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Topic: Pearson's Common Core Tests Designed to Fail Your Children
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,657
Registered: 12/3/04
Pearson's Common Core Tests Designed to Fail Your Children
Posted: Aug 7, 2014 1:32 PM
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From Diane Ravitch's blog, Thursday, July 31, 2014. See
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/31/how-pearsons-common-core-tests-are-designed-to-fail-your-children/
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How Pearson's Common Core Tests Are Designed to Fail Your Children

By Diane Ravitch

This is a must-read article.

One of the best education writers in New York State is Gary Stern of
lohud.com, which covers the Lower Hudson region. This article [See
http://www.lohud.com/story/news/education/2014/07/26/common-core-cut-scores-examined/13219981/
] shows how the passing marks ("cut scores") were set for the state's
Common Core tests. It is a story that should have appeared in the New
York Times. The State Education Department likes to boast that the
cut scores are set by teachers. This is supposed to make them
legitimate, on the assumption that the teachers have reasonable
expectations and know the students' capacity. All 95 teachers who
participated in the process of setting cut scores were required to
sign a confidentiality agreement, but Gary Stern persisted and found
18 who were willing to talk about the process without violating the
agreement.

What Gary Stern found was that Pearson called the shots, not the teachers.

Here are some quotes.

"How does the state determine the crucial break between a 2, which
means that a student is not quite proficient in, say, fifth-grade
math, and a 3, which signifies that he or she is on track for college?

"These scoring scales were set last summer by a group of 95 educators
that the state gathered at a hotel in Troy for several days.
Teachers, administrators and college professors from across New York
signed confidentiality agreements and were given the task of setting
the cuts between 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 3 and 4 for the new tests. But
the scores would be widely questioned and even ridiculed after
one-third of New York students were deemed to be on pace......"

"To most parents, passing a test means earning 65 out of 100 points.
Cut and dried.
"The process of setting a scoring "scale" and cut scores for an
annual test, based on all-important, predetermined goals, is an
entirely different animal that is not easily described. In fact, the
panelists met to set the 1-4 cut scores after students took the first
new tests in spring 2013 and the raw data was in.

"It's like you're jumping over a hurdle that's 2 feet high, but after
you jump they say it was 3 feet and you missed," said Cary Grimm,
another panelist who is math chairman for the Longwood school
district on Long Island.

"In brief, panelists were assigned to small groups that looked at
several grades' exams in math or English language arts. They were
given detailed descriptions of what students should know in each
grade - prepared by state officials and experts from Pearson Inc.,
the mega-corporation signed to create New York's tests....."

"Panelists were told whether various cut scores would jibe with
research on what it supposedly takes to succeed in college.

"Jane Arnold, an English professor at SUNY Adirondack, said the
Pearson people provided confusing data that didn't seem to apply to
grades 3-5, her group's focus.
"Then they gave us a chance to change our minds," she wrote in a
statement. "In other words, we all knew that most of the student
scores would be substandard....."

"Maria Baldassarre Hopkins, assistant professor of education at
Nazareth College in Rochester, said the process was driven by the
introduction of outside research about student success.

"I question how much flexibility and freedom the committee really
had," she said. "The process was based solely on empirical data, on
numbers. ... There are ways to make the numbers do what you want them
to do."

"Tina Good, coordinator of the Writing Center at Suffolk County
Community College, said her group produced the best possible cut
scores for ELA tests in grades 3 to 6 - playing by the rules they
were given.

"We worked within the paradigm Pearson gave us," she said. "It's not
like we could go, 'This is what we think third-graders should know,'
or, 'This will completely stress out our third-graders.' Many of us
had concerns about the pedagogy behind all of this, but we did reach
a consensus about the cut scores."

"Eva Demyen, superintendent of the Deer Park district on Long Island,
said she still doesn't grasp how the state determined that two-thirds
of students were not proficient in English and math.

"How they got the 33 percent (passing) was beyond us," she wrote. "It
just seemed very strange to me ... and I'm a mathematician!...."

"Another panelist, Karen DeMoss, a professor of education at Wagner
College on Staten Island, said she is increasingly convinced that
standardized testing is "scarring" students and not promoting
achievement.

"Our process was perfectly fine, and the Common Core standards may be
the best thing the country has ever had in education," DeMoss said.
"The problem is the underlying assumption that these tests are
helping us. They're not. Pearson's tests were unbelievably bad, the
worst I've seen, and the reality of using tests designed to rank
students is something we haven't gotten our heads around."

There are at least three lessons are to be learned from this fiasco:
one, it was Pearson, not the educators, that decided what students
should know; two, Pearson's standards will cause massive failure
wherever they are used; three, as many panelists noted, teachers did
not have the training to teach the standards.

And there is one more lesson: if the standards themselves are
developmentally inappropriate--if the tests expect fifth-graders to
learn material that is appropriate for seventh graders, failure is
inevitable. Unless, that is, Pearson and the State Education
Department decide to lower the cut scores to give the illusion of
progress.

As Gary Stern wrote: "A 2006 primer on cut scores prepared by the
Educational Testing Service found that cut scores can be reliable,
but are based on a group's opinions.

"It is impossible to prove that a cut score is correct," the report said.

Remember that the cut score is NOT an objective measure. It is a
judgment call, a matter of group opinion, shaped by assumptions, and
it can be manipulated to make scores appear higher or lower,
depending on what the state wants. If New York's scores go up, it
means that the State Education Department decided to reduce parent
anger by lowering the failure rate.

This is what happened in New York. It is wrong, it is cynical, it is
misguided. Thousands of children were falsely labeled as failures.
This is not good education. This is not about the needs of children.
This is institutional incompetence.

If your state plans to use Pearson and PARCC for Common Core testing,
consider this a cautionary tale. As Peter Greene writes in his blog
[see
http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/07/pearson-set-cut-scores-for-nys.html
],

"In fact, among the CCSS supporters who spoke (and really-- did you
think NYS would fill this committee with people who didn't love the
Core), there was a recognition that the implementation is a hash and
the tests are a bogus joke. Yes, they haven't figured out that what
we've got is exactly what the Core were designed to give us, but at
least they recognize some of the suckage, and not simply from a
practical political calculus angle (and remember-- everyone must take
calculus now). This is undoubtedly part of the reason that CCSS
enjoys the kind of support in NYS usually reserved for politicians
who cannot keep their private parts off the internet.

"It's an illuminating batch of reportage, well worth your time to
read. Because you may not live in New York, but wherever you are in
America, you're still living in the United States of Pearson."
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