Can President Obama convince states to reduce about 112 exams? Umm…. probably not

Obama encourages limiting

student standardized tests

In all, between pre-K and 12th grade, students take about 112 standardized exams, according to the council report. It said testing amounts to 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average 8th-grader.

“How much constitutes too much time is really difficult to answer,” said Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director.

Obama cannot force states or districts to limit testing, which has drawn consternation from parents and teachers. But Obama directed the Education Department to make it easier for states to satisfy federal testing mandates and he urged states and districts to use factors beyond testing to assess student performance.

The Obama administration said it still supports standardized tests as a necessary assessment tool, and there are no signs they are going away soon.

Both the House and Senate versions of an update to No Child Left Behind would preserve annual reading and math exams, although the House version would diminish their significance in determining whether schools are up to par. The legislation is in limbo while House and Senate negotiators figure out how to reconcile the competing versions.

To ease the testing burden, the administration will provide states with guidance about how they can satisfy federal testing requirements in less time or in more creative ways, including federal waivers to No Child Left Behind that the Education Department readily has handed out. For example, some 8th-grade students who take high school-level coursework currently take both 8th-grade and high school assessments, but the administration will allow them to opt out of the 8th-grade tests.

The value of standardized tests taps into the national debate about the federal government’s role in local schools; both political parties generally support scaling back Washington’s reach.

Central to that debate is Common Core, a set of universal, college-ready academic standards in reading and math developed by state education officials. The federal government doesn’t require Common Core, but the administration has backed it with money. About 12 million students last spring took tests based on the curriculum.

Teachers’ unions have fought hard against one-size-fits-all tests for students being tied to their teachers’ performance evaluations. Among parents with children in public schools, 63 percent were opposed to linking teacher evaluations to their students’ test scores in a recent Gallup Poll.

Among other findings in the council report:

  • The most tests were required in 8th and 10th grade; the fewest were in pre-K, kindergarten and 1st grade.
  • Four in 10 districts report having to wait between two months and four months before getting state test results.
  • Some pockets of the country had substantial numbers of students opting out of standardized tests. But the overall opt-out rate was usually less than 1 percent.


Search for truth frustrating, sometimes futile

Yes It Is, It’s True:

The search for truth is frustrating, sometimes futile

EDITOR’S NOTE: I published a “Yes It Is, It’s True” column earlier this month about the lies and damn lies you can find so easily on the Internet and on Facebook. The following is part two:


Robert Reich asks: Should banks pay their tellers a living wage?

When we think of minimum-wage workers, most of us think of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Walmart.

But that leaves out the financial sector. The most common jobs in banks are bank tellers. According to the National Employment Law Center, bank tellers earn an average of $12.25 an hour; a full-time teller earns $25,800 a year. That’s close to a poverty wage for a family of three. In New York State, the median bank teller gets $13.31 an hour, with the result that almost 40 percent of them receive public assistance.

Why can’t Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and other giant banks pay their tellers a decent wage? One bright note: New York’s Amalgamated Bank is the first to institute a $15 minimum wage. The Bank’s president and CEO, Keith Mestrich, has been a vocal supporter of the Fight for $15 movement, and has called on other banks to follow its lead.

What do you think? Should banks pay their tellers a living wage?

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NEWEST BOOK: “Saving Capitalism”
MOVIE: “Inequality for All.”


Emails reveal state knew 8 months ago about lead issues in Flint water

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, school children, the elderly.. lead poisoning is not a rash that goes away with some sort of medicinal salve. For some people in Flint this will be a lasting legacy of ill-health.

Emails show feds warned state

in February of leaching lead in Flint

By Ron Fonger |
on October 19, 2015 at 5:15 PM, updated October 20, 2015 at 10:45 AM

FLINT, MI — The federal government told the state more than seven months ago that the chemistry of Flint River water was apparently causing transmission pipes to leach contaminants such as lead into city water, according to emails among environmental regulators.

