Testing Comes Back Around

So…no news on the lunch petition. If something happens, I will let you know. But for now…end of year testing has come back. The big differences: 1. We’ve done this before now, and we have more research at our backs. And 2. MSLs are now being called ‘Final Exams’. It looks like they’re not part of your grade, but I can’t be certain; I’ve definitely heard it both ways. A lot. And as for the EOGs, they’re EOGs, but for seventh to eighth grade, my math EOG scores (opt-out-ers at my school have really low ‘1’s, if you would recall my school’s wonderful policy) will also dictate which math class you are in the next year.

I’ve heard that if you miss some of the testing days, including the make-up EOG day, then they can’t test you after that. And if they can in fact, then I’ll fall back on refusal to test (like last year). Can’t be sure how it’ll go, but it should be easier than last year.

Oh, and here’s the testing schedule for next week (at least, for my grade in my school): Monday-Math EOG. Tuesday-Language Arts EOG. Wednesday-EOG makeups. Thursday-Science Final Exam. And Friday-Social Studies Final Exam. Yeah, that’s right, testing all week.

Alright then…unless something happens between then and now, the earliest I’ll be able to write about how it went down is after school on Monday.

Everything according to plan, write to you then! Have a wonderful (and hopefully not stressful) weekend.

Being Jeb…a pretend interview.

Hi, my name is Charlie and I want to present to you a scenario.  For the sake of explaining a portion of what is happening to our public schools, I am going to perform a little magic and transport you to a world where I am Jeb Bush.  But first, a rather lengthy preface…

All of the facts and quotations in this article can be found in the articles referenced at the bottom of this page, written by real journalists who have done the hard work researching and chasing the leads so that we can be well informed. I paraphrase a lot. I plagiarize portions of their work.  So I am saying here that ALL of the things you are about to read are accurate, just presented in a dramatized fashion-and not possible without the efforts of the writer’s cited.  All quotations are actual quotes from the speaker named.  My hope in this presentation style is to offer the information in a distinct and relateable way that may perhaps really put us all into the mindset of the people who are attempting to take over public education.  But I want to stress that all the credit for the research that makes this possible goes to Diane Ravitch, Colin Woodard, William March, and Chris Cousins.

Ready…sitting down?  Okay here we go.

Hi, my name is Jeb Bush…I run a foundation called the Foundation for Educational Excellence.  My non profit organization, is dedicated “To build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential.”

My organization’s vision is for “An education system that maximizes every student’s potential for learning and prepares all students for success in the 21st century.” Our guiding principles are that:

  • All children can learn.

  • All children should learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time.

  • All children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of student success. (0)

So here is how we achieve this vision and forward these principles.  What we do is host what we call Education Summits.  In the words of my employee and spokesperson, Jaryn Emhof, we use these summits as “an opportunity for lawmakers, policymakers, researchers, experts, innovators, and more to gather in one location to learn from each other.”  What are we learning about?  Good question.  At these summits community leaders such as Stephen Bowen, Educational Commissioner of Maine, listens as my organization “advocates for proven policies and innovative reforms that will improve the quality of education … (to) ensure every student has access to the high-quality education experience that best fits them.” (1)

And if you think we are talking about reinventing the wheel and closing schools, you are right.  Because what we basically do is encourage and support and push legislation that makes it harder for public schools to operate.  We coach education leaders in America at these summits about the benefits of doing business with the other stakeholders in on these educational meetings.  We even hold their hands through the painful process of slowing down the funds to public schools, so that my corporate friends can move in and fill the gap when those schools can’t make the grade anymore.  We even help with wording and walking through of legislation that supports the installation of charter schools and enforces the curriculum and test requirements that favor the profitability of stakeholders.(1)

Who are my stakeholders? Corporate donors that support the Summits include:

* Pearson, a $9 billion-a-year media conglomerate which has a $250 million, four-year contract to administer the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test.

* Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which sells classroom and curriculum software.

* Charter Schools USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based for-profit company that manages charter schools under contract.

* IQity, which sells online learning materials.

