Rodel Starts The Blame-Game Against Teachers While Praising Smarter Balanced Results

Yes, I do regularly read the Rodel blog on their website, but I never commented on one until I saw their post from Friday called 5 Data Takeaways From Smarter Balanced Test Scores, written by Rodel employee Liz Hoyt.  I’m always curious what the “opposition” writes about things like this.  I have been very vocal in my thoughts on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  They are a non-profit whose CEO happens to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year.  I do not believe they have students best interests at heart.  This article drove that point home for me with very clear and concise words.  I will go through the areas that bothered me the most.

“Aligned to the Common Core state standards, the new state assessment was designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.”

I think this has always been my biggest problem with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Please tell me how a 3rd grader taking this test is going to be in any way prepared for college based on how they answer questions on a test?  Even if they put them at a 5th grade level, there is no test in the world that can prepare any student at a young age for a career or post-secondary education.  The education reformers need to pick a side and stick with it: is the test meant to create data to see where students compare with each other or is it to prep them for a world they can’t even fathom until they are 15 or 16?  They can’t have it both ways.  Furthermore,.wasn’t the whole point of Common Core that a student in Alaska would get the same information and be assessed on the same information as a student in Louisiana?  Instead, we have 18 states taking Smarter Balanced, 11 or so taking the PARCC, and the rest developing their own state assessments.  It isn’t very common when states aren’t taking the “common” test.  Funny how life works out…

“While this year’s scores are lower than last year’s DCAS results, Delaware students outperformed estimates (based on the 2014 national field test) in both subjects for every grade with the exception of 11th grade math.”

Why does the DOE and Governor Markell keep trying to pump up the fact that students did better than expected?  Isn’t that the whole point of a field test, to find out what the kinks are and what problems might come up and strive to fix those issues?  How many rockets did Russia blow up before Sputnik launched? If students did worse than the field test, it would prove unequivocally that this was a bad test.  But since students did better than the field test, we are acting like this is the best test Delaware ever created (which Governor Markell did say at a speech for New America earlier in the Summer).  And this is my major issue with this statement.  We have nothing to measure this test by, and even the Feds wouldn’t allow states to compare any test scores to field tests for this very reason with their accountability frameworks.  It’s not often I agree with the US DOE, but anyone can see the fallacy in comparing a field test to the actual test.

Scores dropped as Delaware set a new baseline for student proficiency.”

Once again, how can scores drop when you are comparing apples to oranges?  This test didn’t set a baseline for student proficiency, it set a baseline for Smarter Balanced proficiency based on whatever arbitrary number the Delaware Department of Education set it at.  So what happens if by chance some miracle happens, and every student scores proficient on the test next year.  Would the DOE allow that?  They had a meltdown when the vast majority of teachers were rated as “effective”.  What happens to the baseline then?  I firmly believe they would change it because if everyone is proficient, the test is useless and has outlived it’s purpose.  On the flip side, if everyone scores at a non-proficient level, we can’t have that either, because that shows 1) the test is bad and 2) we need to make all our schools a priority and fire all the teachers.  So the baseline will ALWAYS be set somewhere so that anywhere from 30-70% of  students are proficient.  But that really doesn’t tell us what students need.  It tells us the DOE will do whatever they have to for certain results.

“Despite concerns about the opt-out movement’s potential impact on assessment, student participation remained strong.”

Concerns? How many times does Dr. Paul Herdman speak in public at Legislative Hall about pending legislation for education? He said it was the first time he ever came to an education committee meeting and gave public comment.  It wasn’t a concern for Rodel. It was a five-alarm fire!  I’ve said all along I expected opt-outs to be small the first year.  I also said once parents receive the scores, it will be another story in the second year of Smarter Balanced.  One only needs to look at New York and New Jersey to see the difference between the first and second year opt-out rates to gage how Delaware will be with this in the Spring of 2016.  This is a wake-up call for parents, and they will show how much they support this test with higher opt-out rates in six months.

“Scores varied widely across districts and schools, highlighting the hard work of educators implementing the Common Core State Standards and schools that may need additional support.”

Scores varied widely among low-income schools and higher income schools.  They varied between charters and magnet schools with selective enrollment preferences and those without.  They varied between the haves and the have-nots.  Are you telling us then that schools with low-income just happen to have teachers who aren’t good at “implementing the Common Core State Standards”?  Because that’s the way I’m reading this.  Are you saying that EastSide Charter School, who was publicly praised by Governor Markell for their incredible growth on DCAS has teachers that now are not implementing Common Core the right way?  Or is it because EastSide performed about the same as other schools with comparable low-income populations?  Don’t answer.  We already know.

“…learn more about the Smarter Assessment and the Common Core State Standards at DelExcels.org.”

Since we know Rodel provides invaluable help to Donna Johnson, the State Board of Education and Delaware DOE in getting resource material on the DelExcels website for parents, and Rodel is a non-profit, did Rodel get paid with tax-payer money to help get the material on the DelExcels website?  And how much of that money gets invested into one of the hedge funds Rodel invests in?  Can you please answer those questions?

Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware…What’s Next?

