Category Archives: Testing

Rouge Forum SuperBowl SchmooperBowl Update

Suberbowl Cartoon
Spectacle Schmectacle: Remember the March 4th Strike!

Check Out Miami’s Paul Moore on the Superbowl:
“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.” John Berger

On the Little Rouge School Front:

A Rouge Forum Broadside on March 4th, Resistance, and Fear

Call For Proposals–Rouge Forum Conference August 2-5, 2010

Critical EducationCall for Manuscripts: A Return to Educational Apartheid? >: “This current series will focus on the articulation of race, schools, and segregation, and will analyze the extent to which schooling may or may not be returning to a state of educational apartheid.”

Whose School? Our School? Occupations in Glasgow: “Parents in Glasgow occupied yet another primary school this week; the latest in a series of school occupations which have taken place over the past year.”

Harvard Initiates Educational Leadership-Business Partnership (this is new?): “ The Harvard doctorate broadens the reach of traditional programs by collaborating with the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, he said. The first year of studies is devoted to a rigorous core curriculum. The next year, students chose from a slate of courses at the three schools–such as “Managing Human Capital” at the business school or “Marketing for Non-Profits and Public Agencies” at the Kennedy school.”

What They Do With The Kiddies After High School–Pedagogy With Those Fun Loving Marines

Arne Duncan: “Atta Boy Detroit Bobb (Broad): “Duncan praised Bobb and what he’s done in the district, calling him “a breath of fresh air.”

SF City College Cancels Summer Sessions: “Thousands of students who expected to make up missed courses or simply move their education forward will have to put those plans on hold this year because City College of San Francisco is canceling its popular summer session.”
Read more:

LA Times Exams the Explosion of Charters in the Second Largest School District: “Los Angeles is home to more than 160 charter schools, far more than any other U.S. city. Charter enrollment is up nearly 19% this year from last, while enrollment in traditional L.A. public schools is down.”

Read the full RF Update here.

Call for Proposals: Rouge Forum Conference 2010: Education in the Public Interest: Teaching and Learning for a Democratic Society


Education in the Public Interest: Teaching and Learning for a Democratic Society

Rouge Forum 2010 will be hosted at George Williams College on the scenic banks of Geneva Lake. Located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, the college is nestled between the major metropolitan areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. The conference will be held August 2-5.

Bringing together academic presentations and performances (from some of the most prominent voices for democratic, critical, and/or revolutionary pedagogy), panel discussions, community-building, and cultural events, this action-oriented conference will center on questions such as:

  1. Transforming the notion of “saving public education” to one of creating education in the public interest, what does teaching and learning for a democratic society look like?
  2. What does education for liberation look like compared to the more socially reproductive/dominating education we see in many of our nation’s schools?
  3. Are the current crises in the economy as well as educationally in such states as California or cities like Detroit indicative of a turning point in history? Has the rightward shift ebbed or will the economic crisis push the ruling class towards fascism?
  4. What is a public good? Is education a public good? Why is it treated as a private good?
  5. Is climate change a matter to be debated by governments and industry leaders? Has the public participated in the debate on climate change? What roles do educators have in making students aware of the implications of that debate?
  6. Are multi-trillion dollar deficits public ‘bads’?
  7. What debts will future generations, including the students we may teach, carry because our financial, governmental, and military endeavors have not been concerned with public goods?
  8. What are the educational implications of the recent Supreme Court decision to endow corporations with the right of free speech?
  9. How do we learn and teach to get from where we are to where we need to be?
  10. How do we stand up for the correctness of our ideas?
  11. How does change happen (individually, within a school, within a district)?
  12. Can the current system be reformed in order to better serve children, families, and citizens?
  13. If not, what would a new system look like? How would it be implemented? What past models exist on which to work and build?