The two-day summits include speeches by national figures including myself, along with other notables such as Condoleeza Rice and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Last year’s summit, for example (2012), at the JW Marriott hotel near the White House, included “strategy sessions” on such topics as “Reaching more students with vouchers and tax-credit scholarships”.  The 2011 conference at the historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco — one of the city’s most luxurious, with rooms starting at $350 per night — featured a speech by Rupert Murdoch.

You might think it is strange that no actual educator’s are at these “Educational Summits” where all these plans are made.  Like I said…we are trying to save education, not return to a past where there was no need for saving education.

As Justin Hamilton of Murdoch’s firm, Amplify says… “We’re lagging behind the rest of the world, we have to catch up fast.” And Justin would know, because Amplify sponsors and attends the summits with a sense of  “fostering a robust conversation about improving education in America.”(1)

Essentially, what we do, is determine the future of public school policy, on the dime of the very companies that stand to benefit from the future that they determine.  It’s fairly simple.

Now, what with all the money we spend on these efforts to change laws in favor of corporate benefit you may be thinking of calling us lobbyists, but we aren’t. Want to know why? Because a lobbyist, in state law, is someone employed solely or mainly to influence the government.  My foundation’s Executive Director is actually an employee of her own consulting and lobbying company.  That’s right…Patricia Levesque is a registered lobbyist with Meridian Consulting.  You see…the Foundation for Excellence in Education — we have no lobbyist registered in our ranks whatsoever. Patricia discreetly furthers the mission of the Foundations for Educational Excellence by proxy while consulting for a totally different foundation I also control called Foundation for Florida’s Future.  Ya’ll confused yet?  Because it just gets better.   Patricia is the Executive Director of that Foundation too.(1)

Now if you look at Foundation for Florida’s Future’s tax returns, you can find that Patricia’s lobbying firm, Meridian Strategies,which she runs with Dierdre Finn-who is also deputy director of BOTH aforementioned Foundations…whew.  Hold on a sec, let me catch my breath.  Okay, and then you gotta factor in that these two foundations also share another registered lobbyist, Joanna Hassell. And both foundations have the same address on Monroe Street in Tallahassee.  So while you can’t prove that we are lobbying and no legal connection can be proven, Meridian Strategies did get paid $276,000 by us in 2010.  Or rather, Patricia and Diedre were each paid that amount separately.(1)

But I want to get back to a name I mentioned way back in the beginning. Stephen Bowen, fella from Maine.  Educational Commissioner up there. He came to one of our summits way back in 2011.  Now here he is paving the way, just like we discussed at the Summit.  Besides the fact that he’s put together the whole A-F grading system, choked down spending on public schools while pushing through LD129 so more charter schools can open, LD1524 which affects funding to high schools that offer remedial instruction and LD1510 which allow us to go after failing schools more efficiently (2)…He’s also put into action our whole notion of deregulating online education.  Working with K12 and a subsidiary of Pearson Publishing named Connections Education- Patricia personally worked with Bowen and others in his state to escort legislation that eased the entrance of said companies into the state of Maine.  I mean besides the money that K12 and Pearson put up for the farce, it’s a funny thing…the emails that even show her helping him line all of this up are right there on the internet, but people are so busy that they probably don’t have the time to look.  I really hope no one finds all this out and writes an article about it and has it go viral or something. (3)

It’s funny you know…all that talk about Banks that were too big to fail.  Why are people like me and Pearson able to take over and manipulate public education, and legislation and simultaneously able to convince so many that it is the best thing for them?…it’s simple.  We are too big to fail.  The only thing that could possibly stand in our way is the American people.  If they actually woke up tonight, there would be a revolution tomorrow.

Like right now, in Chicago, they are closing nearly 60 schools.  The largest school closure in one area in US history.  They are claiming that they lacked the funding.  But right under the public’s nose the policy makers earmarked  in 2012, $350 million for the Office of New Schools-an office devoted to developing new charter and contract schools. In 2013, the Chicago Public School system allocated an additional $23 million to fund new charter schools.  Heck, that amount alone is nearly half of what they estimate they will save if they close 80 neighborhood schools.  As a final blow, the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) successfully lobbied the Illinois General Assembly for an additional $35 million to expand their charter school network in 2012, while at the same time the state cut over $200 million from the public school budget.  You have to admit, that it is a very very good time to be getting into the education business. (4)

Well, I gotta go.  The next summit is in October and I have a lot of educational decision makers to add to the guest list.  I am a busy man..after all…the future of education is at stake.

