Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cruel, Sadistic Bastards

Last week, I spent an evening with a friend who is a public school teacher here in Seattle. I knew her before she became a teacher. We've had long discussions over the years about what's wrong with public education, and specifically about the disastrous Common Core national curriculum, the one that was developed largely by career bureaucrats and for-profit testing companies with precious little input from actual teachers, especially those who work with young children. She has always taken a more cavalier approach than me, insisting that fads like this come and go and that she was confident that she would be able to engage her students in "real learning" between the cracks.

She was not feeling that way last week. Her school was in the midst of administering high stakes standardized testing that were supposedly Common Core aligned. I say "supposedly" because who knows? No one outside the classroom is allowed to see the questions being asked -- not the school board, not the administration, not the parents, and certainly not the taxpayers who are on the hook for this mess. Only teachers and students are allowed to see the questions on the day of the test and they are emphatically not allowed to discuss the questions with anyone, even with one another. The companies that make these tests are actually monitoring the social media accounts of older students to make sure they don't discuss anything "proprietary." 

My friend's students were freaking out in anticipation, some in tears, some in ways that sounded bizarre to me. She is not even allowed to tell the kids' parents that they have the right to opt their children out of these tests, even when parents came to specifically ask her if they can opt out. 

Even if these test measured anything worthwhile (and they don't), the results will be useless to my friend, just as they are useless to all teachers, because by the time she receives them, it will be next fall: she may not even be teaching at that school, let alone working with those kids. And even if she did find herself still teaching one of them, she would have no way of knowing what he needs to do to improve because the whole damned thing is secret. Not even the President is allowed to see these tests that we spend billions on each year.

I can only draw one conclusion, the companies that make these tests and the state superintendents of eduction who signed contacts with these companies are all cruel, sadistic bastards. They are making the lives of children hell and they are making the lives of teachers hell, all under the cloak of secrecy and hollow assurances of "trust us." They are making a generation of children hate school even more than they already hate it and they're doing it exclusively for a greasy buck because there is simply no educational value in what they are doing. None, and no one is even attempting to make that case any longer.

A parent recently shared with me a letter she received from the school district in response to her decision to opt her child out of the tests. The superintendent's main argument was that she was placing her child's school's funding in jeopardy (although he did, laughably, also evoke her child's infamous "permanent recored").

I'm sick of these ignorant charlatans. What fools we've been to buy their cleverly concocted snake oil. These tests are designed to make failures of children. To wit, a test question which was anonymously revealed by a teacher in which 4th graders were asked to write essays based upon a reading assignment that was written at a 7th grade reading level (and a high school interest level). The failure is intentional because the very companies who make these super secret tests can then turn around and sell text books and other bogus "learning" materials to families and schools with the cynical promise of helping their little failures do better next time.

Companies like Pearson Education are grifters of the highest order. What a scam: we have secret tests, we make everyone associated with them sign non-disclosure agreements, the school districts aren't even allowed to tell families that the test are optional, then they freaking fail the kids on purpose just to get deeper into our pocketbooks. I'll say it again, these corporations and the people who contract with them, are cruel, sadistic bastards.

And believe me, the words I've used in this post are mild compared to the ones that are going through my head.

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Anonymous said...

Hey from Australia. We also have a National test called NAPLAN. It's only done twice in Primary School. I recieved a phone call from the School because my son refused to take the test. I told them that I was OK with that. They were happy to support his choice.

Anonymous said...

What some people will do to make a buck! Incredible! How many more generations will be sacrificed at the altar of corporate greed? These are the issues that really ought to be front and center of the national media. I've never been so glad I made the decision to convert my house into a school and keep my precious ones out of the halls of public schools. Thanks for your post.

Kitty Combs said...

I agree one hundred percent. I pulled my ypunger kids out of this mess and started homeschooling. I want my children to develol an intrinsic love of learning. And I want them to learn interesting, useful things in a positive, supportive atmosphere. That environment cannot survive the common core parasite.

Arthur Battram said...

What a wishy-washy handwringing, wet liberal half hearted response. Why don't you say what you mean?


Go get them, tiger!

Anonymous said...

This is worse than i thought. I didn't know that teachers are not allowed to tell parents the truth--that they can opt out.
This sounds like the Patriot Act, which told public librarians they were not allowed to tell the public that the NSA has gone into their library's computers to see who checked out what.
How can this be a democracy if we are not allowed to know or say what our government is doing?

Unknown said...

I tweeted a blog with the actual questions and got taken down by a PARCC rep!

edblisa said...