To learn more about the conference, please contact any of our conference organizers:

Faith Wilson (
Adam Renner (
Wayne Ross (
Rich Gibson (
Gina Stiens (
Doug Selwyn (
Joe Cronin (

Or visit the conference website at:

Proposals for papers, panels, or performances should include title(s), no more than a 500 word description, and names and contact information for presenter(s). Presenters should plan on 45 minute time slots to deliver papers. Panels and performances will be awarded 90 minutes.

Review of Paper and Panel Proposals treating any of the above questions will begin April 15, 2010. Please send your proposals to Faith Wilson ( As we expect a number of proposals for a limited number of slots please forward your proposal as soon as possible.

Performance Proposals should also be forwarded to Faith Wilson ( by April 15, 2010. Please describe your art/performance and how it may relate to the conference topic/questions.

Critical Education inaugural issue

Critical Education logo

The Editorial Team of Critical Education is pleased to launch the inaugural issue of the journal.

Click on the current issue link at the top of the home page (or the abstract and article links at the bottom of the page) to read “The Idiocy of Policy: The Anti-Democratic Curriculum of High-stakes Testing” by Wayne Au. Au is assistant professor of education at Cal State University, Fullerton and author of Unequal By Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality (Routledge, 2009).

To recieve notification of new content in Critical Education, sign up as a journal user (reader, reviewer, or author).

Look for the initial installments of the special section edited by Abraham DeLeon titled “The Lure of the Animal: Addressing Nonhuman Animals in Educational Theory and Research” in the coming weeks.

Your Education Matters: Testing and the purposes of education

From the Public Education Advocates network:

FSA testing has increased the discussion of the purposes and value of public education.  You will want to view this program.

Simon Fraser University Professor Paul Shaker hosts a cable program, Your Education Matters. The next program features Paul Shaker with guests, UBC Professor Charles Bingham, and Mike Zlotnik, President of the Charter For Public Education Network.

This program features the purposes and principles of public education and begins with a discussion of the Charter for Public Education principles. It also discusses the attempt to turn education into a market commodity and why that is a mistake. And it closes with a discussion of the FSAs and why that is a mistake.

Given that FSA testing is going on right now, the show is very timely.

It has already aired twice on Shaw TV Cable, which is Channel 4 in the Vancouver area. This same episode will be rebroadcast all through February.

The next four episodes are as follows on Shaw cable (Channel 4 here):

Sunday, February 15, 1:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 18, 3:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Other episodes can be seen at

NCSS continues to advocate for government mandated high-stakes testing

Despite the research illustrating deleterious effects of high-stakes testing on teaching and learning, the National Council for the Social Studies continues to be an advocate for it.

NCSS, the largest group of social studies education professionals in the world, and it’s state level affiliates, use the perverted logic that the only way to preserve social studies courses in the curriculum is for those courses to be included in mandated high-stakes testing schemes.

The latest example of this perversion of education is in Massachusetts, where the state plans to either eliminate or delay required history and social science exams for 10th graders.

In response, the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies has started a campaign to the save the tests! And the NCSS Board of Directors has sent an letter to the Mass. Board of Education stressing the importance of implementing the proposed exams as scheduled.

The logic is apparently that state mandated high-stakes exams are a way for governments to show their commitment to social studies. But do we need social studies courses that narrow the curriculum to what is on the exam? That undermine teacher professionalism by turning teachers into clerks for the state, whose job it is to feed students exam answers?

The idea that NCSS’s raison d’être—the promotion of “democratic citizenship”—is advanced by students and teachers willingly participating in a scheme that reduces education to scores is absurd.

Getting accountability right

From the ARN listserv:
This article summarizes an argument from Richard Rothstein’s recent book, co-written with Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (Teachers College Press). Rothstein ( is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute.

For a review by FairTest of the book, see

Education Week

Getting Accountability Right
By Richard Rothstein

The federal No Child Left Behind Act has succeeded in highlighting the poor math and reading skills of disadvantaged children. But on balance, the law has done more harm than good because it has terribly distorted the school curriculum. Modest modifications cannot correct this distortion. Designing a better accountability policy will take time. We cannot and should not abandon school accountability, but it’s time to go back to the drawing board to get accountability right.