(0) http://excelined.org/about-us/mission-and-history/

Originally by the Tampa Tribune-William March

Originally by Christopher Cousins

(3) http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html?pagenum=full
Originally published on Sept, 2, 2012 by Colin Woodard

(4) http://dianeravitch.net/2013/03/21/the-futility-of-closing-schools-in-chicago/
Originally by Diane Ravitch

Parents, Students, Teachers…Meet Pearson Publishing

For me, the Blue Hat Movement was motivated by three things:

  1. I love teaching and learning
  2. My daughter was seeing clearly that her teachers were not free to actually teach and thus she was deeply unsatisfied with the way “learning” was being rolled out in her public school.
  3. When I heard about the story behind Pearson Publishing.

I first met Jennifer Job at a family dinner.  My parents are friends with her parents and we had this great conversation.  I mentioned that I used to homeschool my kids (that reads as “unschooling”) and she asked how my kids were enjoying public school since leaving homeschooling.  Next thing I know Jen starts telling me that she does some kind of curriculum research and as it turned out she had quite a story to tell.  And to be honest, she sounded a bit crazy.  But it is crazy the way all diabolical truths can sound crazy.  It is so hard for us to accept that fellow human beings are willing to manipulate and hamper the happiness of their fellows that when we hear the truth of it, it is just soooo much easier to pretend we never heard it.

After I talked to Jennifer, I talked to Zoe, my daughter.  We planned on doing something about it.  We began to look up articles about what was happening around the country.  We discovered, to our surprise, just how many people were waking up to how unhappy the current paradigm has made us.  We were going to do something about it soon.  Zoe and I picked a date for an action to take place and we made a website.  But life got busy and it sort of fell away.  Then Zoe decided that it was time to take action in some form…next thing I know she is being told that she is no longer allowed on campus because she refused to take a standardized test.  Then all the rest happened and it sparked off the Blue Hat Movement into fully forming.

People are upset with “education” for many reasons.  Some want to opt out of testing because they just feel it is wrong or too  much pressure.  Some people feel that the Common Core is okay, but we just need to change the testing portion of it.  And others, who have dug deeper into the mystery have come to some really hard to believe truths about what is running this whole show.  And I resist posting this on my site because I want to remain credible.  Because it sounds, quite frankly, absurd.  Who on Earth would look at education in America and see our children with dollar bill signs in their eyes?  Why would someone with any conscience think it is okay to degrade the art of teaching in exchange for profit, while derailing the love of learning for an entire generation?  Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it?

What many people may not be able to acknowledge, is that what is happening to learning in our countries schools has everything to do with the corporatization of education.  Turning our youth, into sure fired profit for companies.  It’s happening so insidiously as to be beyond belief.  But it is right there, in plain sight.  It is right here in front of us.  The educational policy makers for America schools are in bed with companies who do not care one whit about how prepared our children are for the future.  What they care about is how to turn the expectation of 12 years of “learning” into a guaranteed revenue stream.  The end result for teachers is a fixed curriculum that anyone can teach, to simplify “teaching”.  Think of this as a controlled or fixed cost.  To a company, a fixed cost with a predictable outcome is a boon.  All they need to have in the classroom are students who are legally required and forced to participate as consumers.  Every test our kid’s take means profit for the company.  In this fashion, the beloved teacher  is unwittingly placed into the position as spokesperson that derives profit for the test taking and evaluation company.

Imagine convincing an entire nation’s schools that they must use your service as a provider for school accreditation, teaching licensure, student testing, curriculum.  A literal goldmine.  And when the public schools are proven to fail by the standards you have purposefully set, then you can close them and fill the void with charter schools which accept vouchers.   You’d have plenty of “teachers” to hire, seeing as how you closed all the real schools.  Still reading?  Congratulations…you have just been introduced to Pearson Publishing and this is their business model.

