"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 31, 2005

Primary Corruption in NCLB's Supplemental Services

Today's Chicago Tribune editorial:
Chicago Tribune Editorial
October 31, 2005

In response to the federal No Child Left Behind law, what was once a
modest after-school tutoring industry swelled virtually overnight
into a mammoth with more than $200 million in annual revenues.

A huge industry accountable to ... whom? Under the law,
schoolteachers and administrators are being held to account for the
performance of their students. But the tutors?

For the last three years, state education agencies have been
designated as the watchdogs over tutoring companies. Yet states
have been about as aggressive in that role as a brood of Chihuahuas.
Most states lack the staff, the money, the gumption and the
know-how to oversee the tutors properly.

That has been the case in Illinois. In recent months, however, the
Illinois State Board of Education has flickered to life, announcing
new rules that would scrutinize more carefully the 75 tutoring
companies approved to operate in the state. Last summer, the
board toughened and broadened its oversight of the financial
and academic strength of tutoring companies. State officials
recently banned a well-known national tutoring firm from
operating in five Chicago schools because of alleged ethics
violations. The state board's actions can be appealed by
the firm.

The firm, Newton Learning, allegedly hired school employees
who steered business Newton's way, either by altering parent
selections of which tutoring company to use, by instructing
parents directly to choose Newton or by sending home application
forms with Newton already selected. State ethics rules allow
public school teachers to be hired to provide after-school
instruction, but they are restricted from recruiting so as not to
give any one firm an inside advantage or special
access to children at a particular school.

Acting on tips gleaned from a new complaint procedure, state
investigators say they gathered information showing that
Newton paid school "site directors," who also happened to be
Chicago Public School employees, $500 to start up tutoring
programs, along with $3 for each pupil signed up. Parents of
poorly performing students in failing schools are able to choose
among roughly a dozen competing tutoring firms to provide
services to their children.

The fact that board officials are raising these questions reveals that
they're taking their watchdog role to a new level of seriousness.

"Generally, the responses we've received from other providers is
they're glad we're taking action," said Jonathan Furr, general
counsel to the state board.

Good for the board. So far, its new spotlight has been trained
primarily on financial and ethical issues. Those are fine, but focus
also is needed on whether these tutors are any good. Some of
them are brand new to the field and untested.

Furr said that analysis won't occur until the state has had time to
analyze results from tests taken at the end of this school year.

That information can't come soon enough. Illinois and the nation
need to know that the money poured into tutoring is getting results.
While the news from Chicago shows that the corporate welfare corruption of NCLB's $2 billion a per year Supplemental Services program has hit the mainstream press, Florida's Dept. of Education has made kowtowing to corporate interests the official policy by barring most non-corporate entities from providing tutoring services in the most needy schools in the state, even when E-School News Online reports that corporate tutoring costs up to 4 times as much as other not-for-profit services:
Decisions in Florida by the U.S. Department of Education, if implemented nationwide, would bar groups affiliated with school systems rated "in need of improvement" from participating in the tutoring program mandated under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Entities likely to be barred from the program--worth an estimated $2 billion a year in federal funding--include teacher unions, child-care centers, after-school programs, voc-ed or computer centers, and parents' groups.

The move represents a potential boon for private, third-party providers in the region. It also holds national implications for districts that are considering offering such tutoring--or supplemental education services (SES)--themselves, because (a) it reaffirms ED's general position that no district in need of improvement is allowed to serve as its own SES provider; and (b) it further clarifies that the prohibition also applies to groups and programs affiliated with such school systems.

Jim Horn

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Get the Zip-locks Ready--It's Test Time in Wisconsin

A chill in the air, frost on the pumpkin, children puking on their answer sheets--it can only mean one thing. It's test time again.

Here is the first in a 2-part report from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the current level of testing hysteria there.

Paula Fortina says she is really nervous.
In her fifth-grade class at the Academy of Accelerated Learning, a public school on Milwaukee's southwest side, she and the other students have been reading passages and then answering questions in the format used in Wisconsin's standardized tests. They spend a half hour a day doing "Mountain Math," a program aimed at reviewing skills kids have already been taught.

Paulina says she studies at home and she's going to make sure this week that she gets extra sleep and eats well.Across the state and nation, it's testing time for hundreds of thousands of students in a way never seen before.

And further down in the piece, we see that no one who is still thinking pretends any longer that the goals of 100% proficiency in math and reading are even possible, with the latest research projecting an 84% failure rate in Wisconsin from 2011 to 2014 (click here for the latest study on the likelihood of meeting AYP in Wisconsin and states in that region). Nonetheless,

"It's a big motivator not to get your name on that list," said state assistant superintendent Planner. Lynette Russell, director of educational accountability for the state, added, "They desperately do not want to be labeled."

Few Wisconsin schools have been labeled so far, but the list is likely to grow. The bar that schools and districts need to clear when it comes to the percentage of students scoring proficient or better rises over the next few years, hitting 100% in 2014, according to current law. Many educators think that is a practical impossibility.

What we must know by now is that No Child Left Behind is nothing more than another scam by people who govern by scamming. Labeling public schools as failures as a way to achieve 100% proficiency or to "end the achievement gap" is as likely as some of the other professed neocon goals, such as "bringing democracy to Iraq" or "saving social security." As we know in the case of Iraq, the stated goal of democracy has nothing to do with the real goal of securing political stability for Middle Eastern dictators, thus guaranteeing another 50 year supply of oil; and in the social security instance, the stated goal of rescuing retirement funds is exactly the opposite of the real intent to prop up the stock market by giving retirement money to the respectable crooks on Wall Street to gamble with as they see fit.

We now know that No Child Left Behind is a cynical ruse that uses a false hope for children's education to, in fact, crush public schools rather than improve them. In the meantime, testing companies ($6.6 million this year for McGraw-Hill in WI) and education industry cronies are getting rich on the backs of children now herded daily into test prep factories where the thrill of learning has been turned into a joyless job, for which the payoff, if it ever comes, will be in more of the same as adults.

Jim Horn

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Exit Exams as Part of the War Against the Poor and the Brown

High school exit exams are new to Arizona, and many people there, as noted in this story, are wondering about the fairness of such tests. Some must know that one of the most reliable predictors of test scores is family income, as shown on this information that FairTest obtained from the College Board in 2002. These same correlations, by the way, can be found in any set of state test scores or in international comparisons, regardless of grade level.

Family Income----Verbal/Math Scores

Less than $10,000/year-----417/442
$10,000 - $20,000/year-----435/453
$20,000 - $30,000/year-----461/470
$30,000 - $40,000/year-----480/485
$40,000 - $50,000/year-----496/501
$50,000 - $60,000/year-----505/509
$60,000 - $70,000/year-----511/516
$70,000 - $80,000/year-----517/524
$80,000 - $100,000/year-----530/538
More than $100,000/year-----555/568

Perhaps these same ambivalent Arizona citizens could use these facts as they reconsider their decision:
  • Of the 10 states with the highest African-American populations, 9 have high school exit exams
  • Of the 10 states with the highest Hispanic populations, 8 have high school exit exams
  • Of the 10 states with highest white populations, 1 has a high school exit exam
  • of the 10 states with lowest graduation rates, all ten have high school exit exams; and 9 of these states have had them for more than 10 years

Very effective policy--very effective in the continuing oppression of minorities and the poor.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Science, Technology, and Repression

Don't get me wrong--I support the open-ended quest of science, and I believe that technology holds the potential to liberate if used wisely (what kind of information cave would we be in today if we had to depend upon the corporate media for news). But this struck me in the piece from the Times on China's effort to build world-class universities centered on science and technology:
China is focusing on science and technology, areas that reflect the country's development needs but also reflect the preferences of an authoritarian system that restricts speech. The liberal arts often involve critical thinking about politics, economics and history, and China's government, which strictly limits public debate, has placed relatively little emphasis on achieving international status in those subjects.