The first step is to understand today’s curricular distortion. It has arisen because No Child Left Behind holds schools accountable for only some of their many goals. When we demand adequate math and reading scores alone, educators rationally respond by transferring resources to math and reading instruction (and drill) from social studies, history, science, the arts and music, character development, citizenship education, emotional and physical health, and physical fitness.

This shift has been most severe for the disadvantaged children the law was designed to help, because they are most at risk of failing to meet the math and reading targets. But they are also most at risk of losing curricular opportunities in other domains. In these other areas, NCLB has widened the “achievement gap.”

President Barack Obama has vowed to correct this distortion. He has noted that NCLB “has become so reliant on a standardized-test model that … subjects like history and social studies have gotten pushed aside. Arts and music time is no longer there. So the child is not having the well-rounded educational experience I benefited from and most in my generation benefited from.” We must change No Child Left Behind, he has said, “so that the assessment is one that takes into account all the factors that go into a good education.”

Although some Democrats and Republicans want to ignore the law’s goal distortion, observers with varying policy perspectives share the new president’s view that NCLB requires a radical reconsideration. The Center on Education Policy, headed by Jack Jennings (formerly an aide to Democrats on the House education committee), has publicized the loss of instruction in social studies, science, the arts, and physical education, especially for disadvantaged children. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Diane Ravitch, who served as federal education officials in Republican administrations, complain that present policy means only “top private schools and a few suburban systems will stick with education broadly defined.” While rich kids study a wide range of subjects in depth, they write, “their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets.” There is a “zero sum” problem, Finn and Ravitch say, because “more emphasis on some things … inevitably mean[s] less attention to others.”

Yet public discussion of the law’s upcoming reauthorization focuses almost entirely on correcting flaws in math and reading measurement: substituting “growth models” for fixed levels, modifying the 2014 deadline for attaining student proficiency, standardizing state definitions of proficiency, modifying “confidence intervals” in reporting. While these steps may improve the sophistication of math and reading data, none addresses the goal distortion caused by exclusive accountability for basic skills.

Designing accountability tools that require satisfactory performance across a balanced set of outcomes requires a significant federal research-and-development effort, which could build on prior experience. When the National Assessment of Educational Progress was developed in the 1960s, it measured a broad range of cognitive and noncognitive knowledge and skills. NAEP abandoned that breadth when its budget was slashed in the 1970s, however, and never restored it.

To see whether students learned to cooperate, for example, the early NAEP program sent trained observers to sampled schools. In teams of four, 9-year-olds were offered prizes (such as yo-yos) for guessing what object was hidden in a box. Students could ask yes-or-no questions, but all team members had to agree on each question asked. NAEP rated the students on whether they suggested new questions, gave reasons for viewpoints, or otherwise demonstrated cooperative problem-solving skills. It then reported to the nation on the percentage of children capable of cooperative problem-solving.

For teenagers, NAEP assessors provided lists of issues about which young people typically had strong opinions. Students had to collaborate in writing recommendations to resolve them. For 13-year-olds, lists included topics such as whether they should have curfews for getting home, and for 17-year-olds, the age eligibility for voting, drinking, or smoking. NAEP rated students on whether they took clear positions, gave reasons for viewpoints, helped organize internal procedures, and defended another’s right to disagree.

Early NAEP understood that teaching civic responsibility involved more than having students memorize historical facts. So in 1969, during the era of the civil rights revolution, the assessment asked teenagers what they felt they should do if they saw black children barred from entering a park. NAEP reported that 82 percent of 13-year-olds and 90 percent of 17-year-olds knew that they should do something constructive, such as tell parents, report it to a civil rights or civil liberties organization, write letters to the newspaper, or take social action such as picketing or leafleting.

