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MEDIA WATCH: NPR again earns its nickname of 'National Propaganda Radio' with mindless support for PARCC and Common Core...

Protests against Common Core and PARCC have been growing every month.Diane Ravitch and Mercedes Schneider have shared a look at corporate media, this time National "Public" Radio (which Substance has long nicknamed "National Propaganda Radio") playing cheerleader for the PARCC and Common Core. The reporting, which was broadcast on NPR on August 7, 2015, reminds many critics of corporate school reform that NPR has long been an apologist for corporate school "reform". This is one of the main reasons why in Chicago hundreds (perhaps thousands) of teachers and parents laugh when NPR does its fundraising campaigns. NPR's coverage of "school reform" is propaganda for the official Obama administration party line...

Mercedes Schneider: Why Is NPR Marketing PARCC?. by dianeravitch

RAVITCH REPORTS: Mercedes Scheider notes that NPR produced a segment about PARCC that glossed over its woeful situation and promoted it as a way to compare students across state lines, ignoring the fact that NAEP has been doing since 1992.

The story gushes over PARCC, but never mentions the number of states that have dropped out or the protests against its validity.

The NPR piece states that PARCC tests are “considered harder than many of the tests they replaced.”

“Harder” is not the same as “better.” Since I wrote a ten-chapter book in ten weeks, I could require my sophomore English students to do the same, and that would indeed be harder than what they are used to, but it is not necessarily better.

It sure would make me look like a “rigorous” teacher. And if anyone complained, I could just brush it off as their not being willing to challenge students to r a i s e t h e b a r.

I could even set a passing cut score, say, if they produced even half of a book. Forget any side effects of such pressure, any self-esteem issues, any loss of the joy of learning, any loss in developing a spectrum of interests and pursuits.

If it cannot be measured, it does not matter. End of story.

Those pushing Common Core have made a lot of airy promises about Common Core being the bar-raising solution to all that ails American public education. And since Common Core has been set up to justify itself, no matter the outcome– no matter if test scores rise or fall– no matter if state education reputations rise or fall in the PARCC-comparison rankings– Common Core as that K12 education center will be absolved of any fault. Its ideologues will still be able to deflect any unseemly results as “poor implementation” and any test-score-founded improvement as “good implementation” and proof that Common Core was what lower- and middle-class America needed all along.

SCHNEIDER'S REPORT:

NPR Is Gaga about PARCC and Its State-comparison Potential. August 8, 2015

On August 07, 2015, NPR released this piece concerning setting the cut scores for the PARCC tests that students took in the spring.

NPR makes this statement: "…Until last year, it was all but impossible to compare students across state lines. Not anymore."

This is not true. States have been required to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

What is interesting is that the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards (and finding in favor of Common Core even though it did not give Common Core a higher rating than all state standards) demonstrates no connection between their ratings of state standards and NAEP scores.

So now, we have PARCC, and according to NPR, we have a number of individuals meeting to “nail down cut scores for those 5 million tests.”

If anyone tells you that PARCC or any other standardized test is by definition “objective,” don’t buy it.

Instead, believe what Center for Public Education director Patte Barth says in that NPR piece:

“Establishing cut scores is part science. It’s part art. But it’s also part political.”

I wonder which part dominates.

Tough call, eh?

So, it seems, this group in Denver is going to make sure that states cannot produce an “illusion of improvement.” What is missing, however, is any established connection between PARCC, it’s Denver-ballroom-basement-meeting-set cut scores, and previous tests used by the states.

My teaching colleague, Herb Bassett, observed as much in a FB posting of the NPR link:

Explains how a committee is in process of determining which students passed and which failed the PARCC this year. The scores required for passing (the cut scores) have not yet been set even though the tests have been taken.

This radio piece sells the point that for the first time, proficiency tests will be comparable across some states. However, there is no way to compare them to the tests (LEAP and iLEAP) from years past. Thus, there is no way to determine if student performance has actually risen or fallen with the changeover to Common Core.

I, for one, would like to see actual evidence of the efficacy of Common Core, but the departments of education in the states and in Washington have made sure that there will be no data to compare pre-common core to post-common core through the annual testing regime.

Common Core is its own point of reference yet again. This Common Core-centrism is evident in Smarter Balanced test construction.

The NPR piece states that PARCC tests are “considered harder than many of the tests they replaced.”

“Harder” is not the same as “better.” Since I wrote a ten-chapter book in ten weeks, I could require my sophomore English students to do the same, and that would indeed be harder than what they are used to, but it is not necessarily better.

It sure would make me look like a “rigorous” teacher. And if anyone complained, I could just brush it off as their not being willing to challenge students to r a i s e t h e b a r.

I could even set a passing cut score, say, if they produced even half of a book. Forget any side effects of such pressure, any self-esteem issues, any loss of the joy of learning, any loss in developing a spectrum of interests and pursuits.

If it cannot be measured, it does not matter. End of story.

Those pushing Common Core have made a lot of airy promises about Common Core being the bar-raising solution to all that ails American public education. And since Common Core has been set up to justify itself, no matter the outcome– no matter if test scores rise or fall– no matter if state education reputations rise or fall in the PARCC-comparison rankings– Common Core as that K12 education center will be absolved of any fault. Its ideologues will still be able to deflect any unseemly results as “poor implementation” and any test-score-founded improvement as “good implementation” and proof that Common Core was what lower- and middle-class America needed all along.

Upper class? [wafture of hand] Even if they forcefully promote it, Common Core is not a reality for their kids.

But can the people o’ privilege who are trying to solidify Common Core as the lower- and middle-class, public education center save PARCC?