Could that reality have any connection to this reality reported by Ed Week:
The Business Roundtable, a Washington-based coalition of leading U.S. corporations, released an action plan to accelerate student achievement in the fields of math, science, technology, and engineering in July, with the goal of doubling the number of graduates in engineering over the next 10 years. According to the group, the number of students in the United States planning to pursue engineering degrees declined by one-third between 1992 and 2002. ("Business Coalition Focuses on Math, Science Careers," Aug. 10, 2005.)
And do we have to guess why Spellings and her Commission has been instructed by the corporationists to muck around in higher ed policy?

A Classroom Teacher Tests Testing

Worth repeating:
Theory on testing fails the grade

October 28, 2005
Back in 2002, President Bush predicted "great progress" once schools began administering No Child Left Behind's mandated annual testing. Education Secretary Rod Paige equated opposition to NCLB testing with "dismissing certain children" as "unteachable."

That same week The New York Times documented "recent" scoring errors affecting "millions of students" in "at least twenty states," which amounted to several million pretty good alternate reasons for opposing NCLB testing.

There's nothing wrong with assessing what students have learned. Parents, colleges, and employers can track how kids are doing, and teachers can identify which areas need more teaching. That's why I give quizzes and tests and one reason students write essays.

Of course, everybody knows that some teachers are tougher graders than others. Standardized testing is supposed to help gauge one teacher's "A" compared to another's so we can compare students from different schools.

This works fine as long as we recognize that all tests have limitations. For example, for years my students took a nationwide social studies test that required them to identify the New Deal. The problem was the seventh graders who took the test hadn't studied U.S. history since the fifth grade, and FDR usually isn't the focus of American history for ten-year-olds. He also doesn't appear in eighth grade history class until May, about a month after eighth graders took the test.

Multiply our FDR glitch by the thousands of curricula assessed by nationwide testing. Then try pinpointing which schools are succeeding and failing based on the scores those tests produce. That's what No Child Left Behind pretends to do.

Test designers will tell you they've eliminated inconsistencies by "aligning" their tests with newly drafted grade level expectations. The trouble is these new objectives are often hopelessly vague, arbitrarily narrow, or so unrealistic that they're pretty meaningless. That's when they're not obvious and the same as they always were.

Even if we could perfectly match curricula and test questions, modern assessments would still have problems. That's because most are scored according to guidelines called rubrics. Rubric scoring requires hastily trained scorers, who commonly aren't teachers or even college graduates, to determine whether a student's essay "rambles" or "meanders." Believe it or not, that choice represents a 25 percent variation in the score. Or how about distinguishing between "appropriate sentence patterns" and "effective sentence structure," or language that's "precise and engaging" versus "fluent and original."

These are the flip-a-coin judgments at the heart of most modern assessments. Remember that the next time you read about which schools passed and failed.

Unreliable scoring is one reason the General Accountability Office condemned "comparisons between states" as "meaningless." It's why CTB/McGraw-Hill recalled and rescored 120,000 Connecticut tests after the scores were released. It's why ten percent of the candidates taking the 2003 Educational Testing Service Praxis teacher licensing exam incorrectly received failing scores. A Brookings Institution study found that "50 to 80 percent of the improvement in a school's average test scores from one year to the next was temporary" and "had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning or productivity." A senior RAND analyst warned that today's tests aren't identifying "good schools" and "bad schools." Instead, "we're picking out lucky and unlucky schools."

The New England Common Assessment Program, administered to all students in Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, offers a representative glimpse of the cutting edge. NECAP is heir to all the standard problems with test design, rubrics, and dubiously qualified scorers.

NECAP security is tight. Tests are locked up, all scrap paper is returned to headquarters for shredding, and testing scripts and procedures are painstakingly uniform. Except on the mathematics exam, each school gets to choose if its students can use calculators.

Whether or not you approve of calculators, how can you talk with a straight face about a "standardized" math assessment if some students get to use them and others don't? Even more ridiculous, there's no box to check to show whether you used one, so the scoring results don't even differentiate between students and schools that did and didn't.

Finally, guess how NECAP officials are figuring out students' scores. They're asking classroom teachers. Five weeks into the year, before we've even handed out a report card to kids we've just met, we're supposed to rate each student's "level of proficiency." Our ratings, which rest on distinguishing with allegedly statistical accuracy between "extensive gaps," "gaps," and "minor gaps," are a "critical piece" and "key part of the NECAP standard setting process."

Let's review. Because classroom teachers' grading standards aren't consistent enough from one school to the next, we need a standardized testing program. To score the standardized testing program, every teacher has to estimate within eight percentage points what their students know so test officials can figure out what their scores are worth and who passed and who failed.

If that makes sense to you, you've got a promising future in education assessment. Sadly, our schools and students don't.

Peter Berger teaches English at Weathersfield Middle School. Poor Elijah would be pleased to answer letters addressed to him in care of the editor

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The battle to end the testing hysteria in America will be waged in the coming months as we move closer to the question of NCLB's reauthorization. In girding your loins for war, there is nothing like good information to counter the blind greed and missionary zeal of the social engineers at ED and within the growing phalanx of hacks of the education industry.

Check out Arizona State's Education Policy Research Unit, where you will find a variety of sources in pdf. format that provide context and solid data on the current education reform disorder. This page has some great work, Berliner's Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform, and a nice piece

by the Southeast Center for Teacher Quality, Research Reveals Teacher Working Conditions Key to Improving Student Achievement.

On a further page, you can find research,
The Impact of the Adequate Yearly Progress Requirement of the Federal "No Child Left Behind" Act on Schools in the Great Lakes Region, and commentary on corporate welfare charters and investigative pieces such as Bracey's No Child Left Behind: Where Does the Money Go?

Be ready, be informed, be reality based.

Jim Horn

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More NAEP Analysis

This from Monty Neill at FairTest. Fairtest's press release on the NAEP scores are here.

This weeks' Ed Week reports on the NAEP score release. (Ed Week now limits access to
the website and warns those who have access not to copy and disseminate.) A lot of the piece is varying political interpretations, mostly over changes in past 2 years-what they do or do not mean.

Perhaps the most interesting quote came at the very end, by Jack
Jennings of Center
on Ed Policy. Referring to NCLB, he noted that
2005 NAEP results do not "seem to be
a great leap forward. The
central issue is still, is this a proper approach to raise
achievement and to narrow the achievement gap? I don't see to
date the
evidence that it is, at least not in test results."

Of course, test results are almost all that matter in NCLB.

Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Co-Executive Director
342 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4810 fax 617-497-2224

Arizona AIMS at the Poor

Almost every day someone there is someone out there in the ass-kicking world of accountability who is tough, angry, and simple-minded enough to deserve the attention he/she gets. Today it is Mike Gregoire of the Deer Valley Unified School District in Arizona (read the whole piece here):
As seniors face the AIMS test — many for the fourth time — this month, educators and test-takers hope state sanctions help the outcome.