This may start off as a fight to end high stakes testing.  But if we are to stop what is behind many sweeping and upcoming “reforms” we must become aware that this is a fight to preserve “public” education.  Education cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of private corporations…oops…I must correct myself there and change the tense…education must be taken back from the hands of private corporations.

We have, in terms of sheer numbers, the power…but only for as long as public education remains indeed public.  If we do nothing…if everyone keeps teaching to the test and if kids keep taking the tests…education as we know it, will be a thing of the past.  Standardization is simply a concept we have come to accept as good.  When in fact, no child must be standardized in order to be a brilliant, creative and empowered member of our society.  In fact, the less standardized they are…the more guaranteed they are to be someone who will contribute even more to the rich diversity of American and global ingenuity.  And you know, with the state of the world right now, we not people who will question what will work and what will not work.  More people who just do as they are told is a prescription for more of the same that has the world in the state it is in.

I encourage you to please do some homework on Pearson Publishing.  Find out who they really are and what they are really up to.  In the beginning you may be branded a nutjob for speaking about it out loud.  But as more people are able to see what it is happening, we can hopefully put education back into the hands of passionate teaching professionals who truly want children to excel, grow and achieve.  The classrooms must be set free and clear from corporations.

Below is an excellent article by Jen, who is a phD candidate on the topic of curriculum reform.

The Pearson Monopoly Jennifer Job, UNC Chapel Hill

If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of the publishers they own, like Adobe, Scott Foresman, Penguin, Longman, Wharton, Harcourt, Puffin, Prentice Hall, or Allyn & Bacon (among others).  If you haven’t heard of Pearson, perhaps you have heard of one of their tests, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Millar Analogy Test, or the G.E.D. Or their data systems, like PowerSchool and SASI. [1]

 In a little over a decade, Pearson has practically taken over education as we know it.  Currently, it is the largest educational assessment company in the U.S. Twenty-five states use them as their only source of large-scale testing, and they give and mark over a billion multiple choice
tests every year.[2]  They are one of the largest suppliers of textbooks, especially as they look to acquire Random House this year.  Their British imprint EdExcel is the largest examination board in the UK to be held in non-government hands.[3]

Pearson has realized that education is big business. Last year, they did 2.6 billion pounds of business, with a profit of 500 million pounds (close to a billion dollars).[4]  And business is looking up, which I will return to in a minute.  First, I want to talk about the vicious cycle that Pearson drives through education.  

Pearson’s first big jump was acquiring Harcourt’s testing arm in 2008, taking Harcourt’s 40% market share and parlaying it into controlling more than half of all assessments taking place that year.[5]  At this point, Pearson began to coordinate all of the textbook imprints it owns (as one of the three biggest textbook publishers in the U.S.) with its tests, completing its own equation of
curriculum and assessment.  It was just a matter of locking down their territory and growing it. 

To grow into the multibillion-dollar corporation they are today, Pearson blurs every line among for profit, nonprofit, and government systems.  They have prominently partnered with University of Phoenix, whose parent company’s CEO also sits on the board of Teach for America.  They acquired
America’s Choice, which partners with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations.  The Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is Sir Michael Barber, a lobbyist who pushes for free-market
reforms to education.  And the list of executives and partnerships goes on.[6]

What are some of the benefits of these partnerships? Pearson’s advocates for education reform were instrumental in the development of the Race to the Top initiative, from which they have benefitted
in numerous ways.  For example, Race to the Top requires significant data accumulation, and thus Pearson partnered with the Gates Foundation to be the ones to store the data.[7]  Pearson also is a key partner of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers.  When the plan for the Common Core Standards was hatched, Pearson paid to fly the policymakers to Singapore for luxurious “education” trips to promote the educational methods they promote. [8]

As a result of their work with the NGA, the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top assessment requirements for those standards work heavily in Pearson’s favor.  It doesn’t matter that Stephen
Krashen found that 53% of educators oppose the Common Core—nearly every state has adopted it anyway, and they encourage a 20-fold increase in the number of tests given every age from preschool to grade 12. [9] Tests that will be administered by Pearson.