The early version of NAEP also assessed 17-year-olds’ ability to consider alternative viewpoints, by asking them to state arguments both for and against a heated public issue of the time, such as whether college students should be drafted. It asked 9- and 13-year-olds if something reported in a newspaper might be untrue. It also asked teenagers if they belonged to any nonschool clubs or organizations; interviewers followed up with questions to verify answers’ accuracy.

To assess commitment to civil liberties, NAEP asked teenagers if someone should be permitted to say on television that “Russia is better than the United States,” that “some races of people are better than others,” or that “it is not necessary to believe in God.” The assessment reported the discouraging result that only a small minority of the teenagers thought all three statements should be permitted.

The early NAEP program also assessed personal responsibility. Seventeen-year-olds were asked what to do if, when visiting a friend, they noticed her 6-month-old baby was bruised. The correct answer was “suggest that your friend call her baby’s doctor.” Incorrect choices included “ignore the bruises because they are none of your business.” A follow-up prompt said that at a later visit, bruises remain and “you are now suspicious that your friend may have hurt the baby.” Students were asked what to do now. The correct choice was “call the local child-health agency and report your suspicions.”

Certainly, if school systems were evaluated by such results, not simply by math and reading scores, incentives would shift. National reporting of low scores on the civil liberties questions, for example, could spur demands that schools do a better job on citizenship; then, the incentive to drop cooperative learning in favor of test prep in math and reading would diminish.

Designing a new accountability system will take time and care, because the problems are daunting. Observations of student behavior are not as reliable as standardized tests of basic skills, so we will have to accept that it is better to imperfectly measure a broad set of outcomes than to perfectly measure a narrow set. We will have to resolve contradictory national convictions that schools should teach citizenship and character, but not inquire about students’ (and parents’) personal opinions. To avoid new distortions, we’ll need to make tough decisions about how to weight the measurement of the many goals of education.

The time to start on these difficult tasks is now, but the new administration won’t have to begin with a blank slate. Looking back at the early National Assessment of Educational Progress can start us on a better path.

“Evaluation for Success, Not in Excess”



A Conference on the impact of standardized evaluation on education in the Americas
The Research Network of the Initiative for Democratic Education in the Americas (IDEA), identifies standardized testing of students and productivity-based evaluation of teachers as areas of serious concern for the education community from Canada to Argentina.

Important studies on the theme have been carried out in many countries, but it is necessary to enrich this work through the development of a regional understanding of the repercussions these neoliberal policies have on teachers’ working conditions and professional autonomy, and on students’ rights to access public education at all levels and to define their role in society as fully participating socio-cultural historical subjects.

As part of IDEA’s hemispheric “Evaluation for Success, Not in Excess” campaign, the Network is organizing “Testing, Testing, Testing…,” a conference on standardized evaluation to take place in Mexico City, Mexico February 19 – 21, 2009.

The event is an opportunity to share research and experiences regarding standardized testing, and to participate in the collective construction of knowledge that will enrich international strategies to resist neoliberal evaluation and develop alternative evaluation processes.

The IDEA Network in invites researchers working for, or allied with, education organizations, and other education activists working for democratic public education to participate in the “Testing, Testing, Testing…” conference to share their concrete experiences as educational actors. Contact the IDEA Network at for conference registration forms and other information.
Download a conference registration form here: ideas/admin/UserFiles/File/REGIFORM_-_evaluation_-_Eng.doc

A great example of the idoicy of the testing craze

The Broad Foundation, on the major backers of the test-based accountability has given the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education to the Brownsville (Texas) School District on the same day the that Texas authorities announced that the district had failed to meet achievement targets for two years under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Is it good news that test-pushers realized that indicators other than test scores are best in judging school quality?

See the story in The New York Times.

Teachers to Be Measured Based on Students’ Standardized Test Scores

The New York Times: Teachers to Be Measured Based on Students’ Standardized Test Scores

New York City is beginning to measure the performance of thousands of elementary and middle school teachers based on how much their students improve on annual state math and reading tests.