In the Deer Valley Unified School District, 169 seniors still must pass the writing portion, while 111 and 160 12th-graders must pass the reading and math portions, respectively. These figures include special education and English-language-learners and some students fall into two or three categories.

This year’s senior class is the first required to pass the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate high school.

While temporary sanctions may help students measure up to the new standard, the state is not backing down, said DVUSD Governing Board Member Mike Gregoire. He predicts parents and students who declined free tutoring will get a reality check when May comes with no diploma.

“We need one bad year to change some attitudes,” he said.

Jim Horn

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Visit to a Corporate Welfare School

Peter Campbell, instructional designer and reform activist, visited an Edison School today. These are his initial impressions posted earlier to the Assessment Reform Network listserv:
Today, I was taken on a tour of an Edison school in
St. Louis by one ofthe Board members. Here are some

1) the teachers are employees of Edison, not the
school district

2) the teachers are not union members; the Board
member said that one of the unions could come in and
try to organize, "But there would be noreason for
anyone to join because all the teachers, at least
the ones Italk to, are all really happy here." Ergo,
unions are only for unhappy people. They are not about
securing workers' rights, bargaining forbetter pay and
better working conditions, and creating grievance
processes for workers who are threatened with termination.
I guess onemight reasonably conclude that all unhappy
people are fired, given that no one there would want a

3) they work longer days (2 hours more than the other
public schoolteachers) and longer years (I believe it's
one month more)

4) according to the Board member, they are paid more
than other publicschool teachers (have not confirmed this)

5) pay is inextricably linked to test score performance:
better scores = better pay. Teachers, especially middle
school teachers who have 100to 150 students, already
struggled before NCLB with the task of finding the time
to reach each child on a personal, caring level. NCLB and
the rise of the test prep curriculum makes it less and less
possible to care about students. In fact, NCLB and these
test prep curricula do just the opposite: instead of seeing
students as people in need of care, students are seen as
statistics. Each student, especially the students on the
edge of making the cut score (aka "the bubble kids"),
can potentially make or break the school's progress towards
AYP. And if the student does drop out? Well, that's one
less to worry about affecting your test scores. And if it
doesn't affect your scores, it means it doesn't affect your
wallet. So you lose a couple kids? Ah, well. We can't save
them all, right? Plus, you get paid more money.

6) teaching and learning is driven by benchmark
assessment systems; ,Tungsten, a spin-off of Edison, is
used internally by all Edisonschools

7) the students were dominated and controlled in ways that
were reminiscent of The Stepford Wives; they seemed utterly
unchildlike,utterly joyless; they responded in automaton-like
fashion to instructions from the teachers, e.g., in the middle
of a math lesson,the teacher sensed some rumblings in the
background and suddenly blurted out, "Hands folded! Everyone
sit at attention." All the students suddenly snapped into
place at their seats, and the lesson continued. Most of the
teachers taught at the students. There was no project-based
learning or hands-on anything. The students responded in
automaton fashion to the teacher. There was a lot of direct
instruction. There was also significant amounts of "Guess
What I'm Thinking" on the part of teachers. The students'
role was clear: obey orders, do not do anything that the
teacher does not tell you to do, sit and be quiet. This was
often taken to the extreme: in one case, a teacher had a
group of first graders lined up for lunch. The boys' line
could not go forward because one of the boys was still
wiggling. He had to become absolutely still before the
teacher would let them go to lunch.

8) this degree of total control over the students affected
the way that teachers taught; in only one of the 6 classrooms
I visited did I see a teacher who seemed like she was
having fun; the others were very short with the students,
quick to pounce on any undesirable, uncontrollable behavior;
they seemed more like prison guards than teachers.

9) Edison has 2 schools in St. Louis now; they are expanding
these schools to become K-8; they are also planning on
opening a third K-8 building and opening a high school.
The stated goal -- no kidding -- is that children can stay
in the Edison model for their entire K-12 experience.

Things to keep in mind:

1) none of the three AYP sub-groups at the school were
proficient in reading this year. In fact, the reading
scores were incredibly low: just 7.1% of the school met
the proficiency level. That means that 93% of the kids
tested can't read or write at grade level according to the
state test. Edison, Inc. says that its methods work, yet
9 out of 10 kids at this school can't read or write at
grade level. They say that we should judge them according
to the test scores. Well, I'm looking at the test scores.
They're appalling.

2) in defense of the heavy discipline, the Board member
said, "Sure, the structure of the Edison schools is a bit
tough. Yes, we make the kids walk in lines wherever they
go. But it works. You don't have to waste 6 minutes at the
beginning of class, telling Johnny to sit down and be quiet.
And you don't waste 15 minutes in the middle of every
class, trying to get students to be quiet and stay on task.
Even the very brightest kids can't learn in an environment
like that. No one can." But being quiet and paying attention
to the teacher should not be taken as unquestioned and
unqualified virtues in themselves. There's something very
troubling about white teachers telling students of color
to sit down, shut up, and do as they are told. In a rigid
structure such as that imposed by Edison, there is no
room for student or teacher creativity or spontaneity.
The only room for freedom of expression is either (a) do
what the teacher tells you to do or (b) resist what the
teacher tells you to do. Given the kind of power and
authority structures that already exist in white-dominated
society, it's little wonder that students of color are
tempted to act out and lash out. If they don't act in
this manner, then both the implicit and explicit
power relationships and inequities are reproduced in
the classroom: docile brown bodies controlled by powerful
white bodies. This is even more troubling given the fact
that no white, wealthy, suburban district would ever
consent to a school that controlled its students and its
teachers in this way. Indeed, these schools pride
themselves in their individuality, their creativity,
and the professional autonomy of their teachers, who are
viewed as experts in assessing what
is best for each student.

3) Is this really the best we can do? If Edison is the
best we can hope for, then God help us all. I tutored
an 8-year-old black boy at an inner-city public school.
As with all black kids in the St. Louis City schools,
he's being taught to read through Open Court. In _Reading
the Naked Truth_, Gerald Coles writes, "Putting an
excessive emphasis on word skills might result in
beginning readers not achieving competence in a variety
of additional strategies of reading, strategies
especially necessary for high-level material in later
grades. An excessive skills emphasis that encourages
children to see reading as 'word work' rather than as
an experience that informs and excites them and fires
theirimagination could discourage enthusiasm for
reading and thereby encourage aliteracy, that is,
students who know how to read but have no interest in

In classrooms such as these at Edison, I see this
deadening effect at work. Low-income minority children
are being given the lowest of the low when it comes
to a rich curriculum. The reading program is designed
for one thing: to help kids pass the state standardized
test. The rationale is understandable: these kids
need help in "the basics" because they don't get it
at home. But this then leads to the creation
of a curriculum that is nothing but the basics.
No white, wealthy school - not a single one in the
country - uses the Open Court curriculum. And no
wealthy, white school is run by Edison - not one.
It's little wonder why this is the case: no wealthy,
white parent would stand for these dumbed-down
curricula. Not for a minute.

Edison and for-profit corporations like it signal
two things: a failure of imagination and a lack of
will. It's hard to combat the realities of poverty
and racism and how they affect education. And efforts
that have been made in the past don't have a lot
to show for them. So we have to dream bigger. And
we have to be restless about a solution. We must not
-- must not -- stop at Edison.