AMEN! And don't forget that it's ALL about collecting data on our children since FERPA has been eroded into nothingness. Children are NOT test scores, and they are NOT data points. These people deserve an extra hot place in Hell for using and abusing children for greed.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points you make. But there's one more: public policy should be based on science, and secret tests can't be subjected to unbiased peer review. Instead of evidence-based policies we have unproven, unprovable theories motivated entirely by profit, shoved down the throats of an entire generation of children by highly paid lobbyists and unqualified politicians.

Public policy should be 100% open to peer review and to scientific analysis. Period.

Anonymous said...

I'm a former college instructor. We would receive free text books from Pearson, in the hope that we would adopt them for our courses, and we did use some of their materials. But a lot of it was very poorly conceived and produced. And the worst was their testing materials--usually just utter crap.

Dave Southwell said...

Wow! And I thought we had it bad here in the UK! We have tests here for our Key Stage 2 kids, 8 to 11 year olds, and university graduates have struggled with the questions. I managed 10% on the English test. I'm 55 and had a great education and didn't understand what the hell they were on about!

And people wonder why we home ed our granddaughter.

Keep up the good work TT!

Anonymous said...

In Australia, we have NAPLAN testing for primary school kids & high school kids. It's known to be very stressful & somewhat detrimental to the students' wellbeing & confidence. More & more parents are refusing to allow their kids to sit these exams.

Anonymous said...

If I may, I'd like to correct the impression made with your statement, "we make everyone associated with them sign non-disclosure agreements". No person is required to sign an agreement with which they do not agree. This is a major problem in our country. We don't understand our own Constitutional rights and we don't exercise them enough to make them "real". The kids sign the forms because when your government controls your education, you become compliant. That is the nature of the beast. The parents are also big wimps; but that is a story in itself.

The Oak Leaves said...

A teacher stuck reading the tests this week just told me her hand is not allowed to leave the bucket the matierials are in for any reason- ALL DAY. She has to take them to lunch, the bathroom...

One student couldn't seem to get the long code from the cover of his test typed into the computer so he could begin. She's not aloud to do anything to help but read completely UNhelpful scripts at him as he gets so frustrated he starts crying.

I've never been surer of our decision to homeschool/unschool our children.

Anonymous said...

I am finding our schools numeracy and litetacy focus is NAPLAN orientated. The children are so stressed out during this period of testing that the school organises no subjects during the week and no homework. The children are told they need their rest....... It's just wrong.

Laura said...





Anonymous said...

since teachers are not allowed to tell a parent they can opt out all they have to say to the parent is "I am not allowed to tell you that you can opt out."

Joann said...

Where did this crap start? When W nationalized his Texas program. Amazingly all the data collection and testing required for No Child Left Behind, was already set to go national because W had them set and ready to go right after his swearing in! It didn't work for TX, and it is not working for the other 49 states. Every school district is jumping off the wagon of NCLB, because 100% graduation rates were an impossible goal. Everyone is screaming Obama, but this is directly a result of W's policies implemented moments after being sworn in. Ya think he got kickbacks from Pierson? I believe he continues living the good life of the millions generated by that program. This is a boondoggle directly related to who? Republicans. They got fed the coolaid, and it sounded great. They are paralysing Congress for over a year now. No cooperation was permitted. Congress ground to a halt because everything was Obama's fault. Let the blame go right to the instigator: W.

Anonymous said...

I am so amazed. As another commentator said, this is worse than I thought.

In Taiwan we have regular testing and it's used as a tool to prod children to learn. But the tests are developed by the teachers at the school, with the end goal highschool and college entrance exams at the end of middle school and highschool, respectively.

And these entrance exams are written by a consortium of professors (who are locked in a room, working on this, for a week prior to the exam) usually published in the national papers the day of the exam, AFTER the tests are administered, so kids can check their results. In many cases, specific questions have been discussed as problematic, which spurs the next year's test writers to do better.

Considering this, the 'logic' of proprietary testing is absurd, as it neither allows teachers & students to know what standard they are striving for, nor allows them them to critique and compel improvement in the quality of the questions.

And it's ridiculous to say that test writing content is proprietary! There ought to be enough forms of questions in the world for the next test to be different. What are they, so lazy they're going to use administer the same test questions over and over again while the government pays them for each test?

The US, if really intent on adopting testing as a means to improve learning (not necessarily in fostering love of learning, but in making sure everyone at least matches up to a basic standard), should consider the much more cost effective method Taiwan has employed for years - paying only for the test writers who are already working in academia, NOT for individual tests administered to each student.