More Chicago Snake Oil... If this were a new experimental drug, the government would have to ban it... NWEA MAP facing major challenges as CPS tries to foist an invalid, un-aligned, never proven (and very expensive) testing program on America's third largest school system

It was August 2013 and many people were out of town when Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett told the Board of Education that the new "accountability" system for the nation's third largest school system would be based on a testing program called the NWEA-MAP. In a Power Point called "Quality Rating System", the CPS administration presented the current "matrix" for evaluating schools, and unlike the movies this was for real. Under the Quality Rating System, CPS would rate schools primarily on scores provided by a thing called the NWEA MAP.

As Byrd Bennett presented that latest "matrix" for evaluating schools, it was clear that a total of 60 percent of a school's scores would be based on various aspects of NWEA-MAP testing data.

In October 2013, the Chicago Board of Education was told that the NWEA was going to be the new assessment system of Chicago's public school system and all children. No member of the Board asked the administration whether NWEA had ever been validated for such a purpose. The mere assertion of the shift from ISAT to NWEA was taken for granted after the Power Point (above, page 3) was presented to the August 2013 Board meeting. It was as if Chicago's Board of Education members had approved a cancer treatment based on the consumption of large amounts of PEZ candies.What the "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools didn't say -- and what none of the members of the Board of Education asked -- was whether the NWEA-MAP assessment program had ever been validated for the purposes to which Chicago was planning to put it. Was the NWEA-MAP valid, in the psychometric sense of the term? Was it reliable, in the same scientific reality?

And in a school system where the vast majority of the children are segregated, minority, and poor, is NWEA-MAP fair?

But where were the validation studies?

How was reliability determined?

And what about fairness?

The reason why Barbara Byrd Bennett and the seven members of the school board who voted to approve the new formulas didn't ask any of those questions is that the answer to each of those questions is NO! Anyone searching for scientific verification that the NWEA MAP program is the right prescription to do the things Chicago is doing with it will be stymied.

Under the so-called "Quality Rating System" presented to the October 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education by Barbara Byrd Bennett, 60 percent of the "Metrics" used to evaluate the city's real elementary schools will be based on the unproven and unvalidated NWEA MAP testing program. The SQRP (which teachers are pronouncing Squirp), elementary schools have to utilize NWEA as the mayor way they will be rated. For the high schools, the untested and unproved EPAS will also continued to be used -- even thought ACT is being radically changed and the relationship of one year on the EPAS spectrum to the others was never validated. Like NWEA MAP, the testings are more based on "focus groups" and other corporate marketing techniques than on scientific rigor, and yet the nation's third largest schools system is getting away with it, as if snake oil were now a cure for cancer -- at least according to a vote of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education appointed by Rahm Emanuel.But now it's February 2014, and the testing season is about to begin. Within the next six weeks, not only will Chicago children be forced to endure a week of testing using a test that is now obsolete (the ISAT, Illinois Standards Assessment Test), but they will also be forced to provide important data to an experimental program that has never been proved to do any of the things that Chicago is claiming NWEA MAP will be doing.

Under the policies currently empowered in Chicago, NWEA MAP will do everything from enabling the CEO and other executives to hold schools "accountable" to using the NWEA MAP to deny children who attend the city's public schools (but not those in Catholic schools or those home schooled) to apply for admission to the coveted selective enrollment magnet and college prep high schools. The impact on hundreds of principals, thousands of teachers, and hundreds of thousands of children is vast. And yet not one official at CPS can show that there is any science other than slick marketing and vague focus groups behind the entire edifice.

So far, though, no scandal. Why not? Another corporate coverup. The story as reported in August and since has been based on the assumption that NWEA MAP has somehow been proved to be able to do all the things CPS is going to do with it. But the opposite is true. NWEA MAP is basically being marketed like a cure-all drug -- but one where no FDA or other agency has the power to allow it to be on the market.

And Chicago is the testing ground, with more than 400,000 children and more than 20,000 teachers as the guinea pigs.