Here's where it breaks my heart: the little boy I
worked with is an angel. He deserves to be
challenged. He deserves the opportunity to explore
books and create projects and pursue his interests.
But he is not getting any of this because he is
poor, black, and lives in the city of St. Louis.
If he lived in my suburban district, he would have a
different educational experience, thus a different life,
and thus a different future. Why does this little boy
have to have the effects of racism and poverty shoved
down his throat? He is -- quite literally -- a powerless
pawn. His future is already virtually assured. And
he's 8 years old.

Peter Campbell

Why Should Universities Trust the FBI?

Sandwiched a day apart in the Times and the Post are two articles that should be read together. The Times piece on Sunday announced a rising protest from universities regarding new requirements from the feds "vastly extending" an existing law to track potential terrorists via the internet. Interestingly, the protests from academia are based on an economic argument, rather than the civil liberties argument that we might expect from the bastions of free speech:
The action, which the government says is intended to help catch terrorists and other criminals, has unleashed protests and the threat of lawsuits from universities, which argue that it will cost them at least $7 billion while doing little to apprehend lawbreakers. Because the government would have to win court orders before undertaking surveillance, the universities are not raising civil liberties issues.

Then yesterday comes this piece in the Post with the headline, "FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations," that lead with this:
The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

The paper goes on to cite violations that include illegal surveillance of citizens and
cases where agents "obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper 'unconsented physical search.'"

One has to wonder if universities would roll over and play dead if Washington offered them the cash for new routers. This appears to be distinct possibility, since no voice has yet emerged to challenge this expansion of Big Brotherism in the university community. If someone knows of one, let me hear about it.

Jim Horn

Making Kids Dumb

Here is a piece this morning in the Charlotte Observer from a parent counting the days until her child graduates from the test factory:

Posted on Tue, Oct. 25, 2005

Standardized testing dumbs down education
Today's over-tested students lack genuine spirit of inquiry
Special to the Observer

One hundred forty. If I have figured correctly, that is how many school days remain until my youngest child graduates from high school. The event will not come soon enough.

My anticipation has nothing to do with the excitement of seeing my child receive his diploma; it has everything to do with the fatigue of having children who attended public schools.

Since my oldest child enrolled in kindergarten in 1986, public education has beentransformed -- and not for the better. The major change that has frustrated me is the creation of a test-focused culture in the classroom. Teachers teach a test, not a subject. In-service training provides strategies to help students improve test scores. Precious instructional time is co-opted by teaching test-taking skills, and by giving benchmark and practice tests to keep students from freezing at the "main event."

Critical thinking skills decline

Based on my experiences as a college professor, test-taking has decreased critical thinking skills. I have seen a marked decline in reading comprehension and writing performance in my students. This is a notable difference from those I taught from 1981 until 1995. Students from these earlier years were not trained to take a test, and it showed. They exhibited problem-solving skills, creative thinking and that indefinable something we like to call "Yankee ingenuity."Today's students are products of intensive testing. They remind me of Pavlov's dogs. Tell them
something will be on the test, and a bell rings in their heads. Tell them they are not responsible for certain material, and they tune out. There is no genuinespirit of inquiry, no interest in figuring out why something did or did not work. Describing their writing skills as "atrocious" is an understatement -- and these are the students who had to pass multiple writing tests in order to graduate high school.

Lifelong learning can be taught

I reflect on my own, unique public education, and wonder why those concepts were not transformed into a nationwide educational system. I attended a public school whose principal had been trained in Austria. She did not believe in children skipping grades, because, as she put it, "it left holes in their education." Instead, she developed a program for academically gifted youngsters that kept us within our grade level for non-academic subjects, but exposed us to more challenging work in the traditional academic areas of social studies, language arts, math and science.

Her far-sightedness led to the development of a system-wide program, implemented in the seventh through 12th grades in Pittsburgh, Pa., called the Scholars' Program.

I learned how to conduct library research by doing special projects. Our work required us to present our material to the class, write concisely and develop informed opinions. In short, I developed the skills of a lifelong learner. I doubt I would get the same type of education today, because of the constraints dictated by the schools' intensive testing environment. However, the emphasis on excellence in performance carries across all student ability levels.

Less publicized is the impact testing is having on the high school dropout rate.

My son started ninth grade with a high school class of more than 300 students. His class size at the end of 11th grade stood at 266: an approximate 12 percent dropout rate.

Anecdotal evidence, gleaned from a dropout prevention committee on which I serve, tells us that students who fail their 10th grade end-of-course tests refuse to repeat that grade. Discouraged and no longer legally required to attend school, they quit.

Boys are left behind

Today's pro-female, anti-male educational bias, described two weeks ago on this page by David Brooks, is also a product of the schools' standardized testing environment. What Brooks did not touch on, but bears mentioning, is that a test-focused curriculum emphasizes cognitive learning over other types of learning, such as kinesthetic (motion), tactile (touch), and visual and artistic
(music, arts, drama).

Educator [Howard] Gardner has developed a methodology that identifies 13 different intelligences. Education students cover Gardner's schema in their methods classes. However, once teachers hit the classroom, they find that an emphasis on achieving high test scores reduces the chances of fully implementing Gardner's outstanding approach to organizing and presenting new concepts to students from a multiplicity of approaches -- an approach that would resonate
with boys and non-traditional learners.

No one wants to admit that testing has forced us to dumb down education and eliminated the initiative for young people to excel beyond a test score. But that is indeed what has taken place. Test scores only tell one part of the story of a person's capabilities. A high school principal once told me, "You don't grow the cow by weighing it." It's time to put away the scales and start improving the nutritional content of the feed. I only wish we could start within the next 140 days.

Observer community columnist Annette Dunlap of Lakeview is a small business consultant and free-lance writer. Write her c/o The Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, NC 28230-0308, or at annette_d2002@yahoo.com

© 2005 Charlotte Observer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Education Secretary as Dominatrix

Way back in the 1920s, IQ tests provided a "scientific" way to sort children for their future adult roles. All across America, immigrant children took these culturally-biased tests in a language they could neither speak nor read. The scores were used to place them in industrial training programs or programs for retarded children that would get them ready for their second-class adult destinies.

We have not come so far since then. Instead of IQ tests, though, we have a new torture tool called the high-stakes standardized achievement test to label children as failures at an early age. In nine states and New York City now, we use them to keep poor children in their place by denying them access to the next grade if they don't pass the test. And even though failure in school is what children fear most besides the death of a parent, their dread does not seem to be enough to stop the emotional and intellectual genocide against them.

In all states now we use these tests to determine if entire public schools will be labeled as failures, along with the teachers, administrators, parents, and certainly children. And we continue to insist that special education students, immigrant children, and children of poverty-riddled schools pass these same tests and at the same rate as white, privileged children from the suburbs. We insist on this, even though we know they will fail.

In the meantime, Spellings talks about being "aggressive and hard" and about continuing the impossible demands even though she admits that we don't know how to make these children pass the tests: "We have to crack the code on how we're going to transition and educate people whose first language is not English," she said. "It's not, `Let's figure out a way to wiggle out of addressing it.' "

And if your school in the suburbs has even a small number of poor, immigrant, or special education children who have no chance of passing these tests? Well, your entire school is going to be labeled a failure, too. As we move closer to 2014 and the required passing percentage is elevated, the vast majority of all schools, suburban or otherwise, will find themselves on the failing list.

How long will the American people submit themselve to this outrage? How long will we continue to pretend that the thugs in Washington and their cronies in the reform industry are not attempting to give the public schools over to private management? How long will we allow our children and teachers to be sacrificed for this cynical scheme?

