Sunday, March 8, 2015

Outsourcing SBAC Scoring



by Kathleen Jeskey



Last Sunday, Oregon Save Our Schools and BadAss Teachers (BATs) posted my story on the February 24th presentation at Gladstone High School by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) about the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment (known in Oregon as SBAC).

Following that presentation, another member of Oregon Save Our Schools, Portland parent Siobhan Burke, wrote an email to ODE. In her email, she ccd other members of Oregon Save Our Schools who were not in attendance at the meeting, including Hyung Nam, a Social Studies teacher at Wilson High School. Hyung has been investigating the question of who will be scoring students’ typed responses on the SBAC and the other new Common Core assessment, PARCC.

Following is the email exchange between our members and the Oregon Department of Education:

On Wednesday, February 25, 2015 8:56 PM, Siobhan Burke wrote:
Hi --
At last night's presentation we were told that AIR was subcontracting work for for the open ended questions on the OR SBAC out and would be hiring certified teachers to score. Parents are very concerned about this and we would like documentation of this fact. Is there contract language or a job notice you can provide to back up this claim. Thanks in advance for your speedy reply. Sincerely,
Siobhan Burke PPS parent

Hyung Nam responded:
I can't believe how negligent policy makers and administrators are. I looked into it in just a few minutes and found this.

Kristin Gimbel at OEIB confirmed that the test vendor (AIR) is subcontracting with a company called Data Recognition Corporation, DRC, to manage scoring of constructed responses.  They operate in much the same way the Measurement Incorporated and Pearsons scores the tests using random temp workers paid low wages. DRC is paying $13/hour, like Pearsons while MI pays $10.70. They all make the only qualification, a BA or 4 year degree in any subject. These low wage temp workers are not educators and not qualified to evaluate our students. They work under conditions that are not conducive to good assessment, sitting for hours reading huge volumes writing of students they dont know.


Furthermore, this company has ties to the conservative corporate lobby, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC. http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2012/06/common-cause-scolds-minnesota-test-scoring-corporation-executive-for-alleged-alec-ties.html

And finally, this type of scoring by temp workers for this very corporation is invalid. Here is a story about the sausage making that goes on.  http://www.citypages.com/2011-02-23/news/inside-the-multimillion-dollar-essay-scoring-business/full/


Doug Kosty (ODE) wrote
Thank you all for expressing your concerns on this important matter.

The information you received from Kristen Gimbel partially addresses the question raised in Siobhans original email. However, Id like to clarify that Derek did not state that DRC would be using certified teachers for scoring the Smarter Balanced assessments this year during the meeting.  That said, please accept ODEs assurance that the approach used by DRC does not compromise the validity of the assessment scores.  DRC follows industry standards and best practices for scoring large-scale assessments.  Raters are required to possess a 4-year degree in the content area they are scoring, all applications are screened for relevant educational background and work experience, and are interviewed and assessed as part of the application process.  All raters will be trained and certified prior to scoring actual student work.  Lastly, raters will be monitored for accuracy through the scoring process.

Let me also assure you that my staff will be monitoring the first year results carefully to ensure that the scores are valid before they are published for schools to view. 

ODE agrees with you that, ideally, scoring of the Smarter Balanced assessments will be done by Oregon educators similar to how we have scored the state Writing assessment in past years. Engaging Oregon educators in the scoring process provides rich professional development for teachers and serves as an opportunity for teachers to deepen their understanding of the content standards. Given all the logistics involved in getting this first operational year of the Smarter Balanced assessments up and running, however, it was not feasible to adopt this scoring model for these first years.  Moving forward as indicated at Tuesday nights event, ODE will continue to pursue options to include Oregon educators in scoring the Smarter Balanced assessments in future years. 

Thanks again for your email and for everything you do for our children.

dk

Doug Kosty
Assistant Superintendent | Office of Learning |Instruction, Standards, Assessment, & Accountability|Oregon Department of Education  
255 Capitol Street NE | Salem, Oregon 97310
É 503.947.5825 | 7 503.378.5156 | * doug.kosty@state.or.us   | www.ode.state.or.us

The phrase that bothers me is DRC follows industry standards and best practices for scoring large-scale assessments. Is it okay with you to have students right out of college score your childs work as a temporary, $12 an hour worker as opposed to their classroom teacher, who is trained and experienced and can ask your child clarifying questions to truly get at what he or she knows? Is it okay with you to have high stakes decisions about your child her school, or her teachers made based on those scores?

