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Common Core 'rebranding' even suggested.... Testing fetish across the USA facing unprecedented challenges, including enormous opposition to the Obama administration's 'Common Core'... But Chicago and Illinois still fall behind more than a dozen other states

Chicago was once a national center of the test resistance in the United States, and there are still many centers of the resistance growing as the testing season looms to begin in March 2014. Yet in February 2014, test prep instead of lessons continues to dominate the teaching time of thousands of Chicago's elementary teachers, many of whom are still promoting the ISAT test, even though ISAT is being replaced. And some are even using ISAT test prep materials with their children, a usage which might even be construed as child abuse.

U.S. Secretary of Eduction Arne Duncan has come a long way since he was appointed as the "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools in July 2001 despite the fact that he had no teaching experience and no qualifications for the job. Presently, Duncan is Barack Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education, having been in the job since January 2009, the longest serving Secretary of Education in the history of the job.Groups including More Than A Score, Parents 4 Teachers, and Raise Your Hand have been promoting test resistance in Chicago, while the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union are beginning to implement President Karen Lewis's desire to "deny them the data" from the over-siplified testings being forced on hundreds of thousands of children.

As test resistance in Chicago begins to grow in February 2014, here are some samples of the reports of late about the resistance against the Common Core and Race To The Top. Thanks to Fair Test for these compilations:

NATIONAL: FROM THE WASHINGTON POST:

A fight is brewing over tests in the Common Core age. By Lyndsey Layton, Published: February 12

Testing season begins soon in U.S. public schools, requiring millions of students to spend days answering standardized questions in math and reading, as mandated by an outdated federal law.

But this year is filled with tumult. Educators are questioning the purpose of testing, lawmakers in several states are pushing back against federal regulations, and a momentous standoff between California the state with the largest number of public school students and the Obama administration looms.

California is defying the requirements of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law that was set to expire in 2007 but hasnt been replaced by Congress. The law says every state must give annual tests in math and reading to every student in grades 3 through 8 and report those scores publicly.

But California says it cant administer the tests this year because, like much of the country, it has adopted new Common Core national academic standards and the corresponding exams arent ready.

Nearly everyone agrees that No Child Left Behind is broken, and the Obama administration has excused most states from various aspects of that law. But for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, watering down the laws testing requirement is a bridge too far. He has threatened to withhold at least $3.5 billion in annual federal funding money that California uses to educate poor and disabled children if the state does not satisfy federal concerns.

Testing is a critical component of accountability, said Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Education Department. Parents and community members want to know how we can measure student growth and student learning. We hold central to the fact that testing is an essential component.

California is grappling with a problem facing much of the country this year. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are teaching math and reading differently as a result of new academic standards. Known as the Common Core, the K-12 standards require new curricula, materials and teaching approaches.

But the accompanying standardized tests wont be ready until next year.

That leaves states in a bind, as federal law requires that they test students and report the scores annually. Without new exams, most states plan to dust off their old tests, make some changes and hope for the best.

Thats like teaching kids about Greece and Rome and then testing them on ancient Egypt, said Eric G. Luedtke, a Montgomery County teacher and state lawmaker who is trying to stop Maryland from administering its old tests.

Teachers and administrators are particularly alarmed because student test scores on standardized tests are increasingly used to make decisions that reward or punish schools and educators.

Recognizing that states will be giving tests that are out of sync with instruction, federal officials are permitting them to suspend accountability decisions based on this springs test scores. In the District and 36 states, some students will be field-testing questions for the new Common Core exams, and the federal government is excusing those students in some states from also having to take the old state tests.

But the Obama administration will not back down from the requirement that every state test every student in certain grades, even if that means giving old tests that dont match the current curriculum.

Maryland lawmakers say the federal government should not force the state to administer an outdated exam.

Put yourself in the place of one of my students, Luedtke, a Democratic member of the state House of Delegates, said during testimony last week about his bill to stop the state from giving the MarylandSchool Assessment.

Youre 11 years old, he said. You come to school, and you want to do well. You want to prove to your teachers that youre smart and you pay attention and youre working hard. You come to class one day, and they put a test in front of you, and you open the first page, read the first question, and you have no idea what theyre asking you to do. All you know is that youre failing, and you feel stupid, and you feel all the work youve put in is for naught.

The state will waste days of class time and about $7 million to give a useless test to 360,000 students, he said.

Jack Smith, Marylands chief academic officer, told lawmakers that Maryland teachers can still glean information from the old tests. There is some value, he said, adding that results can help teachers identify student weaknesses.

But on the whole, there is little overlap between old state tests and new Common Core material, said Andrew Porter, dean of the education school at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied the issue.

In California, legislators overwhelmingly passed a law to retire the old tests.

Holding students accountable for old exams that dont measure where you want to go, theres a disconnect there, said Deborah Sigman, a deputy superintendent with the California Department of Education. Those old tests dont send the right message.