So far the most helpless have functioned as the canaries in this dark mineshaft. As this weekend's Asbury Park Press shows us, though, is that "failure" is coming to a school near you soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More Goodies from Sopris West

Susan Ohanian has more on the feeding frenzy for Reading First money. This plush pitch to Washington state academics appears be paid for with Reading First funds, which would be a case of using public money directly to sell company products. This one has close ties to Reid Lyon--why is that not surprising?

NY Times Editorial and SM Response

Has Armstrong Williams gone to work for the New York Times?

Happy Talk on School Reform
Published: October 22, 2005

The Bush administration responded characteristically this week when it put a positive gloss on national math and reading scores that were actually dismal - and bad news for the school reform effort. Faced with charges that his signature reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, was failing, the president played up the minor positive results. He should have seized the moment to acknowledge the bad news and explain what it would take to make things right.

He should also, of course, have reminded the nation that as long as it fails to take school reform seriously, American children will fall further and further behind their peers abroad.

The fourth grade reading scores on this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress were basically flat compared with 2003, even though the states are supposed to be ramping up student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students. Fourth graders' math performance was also a clear disappointment, at a time when the country hopes to catch up with the international competition in science.

Critics of No Child Left Behind were quick to pounce, arguing that student progress was more impressive, by some measures, before the law kicked in. The truth is less depressing, but still extremely daunting. No Child Left Behind has reached that perilous interim phase that all reforms must eventually pass through if they are to survive. It has reaped the easy gains that were achieved by merely paying more attention to the problem. The next level of progress will require deeper systemic change, especially in the realm of teacher quality.

Most states have avoided this core issue and simply opted for repackaging a deeply inadequate teacher corps. Real reform will require better teacher training and higher teacher qualifications, which will in turn mean cracking the whip on teachers' colleges that have basically ignored the standards movement. The federal government was supposed to confront this issue head-on, but has tiptoed around it for several years. This week's test scores are not the end of reform. But they could well spell the beginning of a downward spiral unless Congress, federal officials and the states all pull together to move the country out of this trough and onto higher ground. That will mean hard work and more money - and a direct confrontation with the politically explosive issue of teacher preparedness. Happy talk won't get it done.

October 22, 2005

Dear Editor:

I find it interesting, stupid though it may be, that your editorial writer, Brent Staples, is it? (who else could sound more like an angry white man?) would choose to find someone else to blame for another Administration debacle, this one called NCLB.

Intimidating your way to higher test scores will never get you there, Brent. What you really need to get the job done are more teachers and teacher educators like NY Times reporters who will embed or, rather, bed themselves with the thugs inside the White House in order to get the attention and accolades they, otherwise, would never merit. That way, too, they can just make up the scores, and everyone will be happy and not a test score point the stupider.

By the way, you have an open invitation to call on any of my education classes at Monmouth University anytime, unannounced. If you would get off your high horse long enough to visit some of the colleges you now choose to castigate to cover the stupidity of a failed ED policy, you would, perhaps, not be so quick to broad brush your way into the dunce corner.

Unless, of course, like Judy M., you will let nothing, particularly the facts, get in the way of currying favor in order to make your grade or get the scoop. Scoop of what, I think you know.

Jim Horn

Friday, October 21, 2005

And the Reading First Corruption Award Goes to . . .

In 2004 there was good reason for Dr. Doug Carnine to take a lead role on the Bush-Cheney '04 National Educators for Bush Steering Committee. The re-election of W. would mean a continuation of the Carnine mission to return reading instruction to the bygone era of phonics fixation and testing--and to solidify that mission by pushing through educational research requirements that can only be efficiently fulfilled by amassing large quantitative databases.

Indeed, a second Bush term would mean the chance for Carnine to build a sprawling empire of consulting and research expertise among his colleagues at the University of Oregon and beyond. (See here and here and here for a bit more background on Carnine). As the Director of the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators at U of O, Carnine nurtured, among others down the street at the Pacific Institute for Research, the work of Dr. Roland H. Good, III, the developer of a reading assessment that fits hand-in-glove with Carnine’s definition of “scientifically-based” data, data that can be gathered at a lightning pace and stored on handheld computers to be later uploaded.

Yes, every reading teacher in America has probably heard about, and is likely using, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS is big, very big, at least for the time being. It seems there have been recurring reports and complaints about Reading First "consultants" strong-arming schools and systems to make DIBELS their preferred product line. Imagine that.

A short shelf life for DIBELS? Probably. For even if this charade posing as science is not exposed by the GAO, which has been asked by a bipartisan group of Congres to investigate charges of abuse and corruption, Gerald Coles points out that the DIBELS will, indeed, be short-lived, and “the ‘retelling’ of the DIBELS story a few years from now will seem beyond comprehension.”

Short-lived or not, there is some serious money to be made in the meantime. Ask Roland Good or his partner, Ruth Kaminski, who authored the DIBELS and also founded The Dynamic Measurement Group (DMG). DMG is a private company that spreads dibelization through training institutes to prepare “mentors” who will then receive certification in the DIEBELS way, and who will subsequently train others in DIBELS. The two-day certification costs $900 per head for registration alone, and there more dates and places to choose from in the coming months than you are likely to find on the Stones tour.

Both Good and Kaminski participate in the training programs that are hosted around the country, and Good boasts in his bio on the DMG site that he is former member of the Secretary’s Reading Leadership Academy Assessment Committee that met in late 2001 and early 2002 to develop the Reading First guidelines. Hmm.

Here are the other members on that very important and exclusive group who decided among themselves the fate of 900 million dollars a year in federal grants for the Reading First Initiative. One may note the prominence on the Committee of the University of Oregon colleagues of Doug Carnine:

Team Leader: Dr. Edward J. Kame'enui, University of Oregon
Dr. David Francis, University of Houston
Dr. Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Roland H. Good, III, University of Oregon
Dr. Rollanda O'Connor, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Deborah C. Simmons, University of Oregon
Dr. Gerald Tindal, University of Oregon
Dr. Joseph Torgesen, Florida State University

But I digress! Good's and Kaminski's real gravy train is not in training sessions, however important they may be in developing new disciples who will preach the DIBELS message. By far the real money is in the DIBELS materials marketed by Sopris West, a company whose catalog focuses on materials that help eduational customers to "better manage behavior" of those "tough to teach student." (Remember the tough ones that Carnine's direct instruction spinoff outfit prepares teachers to deal with)?

I found my way to the Sopris West website from a link on the DIBELS site, which sits on a server at the University of Oregon, where Good is a professor and Kaminski is an adjunct who must hold the record in landing federal grants for a faculty member on a “courtesy appointment.”