Is it okay with you that at the Gladstone meeting when asked specifically if ONLY EDUCATORS would be scoring our students work,  ODEs Derek Brown answered Yes,  when clearly that is not going to be the case?  Is it okay with you that Oregon has not yet had an honest conversation about these assessments?

The next ODE presentations on Smarter Balanced are as follows. Please attend and ask questions. 

Hillsboro: March 9, 6:30-8:30 Hillsboro High School
Albany: March 11, 6:00-7:30 Albany Public Library
Neah-Kah-Ne: March 12, 6:00-8:00 Neah-Kah-Nie High School










Sunday, March 1, 2015

ODE: Peddling the SBAC Snake Oil--Step Right Up Folks!




by Kathleen Jeskey



Last Tuesday I attended an event hosted by Oregon PTA at Gladstone High School. The event was billed as a parent information meeting about the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) and guests from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) were there, we were told, to explain to parents the difference between the previous state test and the new SBA. The presentation was delivered by Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Rob Saxton and Derek Brown, Director of Assessment for ODE.

Its funny how sometimes things in your life seem to flow together. That day, I had been wrapping up a lesson in my sixth grade classroom on propaganda in advertising. Websters Dictionary defines propaganda as ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc. By the end of the evening, I felt like this would have been the perfect field trip for my students to see some of the various propaganda techniques that we had been learning about in class in action. Lets see what examples of the techniques we learned about in class I can find in Dr. Saxton and Mr. Browns presentations:

Plain Folks: Dr. Saxton, of course, explained how we got the Common Core Standards and the tests necessary to make sure our children are learning them. It was just him and his buddies, regular guys just like him and you and me, other Chief State School Officers, who were at this meeting and they thought, “ ‘So youre dointhat work, and were dointhat workwhat would happen if we got togetherto make sure we get a really good set of standards? And that set of standards is called the Common Core State StandardsIt is the only set of standards in Oregon that isntcreated by Oregon educators. (They) have been created by other people across the nation, most educators, some not, some from industry some from college. Im not saying that peopleat the college level arent educators, just that theyre not K-12 educators, right?Just us plain folks, mostly K-12 educators, right? Sandra Stotsky, one of the 6 out of 30 members of the Standards Validation Committee who refused to sign off on the standards tells it a little differently here. 

Repetition: This is self explanatory. It is the repeated use of a brand name or message to sell a product. The phrase higher level thinking skillswas used repeatedly when referring to the Common Core Standards (purported to impart them) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (purported to assess them). The phrase higher level thinking skills was used four times in the first 8 minutes of the presentation and repeated throughout. Another oft repeated phrase: college and career ready. Apparently this is what you can tell if children are as early as third grade if only you adopt the Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessment. We were also told repeatedly that Common Core Standards are higher standardsthan our previous standards. And thus we move to:

Glittering Generalities: This propaganda technique uses emotionally appealing words to describe a product or idea, but no evidence is given to support it. Both a father in attendance and I asked Dr. Saxton what the evidence was that Common Core are higher standards. The father, who stated that he held an engineering degree, said he would like to be directed to some sort of documentation that these standards were indeed higher. Another parent in attendance, who stated that he was an educational researcher, asked questions about evidence that the test had been validated using any sort of accepted standards for validation. Were these gentlemen and I directed to any evidence? No. Glittering generalities about high standards were all we got.

Bandwagon: This is an appeal to join the crowd in order to be on the winning side. We were told how SO many states (I believe 28) were jumping on the Smarter Balanced bandwagon, and told (repeatedly) how great it will be when we all have the same standards and the same test and we can all compare each other with each other across districts and cities and states. You wouldnt want your child left behind, would you?

