Friday, April 29, 2016

The new education law (ESSA) could mean much much more testing

Posted as a comment on The Answer Sheet, Washington Post, April 28.  Related to discussion of “New U.S. rules for standardized testing have been drafted. Here’s what they mean for kids.”

The "computerized curriculum-instruction-testing packages" mentioned by Monty Neill as a “multiple tests” option is known as competency-based education, and as Neill notes, it combines instruction and testing. The ESSA contains an interesting section encourages the development of competence-based education as a testing program (sections 1201 and 1204).

Competency-based education (CBE) is a radical and expensive innovation that replaces regular instruction with online "modules" that students work through on their own. Students take tests in order to move to the next module. It is being pushed by computer companies without consulting educators and without a proper research base. 

A recent report from the National Governor's Association, a report enthusiastic about CBE, includes this statement: "Although an emerging research base suggests that CBE is a promising model, it includes only a few rigorous evaluations and analyses of current and ongoing CBE pilots and similar programs."

The born-again pronouncements against over-testing which started with President Obama's speech a few months ago might be a means of introducing competency-based, which could mean testing every day. Pearson, in fact, suggests that CBE should take the place of end-of-the-year testing.

Want to read more about it?  Start here:
Steven M. Singer, Standardized Tests Every Day: the Competency Based Education Scam.
Emily Talmage,  Warning: Gates is Infiltrating Opt Out.
Morna McDermott, Reading between the lines.
Peggy Robertson, Opt-out revolution, the next wave.

Monty Neill statement about "Multiple tests": Following ESSA, the negotiated regulations allow states to administer multiple “interim” tests throughout the year, adding up their results to reach a final score, instead of relying on just one big test at the end. Whether that will lead to better assessments (e.g., portfolios of student work over the year) or be used to facilitate computerized curriculum-instruction-testing packages remains to be fought out state by state."


  1. Stephen, you quote Fairtest's Monty Neill on the ESSA regulations:

    "Whether that will lead to better assessments (e.g., portfolios of student work over the year) or be used to facilitate computerized curriculum-instruction-testing packages remains to be fought out state by state."

    Such an either/or statement is disingenuous, and Monty knows that. The "blended learning", "multiple measures" agenda which is explicit in the ESSA business model is exactly the accountability "compromise" Fairtest has been lobbying for all along. Teachers are supposed to believe that we need to negotiate to limit the percentage of standardized scores used in our student growth score calculations, and submitting to portfolio accountability is our reward.

    Yes, portfolio assessment rubrics are a big promotional point for CBE. In my district in Massachusetts, a "grant" from Nellie Mae Foundation and Great Schools Partnership purchased Pearson's blended learning professional development.

    Teachers were assigned to create contorted and crazy assessments and rubrics to specified standards, and called in for discipline for failure to embrace the project enthusiastically enough.

    The problem is that the legislation was already rolling out in our states, and organizations like NEA, AFT, NPE, and BATs which had lobbied for ESSA quickly were mobilized to hijack authentic Opt-Out proponents to lobby for deceptively worded "assessment reform" legislation, instead of test refusal.

  2. Steven Singer put up an infinitely better blog on this question yesterday, in addition to the one you linked.

    It shows insight into the long-range gameplan of enlisting foes of the first-generation high stakes testing assault to nurture the NextGen product line.

    Co-opting the Language of Authentic Education: The Competency Based Education Cuckoo

  3. I can assure you, kids already spend way too much time testing and not enough time learning. High-stakes testing has lead to a swiss cheese approach to teaching: "If it's not tested, don't teach it" attitude. :(

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