Good and Kaminski have a very impressive line of products listed on Sopris West catalog. Compared with the other poobahs from Oregon on the Committe that shaped the Reading First policy, Good and Kaminski are stand-outs. Here is the list of stuff you can buy from them with your Reading First grant money, if you were smart enough to put DIBELS in your grant proposal:

DIBELS® Administration and Scoring Guide
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-896-6
Grade: PreK - 12
Price: $10.95

DIBELS® First Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-905-9
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $69.00

DIBELS® Second Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-906-7
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $69.00

DIBELS® Third Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-907-5
Grade: 3-5
Price: $69.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-904-0
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $69.00

DIBELS® Implementation Video (VHS)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-57035-993-8
Grade: PreK - 12
Price: $83.95

DIBELS® Kindergarten Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-033-0
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $39.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-038-1
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Initial Sound Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-016-
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Kindergarten Phoneme Segmentation Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-017-9
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Kindergarten & First Grade Word Use Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-018-7
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® First Grade Nonsense Word Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-019-5
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® First Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-020-9
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Second Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-021-7
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Second and Third Grade Word Use Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-022-5
Grade: PreK - 5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Third Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-023-3
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® First Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-009-8
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Second Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-010-1
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Third Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-011-X
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Implementation Video (CD-ROM)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
Grade: PreK - 12
Price: $83.95

DIBELS® First Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-034-9
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $39.00

DIBELS® Second Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-035-7
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $33.00

DIBELS® Third Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-036-5
Grade: 3-5
Price: $33.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-012-8
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® First Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-013-6
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Second Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-014-4
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Third Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-036-5
Grade: 3-5
Price: $33.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-012-8
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® First Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-013-6
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Second Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-014-4
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Third Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-015-2
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Kindergarten Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-024-1
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® First Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-025-X
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Second Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-026-8
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Third Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-027-6
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Kindergarten Initial Sound Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-028-4
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® First Grade Nonsense Word Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-029-2
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® First Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-030-6
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Second Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-031-4
Grade: PreK, K-2
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Third Grade Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-032-2
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-304-6
Grade: 3-5
Price: $51.95

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-305-4
Grade: 3-5
Price: $51.95

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Classroom Set
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-306-2
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $51.95

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-354-2
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-355-0
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 25)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-356-9
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-357-7
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-358-5
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Benchmark Scoring Booklets (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-359-3
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-360-7
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-361-5
Grade: 3-5
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-362-3
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Scoring Booklets (set of 6)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-362-3
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $5.95

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-363-1
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-364-X
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Benchmark Assessment Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-365-8
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-366-6
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-367-4
Grade: 3-5
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Oral Reading/Retell Fluency Progress Monitoring Student Materials (set of 5)
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-368-2
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $22.00

DIBELS® Fourth Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-351-8
Grade: 3-5
Price: $27.00

DIBELS® Fifth Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-352-6
Grade: 3-5
Price: $27.00

DIBELS® Sixth Grade Complete Replacement Set of Consumables
Author: Roland H. Good III PhD and Ruth Kaminski PhD
ISBN: 1-59318-353-4
Grade: 6 - 12
Price: $27.00

Standard & Poor's & the Business of School

The verdict is in--this week's release of NAEP data shows no positive effect for turning schools into test-prep factories. One day before the scores were released (sheer coincidence), Standard & Poor's SchoolMatters (no relation, please) issued a press release that offered two new publications to soften the blow for those who were expecting the miracle of NCLB to be reflected in rising NAEP scores.

Insisting on having their cake and eating it as well, one paper, The National Assessment of Educational Progress and State Assessments: What Do Differing Student Proficiency Rates Tell Us?, downplays NAEP as a "no-stakes" test without real performance goals; while the other, Leveling the Playing Field: Examining Comparative State NAEP Performance in Demographic Context, insists that, "once the playing field has been leveled by taking student poverty into account, most states actually perform as might be statistically expected."

In an attempted explanation that is Kafkaesque in its hopeless absurdity and absurd hopelessness, and one that hopes to reassure those at ED who have crafted a national policy around impossible expectations, they say this:
Note that “expectation” is used to refer to statistical probability, not educational goals. The correlation between performance and poverty does not mean that students living in poverty cannot learn, or that less achievement should be expected from them as a matter of educational policy.
In other words, don't worry if these kids in these poor schools don't have a chance in hell--keep those demands in the impossible zone! (The Fordham hoods could take some lessons from these guys on how to talk out of both sides of their mouth at the same time).

What does it all mean? Does it mean that S&P would like use NAEP and their "leveled playing field" model to craft their own impossible performance expectations for the nation's public schools? I suspect so, just as I suspect that they have plans to eventually house the national school and student information database for the corporate welfare school businesses (Whittle, et al) that hope to replace the public schools. With so many underemployed MBAs now aiming at part of that $400 billion that American spend on K-12 education every year, their plan is less than assured.

But try they will, and with an insider's ferocity. In fact, their loyalty to the neo-con agenda has been front and center since SchoolMatters was launched in 2001 as a part of S&P's School Evaluation Services (another coincidence in timing). Here is something from the "About Us" page:

Despite a 50 percent increase in per pupil spending over the past two decades, nearly one third of public high school students fail to graduate, and two thirds of all students leave high school unprepared for a four-year college, according to the Manhattan Institute. Given the diminishing economic prospects for Americans without a quality education, the need for reform is clear.

What was once, then, just another website for mobile middle class parents to use for checking, anywhere in America, on a school's test scores and percentage of economically disadvantaged students (and we all know what that means), has now really started to evolve into something that is really, well . . . choose your own adjective.

Thanks to Judy Rabin for help on this story.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fordham Foundation Freaking on NAEP

Over at the neo-con educationist roost, the Fordham Foundation, Finn and the other corporate welfare buzzards are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, their unyielding allegiance to NCLB forces them to ignore the new NAEP data that suggests no positive effect on test scores and a potential negative effect as a result of the testing genocide initiated by NCLB.

Instead, they use this opportunity to focus on demonizing states showing gains on their own state tests that are not reflected in the new NAEP scores. Which is it, Checker--do we ignore NAEP or embrace NAEP? Do we ignore the part that shows the unparalleled crass stupidity of NCLB's agenda to privatize K-12 education, or do we embrace the part that shows these lazy and dishonest states are cheating their way out of being labeled the failures that they must be in order to sell the public on the corporate welfare charter school solution?

Or do we, in the best tradition of a schizoid propaganda machine that would make Orwell's head spin, do BOTH!!?

Here is an interesting threat delivered by the Fordham's vice-president. Remember that these are the local control and individual choice advocates:
"If states can't be trusted to hold the line on accountability, the inevitable solution may be a national approach to standards and tests," said Foundation vice president Michael J. Petrilli. "While you might expect to see stronger gains on state tests tied to state standards and curricula, a significant amount of those gains should show up on a benchmark test like NAEP, especially at the lower 'basic' level. Otherwise you have to ask whether states are blurring the truth to make themselves look better."
The New York Times offers a solid piece that gives a little more context this kind of schizophrenic bullying.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NAEP and the Headlines

One has to wonder what kind of magic realism that ED will muster to counter this kind of headline:

Students Show Few Gains Since 'No Child'

Math Up Slightly, Reading No Improvement

By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; 11:57 AM

Despite a new federal educational testing law championed by the Bush administration, scores among fourth and eighth graders failed to show any improvements in reading, and showed only slow gains in math nationally during the past two years, according to a study released today. (Click here for full story.)

Does Stupidification of Schools Serve a Greater Purpose?

Passed to me by Judy Rabin, here is an important piece by Doug Soderstrom that appeared Monday at CommonDreams.org. In a time when the stupidification of children has been given national priority by the corporate socialists and their puppets in Washington, this essay is particularly relevant. By the way, the difference between corporate socialists and national socialists is that the latter had an allegiance to a geographical boundary--the corporate socialists suffer no such nationalistic compunctions. Here is a clip:
Very few would disagree with the proposition that in Hitler’s Germany there was a determined effort to brainwash the people so they might support Mein Fuhrer’s efforts to conquer the world. However, what if one were to suggest that much the same is occurring in the United States of America, that there has been a determined effort through the socializing influence of our schools, the government, the mass media, the churches we attend, even that of our own parents, to pressure us into believing (just as Hitler) that our country has received the blessing of God, and because of this, we therefore have not only the right, but more importantly, through the use of military weapons, a divine responsibility to see that the world acquiesces to our needs and expectations. Just as Hitler in the 1930’s prepared his countrymen to accept the authoritarian control of the Nazi government, much the same may well be occurring in the United States. Just as Hitler indoctrinated his people to believe that Germany had the right to conquer the world, George Walker Bush “in the name of freedom and democracy” may well be doing the same (preparing the American people to support his administration’s imperialistic drive to dominate the world).