The Big Lie: This is repeated distortion of the truth on a grand scale, especially for propaganda purposes, like when they say that all this education reformis going to erase the effects of poverty. I didnt go over this one with my class, but maybe I should have, because Im having trouble sorting out all the lies. There were particular portions of this presentation that have me greatly disturbed. Derek Brown, Director of Assessment at ODE, presented before Dr. Saxton. Saxton took over when Mr. Brown appeared to get to a point of discomfort in answering a question that was asked about the developmental appropriateness of SBA. Dr. Saxton ignored the statement made by the questioner that not one Early Childhood expert was part of the development of the Common Core Standards as well as ignoring the reference to a recent report on the harm that can result from trying to force children to learn to read by the end of kindergarten. (A friend of mine whos a superintendent now was talking about(how) we believed that typing wasnt developmentally appropriate until 10th gradethe brain couldnt really make the connections to make that happenbut I was at one of my schools today and watched 5th graders typing and some of them were at 65 words a minute. And sort of I thought, wow, I never thought I would see the day when we sort of blew through this thing about whats developmentally appropriate, what are kids really capable of.) Neither presenter seemed overly troubled about the predicted 8 hour average that the battery of assessments will take a third grader to complete, stating that this test would take the same amount of time as OAKS (which might be true only if a student were one of the unfortunate who was required to take OAKS on all 3 possible attempts to increase her score). Thats probably not The Big Lie. Thats closer to a little white lie.

Mr. Brown was asked about not only the developmental appropriateness of the SBA, but was also asked, by me, about answers that students type in (Im assuming at a rate of 65 words per minute in 5th grade, if Dr. Saxton is to be believed) and how those answers would be scored, since a few years back we dropped the Oregon 4th grade writing assessment which was hand scored by Oregon teachers. I told him about some links a friend had sent me where people were being hired from places like Craigslist to score student tests for as little as $10-$12 dollars an hour, with any four year degree being the main requirement. This is not a good thing.  He told me that he was unaware of any hiring being done off Craigslist, that ODE had contracted with a company called DRC (Data Recognition Corporation) and that all scorers would be well trained but would work somewhere in the midwestuntil ODE could find scorers closer to home. (By the way, I am a trained educator, live only 2 miles from my classroom and score student work every day for zero dollars above my regular salary.)  I then asked him specifically if those scorers would all be educators. He answered, Yes.Im here to tell you that unless DRC is doing a special educators only for Oregondeal, that answer does not appear to be correct. They are advertising here for scorers. This is their recruiting flyer for jobs, some in the midwest, even. That probably isnt The Big Lie either. I suspect thats just a plain, old lie. (Thank you to Hyung Nam blogging at People Power for finding this information.)

What seemed to me to be the biggest lie came early in the presentation. I dont know that this was actually an example of using The Big Lie as a propaganda tool, or more like just a big lie. At the beginning of the presentation, Mr. Brown showed attendees a slide show. In that slide show, he showed us a 5th grade practice test item, read it aloud, and then said students would read that kind of stimuli and get an opportunity to answer a couple of short questions.  He then read one of the questions that followed aloud (which did not match what he just read in the passage) and mentioned that on this one, we just took a snippet from the passage the student would read, so thats not actually the entire stimuliand said something to the effect that you could just tell by the way that the question was worded that you would have to explain where your thinking is coming from… “and a student would probably have 3 or 4 short responses based on a passage like that.

There was so much that was wrong with what was said that night, its nearly impossible to include it all here. You can see much more at the links to videos found below the SBA practice passage.  When you watch the video of the slideshow, pay attention to the question the woman asks about why she would subject her son to an 8 hour test as a junior when he had already shown the Essential Skills for graduation by passing the PSAT. The answer was basically about how we really need to be able to get good data to do data comparison to see which school is good and which is better and which school is really, really bad. This is the point at which I heard the woman next to me mutter under her breath, So, its a pissing match.Yes. And our kids are data donors caught in the middle.

Judge for yourself: The Big Lie, or just a big lie?

(See below the ODE slide followed by the actual entire passage from the SBAC practice site. Please note: there are plenty of multiple choice questions.)

Here is the slide presented by ODE:













Here is the actual passage and questions from the SBAC practice site in a series of screen shots taken the night of the presentation.













Isnt it about time Oregon had an honest discussion about these standards and assessments?

Video Links
PTA Intro and Overview





















 




 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Strong Turnout at Playdate PDX Opt Out Event!

Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.  photo 41adcd85-8030-4c0a-893a-300a386411a7_zpsed85ddfa.jpg In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon's current tests, known as OAKS, don't cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.  photo 9f9898da-e8d9-4034-b57b-f45fc65a6ace_zps5bba15d2.jpg  photo 2b98064d-666e-413e-97f4-f89d87d5155f_zpse1e64bdb.jpg Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test.  photo 15b63937-cc9a-4934-b71d-05b92a459232_zps0cfe0c25.jpg Elizabeth Thiel (left) gave testimony before the state legislature this past week explaining why she opposed the test as a teacher and a parent. Listen to Elizabeth's fabulous speech here.  photo a40f7798-dd70-453e-9ee6-57aa8601c6fd_zpsc279bac4.jpg More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.  photo 590c0d26-6e31-4398-961b-b2686f044be3_zps479c713c.jpg Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.  photo 1ac50501-d8d2-449a-942a-4b8d49c42aa3_zps066d5597.jpg Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.  photo 6f6decd9-a5d0-46f5-8a02-f0f854ec9f4d_zps5eeda156.jpg  photo d761d1d4-4866-483d-84d4-78b0c5d08ce6_zpsf986d1dc.jpg  photo 07364814-fdad-42b9-be46-6b31d03f15a8_zpsb79ce441.jpg  photo fec9fd85-24e5-42d9-8d12-4afb8f2d12d6_zps44db8d21.jpg  photo e6d1171d-b69b-4ce2-a3d9-d7960315ea00_zps4b09a211.jpg Ultimately, the question becomes, "What kind of school experience do we want for our children?" Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play? Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!  photo 9cfbc76e-f7a7-41af-9f1a-3778fa376ebf_zps4c3a646d.jpg

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunset the OEIB


Oregon Save Our Schools completely supports the current plan to sunset the Oregon Education Investment Board as scheduled, March 15, 2016.  The OEIB was never intended to be a long-term and permanent board in our state.  Furthermore, it hasn't made much of a meaningful impact, but instead has created an expensive and ineffective bureaucracy.

Pat Muller, an ELD teacher and member of Oregon SOS, wanted to share her upcoming testimony regarding Senate Bill 215 to be heard by the Senate Education Committee this Thursday, Feb. 5th at 
1 pm. 

In her testimony, Pat provides many strong reasons to sunset the OEIB as well as proposes remedies on how to better use our state resources. 

This week, the Senate Education Committee will hear SB 215 which, at the request of Gov. Kitzhaber, seeks to extend the term of the OEIB and thus cancel the planned sunset.  Both Pat Muller and Oregon SOS call to keep the sunset plan in place.

Please contact the legislators of the Senate Education Committee and encourage them to NOT support SB 215 which seeks to keep the OEIB indefinitely:  Sen.ArnieRoblan@state.or.us, Sen.TimKnopp@state.or.us, Sen.HermanBaertschiger@state.or.us, Sen.LeeBeyer@state.or.us, Sen.SaraGelser@state.or.us, Sen.MarkHass@state.or.us, Sen.JeffKruse@state.or.us


by Pat Muller 
teacher and member of 
Oregon Save Our Schools


It’s time to stop this failed, duplicative, and expensive experiment in education bureaucracy.

Reasons:

·      Achievement compacts

o   Because they have not been used for anything related to actual learning, they are worthless pieces of paper that have taken up valuable educator time – time that would be better spent planning and implementing quality instruction for students.  The hours spent researching the data needed to fill out the compacts cost districts money.  You would be hard pressed to find an educator who feels this process has been effective at improving instruction.  

·      Lack of meaningful public and educator input

o   Members of the OEIB Board poorly attended a series of “roadshows” allegedly designed to elicit public input.  In one memorable event in Portland, just one OEIB member appeared before an audience of several hundred angry parents.  Throughout this sham process, public testimony given at the “input” events was subsequently ignored.  Once a proposal is made by the OEIB, it rarely changes as a result of input by any parent, teacher, or other interested party.  OEIB leadership presents the same proposals over and over again, refusing to alter plans that have been pre-ordained. 

o   “Listening sessions” were held early on in OEIB’s life.  They gathered public input in a workshop-type format that was similarly just window dressing.  The attendees were guided through a structured “input process” and then the results were written for each table, mirroring not the input, but the intent of the planners.  The results were then shared with the room.  Most of the participants’ real concerns, brought forward during these sessions, never influenced any of the OEIB’s proposals.

o   “Stakeholder” groups are stacked with corporate education privatization-oriented lobbyists and representatives from groups that could personally benefit if they are chosen to run one of the community-based programs funded with educator dollars. Some even were rewarded with a job in one of those programs.  The ODE and OEIB are employing more and more of these former lobbyists.

o   During Board meetings, members of the public have to wait until the end of many hours of meeting business for their three minutes of fame during public testimony time. Unsurprisingly, it is not possible to effectively comment on eight hours of ill-advised staff-led business in three minutes.  This does not concern OEIB members, however, because, as previously noted, testimony rarely alters a word of their plans in any case.