To avoid a contentious fight with the teachers’ union, the New York City Department of Education has agreed not to make public the reports — which described teachers as average, below average or above average with various types of students — nor let them influence formal job evaluations, pay and promotions

England struggles with “teaching to the test”

Too much maths ‘taught to test’

Almost half of England’s schools are not teaching mathematics well enough, putting too much emphasis on “teaching to the test”, inspectors have said.

Ofsted said pupils were taught to pass exams and results had improved, but understanding of the subject had not.

Teaching and learning, the curriculum and management were all stronger in primary schools than secondary schools.

The government said it was investing £140m in measures “to transform the standard” of maths teaching in England.

Ofsted said its report, Mathematics: Understanding the score, was based principally on evidence from inspections undertaken between April 2005 and December 2007 in 192 maintained schools in England, 84 primary and 108 secondary.

Many secondaries had big problems finding good teachers. Pupils’ progress was inadequate in one in 10 lessons, Ofsted said.

The effectiveness of work in maths was judged to be outstanding in 11%, good in 44% and satisfactory in 40% – by an inspectorate which regards “satisfactory” as not being good enough.

Of the nine schools where the quality was deemed to be inadequate, six were secondary schools.


The report said there had been a steady improvement in test and examination results.

We need children to be equipped to use mathematics with confidence in and beyond the classroom to play their part in a rapidly changing society
Chief inspector Christine Gilbert

Key Stage 3 results – from the tests taken by pupils aged 13 and 14 – were improving and a greater percentage of pupils reached the vital threshold of grade C at GCSE level.

“But this does not tell the whole story,” Ofsted said.

“Based on the gains made at Key Stage 3, more pupils than at present should be reaching the higher GCSE grades.

“Evidence suggests that strategies to improve test and examination performance, including ‘booster’ lessons, revision classes and extensive intervention, coupled with a heavy emphasis on ‘teaching to the test’, succeed in preparing pupils to gain the qualifications but are not equipping them well enough mathematically for their futures.

“It is of vital importance to shift from a narrow emphasis on disparate skills towards a focus on pupils’ mathematical understanding.”

Rapid change

Pupils should be taught to make sense of mathematics – so they could use it confidently in their everyday lives and were prepared for further study and the workplace.

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: “The way mathematics is taught can make a huge difference to the level of enthusiasm and interest for the subject.

“As well as developing fluent numeracy skills to deal with everyday mathematics, children and young people need to be able to think mathematically, model, analyse and reason.”

She added: “We all benefit from the advanced mathematics that underpins our technological world.

We know that more needs to be done to improve maths for the long term
Jim Knight, Schools Minister

“We need children to be equipped to use mathematics with confidence in and beyond the classroom to play their part in a rapidly changing society.”

Among a series of recommendations, Ofsted said the Department for Children, Schools and Families should reintroduce separate reporting of pupils’ attainment in “using and applying mathematics”.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics – set up after a previous critical inquiry into maths teaching in England – should help teachers assess their own knowledge, get access to training and share good practice.

To an extent Ofsted’s report has been overtaken by a later review the government commissioned, by Sir Peter Williams, which was published in June.

Accepting his findings, ministers said 13,000 maths specialists would spearhead better primary school teaching. It will take 10 years to train them.

England’s Schools Minister Jim Knight said: “While Ofsted recognises there are positive trends, with results in maths up at all ages, we know that more needs to be done to improve maths for the long term.

“That’s why we are introducing a whole range of measures, backed by £140m, which will transform the standard of maths teaching in this country.

“Good teachers know that the best way to ensure pupils make good progress – and to pass exams and tests – is to give them a broad, in depth understanding of the subject. There is no reason why testing should result in a narrow focus or uninspiring lessons.

“This year’s new secondary curriculum will help bring mathematics to life. It will promote better mathematical thinking and problem solving as well as developing pupil’s confidence in maths and their ability to apply maths in real life, relevant contexts.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/09/19 00:12:25 GMT