Test secrecy violations of free speech rights goes beyond the gag order against teachers... AFT goes to London for corporate meeting... Union officials challenge Pearson corporation to end gag order against teachers talking about their tests

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis sent an email blast to all union members asking them to support the move by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten to force Pearson corporation to stop putting a gag order against teachers into its test contracts. The unions have yet to demand that the tests be made public after they are administered, as has been the position of Substance since 1999, but it's a beginning.

Secret tests have been around as long as testing, but the issue of test secrecy following the administration of the tests is the political issue as the federal government and states continue pushing for the expansion of high-stakes testing under both No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. In order for test secrecy to be allowed at such an extreme level in public schools, the state and local governments that contract with Pearson and other corporations have to agree to contracts that include test secrecy clauses. The government agencies could as easily demand that the corporations make fully public their test questions and their suggested rubrics following the completion of the tests. The fact that almost every state goes along with test secrecy does not make it ethical or sensible. In reality, test secrecy is an insult to everyone in the teaching profession, to children, and to public school parents.

This is especially important given that Pearson has a lengthy tradition of botching its tests and grading. As early as ten years ago and continuing every year since, Pearson has lost litigations following the revelations that its tests were flawed. The earliest of these were reported in Substance and by (now deceased) educational researcher Gerald Bracey more than a decade ago. At least two state -- Massachusetts and Texas -- have made their tests public at certain times. "National Standards" so cherished by corporate school reformers should include democratic standards about test transparency, so that teachers, children and parents -- and the general public -- can know what was really happening with these high stakes tests.

[Disclosure: This reporter was fired by the Chicago Board of Education on a motion by Paul G. Vallas at the Board's August 2000 meeting following the publication in Substance of six of the 22 CASE -- Chicago Academic Standards Examinations -- in the January 1999 edition of Substance. Vallas also ordered Substance sued for $1.4 million charging "copyright infringement" after Substance published the ridiculous test questions after the tests had been administered. Facing the prospect of going to court in front of a jury to prove that the CASE tests had any value -- let alone $1 million -- the Chicago Board of Education reduced its "damages" demand to zero prior to the beginning of a jury trial on the damages claim. At the same time, thanks to the reactionary jurisprudence of Richard Posner, the U.S.Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found against the First Amendment and upheld the right of CPS to fire George N. Schmidt in the case of Schmidt v. Board].

America Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has asked Pearson corporation, which sells most so-called "standardized" tests to states in the USA, to stop including a gag order in the contracts for the tests.BELOW IS THE CTU STATEMENT:

At 7AM ET on April 25th the AFTs chief of staff and one of their researchers were in London working to change the culture of high-stakes standardized testing here in America.

They attended the annual shareholders meeting of Pearson Education, the largest for-profit education, testing and book publishing company in the world, demanding that the company remove contractual gag orders that prevent educators from talking about Pearsons tests, and asking Pearson to sit down with parents, teachers, principals and students to address legitimate concerns about these tests.

Tell Pearsons board of directors to lift the gag orders and work with stakeholders to fix their broken tests.

In New York, teachers and principals who administered Pearsons Common Core-related assessments have raised red flags about test content that isnt age-appropriate and doesnt align with student learning. But, because of a gag order written into the contract, educators are forbidden from discussing the content or quality of the teststhey cant even tell parents whats on the test their children are taking.

There are many other examples like this across the country.

The gag orders dont help students learn or help schools improvetheir only obvious purpose is to protect the corporations interests. Thats not right. Pearsons secretive tests have huge consequences for students and their families, teachers, schools and communities. The tests need to assess what students have learnedthey need to be accurate, properly aligned and fair. Thats why transparency is so important and this gag order is so wrong.

Our children are not test scores, and our teachers are not algorithms. We need to stop this testing fixation, change the culture of high-stakes testing and hold the corporations that are profiting from these tests accountable. The Pearson shareholders meeting is a perfect time to demand that Pearson be accountable to our schools and communities. Pearsons gag order is not in the best interests of children, teachers or schools.

Accountability goes both ways. Stand with us to tell Pearson and the companys board of directors to drop the gag order and work with stakeholders to make the tests transparent and fair.

Educators know what our children need in the classroom. Their voices should be respected by the companies paid by public dollars to create and score tests, not silenced by gag orders.? ?I hope youll stand with us,

In unity,Randi Weingarten. AFT President. P.S. You can read the full letter we delivered to Pearsons board here.


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