Monday, August 26, 2013

Carol Burris: Common Core tests widen achievement gap in New York

The time to “reform the reform” is long overdue.....In the coming months, the fruits of the poisonous tree will be much examined, sorted and discussed.  But the fruit is rotten and parents are warning their children not to bite. The opposition to testing grows and soon the tree will finally fall.
Carol Burris at The Answer Sheet
Another wallop at ed deform from Carol with Valerie's assistance.
Common Core tests widen achievement gap in New York
By Valerie Strauss, Published: August 26

Here’s the latest post from award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York, who for more than a year on this blog has chronicled test-driven reform in her state (here, and here and here and here, for example). Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 
By Carol Burris
The New York Common Core test results are the fruit of a poisonous tree — what should be useful evidence of student learning is, instead, data without value.  Commissioner John King refers to the Common Core test results as  “baseline data.”  Producing baseline data was never the intent.  Chancellor Merryl Tisch said that if we educators were not prepared for the Common Core, we were “living under a rock.”  Since the results were published, however, her tone has changed.  At a recent public forum, Tisch remarked,  “We need to do a great job communicating why these new test scores that we’ve just seen are not an indicator that there’s been no learning or teaching going on.” If one muddles through the double negative, the takeaway is that the results of the tests for third-to-eighth graders are meaningless.

They may be meaningless, but they are not inconsequential.  The results expanded the black/white achievement gap.  In 2012, there was a 12-point black/white achievement gap between average third grade English Language Arts scores, and a 14-point gap in eighth grade ELA scores.  This year, the respective gaps grew to 19 and 25 points.  In 2012, there was an 8-point gap between black/white third-grade math scores and a 13-point gap between eighth-grade math scores.  The respective gaps are now 14 and 18 points.  The gap expansion extended to other groups as well. The achievement gap between White and Latino students in eighth-grade ELA grew from 3 points to 22 points.  Students who already believe they are not as academically successful as their more affluent peers, will further internalize defeat.

The percentage of black students who scored “below basic” in third-grade English Language Arts rose from 15.5 percent to 50 percent. In seventh-grade math, black students labeled “below basic” jumped from 16.5 percent to a staggering 70 percent. Nearly one-third of all New York children scored “below basic” across the grade level tests. Students often score “below basic” because they guess or give up. Principals and teachers cannot get accurate feedback on student learning.  Although Ms. Tisch may say that “this does not mean there’s no learning going on,” what will parents think? Students will now need to be placed in remediation, or Academic Intervention Services.  Schools that serve a predominately minority, poor student body will be fiscally overwhelmed as they try to meet the needs of so many children.  Those who truly need the additional support will find that support is watered-down.
You don't hear deformers talking very much about the old AG anymore. Note how they shift the ground as each deform fails. Now it's teacher effectiveness (which used to be teacher quality but when the holes in that were pointed out they moved the ball.)

When all those anti-union states get rid of every teacher they can and the old AG stays stuck or drops where do they go next? We ought to have a contest. Carol, the Rational Educator, continues:
Experienced educators understand why the reform agenda is not working. Reformers “wish” their unrealistic goals and expectations to be attainable, and then “whip” educators and schools using test scores, in order to make their wishes come true.  But the “wish and whip” strategy of school reform simply does not work. Michael Fullan, a scholar of school reform, has continually warned that test scores and punishment cannot be successful strategies to transform schools.

The time to “reform the reform” is long overdue. The first step in that process will be a difficult one for reformers to accept. They must re-examine their belief that college readiness is achieved by attaining a score on a test, and its corollary — that it is possible to create college readiness score thresholds for eight year olds.  It is, at its essence, an absurd assumption that is wasting a fortune in tax dollars while leading us down a fool’s path.

As I explained in my last blog post, the cut scores for Common Core tests are based, in great part, on finding correlations with other tests’ so-called “college readiness” scores. Here are three reasons why this strategy is folly.

READ all the reasons here


  1. Carol,

    If there was a Pulitzer Prize for investigative and impassionate blogging this article would clinch the award for your work on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet.

    Today's gem puts the stamp Case Closed on the persuasive evidence-based arguments you have carefully built and presented against the Common Core and its toxicity. No one in the jury box would remain confused by the specious points advanced by the Core's defenders.

    Your series of articles has gone where education writers and their editors have not been willing or courageous enough to go. They fear that the reporting you are doing deals with subject matter that is "too arcane" for their readers--a misjudgment that reveals how little they respect the critical thinking ability and concerns of those readers. Throw in academicians, too, for not stepping up to the plate and exposing the strange fruit that is now hanging over education in New York and threatening the groves and gardens elsewhere.

    Your concluding statements are a powerful summation:

    "Does good teaching matter? It certainly does, but not enough to effect the change we really need to improve our schools. Teacher quality accounts for about 10 percent to 15 percent of the variance in student learning. Unless we level the playing field between rich and poor we can never achieve college and career readiness for all. A just and good society, especially when it is also the richest in the world, can give its poorest children well resourced schools, excellent pre-schools and child-care, extended learning time, and summer enrichment.

    And that is why educators across the country are boiling over in anger and resentment. They have become the proverbial scapegoat set out in the desert with the sins of a society in denial on its back. Of course billionaires and hedge-fund managers adore these new “reforms”—they tell them what they want to hear. The myth that “three effective teachers in a row” will make it all better, removes the responsibility and the culpability. Reformers can put tax deductible dollars on the table, take out the tux and gown for the fundraiser, and claim they are “all about the kids”. And with those dollars they fashion reforms that will not threaten their lifestyles, the private schools to which they send their own children, or the segregated neighborhoods in which they live."

    You're right. The testing tree, rooted in lies, is being chopped down.

  2. It's not just the fruit of so-called education reform that's rotten, it's the genetics - Gates, Broad, Walton's, Bradley, etc. - that its seed carried, making the roots, trunk, boughs, leaves and fruit a poison tree.


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