New Jersey Parents Opting Out: Gates-funded Ed Trust Wants You to Stay In
PARCC testing in New Jersey is scheduled to begin March 2, 2015. The NJ PARCC testing “window” will not end in March, but will continue into April, May, and June, depending upon the grade level and whether the test is part of the PBA (performance-based assessment), which is given 75% of the way through a school year, or EOY (end of year), which comes 90% of the way into a school year.
For third grade, New Jersey schools must schedule 4.75 hours for the English language arts (ELA) PBA and EOY PARCC and 5 hours for the math PBA and EOY PARCC.
Just shy of 10 hours of schedules testing time for a third grader.
For fourth and fifth graders it is a full 10 hours.
For sixth through eighth graders, almost 11 hours.
Note that the PBA and EOY PARCC tests are summative assessments. The US Department of Education (USDOE) wanted much more testing from PARCC and its sister consortium, Smarter Balanced (SBAC).
Even the summative assessments alone are too much testing.
Many New Jersey parents agree. They do not want their children (or their children’s schools) subjected to and driven by PARCC.
New Jersey parents are opting out of PARCC testing, and the pro-testing set is taking New Jersey parents seriously.
Consider test-score-driven reformer, Kati Haycock, founder and president of Education Trust.
New Jersey parents, Haycock has landed in your op/eds. According to NJSpotlight editor John Mooney, Ed Trust was not invited to write. It asked to do so.
New Jersey parents, Haycock isn’t liking your opt-out decisions.
She wants you to submit your children to those ten hours of PARCC testing. She is “in support of annual testing of every child” as the means to *close achievement gaps* for children of color. She writes that “kids who aren’t tested are kids who don’t count.”
Guess whose kids aren’t tested? Those of the affluent– like Bill Gates and his kids.
Ed Trust has the distinction of being the single most Gates-supported corporate-reform organization that I have come across for the millions Gates funnels to Ed Trust for no better reason than to keep Ed Trust’s doors open.
Between September 2004 and March 2014, the Gates Foundation has paid Education Trust $30.7 million for “general operating support.”
Untested Gates is handsomely paying test-score-driven Haycock’s rent.
Now, there is more that New Jersey parents should know about Haycock and her Ed Trust. Haycock is a longtime believer in a strong federal role over state education. Haycock’s Ed Trust was involved in writing standardized testing into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) via its 2002 reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
In 2013, Haycock wrote the following concerning a possible reauthorization of ESEA:
At its best, federal policy provides leverage to state and local officials to do what is right…. That kind of leverage doesn’t require federal micromanagement, but it does require demanding in return for billions of federal dollars….
Keep in mind that the “demand” of NCLB was the unattainable “goal” of “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014,” a goal that could not only result in school “turnover” of principal and teacher firings but also provided the leverage for US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s infamous NCLB waivers. In September 2011, those NCLB waivers made their debut: yet another federally “demanding” document, one that required states to agree to “college and career ready” standards (a euphemism for Common Core) and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Haycock supports Duncan’s NCLB waiver idea:
The NCLB waivers, and the teacher evaluation systems that will flow from them, mark a new phase in our nations journey toward providing a quality education for all students.
That noted, Haycock advised the Senate Ed Committee in 2013 to stay tough on waiver requirements. When given the opportunity, Haycock notes, states “did basically what they were asked to [do to secure a waiver], and no more.”
Of course they did. In the face of punitive, test-score-driven reform, states will seek avenues to continue to receive federal dollars while dodging the “demands” of a federal government that wants to “make” states “raise test scores or else.”
I wonder if she is also surprised that squeezing the tube hard enough can make toothpaste shoot out even if the cap is still on.
Haycock wants the federal government to force states to “close achievement gaps” on standardized tests. Thus, it is no surprise that Haycock is all in for Common Core and PARCC/SBAC. As she notes in her New Jersey op/ed:
…We have worked so hard in support of the much more rigorous Common Core State Standards, and applaud the new assessments that require our children to do more than fill in a bubble.
Haycock’s affinity for Common Core goes back to at least 2001 and the launch of the American Diploma Project (ADP), which is a “common core” predecessor of sorts for high schools. Three groups were involved in ADP: Ed Trust, Achieve (one four key organizations involved in producing Common Core, the other three being ACT, College Board, and David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners), and major Common-Core promoter, the Fordham Institute. (I discuss all of this in greater detail in my upcoming book on Common Core, but for now, readers, can glean some background from this post.)
What is particularly ironic is that for all of her test-score-driven bent, Haycock is completely forgiving of the fact that Common Core itself has never been pilot tested. She is fine with pronouncing Common Core as good.
Haycock also readily considers PARCC and SBAC as “the answer” to the problem of too many tests. The solution is simple, offers Haycock: Just allow PARCC and SBAC to replace all other “low quality assessments.” As she writes to New Jersey:
We get why parents and teachers are sometimes frustrated by the number of tests that schools are giving. Over the years, many school districts piled on lots of extra tests — many of them not so good –for a variety of purposes. The answer to that problem, though, is not to throw out the best tests we have ever had — the new Common Core Tests like PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced — but to demand that school districts stop requiring excessive numbers of other, lower-quality assessments.
More of that “demanding.”
Some observations: First of all, NCLB is never on the hook with Haycock. Therefore, it is no surprise that she slides right past the role of NCLB as a catalyst for mushrooming standardized testing in the American classroom. Second, she assumes that the hours of PARCC (and SBAC) testing are in and of themselves not “excessive.” (Keep in mind that the ten hours of PARCC in New Jersey classrooms this spring is a lot less than USDOE wanted.)
Finally, Haycock appears to have great faith in the testing companies that will produce these “best tests that we have ever had”– without considering testing company history.
Pearson is a fine case in point. In May 2014, Pearson was awarded a four-year contract to produce PARCC assessments. However, Pearson has an established history of testing mishaps, including producing incorrect test items and misgrading tests. Such errors have resulted in blocking students from both graduation and special program eligibility.
One might say that Pearson’s recklessness creates “gaps” of its own.
In 2000, a Minnesota judge declared that Pearson had “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.”
In its February 2014 earnings call, Pearson executives made it clear that they are planning to profit from the Common Core in the United States. However, it seems that PARCC is not yielding the profits that Pearson had expected.
Surely all of these parents “opting out” is not good for Pearson/PARCC business.
Opting out will also interfere with the measuring of a standardized-test-recorded “achievement gap.” This could certainly present a challenge for someone whose professional career has been centered for decades on standardized test results.
Haycock writes to New Jersey, “…To toss these assessments aside just when they promise, finally, to give parents and teachers honest information on how well their children are prepared for college and careers, seems just crazy.”
No. All of this high-stakes testing resource drain seems crazy.
Ten hours of testing for an eight-year old seems crazy.
Naively portraying Pearson, with its history for testing blunders, as automatically offering “honest information” is crazy.
Assuming that elementary- and middle-school-aged children need to be assessed annually for “college and career readiness” is crazy.
Blowing billions of education dollars annually on standardized testing is crazy.
New Jersey parents want out.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.