And despite the emphasis of Race To the Top and Common Core on state-led education initiatives,
in reality, Pearson does not produce different texts and tests for different states.  As Texas is one of its oldest and largest customers, and many of the states that are adopting Pearson materials are “red states,” they make sure that the materials they provide will pass muster with those particular school boards.  Then they recycle the same material for other states.[10] This tilts curriculum in obviously ways, with US History coverage leaning decidedly right wing, but also in less obvious ways.  Light was shed on these changes with a recent Pearson reading comprehension test administered to eighth graders.  This was the first such test for several states that had recently adopted Pearson’s materials, including New York, which was previously known for its rigorous reading comprehension topic.  This year, the passage was a story called “The Pineapple and the Hare,” which was an adaptation of another story that went so awry the original author disavowed the new version.  Students complained that the story was childish and that it was confusing what the test makers were trying to convey
by using it.  Parents in other states lodged the same complaints.  But New York state doesn’t seem to care—not only will Pearson continue to provide a large portion of New York’s tests, but they are contracted to run New York’s teacher licensure process beginning in 2014.[11]

How Pearson got into New York’s teacher licensure program can probably be attributed to another one of its higher-powered partners—Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College.  Not only is Fuhrman the head of one of the most prestigious teacher education schools in America, but she now
holds the title of “Non-Executive Independent Director ofPearson PLC” and has received almost one million dollars in stock and fees to date.[12]  So it is really not surprising that Pearson has its foot in the door to make decisions about who will hold NY Teaching Licenses.

Stanford was responsible for designing the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), but they did so with, quote, considerable seed money from Pearson from the beginning of the project.  The edTPA
relies on evaluation of two ten-minute videos of the candidate’s teaching and the responses to a written examination. Supposedly, the scorers are retired teachers who receive $75 per evaluation (although, many of us applied to Pearson to be scorers, and not one person from UNC was chosen to my knowledge). And to prove validity of the edTPA, the Education Development Center, a non-profit in Waltham, Mass, performed a field test across five states.  The Education Development Center is funded by Pearson.[13] 

The insidiousness of Pearson’s tentacles’ reaching across education would be enough to set off alarms in the community.  Huge corporations and conglomerates own stock in Pearson, including the Libyan
Investment Authority, owned by Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who owns 3% of the company.  The Koch brothers have connection to Pearson, as does Teach For America.  And the more Pearson acts, the fewer choices we have over education in our towns and cities. Pearson just bought a large online charter school consortium that opened across America, and they now own the G.E.D. for students who drop out altogether.[14]  And when a company called Boundless Learning tried to offer free and alternative textbooks to create a choice for students, Pearson partnered with Cengage and MacMillan to not only sue the company out of existence, but also the venture capitalists that funded it.[15]

States are beginning to rely on Pearson not only for materials, but also for the actual data that drives them to make crucial decisions in student learning and teacher retention.  There is an assumed validity to these materials that is never proven and now, never challenged.  Ironically, the free-market argument has paved the way for a system with no competition.  Scores from Pearson tests are used in value-added measurements.  Scores from the edTPA are used in hiring and firing decisions.[16]  As Rob Lytle, an education consultant, said,“If new standards are as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad…they’ll want help, quick.  And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software, and student assessments will be right there
to provide it.”[17] It is no longer a piece of the puzzle we can afford to ignore.

[2] Ibid.

[3] www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/usa-education-investment-idUSL2E8J15FR20120802

[4] www.pearson.com


[6] www.unitedoptout.com/boycott-pearson-now

[7] dianeravitch.net/2012/05/07/the-united-states-of-pearson-2/

[8] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html

[9] blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/04/Stephen_krashen_testing_and_te.html

[10] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-education-new-york-testing-_b_1850169.html

[11] www.schoolbook.org/2012/05/04/pearson-says-its-tests-are-valid-and-reliable

[12] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-education-new-york-testing-_b_1850169.html

[13] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html

[14] Ibid.


[16] www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/hacking-away-at-the-pears_b_1464134.html