, it is difficult to spend the time necessary to fully research Common Core and understand what is involved and what it means.  Another reason is that it was open for minimal public comments or debate, and it’s not appeared on any ballot.  Medica coverage was limited until only recently.

This is an issue of extreme importance for families, children, education and the future of our country; therefore, I have committed to researching and bringing information back here in a format that will be easier to understand, one-stop-shopping so to speak, and to providing more information if you would like to dig even deeper.  In the coming  months, I will post the most recent developments, here under Common Core Updates.


What is Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) mission statement reads “The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”  Common Core Standards shift decision-making from local control to the federal level, and provides international benchmarking, as well as specific reading lists, curriculum material, data collection, health instruction, social and emotional development instruction, and standard testing. The Common Core Standards further create a singular method for providing instruction.

The CCSSI website states that These standards were developed by classroom teachers, school administrators and experts, in order to provide a consistent framework of instruction across the United States so that our children will be prepared for college and the workforce.”  In reality, the developers of the Common Core Standards include the United Nations (U.N.), President Obama, various government agencies including the Department of Health, the Labor Department and various corporations like Bill Gates and Microsoft. The primary author is David Coleman, director of the College Board and Treasurer for Students First, who views poor students as “low hanging fruit.” In future posts, I will present more of the history of Common Core.

Data Collection for School Improvement

The Common Core Standards provide for teachers to visit the students home to gather information about the family, home life, activities, and beliefs of all family members, more than 400 data points in all, that will accumulate each year, starting in preschool and following each student well into adulthood.   All data is loaded into a national data base for tracking and further evaluation. The data will reportedly be used for school improvement purposes and for matching individuals with career choices later in life.  “He is partnering with the Obama Administration’s campaign data team members to use the same techniques on data collection and use of data. This “treasure trove” of student data will be fully utilized under their leadership to drive everything in education from defining effective teachers to determining which students need further interventions inside and outside of the school building.” Decide the need for interventions outside the school building?  In addition, monitors will be used in classrooms to monitor children’s facial expressions and responses to instruction, as well as to monitor classroom activities.  A posture-sensitive chair will monitor posture and reveal a child’s temperament via body language, and bracelets will monitor heart rate and, supposedly, engagement.  This is too fantastic to make up.  See page 44 of the government’s plan in Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverence: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century.

In addition, none of the information is private.  What about FERPA, you ask? Oh, yes, well, that was secretly “altered” to provide the government and third parties access to all information.

This is, by all means, not all there is to Common Core; however, it’s a lot to wrap your brain around, so I will leave it here for now.  Several times a week I will provide in-depth information about many components of Common Core and what it means for you.  In the meantime, I urge you to do some reading on your own.

I would like to leave you with a quote by Alex de Tocqueville:

“It [government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

I appreciate all viewpoints on this matter, so please leave a comment.  Thank you!