·      It’s concentrating power in the governor’s office.

o   The public lost the power to elect a state school superintendent, disenfranchised permanently because of the perceived ineptitude of a single officeholder.  Instead, the Governor became the superintendent in addition to his elected office.

o   Various committees have been either eliminated, moved or new committees formed and moved into a structure that was intended to sunset.  The sunset seems as though it was a ruse to get previous legislators to go along with creating the superfluous new layer of government, with the promise that it would disappear after its limited mission was accomplished, when the real plan was to invest new powers in OEIB at every opportunity so that they could later say that unraveling the OEIB would be somehow too difficult or deleterious because of all its new responsibilities.  This bill to eliminate the sunset is Exhibit A of that tactic.

·      It’s a waste of money.

o   We already have a Department of Education and Governor’s staff.  There is no reason to have yet another layer of infrastructure. Indeed, some bills in this very session jointly vest authority for program oversight in both the Department of Education AND the OEIB.  What conceivable purpose such duplication may have in terms of use of limited resources is hard to fathom.

·      There are no investments being made by this “investment” board.

o   Money is merely moved around, resulting in further reductions to core programs and increases in class sizes.  The result is not helpful to students or Oregon’s public education system.

·      Proposals are unproven by research or based on false assumptions.

o   No examples are given of how OEIB’s proposals have worked in other states.  Those who have tried to warn the Board of negative consequences are ignored.  Make no mistake: this is a political agenda, not an educational improvement strategy.

o   The assumption is made that districts are not working as hard as they can and can be “leveraged” into better results without additional investments or removal of other requirements. For those of us who have followed the deliberations of OEIB, it has been hurtful to bear witness to the many insults embedded in their conversations, terminology, and proposals of OEIB members.  Most seem to lead with palpable antipathy to our hard-working and dedicated classroom teachers.  In many cases, the sole classroom teacher of 14 Board Members is silenced, ignored, and marginalized.  Frequently, votes are 13 to 1, with the teacher providing the only objection.  Such insolence flies in the face of public regard for our educator workforce, which is deeply respected by Oregonians.

·      Equity lens:

o   A still widening achievement gap with no plan is the output of this Board.  While the OEIB appropriates the language of equity, it operates from a corporatist agenda that exploits civil rights language in the service of privatization, demonizing of public education as a system, and sliding resources out of the State School Fund and to pet organizations and even religious groups.

o   The State English Language Learner Plan has been ignored in favor of a funding formula change proposal that blames teachers for ELL students’ inability to test out of programs at an artificially accelerated pace.  Indistinguishable from the OEIB, Superintendent Saxton’s ODE is pushing this plan that actually ends resources to students in an arbitrary way – just as OEIB’s subcommittee on “accountability” desires.


·      OEIB has failed to leverage their own outcomes.

o   Kindergarten students continue to arrive not prepared for what is now taught at that level.  An investment would be in order so all students would have access to early childhood education, instead of focusing on the accountability of current program.  Most early education programs fail to pay a living wage.  Certified teachers should staff pre-school programs in public schools.

o   The kindergarten readiness assessment told us what we already knew, and resulted in no actionable outcomes or additional investment.

o   The achievement gap is widening as we focus on accountability and bring forth proposals that would cut funding to the most vulnerable populations.

o   Outcomes consist mostly of reports and metrics.  Classroom teachers see no difference now as a result of the work of OEIB.  Workload has increased more than ever as resources have never caught up to the place they were before the recession and the jobless recovery.

In short, this experiment has been an expensive disaster for public education and for the students we serve.  By its own admission, OEIB has failed to meet its objectives and remains functionally accountable to no one.  Unless the Legislature retakes its place as overseers of effective government in your one best opportunity to do so, more money will be wasted, ill-spent, and used to reward loyal friends, not to enrich students’ educational opportunities.  Don’t be fooled by the carefully crafted narrative:  this is nothing more than an ALEC-like takeover of public education.  It will not improve our schools. 

Let the sunset stand.




Proposed Remedies:

·      Allow sunset to take place.  Legislators will be pressured to “support the governor”.  

·      There’s no rush.  See if the OEIB is actually able to accomplish something toward the end of session. Change the OEIB budget to an outcomes based budget.

·      Change mission of the OEIB to implementing the Quality Education Model.