States that are giving old tests make it difficult for teachers to fully implement the Common Core, said Daniel Koretz, an assessment expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The really serious harm may have already been done, he said. Teachers have been getting an inconsistent message about what theyre supposed to be doing.

In place of the old tests, California intends to give field tests, with sample questions, of the new Common Core exam. Because a field test is not designed to be a reliable measure of student achievement, California will not score the tests, and the results will not be publicly reported, as required by federal law. The state intends to use last years test scores to make decisions about school performance, essentially maintaining the status quo for this transition year, Sigman said.

The argument over what kind of test to administer coincides with a raging national dispute over the Common Core standards themselves.

Supporters say the Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills, as opposed to rote learning, and will enable U.S. students to better compete in the global marketplace.

The opponents include tea party activists who say the new standards amount to a federal takeover of local education and progressives who bristle at the emphasis on testing and the role of the Gates Foundation, which has funded the development and promotion of the standards. Some academics say the math and reading standards are too weak; others say they are too demanding, particularly for young students.

Meanwhile, educators across the country are watching Californias standoff with Washington.

California officials say that beginning March 18, they will give the math and reading Common Core field tests to all 3.4 million students in the designated testing grades, at a cost of about $51 million.

The federal government has not resolved what to do about California, but federal officials said a decision could come as soon as this week.

STATE: VIRGINIA OPTS TO REDUCE TESTING

Va. House approves reducing SOL tests, other reforms. By Elisabeth Hulette and Kathy Adams, The Virginian-Pilot. February 12, 2014

RICHMOND. Virginia's teachers may be getting several items on their legislative wish list after the House of Delegates approved a handful of education-overhaul bills on Tuesday, the eve of the session's crossover deadline.

The changes could mean fewer standardized tests, more time to prepare for them and a delay in giving each school an A-F grade based largely on those exam scores.

The measures sailed through the House and will go to the Senate.

The biggest change would be a stripping down of the number of state-mandated Standards of Learning tests to 17. That would be a 23 percent reduction from the current number - 22 - required for elementary and middle school students.

"Most of our parents, teachers and children will find relief in that reduction," Del. Tag Greason, R-Loudoun, who carried the bill, told the House.

That would mean, starting in the 2014-15 school year, that Virginia's third-graders would no longer take SOLs in science and social studies, focusing only on reading and math. Students would also skip the fifth-grade writing SOL and two history tests, typically administered in the fifth and sixth grades.

In their places, HB930 would give school boards the task of implementing authentic performance assessments intended to better test students' critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Some cities have started using different tests. For example, a question on such an exam used in Virginia Beach asked students to develop a written argument for or against restricting teenagers' access to shopping malls based on police data and other information. That's an example of how to test real-world problem solving, said Don Robertson, the division's assistant superintendent for data and accountability.

The move has support from other Hampton Roads divisions. Chesapeake School Board Chairwoman Christie New Craig said it's a good idea to scale back on state tests.

"I think they need to learn by touch, feel and see," Craig said. "Lowering the number of tests is a start."

The bill, which passed the House unanimously, also would create a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee to look at further changes to the state's standardized tests, including those for high school students. This year's changes would be the beginning of a much-needed overhaul of the system, Greason said.

Reducing the number of SOL tests has support in the Senate, which passed several related bills earlier in the session.

Some teachers have said they don't have enough time to prepare students to take the SOLs in the spring and that, after they're done, the remaining weeks until summer are wasted on movies and busy work.

HB333 would allow school boards to start the school year earlier - before Labor Day - without obtaining a waiver from the Board of Education.

Hampton Roads educators and public officials are divided on that change. Supporters say it would give students more time to study for the SOLs and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests. Opponents say it could cut the tourist season short and cost cities such as Virginia Beach millions of dollars.

Craig, who works for Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, said she doesn't think a pre-Labor Day start would have a significant impact on SOL preparation but would curtail tourism revenue.

"I don't think it's going to affect the testing," she said, "if we start a week early or a week late."

That measure passed the House last year before being put to death in the Senate. Gov. Terry McAuliffe also has said he does not support changing the provision.

Both chambers support postponing assigning each school a letter grade based largely on its test scores. Where they don't see eye-to-eye is on how long to delay the report card. The House on Tuesday voted 97-2 to wait until 2015, while the Senate last week voted 23-17 to hold off three years, until 2017.

The difference will have to be ironed out by negotiators from the two chambers.

Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, tried but failed to amend the House's bill to allow a three-year delay.

Miller warned that the school grading scale could end up hurting, rather than helping, struggling schools by publicly stamping them as failures.

And he said it could have wider implications for whole communities, possibly leading to "state-sanctioned redlining" - driving property values down and reducing access to home loans.

Educators are happy with the direction the General Assembly is moving, said Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association.

"I'm really pleased with what we're doing," Gruber said. "I think we're moving in the right direction, but we're not moving so fast that we could end up making mistakes."

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