The shot heard round Delaware went off yesterday, and most citizens don’t know what the hell any of this means!  Half the kids aren’t proficient in English/Language Arts and 61% aren’t proficient in Math.  But they did better than what they expected, or at least that’s what the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell are spouting.  But here’s the crucial truth: nobody knew what to expect with any of this.  I’ve heard from more than one source the DOE just kind of picked a number for proficiency and above.  But this is the nature of standardized testing.

With high-stakes assessments like this, not everyone can be proficient.  And not everyone can be failing.  There will always be that bar.  It is set up like that for a reason.  The DOE can’t label and punish if everyone is doing great.  With all the talk of poverty schools, which are Title I schools, the system is specifically designed to punish those schools.  The ones who promote getting these schools the resources they need to succeed (Markell, DOE, Rodel, Delaware Business Roundtable, etc.) are the exact same ones pushing the standardized testing agenda.  And parents and citizens buy into it hook, line and sinker.  The State Board of Education and Rodel have reached the point where it is hard to distinguish one from the other.  In an email sent out today from Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, she cites Rodel’s huge help in getting resource material on the State Board website to “help” parents.  Dani Moore is the Administrative Secretary for the State Board of Education.  The key part is bolded for emphasis.


From: Moore Dani <dani.moore@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Thursday, September 3, 2015 8:15 AM
To: Moore, Dani L. (K12)
Cc: Johnson, Donna R (K12)
Subject: Additional resources available on SBE website, please feel free to link to your site and share with others

Dear Educational leaders, Policy makers, and Community Partners:

In recent weeks we have developed and finalized additional materials to assist with the Smarter Assessment Score release and continue to provide information and resources to our educators, parents, and community partners. 

Our website (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us) has several new tools and resources that may be of interest to you.

1)      Two one page documents that provide an overview of Smarter Assessments as well as an big picture overview of the shift to new standards and assessment. I have also attached them here as pdf’s.  (I greatly appreciate the help from our SBAC partners in WA, CT, OR, and WV as well as the huge assistance from Rodel and DOE in pulling these together)

2)      Two short videos – one is a 30 second overview of why we shifted to these assessments and what it means for students, the other is a little over 1 minute description of the Smarter Balanced assessment suite and how it can be used as well as some big ideas about the summative assessment

3)      A link to a table of resources that provides additional tools and resources for educators, parents, and the community (this is also given as a word document so that others can utilize it directly in case that is more useful)

You will see throughout all of these resources we prominently link and direct people to the DelExcels.org website, which is the existing partner site for information regarding Standards and Assessments.  That site is a partnership of DOE, DSEA, PTA, and Rodel. 

We have an additional video that should be available soon.  It is a narrated Prezi, in video clip format, that talks you through the components of the Smarter score report and basically verbalizes much of what is explained in written form within the Parent guide that will accompany the report. I will post this to our website as well as provide a direct link when it is ready to go live.

Here are links to the videos directly that are posted on our home page:

–          SBA 30-sec Promo   http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/170/033115_SBA_National_30sPromo.mp4

 –          SBA system overview  http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/170/PFL_National_Short_English.mp4  

I hope these resources are helpful to you, again please do not hesitate to give me feedback or suggestions that could improve upon these items and again please feel free to share these with others.

All my best,  

Donna


In terms of the DelExcels website, I have heard from quite a few people the Delaware PTA does not have an active role in this and haven’t for a long time.  But the DOE will get their name out as much as they humanly can just to attach Smarter Balanced with the Delaware PTA.  The PTA was very active in getting House Bill 50 to pass, and were instrumental in the legislative sessions surrounding it.

The key part of all this is the scores this year don’t matter…for this year!  They will be huge NEXT year though.  This is what all the growth measurements will be based on, this year’s scores and next year’s.  For a school like Eastside Charter School, who performed horribly on this test (if you count SBAC as a valid measurement of student performance which I don’t), they are pretty much set up to show huge growth gains based on their scores this year.  Most schools are, especially the Title I schools.

What is very telling is the fact DOE did not release the sub-group data.  They have it, because all states do.  States like Connecticut already released their statewide sub-group information.  There is no reason the DOE could not have.  I’m sure they will come up with some reason, like they are still aggregating the data and whatnot, but I believe they did not want this information out yet.  The DOE and the State Board are masters at using timetables to their advantage.  They will only release information on their timing, so it can serve them best, not the true stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, schools, districts.  But you better believe Rodel was probably one of the FIRST organizations to see the Smarter Balanced data.

The State Board of Education meets next on September 17th.  They will release the sub-group data and come up with a shock and awe strategy to cover up the simple fact that the Smarter Balanced is a BAD test.  It’s what they do.  Meanwhile, schools don’t know what to do with all of this.  Parents are wising up faster than I anticipated them to and are asking if we even need this.  Yesterday, 105.9 covered the Smarter Balanced results and asked the audience if they felt Governor Markell should reverse his House Bill 50 veto.  When we are at that point, and the entire state knows what a colossal waste of time, money, energy and resources this has been, all involved in this assessment need to suck it up and say “Yeah, we need to admit failure and move on for what’s best for Delaware students.”  But that won’t happen, instead they will keep trying to fix what is irreversibly broken.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it.  Last year, at a Christina School District Board of Education meeting, member John Young said “You want to know who needs great leaders? The Delaware DOE needs great leaders.”  Never has this been more true!

And DOE, stop calling it Smarter.  It sounds stupid, because we all know now the test is DUMBER than any test ever created!