FairTest comments on NAEP

FairTest calls for overhaul--is that a half-way measure?
National Center for Fair & Open Testing

for further information:
Dr. Monty Neill (617) 864-4810
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

for immediate release, Wednesday, October 19,

"The 2005 National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP) reading andmath scores show that
high-stakes, punitive testing does not produce
meaningful improvements in student achievement,
contrary to the promises made by proponents of
No Child Left Behind," said Monty Neill, Ed.D.,
co-director of the National Center for Fair &
Open Testing (FairTest), in response to today's
release of the 2005 NAEP report.NAEP Reading
scores were essentially unchanged from 2002 to
2005 at grade 4 and declined markedly at grade 8.
Math scores did not increase at a significantly
faster rate than in the 1990s, well before most
high-stakes exams for elementary and middle school
were put in place. The NAEP 2003-2005 data covers
the period when the Bush Administrationand Congress
imposed testing with severe sanctions as a requirement
states to receive federal funding.
While reading scores for Blacks and Hispanics
rose in the 1990s at grade four, they have been
flat since 2000. At grade eight, they have been
flat since 1998. The math gains these groups made
in the 1990s have tapered off."The drill and kill
curriculum that accompanies high-stakes,
one-size-fits-all testing programs undermines
rather than improves the quality of education,"
explained Dr. Neill. ""Intensified testing has
especially hurt education for low-income, African
American and Latino students, reinforcing the
hard bigotry of inequality and segregation.
Once again, independent data demonstrate that the
nation cannot test its way to educational quality.
It's time to abandon the failed test-and-punish
quick fix and get on with the hard work of identifying
the real causes of student learning problems,
then addressing them effectively. Congress should
follow the lead of the more than 60national education,
civil rights and religious organizations that have
come together to call for an overhaul of this damaging
federal law."
- - 3 0 - -

The multi-organizational statement calling for an
overhaul of “No ChildLeft Behind” and other assessment
reform materials are available at

Can NCLB Help to Slow Math Gains Even More?

Maggie has been so adamant about using NAEP scores to justify the intellectual genocide of NCLB. Looks to me as if gains have slowed since the testing orgy kicked in.

Average mathematics scale scores, grade 4: Various years, 1990-2005

After 3 Years in the Carnine Torture Chambers . . .

Average reading scale scores, grade 4: Various years, 1992–2005

Here are the reading results for 4th grade. They must be popping corks over at ED! Click here for NAEP data released today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Common Sense to Challenge "Scientifically-Based" Straitjacket?

I came across this release on a new book that sounds very interesting. Common sense to replace the straight-jacket definition of "scientifically-based?" I think so.

Debra Craig, teacher and author of 'Why Is the Teacher’s
Butt So Big?,' calls on parentsand teachers to join her
organizations, Better Understanding of Teaching & Testing
(B.U.T.T.) and it’s companion group Better Understanding
of Schools & Teachers(B.U.S.T) Both groups’ goal is to bring
common sense into public schools andeducation policy.
The first target: educate the public about No Child Left Behind and
eventually deconstruct this powerful legislation which reeks of
stupidity and is theantithesis of common sense.

(PRWEB) October 18, 2005 -- Despite the unusual acronyms
of her organizations,Debra Craigis serious about improving
public schools. She has created these two organizations, B.U.T.T.
and B.U.S.T., in hopes of creating attention about the
problems with public schools and finding realways of making
them better. This former kindergarten teacher hopes her
efforts will become the touchstone of a new education
revolution in America. She wants to do this by forgetting
what “scientifically-basedresearch says,” but instead, do what
common sense dictates.

“If you notice, I am careful not to say our goal is putting common
sense 'back intoschools'because I wonder how much common
sense has ever been a part of publiceducation,” adds
this eight-year teaching veteran.

“Teachers are supposedly educated and politicians act like
they are smart. Why then doschools continue questionable practices
like 'journal writing' and live in fear of thegovernment’s
nonsensical educational policy, NCLB, which is clueless about the reality
of students?” asks the organization’s founder Debra Craig.

Debra’s recently released book, Why Is the Teacher’s Butt So
Big?, looks at 111 mysteriesor things she hasn’t been able to
figure out about public schools. Some of her “mysteries”
include issues on money and public schools, education’s love
affair with homework, andteachers skewed views on grading.
However, this Southern California high school teacher
saves her biggest criticism for the No Child Left Behind Act
which sets out to close the achievement gap between
Caucasians/Asians and African Americans/Hispanics.

“The achievement gap has closed very little in the state of
California despite the diligent efforts of public schools
these last four years. Maybe now will the government believe
it isn’t all about blaming the teachers and schools?” says Debra.
“Plus it’s absurd that thegovernment puts no responsibility on
the students and parents for their own academicsuccess.”

Currently, Debra is the teacher in an on-campus suspension
class in a low socio-economic school in Moreno Valley, California,
a city 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The title of her
book refers to a real comment made by a kindergartner to
another student on her firstday of teaching.

Debra is scheduling media appearances and interviews to
discuss her newly-formedorganizations and recently published
book. Her book is available at Amazon.com and
http://www.debracraig.com. Please contact her at (951) 247-6980.

Friday, October 14, 2005

From Covert to Overt Propaganda

No more Armstrong Williams, no more paid PR firms to pump the party line onto op-ed pages around the country.

Mom Spellings has taken the bull by the horns, as evidenced yesterday in her homespun wisdom and half-truths stitched onto the editorial pages of the Atlanta Journal/Constitution.

She begins thusly: "Testing has been a valuable part of the educational process since the days of Socrates."

Yes, with the dialogue, the dialectic, and arete, we now place another cultural gift from the Ancients, a symbol of Man's commitment to rise above the level of the mere animal and to aspire to the qualities for which the gods have allowed us access--higher test scores.

From the days of Socrates to the days of Bush, Spellings weaves her word magic, dropping this quote from the Man, himself, her boss: "
As President Bush likes to say, what gets measured gets done."

Perhaps you know how sadly and profoundly true that statement is.

Maggie--you're doin' a heckuva job.

National Security Requires Corporate Welfare?

As corporate profits have zoomed in recent years and CEO salaries skyrocketed, more jobs have been exported to cheap foreign labor markets. Nonetheless, corporations have enjoyed bigger tax breaks, thus contributing a dwindling percentage of federal and state tax revenues. One might think these giveaways would be incentives enough to energize corporations toward innovation and development, but these same corporations have, instead, reduced their spending for R&D.

Is there a problem looming as a result of these policies? You bet.

The solution? Easy. Create a panic based on a manufactured crisis, and get the US Government to come to the rescue. This is exactly the tack taken by the new blue blooded, er, blue ribbon Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. Their hot-off-the-press scare document is breathlessly entitled Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.

