NORTH CAROLINA NEWS
Common Sense & Community Schools help narrow the achievement gap in Durham 12/18
State Board stalls on virtual charter school application. (A sincere thanks from NCCDS) The State Board today (2/7) refused to vote on a virtual charter school application. Instead they accepted three other applications which brought the total up to the cap number of 100. So unless other charter schools shut down, there is no room at the moment for these leeches. State Board members would do well to check out what is happening in Pennsylvania where a virtual charter school doesn't seem to be able to grade papers and is under threat to be shut down by the state. What's a virtual charter school? Johnny sits at home in front of a computer so his parents don't have to teach him at home. What's a virtual charter school? A new method for corporate skimming off the top of meager county education budgets. Fight it now folks...Former Sec.of Education and morals czar Bill Bennett is spearheading an even larger effort. He has one up and running in Pennsylvania
Massive "Inadequate" Yearly Gains Are Predicted
It's time to give the ESEA a close read. Based on where schools are now in North Carolina, 64% will not be making their "annual yearly progress" which puts them in "needs improvement" category. What are the consequences? If a school is so designated for two years in a row then:
(1) They must offer students a choice of public schools to attend. They are also supposed to receive technical assistance from their districts.
(2) After three years, such schools are also required to offer supplemental services, such as tutoring, to students from either public or private providers.
(3) And, after four years, they will be subject to progressively more severe corrective actions and could ultimately be shut down.
"A starting point that identifies at least half of our schools in year one will undoubtedly lead to almost all of our schools identified in need of improvement within a few years," Superintendent Judy Catchpole and her colleagues wrote in a letter to federal officials. "Surely, this is not what the framers had intended when they wrote this law to concentrate resources and services on those children most in danger of being left behind." 4/07
Pseudoscientific reading method mandated by Bush's "Reading First" Plan. 2/26
National Reading Panel stacked with the "phonics-only" crowd." 2/26
Proficiency & the Game of the Ever-shifting Goal Post
Education Week article points out that the new ESEA leaves it up to the states to decide what is proficient, a feature that has many educators concerned that in order to "keep up appearances" and not suffer federal sanction, states will lower standards. The article states "in North Carolina, for instance, 84 percent of 4th graders scored at the proficient level on the state test, while only 28 percent scored at that level on NAEP." "Proficiency standards might be set anywhere from the top to the bottom of the test-score distribution," said Lorrie A. Shepard, the dean of the education school at the University of Colorado at Boulder and one of the principal authors of the Colorado study. "Unfortunately, most policymakers are not aware of how high some standards have been set and are inclined to treat all standards as if they were the same." NCCDS believes that true accountability will only come when parents, teachers, and other community stakeholders get together and decide community standards and use locally-designed assessment tools. Unfortunately, the new ESEA is a game of "fire, ready, aim" -- wherever student achievement is, is where we will put the goal post and pat ourselves on the back for our success. High-stakes testing ultimately leads to LESS "accountability" in terms of student achievement, not more. 2/25
English Speakers projected to fall through cracks w/Bush plan
Superintendent Ronald Ross: A National Model. He brought his test scores up but is quite vocal about the limitations of standardized tests and the negative consequences that befall children when tests become the primary focus. His response to W's annual testing plan: "Not here in my system." 01/02
Grading high-stakes tests by looking for "key words." Maryland teachers describe system utilized by Durham-based Measurement Inc, where, as summer employees, they were trained to look for "key words" in student essays so they could score them quickly. According to teachers, they observed great essays missing the "key words" being marked down and crummy essays containing the words receiving high marks. Do these folks grade any of NC's writing tests? 2/4
NY State Students spend over $20,000 in one year to prep for SAT -- The "basic" prep class costs $10,000. So much for closing the gap in this country between rich & poor. 12/09
The Incestuous Relationship Between the Bush Administration & the Testing Industry. The Nation takes a close look at Bush's ties to McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflin (who owns Riverside Publishing, who has been contracted by NC to create the high school exit exam) and Harcourt General. The bottom line is pretty simple: we're back to the "teacher-proof" textbook of the 1970s. The only difference is now the same publisher makes the book AND test so we can more efficiently teach to the test and forgo teaching critical thinking (like: Does the fact that GE owns NBC, Disney owns ABC, and Viacom owns CBS impact the way in which their respective news divisions report on their parent company and other mega-corporations?) It is interesting to note McGraw-Hill also owns Standard & Poors which remained upbeat about Enron as late as Oct. 16, 2001 after the crumbling company took a $2 billion write-off. These are the folks that are supposed to make sure little Johnny is "accountable?" 1/28
on Standardized Tests in Iowa 10/1
Do We Really Want to Copy Japan? Read This!! 10/2
Washington Post columnist points out the lunacy in the annual ritual of comparing "this year's numbers to last." 11/21
Matthews makes his case again about annual comparisons
Released Harvard Study indicates a small increase in income translates
into big increases on standardized tests. It
would be nice for our our State Legislature to concentrate more on economic
development than on test prep
Columbia University's Teacher's College Record Paper looks at "high-stakes" testing in the US & Great Britain. Concludes "it is probably appropriate to spend less time thinking about how to design incentive systems and more time thinking about what constitutes good practice and how to help teachers and the public understand what it is." 12/11 (requires registration)
High-powered schools drop AP courses citing superficial treatment of content that occurs from teaching to AP exams. Bonus: Selective universities are not penalizing students for not taking AP classes. So if increased flexibility, more creative rights for teachers, in-depth study, and not teaching to the test is a good thing for the affluent, why not do it for everybody in NC? (NY Times; requires registration 2/1)
School District to the State of Massachusetts: "Take your exit exam &
soap opera continues as regional school board continues to tell State
what it can do with the exit exam 11/20
State Board "lowers bar" for passing social studies tests.
while "teaching to the test", only 47% of students had passed the US History
test compared to 74% for algebra. Social Studies as "Trivial Pursuit"
Maryland State Board Forbids County's Cutbacks in the Arts, Health & PE for Increased Reading Instruction (for high-stakes tests)
The Fight Continues The President & vice-president of the school board of the largest district in Maryland have formally written to Maryland's General Assembly asking them to suspend elementary & middle school testing because of reliability concerns. The people are speaking up..... 2/8
Maryland School Officials continue to question recent scores. "A case in point is Cold Spring Elementary School in Potomac. A center for gifted and talented children and traditionally the county's top performer, its score dropped from 85.8 percent to 75.8 percent." When officials stepped forward to question the test, they were slapped back by a panel of testing "experts." The school officials slapped back with testimony of teachers who were paid to grade standardized tests who stated they were pressured to rush through the grading process. Is this happening in NC? 1/29
Will there be sunshine in the Sunshine State? Citing federal law, a Florida woman sues the state over access to standardized test her son failed 11/07