PARCC is being careful on its states pages to not clearly note if a state has decided to drop PARCC. Instead, it limits its information to whether a state took PARCC assessments in 2014-15, and it notes whether or not the state is a PARCC governing state (read here about the necessity of PARCC to retain five governing states– it now has only seven and DC).

For example, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Ohio will not be participating in PARCC in 2015-16, but the PARCC state web pages keep this info under wraps:

Mississippi administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15. Mississippi is not a governing state. Arkansas administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15. Arkansas is not a governing state.

Ohio administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15. Ohio is not a governing state. And as for Louisiana, which did not administer the official, Pearson-vended PARCC tests in 2014-15, well, PARCC finally decided to clarify that– conveniently after the fact:

Louisiana’s state assessment in 2014-15 included items developed through the PARCC process. Louisiana is not a governing state. Soo, how is it that Louisiana is included as taking “PARCC assessments” in 2014-15 on on this PARCC web page?

In the 2014-15 school year, 5 million students in 11 states and the District of Columbia took the PARCC annual assessments in grades 3-11, although not all participating states have students in all grades taking the test. Students in the following states took PARCC assessments in the 2014-15 school year: Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

PARCC needs to continue to market itself as best as possible even as states continue to leave.

The NPR article does not discuss the effect of PARCC attrition on the celebrated marvel of “comparing students across state lines.”

It also does not discuss the validity of any comparison of Louisiana –- which did not contract with Pearson for the official, 2014-15 Pearson-PARCC tests –- to the rest of the states involved.

Details such as this could certainly dull the fresh-waxed, Common Core-PARCC shine.

__________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

THE NPR STORY (BROADCAST AUGUST 7, 2015)...

New Tests Push Schools To Redefine 'Good Enough', National Public Radio, AUGUST 07, 2015 7:33 AM ET, reported by Cory Turner

This past spring, 5 million students from third grade through high school took new, end-of-year tests in math and English that were developed by a consortium of states known as PARCC.

It's a big deal because these tests are aligned to the Common Core learning standards, and they're considered harder than many of the tests they replaced.

It's also a big deal because until last year, it was all but impossible to compare students across state lines. Not anymore.

There's just one problem: The results won't be released for a long time (late fall). What's the holdup, you ask?

The tests have all been read and the answers tallied. That's not the problem. The problem is, adding up right answers doesn't tell you how a child did. For that, you need cut scores. And PARCC doesn't have them yet.

The Cut

"The cut score is the manifestation of how good is good enough," says Mary Ann Snider, chief academic officer for the Rhode Island Department of Education.

PARCC has already agreed on five basic student performance levels. Five is for students who display "distinguished" command of material. One is "minimal." The goal is to get all students at least to Level Three or "adequate" command. What PARCC doesn't have yet are the point cut-offs that draw hard lines between those categories.

Snider is hard at work helping nail down cut scores for those 5 million tests. She says it's not as simple as using the old A-through-F, 10-point scale, where 70 percent is the traditional cut-off for moderate or good enough.

"I don't know that I want my pilot to know 70 percent of the content for flying a plane. I'd like him to be closer to 90 or 100 percent," Snider says.

In short: Where you set the cut scores depends on the importance and difficulty of the skills being tested.

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education, says it's a balancing act: "Establishing cut scores is part science. It's part art. But it's also part political."

Barth remembers the early days of the No Child Left Behind law, when the federal government told states they'd be punished if students weren't "proficient" — which is just a fancy way of saying "good enough." But, since states used wildly different standards and tests, they also got to set their own cut scores. As a result, Barth says, "they found a huge, huge range of performance levels."

Many states lowered the bar, creating the illusion of improvement. That's one reason Snider — from Rhode Island — found herself in a Denver hotel last week.

Welcome To Denver

The states involved with PARCC sent more than a hundred hand-picked teachers and educators to join Snider there. They poured into the hotel's cavernous, basement ballrooms and began debating those elusive scores.

"Would a Two be able to do this and this?" asks Lorretta Holloway, who teaches English at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. She was on the panel debating cut scores for the 11th-grade English test and explains what the closed-door deliberations were like. "Not should they. I'm thinking, 'Yes, because they all should do everything, right?' But would they, really?"

Holloway says, in the process of fleshing out these student performance levels, she constantly had to weigh what students likely know (the real) against the aspirational:

What should they know?

In that balance, says Snider, is a more honest test:

"We have to get enough of that right so that we're not giving kids a false sense of accomplishment."

Unlike those early days of No Child Left Behind.

"Yeah, it might be a tough test," says Marti Shirley, who teaches high school math in Mattoon, Ill., and was also on a cut-score panel. "But, you know what? It's gonna give us a true reflection of where our students are and what growth they need."

That may sound good, but remember what Barth said?

Establishing cut scores is part political. And PARCC has struggled mightily to win the political fight over raising the bar. Because it's selling a tough message:

"States should expect those scores to be lower. And, if they're smart, they're communicating that to the public," says Barth.

But what politician wants to preside over a huge drop in student test scores?

Not long ago, half of all states were involved in some way with PARCC. Today, it's seven, plus Washington, D.C. And quietly, in Denver, some teachers worried that the decline of PARCC could mean a return to the days when many state tests weren't honest.

Holloway says someone has to be honest with the freshmen who are surprised to find they can't keep up in her college writing class.

"Sit in my office with me," Holloway says, "when I'm passing out the pudding and the Kleenex while they're in tears. Because they are working, and they are still behind."

In the coming weeks, more teachers will sit in that windowless, hotel basement in Denver, debating the scores and skills that will separate good enough from not quite.

And they'll do it with the weight of 5 million tests — and the fate of 5 million students — on their shoulders.



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