The gathering storm, it seems, will come in the form of foreign competition for the control of world markets. Here is quote from the report that succinctly boils down the problem:

Civilization is on the brink of a new industrial order. The big winners in the increasingly fierce global scramble for supremacy will not be those who simply make commodities faster and cheaper than the competition. They will be those who develop talent, techniques and tools so advanced that there is no competition (p. 1-3).

The reason we don't have that talent? Well, of course--it is the fault of the schools. Here are some of the indicators of the problem from the report summary:

· For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India.

· Last year chemical companies shuttered 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for closure. Of 120 chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, one is in the United States and 50 are in China.

· Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.

· In 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.

Without a major push to strengthen the foundations of America's competitiveness, the United States could soon lose its privileged position. The ultimate goal is to create new, high-quality jobs for all citizens by developing new industries that stem from the ideas of exceptional scientists and engineers.

The solution? More exceptional science majors and engineers. Lots of them. The report proposes scholarships to put 25,000 more science and engineering majors into the pipeline each year.

Do we need that many more engineers and scientists, especially when corporations prefer to hire the cheap ones from abroad? Here is what the U. S. Government's Occupational Outlook Handbook 2004-05 says about the job outlook for engineers:
Overall engineering employment is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations over the 2002-12 period. Engineers tend to be concentrated in slow-growing manufacturing industries, a factor which tends to hold down their employment growth. Also, many employers are increasing their use of engineering services performed in other countries. Despite this, overall job opportunities in engineering are expected to be good because the number of engineering graduates should be in rough balance with the number of job openings over this period. Expected changes in employment and, thus, job opportunities vary by specialty. Projections range from a decline in employment of mining and geological engineers, petroleum engineers, and nuclear engineers to much faster than average growth among environmental engineers.

And here is what the OOH says about the future prospects for the biological scientists:
Despite projected as fast as the average job growth for biological scientists over the 2002-12 period, doctoral degree holders can expect to face competition for basic research positions. The Federal Government funds much basic research and development, including many areas of medical research that relate to biological science. Recent budget increases at the National Institutes of Health have led to large increases in Federal basic research and development expenditures, with research grants growing both in number and in dollar amount. At the same time, the number of newly trained scientists has continued to increase at least as fast as available research funds, so both new and established scientists have experienced difficulty winning and renewing research grants. Currently, about 1 in 3 grant proposals are approved for long-term research projects. If the number of advanced degrees awarded continues to grow, as seems likely based on enrollment trends, this competitive situation will persist. Additionally, applied research positions in private industry may become more difficult to obtain if increasing numbers of scientists seek jobs in private industry because of the competitive job market for independent research positions in universities and for college and university faculty.
What to do, what to do about this non-problem!? Could it be the patriotic solution to create an oversupply of engineers and scientists so that salaries can be driven down to compete with the foreign labor markets, thus creating our own homegrown Third-World labor force?

Here is a summary of the recommendation by the Committee. Notice that all of them refer to government interventions ($$), rather than corporate responsibilities. Policymakers should give us more, and we will invest less. Count the times you read "policymakers should":

Ten Thousand Teachers, Ten Million Minds

Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education.

· Among the recommended implementation steps is the creation of a merit-based scholarship program to attract 10,000 exceptional students to math and science teaching careers each year. Four-year scholarships, worth up to $20,000 annually, should be designed to help some of the nation's top students obtain bachelor's degrees in physical or life sciences, engineering, or mathematics -- with concurrent certification as K-12 math and science teachers. After graduation, they would be required to work for at least five years in public schools. Participants who teach in disadvantaged inner-city or rural areas would receive a $10,000 annual bonus. Each of the 10,000 teachers would serve about 1,000 students over the course of a teaching career, having an impact on 10 million minds, the report says.

Sowing the Seeds

Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research.

· Policy-makers should increase the national investment in basic research by 10 percent each year over the next seven years. Special attention should be paid to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences, and to basic research funding for the U.S. Department of Defense, the report says.

· Policy-makers also should establish within the U.S. Department of Energy an organization called the Advanced Research Project Agency -- Energy (ARPA-E) that reports to the undersecretary for science and sponsors "out-of-the-box" energy research to meet the nation's long-term energy challenges.

· Authorities should make 200 new research grants annually -- worth $500,000 each, payable over five years -- to the nation's most outstanding early-career researchers.

Best and Brightest

Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the United States and abroad. The United States should be considered the most attractive setting in the world to study and conduct research, the report says.

· Each year, policy-makers should provide 25,000 new, competitive four-year undergraduate scholarships and 5,000 new graduate fellowships to U.S. citizens enrolled in physical science, life science, engineering, and mathematics programs at U.S. colleges and universities.

· Policy-makers should provide a one-year automatic visa extension that allows international students to remain in the United States to seek employment if they have received doctorates or the equivalent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or other fields of national need from qualified U.S. institutions. If these students then receive job offers from employers that are based in the United States and pass a security screening test, they should automatically get work permits and expedited residence status. If they cannot obtain employment within one year, their visas should expire.

Incentives for Innovation

Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation. This can be accomplished by actions such as modernizing the U.S. patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation, and ensuring affordable broadband Internet access, the report says.

· Policy-makers should provide tax incentives for innovation that is based in the United States. The Council of Economic Advisers and the Congressional Budget Office should conduct a comprehensive analysis to examine how the United States compares with other nations as a location for innovation and related activities, with the goal of ensuring that the nation is one of the most attractive places in the world for long-term investment in such efforts.
· The Research and Experimentation Tax Credit is currently for companies that increase their R&D spending above a predetermined level. To encourage private investment in innovation, this credit, which is scheduled to expire in December, should be made permanent. And Congress and the administration should increase the allowable credit from 20 percent to 40 percent of qualifying R&D investments.

Hiding behind the facade of the National Academy of Science cannot disguise the rationale and intent of this leading group of corporationists (sometimes referred to as corporate socialists--and not to confused with national socialists, whose ideology was bounded by nationalism). Only the New York Times appears to be fooled (it is hard to tell these days when they are pretending).

Here is the list of luminaries on the Committee:

Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century

Norman R. Augustine (chair)
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Lockheed Martin Corp. (retired)
Bethesda, Md.

Craig R. Barrett
Chairman of the Board
Intel Corp.
Chandler, Ariz.

Gail Cassell
Vice President of Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Lilly Research Scholar for Infectious Diseases
Eli Lilly and Co.

Steven Chu
E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, Calif.

Robert M. Gates
Texas A&M University
College Station

Nancy S. Grasmick
State Superintendent of Schools
Maryland Department of Education

Charles O. Holliday Jr.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Wilmington, Del.

Shirley Ann Jackson
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, N.Y.

Anita K. Jones
Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Engineering and Applied Science
School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia

Joshua Lederberg
Sackler Foundation Scholar
Rockefeller University
New York City

Richard C. Levin
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

C. Daniel Mote Jr.
President and Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering
University of Maryland
College Park

Cherry A. Murray
Deputy Director for Science and Technology
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, Calif.

Peter O'Donnell Jr.
O'Donnell Foundation

Lee R. Raymond
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Exxon Mobil Corp.
Irving, Texas

Robert C. Richardson
Vice Provost for Research and F.R. Newman Professor of Physics
Cornell University
Ithaca, N.Y.

P. Roy Vagelos
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Merck & Co. Inc. (retired)
Bedminster, N.J.

Charles M. Vest
President Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

George M. Whitesides
Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor of Chemistry
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Richard N. Zare
Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science
Department of Chemistry
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Does this remove some of the mystery about what the Spellings Commission is likely to recommend for higher ed?