But the state Department of Environmental Quality continued to operate under the incorrect assumption Flint wasn’t required to develop and implement plans for controlling corrosion, something the agency didn’t acknowledge was a mistake until Monday, Oct. 19.


Detroit emergency manager awarded multi-million dollar contract to his former law firm

Michigan lawmaker’s bill targets contracts

by state emergency managers

Lawmaker said proposal stems from Kevyn Orr pushing Detroit to contract with his former firm.

DETROIT — A Michigan lawmaker is attempting to stop state-appointed emergency managers from being allowed to approve contracts with firms they’ve worked for, saying the move is in response to Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr pushing the city to contract with his former law firm as Detroit’s lead bankruptcy counsel.

Michigan state Rep. Doug Geiss, a Democrat from Taylor, said Monday that he introduced House Bill 4945, which would impose many of the ethics rules applied to state and local elected officials to emergency managers — who now run Detroit, its public school system and several other cities and school districts around the state.


Feds now admit, maybe, just maybe… we’re testing our children too much… maybe

Following Obama Administration’s Announcement on Test Reductions, New Brief Considers Alternative Accountability Approaches

Contact: William J. Mathis, (802)

URL for this press release:

BOULDER, CO (October 25, 2015) — Yesterday, the Obama Administration acknowledged its own role in escalating the nation’s over-reliance on high-stakes, test-based accountability policies. It issued a Testing Action Plan for states, including a section on “reducing the reliance on student test scores through our rules and executive actions,” backing away somewhat from the Administration’s past policies that strongly promoted reliance on test scores in educator evaluation systems and in the evaluation of teacher preparation programs.This shift in policy follows a nationwide disillusionment with test-based accountability policies, as illustrated by the opt-out movement; it also follows a growing consensus among researchers that test-based policies have been unsuccessful in driving greater learning. The question now becomes: where to from here?

The question is taken up in a new brief released today, written by Dr. William Mathis. In School Accountability, Multiple Measures and Inspectorates in a Post-NCLB World, Dr. Mathis discusses the efficacy of three types of school evaluation approaches. The first, test-based models, consists of testing students, public reporting of school performance, and rewards or sanctions based on scores. This approach has been dominant in recent years but has been shown to have little or no effectiveness. In fact, this accountability model has generated negative consequences such as teaching to the test and narrowing of curriculum.

Coupled with a growing backlash against excessive testing, one of the key criticisms of standardized testing is that it doesn’t measure all the important aspects of a successful school. Thus a second model evolved, often called “multiple measures,” which is designed to more comprehensively capture a broader set of learning goals. This is the model that the Obama Administration now appears to be embracing. Mathis explains the idea of a comprehensive set of valid measures, but the nature and effectiveness of the model will depend largely on whether it includes strong measures of inputs as well as outcomes.

The third method, school self-evaluations plus inspectorates, has been eclipsed by test-based models in the U.S. but is used in other Western democracies. It has the advantage of being more inclusive and less likely to distort teaching and learning, but there are concerns of cost and unclear findings.

No evaluation system by itself, Dr. Mathis concludes, is capable of overcoming the deficiencies of a school or community lacking resources. The only way for school evaluation systems to succeed, he says, are “with all-around accountability.”

Dr. Mathis concludes with eight recommendations for policymakers:

  1. Adequate student opportunities and resources to achieve each state’s goals;
  2. Continued development of multiple-measure approaches that strive for balance and clarity;
  3. Cautious use of standardized test scores;
  4. Avoidance of data aggregation into a single score;
  5. Development and implementation of school visitation teams, with a priority on higher need schools;
  6. External reviews focusing on guidance and support rather than sanctions;
  7. Trained and qualified reviewers who meet prescribed standards; and
  8. Multiple stakeholders involved in the design of state’s evaluation/inspectorate program.

Mathis is managing director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is the first in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, taking up a number of important policy issues and identifying policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

This brief is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.